Reading the Prophets

God Himself shows us how to read the prophets.

Introduction to Isaiah (5)

Pray Psalm 33.20-22.
Our soul waits for the LORD;
He is our help and our shield.
For our heart shall rejoice in Him,
Because we have trusted in His holy name.
Let Your mercy, O LORD, be upon us,
Just as we hope in You.

Read Habakkuk 2.1-14.

Reflect.
1. What does it mean to watch for the Lord and to wait on His Word?

2. What is the knowledge of the glory of the Lord? 

Meditate.
Reading the prophets can be challenging, because they don’t always follow the kind of linear, rational narrative we’re familiar with today; and because much of what they have to say is specific to the times in which they lived. These are times we’re not quite familiar with, and so the names and conditions the prophets describe can seem not directly relevant to our present needs.

In the verses for today, Habakkuk outlines a good approach to reading the prophets – well, to reading any of God’s Word. Let’s take a closer look.

First, we need to stand watch for the Lord (v. 1). A watch is a regular, recurring assignment. Those who stand it are to remain alert, attentive, and ready to respond. We need a daily watch in which we present ourselves before the Lord, ready to hear what He has to say and to answer as His Word indicates.

Second, strive to see what the Lord wants to show you (v. 1). If you need to check some cross references, or do a little reading in a Bible dictionary, take the time to do so. You want the message God has for you to become as clear as possible, so be patient. Meditate. Pray your thoughts to the Lord. Ask more questions about the text. At length, if you will set yourself and watch attentively, God will allow you to see what He has for you in His Word.

Third, there is something here to be said for reading your Bible with a pen in hand (v. 2). Habakkuk was instructed to write what the Lord showed him. Writing, or journaling, can help in clarifying our thoughts about a passage and leading us in identifying how we ought to respond. It also tends to make our learning more permanent. Plus, you can share your thoughts with others, so that they can benefit from what the Lord has allowed you to see.

Fourth, as you are watching and waiting and making notes, let the Word search your soul, to make sure it is upright before the Lord (v. 4, vv. 5-13). Let the Word speak to your thought life, your desires and fears, and your values and priorities. Are you harboring any sins anywhere in your soul? Wherever you need to shed the light of faith and truth in your soul, do so in confession and repentance.

Fifth, determine how you will run your race through the day ahead, in the light of what your reading has revealed to you (v. 2; Heb. 12.1, 2). Where do you need to take some new steps of faith? Whom can you touch with the grace of Jesus today? What opportunities will you have for sharing with other believers what the Lord has shown you from His Word? Expect the Lord to guide and use you according to what He has shown you in His Word (v. 3), and plan your words and deeds to fit the insights you have gained.

Finally, make sure your objective in everything you do is to fill your world with the knowledge of the glory of the Lord (v. 14). Be always ready to talk about the Lord. Give thanks in every situation and for everything. Share what you’re learning with others. Listen for opportunities to inject a word of witness or testimony, or to point out some aspect of the Lord’s glory in the world around.

We’ll gain more of what God intends for us from our study of Isaiah by keeping these practices in mind and reading this great prophet as the Lord intends.

Prepare.
1. What opportunities for pointing out the glory of the Lord do you expect to have today?

2. What can you learn from Habakkuk to improve your time reading and studying the Word of God?

3. Why is it a good idea to write down the things God teaches you from His Word? 

O truth, you do preside over all things, even those that take counsel with you, and you do answer in the same time all who consult you, however diverse their questions. You do answer clearly, but all do not hear clearly. All seek counsel concerning what they wish, but they do not always hear what they wish. He serves you best who does not so much expect to hear the thing from you that he himself desires, but rather to desire what he hears from you. Augustine (354-430 AD), Confessions 10.26

Help me to be more diligent and attentive in seeking You in Your Word, O Lord, so that I…

Pray Psalm 33.

As much as any psalm, this psalm summarizes the message of the prophets. Let it lead you to give thanks and praise to God, and to commit yourself afresh to Him for this day.

Sing to the Lord.
Psalm 33 (Truro: Shout,for the Blessed Jesus Reigns)
Sing with rejoicing in the Lord, for praise becomes His righteous ones!
With harps and songs raise grateful words, and let new songs of praise be sung!

Joyfully shout!  His Word is true; He does His work in faithfulness.
His love prevails the whole world through; the Lord loves truth and righteousness.

God spoke and heaven came to be, and all its hosts His Spirit wrought.
He heaps the waters of the sea; the deeps their dwelling place are taught.

Let all below now fear the Lord; let all in awe of Him abide!
The worlds exist by Jesus’ Word; let all on earth in Him confide.

He nullifies the nations’ plans; forever stands His sov’reign Word.
All they are blessed who with Him stand – the chosen people of the Lord.

God from His throne looks down on men; He knows our works and made our hearts.
Let not Your Church, let none depend on strength or skill or human arts.

God watches those who fear His Name, who hope upon His grace and love; 
He keeps their souls from death and shame who trust in Him Who reigns above.

God is our Helper and our Shield; upon us let Your grace descend!
We hope in You; to You we yield; we trust in Jesus to the end.

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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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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