Reading the Prophets (2)

Yesterday we began discussing the Old Testament prophetical books. We saw that although these books comprise much of the content of Scripture, many people do not or have not read them. Why are we so unfamiliar with these books? We looked at two reasons in yesterday’s post:

1) Placement: at the end of the Old Testament

2) Language: poetry rather than prose

Here are two more reasons:

3) History: requires an understanding of historical events

A third reason is history. Reading the prophets requires an understanding of the historical events that took place at the time of their writing. The prophetical books take place largely during the time of the kings of Israel, the exile, and Israel’s return from exile. If you are not sure what I mean by the kings, or the exile, or the return from exile, that is exactly my point. When we don’t know the historical context behind the book, it is difficult to understand what the prophet is saying.

And in fact, the prophets take in more than just the history of Israel during this time, but also interact with the history of many of the surrounding nations as well. This is why it is very helpful to have a good commentary on hand when you are reading through the prophets.

4) Theology: many messages of judgment and doom

And then there is a fourth reason why we are not as familiar with the prophets, and that has to do with theology. The prophets present many messages of doom and judgment. That was one of their functions. We don’t like to think about God as a God of judgment. We like to think of God as a nice God who forgives everybody. And so people often have trouble relating to God’s judgments in the prophets.

Let me say something about that for a moment. God does not change from book to book in the Bible, or even from testament to testament. He is the same everywhere. You do not find a different God in the Old Testament than you do in the New Testament. You find passages relating to God’s judgment in all the various parts of the Bible, both Old Testament and New. And you find passages relating to God’s love, mercy and forgiveness in all parts of the Bible, both Old Testament and New. In fact some of the most beautiful and profound passages in Scripture describing God’s love and mercy are found in the Old Testament prophets. It is not a matter of different pictures of God being presented, but different emphases.

The prophets were sent for a very specific purpose. They were sent to warn Israel and the surrounding nations of God’s coming judgment for sin and idolatry in hopes that they would turn from their sins and thus avoid judgment. Sadly they did not, and so God’s judgment fell in full force upon them.

This leads us directly into our second question about the prophets. Why are the prophets important for us to study and learn? More on that tomorrow!

Trackbacks / Pingbacks

  1. Reading the Prophets (1) at Ray Fowler .org
  2. Blogging with Habakkuk (1) at Ray Fowler .org
  3. Reading the Prophets (3) at Ray Fowler .org
  4. Some Links to the Minor Prophets at Ray Fowler .org

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