Covered: Jonah 1-4, Hosea 1-3, Amos 1, Joel 1-3
Not Covered: Amos 2-9, 2 Kings 15, 2 Chronicles 26, Hosea 4-14, Joel 4
Scripture Memory: Serve Others – Mark 10:45, 2 Corinthians 4:5
This week in our reading plan, we begin reading portions of the Bible known as the prophets. Throughout the history of Israel, God used prophets to speak His words directly to people. They were His mouthpiece. We get to see some of the stories of the prophets throughout the history books (1-2 Samuel, 1-2 Kings, 1-2 Chronicles), but now we get to read the messages that God gave to each of them. Each prophet spoke words from God to certain people, at a certain time, in a certain situation. To fully understand their messages, understanding the context is key. Some prophets wrote specifically to Israel, some to Judah. Some wrote before the exile, some wrote after. Each wrote to specific issues offering specific warnings to the people. Even when the context is understood, there are many things in these prophet’s messages that are difficult to understand, and going into all the details is beyond the scope of this blog. There are, however, two things that all of the prophets had in common that can serve as keys to understanding God’s message to the people of that time and to us today.
First, the prophets proclaimed a message of warning. Throughout the history of Israel, the hearts of the people often wandered from following after God. It was easy for them to gradually conform to the nations around them: serving other gods, practicing injustice, not remaining faithful to God, etc. Most of us can understand that gradual pull to conform to what the culture around us is doing, what is comfortable, what is safe, what makes sense. Sometimes, we have to intentionally incline our hearts back to God. Each of the prophets were sent to warn the people of Israel to stop worshiping other gods, stop trying to find satisfaction in the things around them, and put their trust and hope fully on God. Their plea was “come back to God. It’s not too late; come back.”
Second, the prophets pointed forward to the promises of God. The warnings were severe, and the message was clear: turn back to God, but if you don’t, there will be punishment. But the clear message was the punishment wouldn’t be forever. God would honor His promise to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob by fixing the problems of the human condition on His own. Despite the faithlessness of His people, God would save them. Despite the people worshiping other gods, He would deliver them. Despite the wickedness of the human heart and the complete inability for people to truly follow Him, God would act.
But it was bigger than just saving people from the nations that invaded and conquered them. And it was bigger than just blessing them. It wasn’t just about saving them physically; it was about transformation. But the prophets didn’t know that. They were just speaking what they were told to speak. The Apostle Peter was inspired to write in the New Testament:
10 Concerning this salvation, the prophets who prophesied about the grace that was to be yours searched and inquired carefully, 11 inquiring what person or time the Spirit of Christ in them was indicating when he predicted the sufferings of Christ and the subsequent glories. 12 It was revealed to them that they were serving not themselves but you, in the things that have now been announced to you through those who preached the good news to you by the Holy Spirit sent from heaven, things into which angels long to look.
He is saying the prophets didn’t fully understand what they were instructed to speak and even angels longed to see the salvation God was going to accomplish but neither fully understood it. But now, on this side of the cross, we get to see it. We get to experience it. The promises of God that He spoke throughout the generations was culminated in Jesus. And it wasn’t just a salvation from physical enemies. It wasn’t just a blessing to one people or nation. It wasn’t just to give us a good life. It was to bring transformation. It was to save us from the sin and rebellion that our hearts are naturally drawn to. It was to allow our hearts to worship the one true God, and not cheap alternatives that the world throws at us.
The whole story of the Bible is the story of a rescue mission that God started to bring humanity back to Himself. And as the prophets were looking forward, wondering how God would do it, we get to look back and praise God that He accomplished a salvation for all peoples of all time.
As you read the prophets over the next few weeks, know you are only getting small portions of only a few of the prophets. Some of it may not make sense on the surface, but as you read, use these two keys. See the warnings to the people of Israel, and recognize how easy it is for your own heart to wander away from God. And see the promise that at the time was for the future, but is now our reality. And praise God that though our hearts are fickle and those our affections wane, Jesus has died and defeated death to hold us strong in Him.
Written by: Steve Elworth
Graphic Credit: Freepik