As we have seen, there were prophets who spoke to Israel in the north and Judah in the south – and sometimes prophets who covered both Kingdoms on God’s behalf. Now that you are familiar with how the Kings and prophets interface, take some time and place the messages of some of these more brief prophetic writings into their contexts.
Mankind had chosen obliteration. Because of the rebellious heart every man or woman carries at birth, God would need to do something drastic to turn things around for human souls. He would send His Son (Messiah) to buy back the hearts and souls of men. To this end God selected Abraham, and from him birthed a great nation that would: 1) provide the lineage for His Son to be born in human form, 2) prepare hearts for His Kingship, 3) speak His words both to Israel and the rest of the nations (Gentiles), and 4) tell the entire world what had happened, what would occur, and how all things would be made new.
“God, after He spoke long ago to the fathers in the prophets in many portions and in many ways, in these last days has spoken to us in His Son, whom He appointed heir of all things, through whom also He made the world.”
Here we learn that God used men and women from very diverse circumstances to speak truth to His people. This, in turn, would result in all nations being blessed. These prophets (primarily from Moses forward) can be divided into two groups. The speaking prophets (most prominent being Elijah and Elisha) and the writing prophets (Isaiah – Malachi). Each prepared the way for the final so-called old testament prophet who spoke at the end of 400 silent years. Do you know his identity? All of these paved the way for God’s perfect prophet, priest, and King: the Lord Jesus Christ! (Luke 22:44)
The writing prophets are not listed chronologically. The major prophets are so-called because of their length. Isaiah, Jeremiah and his Lamentations, Ezekiel, and Daniel are the most extensive in content and end-of-days impact. The remainder: Hosea, Joel, Amos, Obadiah, Jonah, Micah, Nahum, Habakkuk, Zephaniah, Haggai, Zechariah, and Malachi are called the minor prophets because their messages are, for the most part, shorter than the others. Each prophet was raised up at a specific time to accomplish God’s particular purpose for Israel. How would David’s life been different had Samuel not heard God’s voice when he was a young boy?! And so it goes.
The scope of these readings will review the central messages of God’s prophets and what each has to do with us. By understanding the context of each prophet we can correlate and apply their words in the ways God meant for us to be impacted within our own circumstances. Remember, all the prophets spoke God’s Word and either pointed forward to Christ or reflected upon His life, miracles, teachings, and world-changing resurrection.
We also include any central background chapters which can help contextualize each prophet’s message. This chart will be invaluable as you place each prophet side by side with the story of His chosen people. You may also wish to review the 8 Minute God Story as well as the 15 Minute Bible videos for context 🙂
DON’T FREAK OUT – there are literally days and days of content here. Pick and choose – take your time – but don’t be daunted. You will benefit from every minute you invest – and there are many tomorrows ahead to fill in the blanks!
There are two captivities over which the prophets brought God’s Word. Israel (northern Kingdom) was taken into captivity by the Assyrians in 700 BC. Judah (southern Kingdom) followed into Babylon 150 or so years later. Some of these prophets overlapped both Kingdoms. All of this helps us to understand the context of each prophet. Why is this important? A text without a context is unhelpful (almost said a pretext). When we consider context it makes it easier to apply these prophet’s messages to our own circumstances. Pick a prophet – any prophet!
Prophets before the first (Assyrian) captivity:
OBADIAH is one of the first to write of the coming storm, and refers to ancient roots.(Edom/Edomites were descendants of Esau/Israel of the Jews)
Obadiah lets us know that even though judgement begins with the house of God, the nations will not escape. It reminds us of the bitterness and sweetness of the story of Jacob and Esau (Genesis 25/Romans 9). Deep waters my friend – can you swim in them?
JOEL casts a deep vision to the future (2:28-32). It is short, and deserves to be read in it’s entirety. What will the end look like? You will want to read Acts 2 for an amazing quote of the book of Joel. In what ways do you feel you live in light of God’s promises? How do they impact your attitude about living? Your destiny?
JONAH is distinct in that it reveals a reluctantly stubborn prophet, repentance of a God-less city, and a story for the ages (do you buy the great fish part?) Read Matthew 12:38-42. It looks like Jesus did. Jonah is a quick and interesting read. In what ways are you like Jonah? What do you learn from his experiences? What do you think ended up happening to Jonah?
AMOS was not only a prophet of God Most High, he was a sheepherder. Don’t you love it? God’s men and women come from everyday people like you and me. (I’ve been herding sheep for years). He calls the country folk (more of them at that point than city folk?) to return to God. He also pointedly turns his attention to the surrounding nations, all of who were drooling to see Israel fail. What was the problem(s)? The solution? 1:1-2/3:1-7/5:21-24/9:11-15 How did Amos view his role of prophet? (7:10-17) How would he and the other prophets have fared in current-day civility tests?
HOSEA walked a hard road (1:1-11). Israel and Judah were metaphorically two sisters. In the midst of impending doom for the nation, yet another prophet speaks of hope which can only be found in God. (6:1-11/Matthew 9:13/12:7 – this is a whopper!).
MICAH 1:1/5:1-5/6:8 If our God was not a compassionate Father we would be lost. How would you define God’s true justice? How does this compare with current social justice perspectives? Do you feel you have come to know God’s unchanging love? (7:18-20) Are you relieved?
#1 Prophets leading up to and during the Assyrian captivity:
ISAIAH/context – 1:1 & chapters 35-39
This is Messiah Jesus’ prophet. Can you see Him? 1:16-20/6:8-10/7:10-16/9:1-7/11:1-5/29:13-16/40:3-8/55:1-13/61:1-3
NAHUM describes Nineveh’s inevitable doom, which contrasts Jonah’s reluctance to see God-repentance among certain conquerors (100 years earlier). 2:8-13 (Revelation 20 is helpful and awesome to read right now!) How does final judgment make you feel? Do you feel you are you prepared?
ZEPHANIAH continues to warn Judah and Jerusalem as the northern kingdom succumbs to Assyria. Assyria becomes Babylon who falls to the Medes and the Persians. Apparently, no earthly kingdom lasts forever. Surprise. 1:7-12/2:3/3:14-20 (Matthew 13 is awesome here!) Is it possible to anticipate the end?
HABAKKUK is in pain (1:1-4) and acutely aware of what is coming (1:5-11). Why will Israel fall? By the way, this is a song. Not a very happy one. Although this prophet does see beyond the pain to a joyful future (3:16-19). Is your heart with him on this?
#2 Prophets speaking during the fall of Jerusalem (in Judah) and into the Babylonian captivity:
JEREMIAH/LAMENTATIONS/context – 1:1-3 & 39:11-18
Jeremiah prepares the people for Jerusalem’s fall. Can you see why it is happening?
6:13-16/10:1-11/15:19-21/29:1,10-14/31:31-34/Lamentations 1:16; 3:19-26
Ezekiel sees the most glorious (1:4-28) and the deeply grotesque (4:1-17). He is a symbol of the nation and suffers with the people (24:15-27). Wow.
What do you learn about God, our nature, and the prophet Ezekiel? What is a new heart? (36:22-38)
DANIEL/context – Daniel 1:1-7
Daniel provides sweeping views of the end of this age. His character is stellar and his words are 100% in-synch with Revelation (search BOOK BY BOOK #50)
Even though he is a teen-ager he changes the world. How does God’s favor upon him as well as his personal resolve strike you?
#3 Prophets during the return from captivity who encouraged rebuilding during Ezra, Nehemiah, and Esther:
HAGGAI…teaches the returning exiles to set priorities which honor God’s desires. 1:1-6/2:1-9 (Hebrews 12:18-29)
ZECHARIAH…calls us upward to visions of glory as we live with our feet on the ground. (1:1-6/3:1-10/8:1-2/12:10/14:4-11 (Revelation 22:1-7)
MALACHI…prepares us for the last “old testament” prophet. Do you know who he is? (Mark 9:9-13) He is the Elijah who was to come to prepare the way of the King of the earth (Isaiah 40)! How did John recognize his King (John 1)? Malachi is stunning regarding the hardness of heart of God’s people, and it is filled with hope for those who long for God! A great read – and very practical encouragement for the builders – and perfect words before 400 years of prophet deficit that were soon to come. (3:5-7/3:8-18/4:1-6)
Each prophet is like a spiritual tool for our hearts. Each one sharpens our soul in ways which can honor the Living God, Whom we will soon ALL see face to face! It is worth your time to note several of your favorite verses from each book and hide them in your heart for the journey ahead (Psalm 119:9-11).
What do you think? Be strong our prophet-seeking friend.
Dave & Burnadette