Summary: This message is a part of a series that surveys the entire Bible. It is based upon the study guide from an older Chuck Swindoll series. This message surveys Isaiah-Malachi.
An estimated 210,000 people migrated to California to escape the despair of the Dust Bowl via Route 66. Certainly in the minds of those who endured that particularly painful experience, and in the view of generations of children to whom they recounted their story, Route 66 symbolized the "road to opportunity." There were many warning signs along the route to prepare motorists for serious situations that could arise during their journey. Route 66 cut through the Mojave Desert which could prove hazardous for motorists. In fact more often than not travelers would form caravans to protect themselves from many of the hazards. Many cars found themselves falling victim to the extreme heat. So motorists were encouraged to carry water with them on the journey and avoid travelling this stretch during the heat of the day. Often along the road there were warning signs such as last gas station for the next fifty miles, reminding motorists to fill up now. The prophets of the Old Testament served much the same purpose as these warnings along route 66. They stood in the gap between God and the people faithfully proclaiming His message regardless of the cost. Today we are going to take a good look at these messengers of God.
I. Important things for us to understand about the prophets.
A. The prophets were God’s representatives to the people.
1. When the Hebrew people would sin they would approach God through a priest who would offer prayers and sacrifices on their behalf.
2. When God desired to communicate to the people, He would do so through a prophet.
3. The word translated “prophet” seems to have the idea “called” as its first emphasis: God takes the initiative, selects, summons, and sends the prophet.
4. God brought his servants the prophets into a unique reality of fellowship and closeness with Himself, with the blessed result that their characteristic cry “Thus says the Lord” meant exactly what it claimed.
B. Prophets not only informed the people of future events, they shared God’s message with them.
1. It is sometimes said that prophets are not foretellers but forthtellers. As far as the Old Testament is concerned, however, the prophets are forthtellers (declaring the truth about God) by being foretellers (predicting what God will do).
2. The great task assigned to the prophets whom God raised up among the people was “to correct moral and religious abuses, to proclaim the great moral and religious truths which are connected with the character of God, and which lie at the foundation of his government.”
3. For the most part, this proclamation was by direct word of mouth, by verbal preaching. The prophets were men of the word. They believed their words (which were God’s words) were far more than a sound addressed from one person to another; the word was really like a messenger sent by God
4. There were three ways God told the people to test if a prophet was really sent by Him.
a. Did what the prophet say lead people to walk according to God’s will?
b. Did what the prophet say actually come to pass?
c. Does the message of the prophet encourage men to sin or tolerate sin?
C. The message of the prophets was mainly concerned with the sins of the people and God’s righteousness.
1. There are two main themes that are found in all the prophetic books.
a. The need of the people to repent.
b. God’s promise of blessing if the people would turn back to Him.
2. The prophets were not always bearers of doom and gloom, there are times when the prophets would proclaim God’s hope for the people.
3. God always made it clear to the people if they returned to Him, He would forgive their sins and comfort them.
D. The ministries of the prophets fell into any one of three periods in Jewish history.
1. The pre-exilic period: from the dividing of the kingdom to the invasion of the Babylonians.
2. The exilic period: from the exile of the Jews in Babylon to their return to Jerusalem.
3. The postexilic period: the return to Jerusalem that occurred in three phases under Zerubbabel, Ezra and Nehemiah.
II. An overview of the prophets of the Old Testament.
A. Prominent prophets mentioned who do not have book named after them.
1. There were more prophets in the Bible than the sixteen who have books named after them.
2. The two best known of these prophets were Elijah and Elisha.
3. There were several lesser known prophets: Nathan, Gad, Jehu and Shemaiah.
4. There were also three prophets mentioned who were women: Miriam, Deborah and Huldah.
B. Why are some prophets major and others minor?
1. Major and minor have nothing to do with the importance of a particular prophet.