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Rediscover the Prophets

How long has it been since you read the prophets? In the Old Testament, the prophets are considered the covenant spokespeople of God. Often, the prophets are misunderstood to be “foretellers” who predict what will happen and when. Actually the prophets are “forth tellers” who confront the people of God with the truth of God.

These are the sermon topics of Old Testament prophets who were given the difficult task of calling the children of God to repentance. These calamities were not imaginary threats originating in the minds of the prophets. Rather, these prophets were commissioned to renounce the nation’s sins and to pronounce the consequences if the nation did not turn from these sins. <?xml:namespace prefix = o ns = “urn:schemas-microsoft-com:office:office” />
 
How long has it been since you read the prophets? In the Old Testament, the prophets are considered the covenant spokespeople of God. Often, the prophets are misunderstood to be “foretellers” who predict what will happen and when. Actually the prophets are “forth tellers” who confront the people of God with the truth of God.
 
Historians and theologians put the prophets in different categories. Some refer to them as the major prophets (those whose prophetic ministry was lengthy) and the minor prophets (those whose prophecies were fairly brief and condensed).
 
Other biblical historians divide the prophets into two groups: former and latter. The former prophets are the historical books of Joshua, Judges, Samuel and Kings. The latter prophets are the renowned preachers of Israel: Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel and the Book of the Twelve (Hosea through Malachi). The book of Daniel is considered by some to be the lone prophet in a category by itself.
 
When we read the prophets, their message comes alive with relevance. So much about the message of the prophets speaks as though they are acquainted with our contemporary dilemmas.
 
The prophets remind us graphically of the consequences of sin. As the spokespeople of God to the people of God, the prophets described in detail the differences between the fruitful future God planned for his people and the barren future people seemed to choose for themselves by stubbornly continuing to live in sin and disobedience. The message of the prophets seems to be that “if you persist in this behavior, then the consequences are …”
 
The prophets issue a clear call for the people to return to covenant living. The people of Israel are often called the people of the covenant. But, as is often the case, the people seemed to have forgotten their covenant responsibility and lustfully strayed after strange gods. The primary role of the prophet is to invite—no—to demand that the people remember the vows of their faith and return to following the ways of God.
 
Perhaps residents of the postmodern world be wise to reconsider the message of the prophets, not as a source for solving an apocalyptic puzzle but as a fresh message of mercy and grace. If we leave or neglect our faith covenant and stray after strange gods, we will inevitably face the consequences of our sins. But, if we hear the prophet’s invitation, we can repent of our unfaithfulness and return to covenant living.
 
Now is a good time to rediscover the prophets. Time is wasting!

Barry Howard is a religion columnist who resides in Corbin, Ky.