God sent many prophets to his people seeking to turn their hearts back to Him. They would listen for a time, particularly when they were in trouble, but always fell away again. In Isaiah 31 God said, “Woe to those who go down to Egypt for help, who rely on horses, who trust in the multitude of their chariots and in the great strength of their horsemen, but do not look to the Holy One of Israel, or seek help from the LORD.”(31:1) Egypt represented worldly power. We could also say human knowledge and reasoning. God has given us strength, knowledge, great powers of reason, but if we are not guided by first seeking the Lord, it leads to disaster, as it did for ancient Israel. The writer of Proverbs cautioned, “There is a way which seems right to a man, But its end is the way of death.”(14:12) The words of the wisdom books and the prophets were written 3000 years ago, but speak with more relevance than much of what is put forward as truth today.
Years ago in seminary I had to write a short sketch on one of the Old Testaments prophets. I was assigned a fellow by the name of Micaiah ben Imlah. Never heard of him? Neither had I at the time. He is certainly not like the major ones Isaiah, Jeremiah, or even like Hosea, or Joel. Micaiah was called on to advise Israel’s king whether he should go into a particular battle or not. The word Micaiah had from the Lord was that the battle would end in disaster for the king and his army. The only problem was that the king had previously consulted his regular cadre of 400 prophets, all of whom advised him to go into battle. One voice against against 400. Yet Micaiah was right. The army was defeated and the king died in battle. Often, in our fallen world, the Lord’s voice is overwhelmed by the shouts of modern prophets proclaiming a new way, a better way, a way that accords with modern thinking. Yet like the kings army it will ultimately lead to disaster. We each have one voice, guided by God’s Word, and with the council of the Holy Spirit and prayer. Let us be willing to humbly stand on that Word even against a multitude of modern prophets.
I love the books of the prophets in the Old Testament, especially Isaiah and Jeremiah. It is not that they are so prophetic in giving a road map for what is going to happen in life. Rather, they are clear in describing who man, fallen rebellious man, really is, and what God, in his grace, will do about it. They can be very harsh in places where words of judgment are necessary, but they also reach out with great hope in God’s redeeming strength. They are books to be taken seriously to deflate our pride, and bring us to humility before the Lord. They clearly show our inability to improve our own lot in life, and God’s supreme ability to bring us to the right place for our best good and His great purpose. These books give us the assurance that God will complete the plan He set in place at creation. It will be glorious, and it will include all who look to Him in hope.
There are a series of twelve “minor prophets” at the end of the Old Testament with names like Nahum, Habakkuk, Zephaniah, Haggai, and Zechariah. Most have only a couple of chapters, the longest is Zachariah with fourteen, but still only a few pages in length. But they are not minor in their message. God sent these men at various time in the latter part of Israel’s history to try to turn the hearts of the people back to God from their idolatry and sinful practices. There messages at times were harsh, but they all represented a God who earnestly desired to have His people close to Himself. God is a Father longing for, and earnestly calling His wayward children to come home, a home where they will find all that is best for their lives. Nothing has changed. God is still our Father. He has even come among us in Jesus Christ, and done all that is necessary for us to be a part of Him. God has never stopped reaching out to His creation, down to you in this very day.