The Message of the Prophets

Theirs is a message of grace extended, grace repudiated, and grace renewed.

Introduction to Isaiah (2)

Pray Psalm 75.1.

We give thanks to You, O God, we give thanks!
For Your wondrous works declare that Your name is near.

Read Isaiah 1.2-4, 16-20.

Reflect.
1. What is repentance? Why should it be an important part of our walk with and work for the Lord?

2. What does it mean to “reason together” with the Lord? How do you practice this?

Meditate.
Typically, when we think of the Old Testament prophets, one of two stereotypes comes to mind. We see them as angry men, pointing the finger and threatening the judgment of God. Or we see them as starry-eyed dreamers, rambling on about a future revelation and glory neither they nor we fully understand.

There is some truth to these views, but the prophets offer a much richer and more edifying message, a message that unifies the whole of Scripture and demonstrates the centrality of God’s redemptive plan. The message of the prophets has three foci.

First, the prophets reminded their contemporaries of the promises and commandments of God. It was important that the people of Israel remembered who they were, where they’d come from, and how they’d happened to have a land and Kingdom of their own. God had made promises to their forefathers, and He had been unfailingly faithful in fulfilling those promises, especially in delivering His people from Egypt and settling them in the land of Canaan. For the better securing of all He had promised, God gave them His Law, to guide them into that condition of blessedness which would allow them to be a blessing to the world. The prophets of the Old Testament reminded the people again and again of what God had promised and done for them. He was a God of grace and holiness, and He called His people to be like Him.

Second, reminding the people of God’s faithfulness and Law, the prophets rehearsed the failings of the people to live in good faith before their loving God. Not only their fathers, but each generation of Israelites was unfaithful to the Lord, and turned away from Him and His righteousness to the pagan gods of the nations around. Thus they stood condemned, having freely brought on themselves the warnings of judgment God included with His promises (cf. Deut. 28). Sometimes those words of judgment were personal, specific, and short-lived. At other times they were national, calamitous, and of long duration. The prophets insisted that sin was a big deal with God, and He would not allow it to continue unchecked within His people.

Third, the prophets’ words of judgment include a call to repentance, to turn away from evil and take up the way of the Lord again. With repentance comes the promise of restoration, the renewing of God’s covenant blessings for His people, and of better days to come. 

The message of the prophets often outlines two futures, one for the short-term (e.g., the promise to return the people from captivity in Babylon after 70 years), and one for the longer-term (the coming of Messiah and His Kingdom). Very often these two futures are intermingled, as if to suggest that the realization of the earlier one holds the promise of realizing the later one.

All the prophets emphasize the grace of God and promise more of that grace for those who hear and seek Him in faith. Taken together, the message of the prophets is that the grace of God realizes its fullest manifestation in His giving a new and unbreakable and eternal covenant, in which His Messiah will accomplish deliverance from sin and a way of holiness for His people.

Prepare.
1. How can you see the three parts of this outline of the prophets’ message in Isaiah 1.2-4, 16-20?

2. Why do Christians today need to hear this prophetic message?

3. What does this message of the prophets suggest about the kind of life God wants us, His people, to pursue?

Let us become as clean as is possible. Let us wash away our sins. And the prophet teaches us how to wash them away, saying, “Wash yourselves, make yourselves clean, put away from my eyes the evil of your souls.” … See that we must first cleanse ourselves, and then God cleanses us. He first said, “Wash yourselves, make yourselves clean,” and then said, “I will make you white.” … The power of repentance is then tremendous as it makes us white as snow and wool, even though sin had stained our souls. John Chrysostom (344-407 AD), On the Epistle of Hebrews 12.4

Show me where repentance is needed in my life, Lord, and help me today to…

Pray Psalm 75.

Pray this psalm slowly and reflectively. How can you see that it speaks to conditions in our own day? How does God’s work of judgment apply to His churches?

Sing to the Lord.
Psalm 75 (Galilee: Jesus Calls Us)
We give thanks, Lord, we give thanks for Your all-glorious Name is near!
Men Your wondrous works declare, Lord; let all living creatures hear!

When you choose the time of judgment, You will judge with equity.
Then the earth and all within it by Your hand no more shall be.

Warn the boastful, warn the wicked: “Do not boast or raise your horn!
Do not raise your boastful voices; do not speak with pride and scorn!”

Neither east nor west nor desert shall exalting bring to man.
God is Judge, He puts one down and makes another one to stand.

For the cup of judgment foams in Jesus’ sovereign, holy hand.
He has mixed it and will pour it out on every wicked man.

As for me, I will declare it: Evermore to God be praise! 
He abases all the wicked,  but His righteous ones He saves!


T. M. Moore

Where do the prophets fit with the rest of Scripture? How can I be a better student of God’s Word? Our course, Introduction to Biblical Theology, can help you gain a better approach to and understanding of the Scriptures. Watch this brief preview video, then register at The Ailbe Seminary and enroll in this free online course.

Forward today’s lesson to some friends, and challenge them to study with you through this series on Isaiah. Each week’s lessons will be available as a free PDF download at the end of the week. Get a copy for yourself and send the link for the download to your friends. Plan to meet weekly to study Isaiah’s important message.


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Except as indicated, Scripture taken from the New King James Version. © Copyright 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved. All psalms for singing adapted from The Ailbe Psalter. All quotations from Church Fathers from Ancient Christian Commentary Series, General Editor Thomas C. Oden (Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press, 2006).All psalms for singing are from The Ailbe Psalter (available by clicking here).

T.M. Moore

T. M. Moore is principal of The Fellowship of Ailbe, a spiritual fellowship in the Celtic Christian tradition. He and his wife, Susie, make their home in Essex Junction, VT. 

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