Summary: This is a sermon giving some background information on the Old Testament Prophets.
What do you think of when you see the word Prophet? If you look at the online Merriam-Webster Dictionary you get the following definitions.
1. one who utters divinely inspired revelations, such as:
a. the writer of one of the prophetic books of the Bible
b. one regarded by a religious group as the final authoritative revealer of God’s will
2. one gifted with more than ordinary spiritual and moral insight; especially: an inspired poet
3. one who foretells future events
Did any of those fit the picture you had in your mind? Some people have the idea that prophets, especially Bible prophets, were wild fanatics dressed in strange clothes. Others imagine wizard-like sages peering into crystal balls. It would be fair to say that many of us misunderstand exactly who the prophets were and what they did. As we spend the next several weeks look at some of the OT Prophets I want us to remember that in the biblical sense, a prophet was someone specially prepared by God for a very special ministry. They brought divine words to people who desperately needed to hear it. Even though they lived many years ago and were speaking to a group of people who are no longer here, I believe their words are still valuable to us today and we can see the present day applications of the messages they delivered.
In Deuteronomy 18:18-22 (NASB) we see God speak to Moses concerning those who prophecy in the name of the LORD.
18 I will raise up a prophet from among their countrymen like you, and I will put My words in his mouth, and he shall speak to them all that I command him. 19 It shall come about that whoever will not listen to My words which he shall speak in My name, I Myself will require it of him. 20 But the prophet who speaks a word presumptuously in My name which I have not commanded him to speak, or which he speaks in the name of other gods, that prophet shall die.’ 21 You may say in your heart, ‘How will we know the word which the Lord has not spoken?’ 22 When a prophet speaks in the name of the Lord, if the thing does not come about or come true, that is the thing which the Lord has not spoken. The prophet has spoken it presumptuously; you shall not be afraid of him.
God took the idea of prophecy seriously and He expected those called to do the same. He also expected those receiving the words of a prophet to listen and obey. Notice, the prophet who abused his calling was worthy of death. God also told those hearing that they could be sure and know when a prophet was speaking His words. How? They always came true. That was the test of a true prophet.
There are three Hebrew words used to refer to a prophet: hozeh, ro’eh, and nabi. The OT uses these words interchangeably but they do have slightly different meanings. The first two (hozeh and ro’eh) come from root words that mean “to see, gaze, or look on.” These individuals saw the very things of God. God Himself gave these people special insight. Some English translations will use the word “seer” when these are used. The third word (nabi) is the one used most in the OT (over 300 times). It carries the connotation of one who has been “called” by God to deliver a divine message to the people.
The group of individuals and books we normally think of when say The Prophets is only part of the picture. These men lived and prophesied from around 800 to 450 B.C. They are commonly referred to as the classical prophets. These are the books beginning with Isaiah and going through Malachi.
In our completed Bible we have these books divided into two sections: The Major Prophets and The Minor Prophets.
Isaiah, Jeremiah, Lamentations, Ezekiel, and Daniel are The Major Prophets.
Hosea, Joel, Amos, Obadiah, Jonah, Micah, Nahum, Habakkuk, Zephaniah, Haggai, Zechariah, and Malachi are The Minor Prophets and are sometimes called The Twelve. Remember, they are not “minor” because they are less important. They’re just shorter books.
We do need to remember that there were other prophets:
Moses functioned as a prophet of God by leading the people out of Egypt and then receiving the law from God on Mount Sinai. In the passage we looked at from Deuteronomy we God telling Moses that there will be more who speak in His name.
Sometime around 1100 B.C. we see Samuel begin his ministry as a prophet and priest. He traveled from town to town proclaiming God’s word to the people. He even called kings out when they disobeyed.
1 Samuel 13:8-14 (NASB)