Summary: Shows that Jesus is the Prophet of God, speaking God’s Word, and thus demands our response.
Jesus the Prophet: Advent 1
December 2nd, 2001
When most people hear the word prophet, they think of someone who tells the future, usually in a mystical sense. We tend to think of someone like Nostradamus, one of the most famous so-called prophets, who is claimed to have predicted many world events and is assumed to have made prophecies about things which have yet to happen. Thus, we think of prophets who speak of things that only pertain to the future; things which have yet to happen. These kinds of prophecy are exciting, because they promise to reveal to us things that have yet to come. Look at the popularity of horoscopes, which claim to be able through their vague wordings to tell you what your day will be like. People like the idea that they will have power over their day by reading their horoscope and anticipating what will happen. Perhaps the most annoying commercial on television today, besides the loud guy with all the question marks on his jacket, is the commercial from Mrs. Clio. This woman with the Jamaican accent claims to be able to tell you what will happen with your love life with astonishing accuracy, for only a small fortune in phone costs. So, when folks think of a prophet, they think of someone who tells the future, and their appeal goes back to the beginning of time as people have sought to look into what will happen by casting lots, cutting open chickens, or consulting the Lucky Eight Ball.
In a biblical sense, there are indeed prophets who fit this mold in the sense that they tell about things that are going to happen. Much of Isaiah is prophecy which looked forward to the coming of Christ, especially Isaiah 53. Verse 5 of the 53rd chapter is clearly a prophecy about Jesus: "But he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was upon him, and by his wounds we are healed." These verses are clearly about the life and horrible death of Jesus which would bring about salvation to those who believe. The prophet Micah also spoke of the future coming of Christ: he says in Micah 5:2, "But you, Bethlehem Ephrathah, though you are small among the clans of Judah, out of you will come for me one who will be ruler over Israel, whose origins are from of old, from ancient times," speaking of Christ’s birth in the little town of Bethlehem. Even King David played the role of prophet at times. He wrote Psalm 22 which foretells Jesus’ crucifixion in chilling detail, telling about Jesus’ feelings of being forsaken, the insults that were hurled at him, the wounds in his hands and feet, and even the fact that the Roman guards divided his garments between them. Although it was hard for those who study scripture to accurately read the prophecies concerning Jesus, we can look back in hindsight and see that his birth, life, death, and resurrection were all foretold in prophecy. In fact, I remember when I was not even a Christian I heard about a Christian rock group called Stryper. Naturally I was curious about their strange name so I looked into it and found that they were referring to the scripture in Isaiah which foretold that we would be healed by the stripes on Jesus back, a result of his crucifixion. It simply knocked me over that so many of the details of Jesus’ life were foretold in advance. I realized that the testimony of Jesus was true, since it was foretold from long ago. The prophecies concerning Jesus are clear enough that it is obvious that God wanted us to know that this was what he had in mind when it came to saving us.
So, yes, the bible is full of prophecy which looks forward to the future, and not just about the life of Jesus. Many other things were told in advance, like the destruction of Jerusalem and the captivity of the Jews. The coming of Gentiles to salvation was foretold. And many of the prophecies have yet to be fulfilled as they tell about what will happen at the end of this earth. The last chapters of the Book of Daniel and the last chapters of the Book of Revelation fall into this mold, telling about the end of time and the coming of the Lord. The popularity of the fictional series "Left Behind" are proof of how badly people want to know about what God will do in the future.
But believe it or not, telling the future is not the most important function of the biblical prophet. No, the prophet had a much higher and much more important calling than telling about what would happen down the road. Now, what could be more exciting or important than telling God’s people about God’s future plans. How about telling people what God was thinking here and now and what He wants His people to know? The real function of the prophet was to speak the very words of God, often a message of warning or a call to right living. Think about what a bold claim the prophet made. He or she was making the assertion that the words they spoke were not just a clever message or good advice, they were not just wise words to be heeded; no, they were the words straight from God that He wanted spoken. That’s a pretty bold claim, to say the least, for it implies that God has chosen the prophet to be His mouthpiece and that the words spoken were to be taken with the same authority as Scripture. No wonder the punishment for being a false prophet was death... the false prophet was making false claims about God. You’ll notice that in the bible we see that most of the times that God calls a prophet the prophet would do everything possible to get out of the job; it’s no small thing to claim to speak for God. The best known example of this is Moses. God told him to go to the Hebrew people and to Pharaoh to speak for Him. Moses flat out refused to do so, giving in only when God continued to insist. And no wonder. Moses was called to go and stand in front of the most powerful and dangerous man in the country and tell him that God wanted him to let His people go free. Not only did Moses feel unworthy of such a task, he was probably also afraid for his life.