Old Testament Prophets Deliver the Goods
by Dr. Nancy G Daniel
Dr. Daniel teaches the Graduate course which focuses on the OT Prophets.
From the foundations of the earth God has loved us with an everlasting love. He has always championed the cause of the oppressed and the afflicted who suffer unjustly. His heart burns with passionate love for His beloved Bride. That passion flows from before the beginning of time through the Old Testament to the end of time and beyond. This powerful passion flows through His spokesmen both past and present.
The spokesmen of the Lord, the Old Testament prophets, are often discounted because of their delivery, it would seem that they were harsh and spoke out of anger and frustration instead of the fruit of the Spirit. They did not get the results at the time they desired so it is easy to come to this conclusion.The heart change and/or results in the receiver of the prophetic word is as important as the revelation given, no matter the level of prophetic gifting. Crafting one’s words with encouragement, wisdom, kindness and love for the hearer is key in this process.
On the other hand, the one who prophesies speaks to people for their upbuilding and encouragement and consolation. (1 Corin. 14:3, ESV)
As we study the cognate of the above scripture for the word building or edification we find that it means properly, a building (edifice) serving as a home; (figuratively) constructive criticism and instruction that builds a person up to be the suitable dwelling place of God, i.e. where the Lord is “at home.”
The core meaning of the word encouragement or paráklēsis (“personal urging”) is shaped by the individual context, so it can refer to: exhortation, warning, encouragement (comfort), etc.
This tells us that with prophecy we create a suitable place for God to dwell in the receiver by the spirit, with the prophetic word of exhortation, warning or encouragement. If this is true then we can see this in the OT prophets as well. They heard the word and delivered it as God gave it to them. They warned the people because they were at or past the tipping point of their kingdom. God’s heart was crying out, “Please listen, I do not want you to suffer!” God was not saying “Please sacrifice another animal!” The God of OT is the same God of the NT. Our God has always been love (Ex 34:6-7; 1 Jn. 4:8).
OT culture relevance and history must be examined to better understand the OT prophet’s method of delivery. If we understand the lifestyle, culture of the time and conditions of the heart of Israel and Judah in these historical settings we may take a second look at the OT prophets.
Today, we have been bombarded with the idea of political correctness and don’t realize it. We are taught not to offend even if it is the truth. In our culture, truth and corrective words can often sound mean or harsh.
That being said is it possible that what we consider harsh corrective words in the OT could be culturally acceptable and warranted?
In the New Testament, Peter tells us that he had an experience on the holy mountain and now has greater confidence in the message of the prophets and says that their words are like lamps shining in a dark place until the Day dawns and Christ the Morning Star shines in our hearts. Then he goes on to say the following:
But know this first of all, that no prophecy of Scripture is a matter of one’s own interpretation, 21for no prophecy was ever made by an act of human will, but men moved by the Holy Spirit spoke from God. (2 Pet 1, NASB)
If this was from the Holy Spirit was there fruit as well? Can the Holy Spirit move through man and not have fruit? (Gal 5:22)
Anger or Cultural Relevance?
There are many OT prophets we can to study to see cultural relevance but we will look briefly at one whose name was Amos.
Amos was a cattle rancher and farmer and never claimed to be a prophet nor was he trained or the son of a prophet (Amos 7:14), though he was one of the Twelve Minor Prophets in the Bible. His corrective words were intelligent and cutting (much like that of Jesus). He knew his audience as he addressed aristocrats of the day.
Israel’s defense was that they were following the law, in fact, that was God’s issue with them! They believed that since they had God in a box (temple and rituals or the works of religion), they would be protected. They held onto rituals but Amos stood for justice. He predicted the destruction of Judah and Israel in part because of the oppression of the poor by fellow Israelites (Amos 2:6-8; Amos 4:1-3; Amos 5:10-13; Amos 8:4-6).
They did not listen to Amos.
Was that because he was angry in his soul and speaking from an emotion of anger? Or could it have been a righteous anger could it have been God’s passionate heart like Jesus?
One only has to read about Moses and Jonah for the answer. Here we see what God did with His prophets who spoke or acted out of emotional (soul or personal) anger toward the people. The Bible shows us that God not only speaks (including today) through His prophets but when they step out of line He corrects or disciplines them though it may take time. (Pv. 3:12; Acts 17:11; Heb 12:6). What love the Lord has for His beloved Bride. If the Lord took Moses and Jonah (Jn 4:4) to task on this issue why would He not do the same with the other OT prophets? Maybe we misunderstand the delivery and need to look at this again.
What was Jesus response and delivery to the people of His day?
17Jesus said, “You faithless and corrupt people! How long must I be with you? How long must I put up with you? Bring the boy here to me.”(Mat. 17)
Was the above for the evil religious leaders of the day? No. This was to his disciples. The people He was pouring into. Then we read Jesus delivery or words to the crowd, these people were not close to Him:
29As the crowd pressed in on Jesus, he said, “This evil generation keeps asking me to show them a miraculous sign. But the only sign I will give them is the sign of Jonah. 30What happened to him was a sign to the people of Nineveh that God had sent him. What happens to the Son of Man will be a sign to these people that he was sent by God.
31“The queen of Shebaj will stand up against this generation on judgment day and condemn it, for she came from a distant land to hear the wisdom of Solomon. Now someone greater than Solomon is here—but you refuse to listen. 32The people of Nineveh will also stand up against this generation on judgment day and condemn it, for they repented of their sins at the preaching of Jonah. Now someone greater than Jonah is here—but you refuse to repent. (Lk. 11)
There are many examples of Jesus speaking truth with what would seem to be a harsh delivery. Though it sounds cutting and angry at times we know that the heart of His message was love. Are we listening to and reading about Jesus today or is He too harsh like the OT prophets?
We cannot discount the OT prophets because we have looked at them through our modern or cultural filters. The NT is based on the OT.
I challenge you to ‘Be diligent to present yourself approved to God as a workman who does not need to be ashamed, accurately handling the word of truth’ (2 Tim. 2:15).
Study the OT and the OT prophets and take a second look you may be surprised and see the Holy Spirit and love.
After all it is all about the Law
Mat 22:36 “Teacher, which is the great commandment in the Law?”
Deut 6:5 “And you shall love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might.
Mat 22:38 “This is the great and foremost commandment.
Mat 22:39 “The second is like it, …
Lev 19:18 ‘You shall not take vengeance, nor bear any grudge against the sons of your people, but you shall love your neighbor as yourself; I am the LORD.
Matthew 22:40 “On these two commandments depend the whole Law and the Prophets.”