A. THE MAJOR AND MINOR PROPHETS.
The 17 prophetical books of the Bible follow just after the 3 books written by king Solomon. The first 4, namely Isaiah, Jeremiah (including the Lamentations of Jeremiah), Ezekiel and Daniel are called the major prophets. The remaining 12, known as the minor prophets, start off with Hosea and end with Malachi. Apart from the prophets just mentioned, there were many others like Moses, Samuel and Nathan. We read of these in the Bible books we have already dealt with.
B. THE MEANING OF THE WORD “PROPHECY”.
What does the word prophecy mean? It means to speak on behalf of God. The prophets were holy people of God but they were also ordinary people like you and me. They would also have normal conversations just like other believers. Therefore not every word they spoke would be words of prophecy. They could also at times have faulty opinions or give wrong advice. But there were times when the Holy Spirit came upon them and laid the very words of God into their mouths. Such prophecy was absolutely true, because these were God’s words , not their own.
C. THE CONTENT OF BIBLICAL PROPHECY.
What did they prophecy about? Many of the words God spoke through them, were intended for the people of that time. Most of it was for the nation of Israel, but God also spoke words of prophecy to some of the heathen nations surrounding them.
The words God spoke to Israel, often were to reprimand them for their sin and warn them of the terrible consequences. He however also spoke many, many words of encouragement to ensure them of his love.
Some of the prophecy was a prediction of the future, for instance informing them that they would be taken into captivity by heathen nations because of their disobedience, but also telling them when, and how, they would return to their country.
Lastly we find amongst those prophecies, some of which were spoken even more than 3000 years ago, predictions regarding the birth, life, crucifixion, resurrection and ascension of our Lord Jesus Christ and even predictions of what will happen when this world we now live in, comes to an end. Many, many of the prophecies have already been literally fulfilled, especially those pertaining to the first coming of our Lord Jesus, others are still to be fulfilled in the distant future.
D. THE CALLING AS PROPHET.
Prophets did not become such just because they belonged to a certain tribe or wanted to be one. Unlike the priests and Levites, they were specially called to the office by God. Let us now look at one of the greatest spokesmen for God who ever lived.
E. THE PROPHET ISAIAH AND HIS CALLING.
We read the Book of Isaiah chapter 6:1-9:
“In the year that King Uzziah died I saw the Lord sitting upon a throne, high and lifted up; and his train filled the temple. 2 Above him stood the seraphim; each had six wings: with two he covered his face, and with two he covered his feet, and with two he flew. 3 And one called to another and said: “Holy, holy, holy is the LORD of hosts; the whole earth is full of his glory.” 4 And the foundations of the thresholds shook at the voice of him who called, and the house was filled with smoke.
5 And I said: “Woe is me! For I am lost; for I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips; for my eyes have seen the King, the LORD of hosts!” 6 Then flew one of the seraphim to me, having in his hand a burning coal which he had taken with tongs from the altar. And he touched my mouth, and said: “Behold, this has touched your lips; your guilt is taken away, and your sin forgiven.”
8 And I heard the voice of the Lord saying, “Whom shall I send, and who will go for us?” Then I said, “Here am I! Send me.” 9 And he said, “Go, and say to this people: ‘Hear and hear, but do not understand; see and see, but do not perceive.’”
What an experience this must have been for Isaiah. He was not a wicked man, he was a God fearing, God serving person.
- His vision of God in His holiness.
Then suddenly he was lifted into the very presence of God. He saw the Lord sitting high and lifted up on His throne. Angels were hovering around Him and although they were perfectly holy they covered their faces and feet in His presence. They were so overwhelmed by the holiness of God that they unceasingly cried out “Holy, holy, holy is the LORD of hosts; the whole earth is full of his glory.”
- His awareness of his own sinfullness.
This sight of the Holy God caused Isaiah to become intensely aware of his own sinfulness. What especially troubled him, was the things he had been saying here on earth, the words he had spoken. When he heard the holy words of the angels worshipping God, he felt terribly ashamed of his own words. He may never have used vile words or used the Name of God irreverently, yet he was terror stricken when recalling his language and conversations. Perhaps he sometimes spoke out in anger, or spoke evil of other people or said negative things that did not glorify God. It was as if his lips were dirty and he could not clean them.
Then he cried out “Woe is me! For I am lost; for I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips; for my eyes have seen the King, the LORD of hosts!” He did not only feel dirty, he felt utterly lost, he felt he did not belong in the presence of God.
- His cleansing.
At once an angel came, took a live coal off the alter and touched his lips and declared “Behold, this has touched your lips; your guilt is taken away, and your sin forgiven.”
How could this coal of fire take away his sins? Should we burn our lips with a coal of fire, will our sins also be forgiven? No, the coals of fire on the alter of heaven signify the death which Jesus died on the cross to pay for our sins. He went through terrible pain, through burning pain. He offered Himself on the alter of the cross, that by His offering we may be cleansed and forgiven.
- His calling as prophet.
But his repentance and cleansing was just the beginning of God’s working in his life. The moment he was cleansed, the Lord called out “Whom shall I send, and who will go for us?” God needs people He can send out to convey His message to the nations of the earth. God does not send angels, He sends men and woman for we best understand other men and woman. Isaiah, having been cleansed now had great boldness and a strong desire to tell his people of the God whom He had seen and how they could get cleansed – He just could not keep it for himself. So he called out “Here am I! Send me.”
The Lord responded to his request by commanding him: “Go, and say to this people …” Then He proceeded to tell Him what he was to say. Isaiah obeyed immediately and for the rest of his life, he was God’s spokesman, his prophet, his mouthpiece to convey His Words to His people.
- How this applies to us.
Are we deeply aware of the fact that every Christian is called by the Lord Jesus to share His words with the peoples of this earth? He says in Acts 1:8 “But you shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria and to the end of the earth.”
In our days we need not necessarily receive special words from God for we have the Bible which contains 66 books filled with the Words of God which we can share with our fellow men. Have you been washed in the Blood of Jesus? Then you are also called to be His witness – not neccessarily a prophet, but at least a witness to the cleansing power of the Blood of the Lamb of God in your life. Are you lacking in boldness? Humble yourself and be filled by the the Spirit of boldness, the Holy Spirit. It is He that filled the martyrs that gave their lives and even died for Christ.
F. SOME OF ISAIAH’S PROPHECIES.
Much of the prophecy uttered by him for the benefit of the people of Israel, can equally be applied to us and we are now going to deal with some of them.
- Sin as glaring as Scarlet and Crimson.
We read from Isaiah chapter 1:18:
“Come now, let us reason together,” says the LORD. “Though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they are red as crimson, they shall be like wool.”
This word is so applicable to any person that is living in sin and especially to those that have sinned grievously. In those days they did not have these very strong dyes we have nowadays and some stains could perhaps be washed away or bleached. But, both crimson and scarlet are very bright and glaring colours. If you spilt one of those dyes on your clothing you would never be able to remove them, you will have to throw the item away.
This applies to our lives too. We may have sinned so openly that everyone around knows about it. Wherever we move, we see people looking briefly at us, then looking away without greeting us. We may feel that there is no hope for us at all; we are only good to be cast into the fire of hell. These words of God, however, bring us new hope. He assures us that if we are truly sorry for what we have done, and repent and confess our sins to him, He will cleanse us to be spotlessly clean – white as wool. Once we are clean in the eyes of God, we will no longer feel condemned in the eyes of man.
- The wall of sin.
Chapter 59:1,2 contains a similar truth:
“Surely the arm of the LORD is not too short to save, nor his ear too dull to hear. 2 But your iniquities have separated you from your God; your sins have hidden his face from you, so that he will not hear.
Let us say you are ill and in bed. Somebody is sitting next to you and you ask him to hand you your medicine. He however does not respond. You may come to the conclusion that, either he did not hear you, or is unable to reach out and hand it to you, or does not want to help you.
The same applies when we pray. We can not see God with our eyes and when our prayers are not being answered, we may feel that since God is up there in heaven, He is too far to hear our cries, or his arm is too short to reach out from there and help us here on earth.
In the verses we have read, God answers these thoughts, giving a reason we have not thought of. He says “No you are wrong, my arm is not too short and I am not hard of hearing; there is a different reason. Look right in front of you and you will see that there is a high wall. You built it yourself, laying one brick after the other. Every time you sinned, you laid another brick. You have screened yourself off from me, it is you who broke the communication, not I”.
What shall we do? The answer is simple: break down the wall. How? Inspect every brick, see what sin it is you committed and confess it to the Lord. Every time we confess a sin, we break out a brick and very soon the whole wall will be broken down. Then our prayers will ascend up to heaven and God’s blessings will flow freely down to us. Then, let us not allow our sin to become a wall; let us confess it as soon as it has been committed and we will always have an open line to the Throne of grace.
- Soaring like an eagle.
Our next portion of prophecy is from Isaiah chapter 40:28-31:
“Do you not know? Have you not heard? The LORD is the everlasting God, the Creator of the ends of the earth. He will not grow tired or weary, and his understanding no-one can fathom. 29 He gives strength to the weary and increases the power of the weak. 30 Even youths grow tired and weary, and young men stumble and fall; 31 but those who hope in the LORD will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint.”
Perhaps this word is for you at this very moment. You may be a Christian, you have been born again and you love the Lord.
But you are having a very hard time; everything seems to be going wrong. Everyday you are beset by new troubles and you are so weary and discouraged that you can hardly breathe. Listen to what this verse says; “Those that hope in the Lord” which can also be translated “Those that wait on the Lord” “will renew their strength, they will soar on wings like the eagles”.
You may never have seen a real eagle from close-up while in flight, only in a picture or on TV. It is an impressive bird, large and often found in mountainous regions. It usually flies at a great height, covers many, many kilometres in a few minutes, and it continues soaring hour after hour without getting weary.
In this quoted prophecy God promises that if we kneel down before him for an hour, two hours, three hours, or untill the Spirit allows us to rise, our strength will be renewed. Our spirit will soar above our problems like an eagle. We will go through many hardships but they will not wear us out, causing us to shuffle along in the dust of discouragement.
- Rivers and fires.
Isaiah 43:1b, 2:
“Fear not, for I have redeemed you; I have summoned you by name; you are mine. 2 When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and when you pass through the rivers, they will not sweep over you. When you walk through the fire, you will not be burned; the flames will not set you ablaze.”
Another precious promise by God to His children. Some are suffering hardships that look like terrible fires or deep fast flowing rivers. Although we may be born-again by the Spirit of God, we are still flesh and bone, we are human beings and we fear when we know that we have to go through fierce trials. We are in a battle with the devil and his evil forces.
God does not promise to quench the fire. Nor will He build a high bridge over the deep river to make our path easy, effortless, without danger. No, we are to learn and experience the enormous power of God. So what He does, is to be right at our side, holding our hand when we pass through the storms of life. The fire will not scorch us and the water will not drown us. Let me repeat: We have to go through difficult circumstances to learn to trust God, to know his great power and his everlasting love.
Are you looking forward to our next Bible study? It will deal with more of Isaiah’s prophecies but also with those of another of God’s great spokesmen, Jeremiah.
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