Week 8 of our 90-Day Journey and seeking profit from the prophets!
Breadcrumbs For The Journey
A seminary professor used to always tell us, “The three most important keys to understanding a Bible passage is context, context, and context!” This is especially true when we try to understand the writing of the Prophets. For instance, when we read Isaiah it is helpful to know he is a prophet during the reign of four kings in Judah, and the fall of the Northern Kingdom of Israel occurred during his ministry. So, we would expect his prophecies to revolve around those places and events. However, prophetic writing can also be challenging because the visions and prophecies can be related to various periods of time, and not necessarily in chronological order! Despite all of that, there are some very encouraging nuggets of wisdom in Isaiah where he foretells the coming of Christ (Immanuel, the holy seed, the Branch from Jesse, and a Child who will be called “Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace”). He also praises the Lord’s faithfulness and offers comfort for God’s people. Part of Handel’s Messiah is taken from Isaiah 40: “Comfort, O Comfort my people….”
Writing the longest biblical book (by word count), Jeremiah has been referred to as the reluctant or weeping prophet. He also was a prophet in the Kingdom of Judah, but his ministry happened before and during the destruction of Jerusalem and continued into the exile of the Jewish people. God gave Jeremiah the difficult task of telling the people of Judah that God would allow them to be captured and exiled in Babylon. But, in the midst of such woe (which you can especially see in his book of Lamentations), Jeremiah also points to the coming Christ. Keep pressing on through the prophets, even if some things don’t make sense for now.
Tip Of The Week
Some scholars divide the book of Isaiah into at least two sections (1-40, 41-66), the first section being authored by Isaiah and the second being written by someone later in history. But the main reason for doing this is that Isaiah’s prophecies of the future were so true to the actual history that they argue Isaiah could not have been that accurate if he wrote decades and hundreds of years before these events happened. But if we believe our eternal God was working through his Prophet Isaiah, then there is no reason to think anyone other than Isaiah wrote this book.
Good To Know
Prophets sometimes did strange things in order to illustrate a message that God wanted to give to His people. For instance, Ezekiel laid on his left side for 390 days during the exile to symbolize the 390 years that the Israelites had sinned. Isaiah walked around naked (probably just his top) and barefoot for three years. Jeremiah hid his underwear between some rocks, and later he put a cattle yoke over his shoulders that another prophet had to break off of him. And Hosea named his children “Unloved” and “Not-My-People” to represent Israel’s relationship to God. Seems to me if you were neighbors of these prophets, those would be hard illustrations to forget!
Also, Justin Martyr, in the second century, identifies Isaiah as one of the prophets whose death is described in Hebrews 11:37, specifically the prophet who was “sawn in two.”
Activity For The Week
Since this is Holy Week, pay special attention to Isaiah 53 (The Suffering Servant) on Good Friday, and to Jeremiah 23 on Easter as it talks about the coming Messiah referred to as the Righteous Branch, and the name by which He is called is “The Lord Our Righteousness.”
Looking forward to celebrating the Resurrection of our Lord this Sunday!