The Prophets of God
The prophets of the Old Testament were persons uniquely called of God and supernaturally given God’s messages to pass on to us. God spoke His word through the lips and writings of the prophets.
Prophecy involved both future prediction ( foretelling) and present proclamation and exhortation of God’s word (forthtelling). The prophets were so endowed by the Holy Spirit that their words were God’s words. That is why prophetic messages were often prefaced by the phrase, “Thus says the Lord.”
The prophets were reformers of Israel’s religion. They called the people back to pure worship and obedience to God. Although the prophets were critical of the way Jewish worship often degenerated into mere ritual, they did not condemn or attack the original forms of worship that God had given His people. The prophets were not revolutionaries or religious anarchists. Their task was to purify, not destroy; to reform, not replace the worship of Israel.
The prophets were also deeply concerned about social justice and righteousness. They were the conscience of Israel, calling the people to repentance. They also functioned as God’s covenantal lawsuit prosecutors. They “served subpoenas” on the nation for violating the terms of the covenant with God.
Prophets spoke with divine authority because God specifically called them to be His spokesmen. They did not inherit their office, nor were they elected to it. The immediate call from God coupled with the Holy Spirit’s power constituted the prophets’ credentials.
False prophets were a constant problem in Israel. Instead of speaking the oracles of God, they related their own dreams and opinions—telling people only what they wanted to hear. The true prophets were frequently severely persecuted and rejected by their contemporaries for refusing to compromise the proclamation of the whole counsel of God.
Sometimes the books of the prophets are divided into the “major prophets” and the “minor prophets.” This distinction is a reference not to greater or lesser importance of the prophets, but to the volume of their canonical writings. Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, and Daniel are called major prophets because they wrote so much, while Amos, Hosea, Micah, Jonah, etc., are referred to as the minor prophets because their books are much smaller.
The New Testament apostles possessed many of the characteristics of the Old Testament prophets. The apostles and the prophets together are called the foundation of the church.
- The Old Testament prophets were agents of divine revelation.
- Prophecy involved foretelling and forthtelling.
- The prophets were reformers of Israelite worship and life.
- Only those directly called by God had the authority to be His prophets.
- False prophets expressed their own opinions and told people only what they wanted to hear.
- Major and minor prophets are so designated according to the volume of their written works, not the importance of those works.