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I have always believed that the prophets of God were men who mighty and loud in their speaking to the people they were sent to speak to. I used to picture them as tall men with long beards, wearing sackcloth as John the Baptist had, their fists pumping in the air as they told others about the impending doom that was about to befall them if they didn’t turn back to God immediately. Until I began to study the Bible, I had only heard about the prophecies of Jesus’ birth when I went to church each Christmas. I had not known then, as I do now, that the prophets prophesized more than the birth of Christ, but that they prophesized about everything the coming Messiah would be. I was astonished to see so much about Jesus in their words that this is where I came to know that I could trust the Bible in every way because all of these predictions came true.
When it came to the words spoken by the prophets, they didn’t always know if what they were saying was for their current generation or for a future generation, even though they still spoke the words to their current generation in hopes of repentance and a return back to God. A prophet could either forth-tell a prophecy or fore-tell the prophecy. Forth-tellers (p. 343) spoke God’s truth to their own generation, pointing to the evils of their day and called the people to repent from the evils they were doing that displeased God. They spoke of things that concerned their generation, but also had a meaning for those who were to come in future generations. Fore- telling is a prophesying of revelations that will happen in the near or far future, even though it was declared the current generation. The prophets always “spoke of judgment and restoration, of bad news and good news to motivate God’s people to faithful living in the present” (Arnold/Beyer p. 343). Again, the prophets would not always understand what they were fore- telling and were to speak it to the people anyway, but were not to dwell on its future portents.
The message of a prophet was two-fold. It came as both a message of pending judgment and the hope of God’s salvation for the nation. First, the prophet would remind the people of the sins they were committing against God as a nation. Then, after telling them what will happen if they do not stop their sinful ways, would remind them of God’s mercy, if they would return to God and keep His commandments. The people were obligated to keep the covenant that they made with God at Mount Sinai. The prophet’s job was to remind the people of their promise to follow God’s ways and that God had promised them protection from their enemies and peace within their own nation if they did. God always held out His hand in mercy and love to His people, but would be just as quick to bring judgment upon them for their disobedience. For me, I would believe that the prophets spoke these words of encouragement and mercy as passionately as they could to convince the people that God will not be mocked. Unfortunately, sometimes it would work, and sometimes it would not.
Many of the messages the prophets gave were fulfilled in their own time or generation. For example, Jeremiah (32:35-37) proclaimed that the people would be held in captivity in Babylon, but that God would not let the Jews be completely destroyed. This was fulfilled when the captivity ended in 539 B.C., after the Medes and Persians overthrew Babylon and let the Jews return to their homeland (100prophecies.org). This could also be used as a prophecy for the return of the Jews to Israel in 1948.
Some of the greatest future fulfillments of prophecy came from the mouth of the prophet Isaiah, who fore-told many of the prophecies of the coming Messiah, Jesus Christ. For example, in Isaiah we are told that Jesus “was wounded for our transgressions, He was bruised for our guilt and iniquities; the chastisement [needful to obtain] peace and well-being for us was upon Him, and with the stripes [that wounded] Him we are healed and made whole (53:5 AMP). This prophecy meant freedom for the whole world, Jew and non-Jew. It gave hope to the nation of Israel that a Messiah would take on the sins of the nation and free her from her bondage to sin forever, bringing her peace and prosperity. This is what the Lord had done 2000 years ago and will completely fulfill in the future Day of the Lord. Prophecies are the words of life, hope, mercy, and promise.
Arnold B., Beyer, B. (1999, 2008) Encountering the old testament: a christian survey. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academics
Scriptures taken from the Holy Bible: Amplified Version. Copyright © 1954, 1958, 1962, 1964,1965, 1987. Used by permission of The Lockman Foundation. Database © 2008 WORDsearch Corp.
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