14 June 15
Series: The Book
4 Guys and a Text!
This is a useful tool for small group discussion, personal reflection or in a one-on-one conversation. We believe that if the Sunday teaching is discussed outside the morning services, it will be an opportunity to go deeper and build community because God's Word needs to be discussed in community.
We continue our Spring and Summer series called The Book. Over the next several months we are going to be teaching out of all the sections of the Bible and seeing how it’s put together, seeing common threads that connect the books of the Bible to make up The Book.
Today we move into the section of Scripture called the Prophets. There are “major” and “minor” prophets, making up 17 books in all. We are looking today and next week at the Major Prophets. You can see the book shelf below to see what material we have covered and where we are going.
In the Hebrew Bible these books are known as the Latter Prophets. The term ‘latter’ speaks primarily of their place in the Canon rather than their chronological position. These prophets are sometimes called the “writing prophets” because their authors wrote or recorded their utterances. There were other oral prophets like Nathan, Ahijah, Iddo, Jehu, Elijah, Elisha, Oded, Shemaiah, Azariah, Hanani, Jahaziel, and Huldah who left no records of their utterances. Mostly because of their size, the Latter Prophets are subdivided into the Major Prophets (Isaiah, Jeremiah, and Ezekiel, Daniel), and the twelve Minor Prophets. These prophets ministered during the History section of the Old Testament. Regarding the Major Prophets, Isaiah ministered from about 740-700 BC. Israel was taken into captivity by Assyria in 722BC. Jeremiah ministered from 627-585 BC. He witnessed the capturing of Judah by Babylon in 605 BC. Ezekiel lived in the superpower Babylon and ministered from 590s-570s BC. Finally Daniel lived in Babylon from 605–538 BC.
What do four Major Prophets have to do with us? Perhaps quite a bit. When you look at one of the Hebrew names for prophet, “nabi’ “ you see that it means to declare or announce. That is exactly what the four Major Prophets did. Prophets were to proclaim the Mosaic Law to the nation. Sometimes this involved judgment, warning, words of comfort and peace. Sometimes their words were predictive (they foretold the future).
The prophets declared God’s instructions in two basic ways: word and symbol. Usually the prophets presented God’s word orally (e.g., Jer. 7:1–8:3) or in written form (e.g., Jer. 36:1–32) to varying types and sizes of audiences. Jesus was the ultimate prophet (check out Hebrews 1:1-4).
So how do we relate to the prophets? What do we have in common? When you read the New Testament you quickly discover that we, as Christ followers, are to be proclaimers and presenters, announcing God’s truth. No, we are not prophets in the same way as in the Old Testament. God chose specific ways in those days to communicate. Hebrews 1 demonstrates that that was then and this is now! (See more on this in Carmen’s Corner.) However, we are to announce and speak out God’s word. Check out 1 Peter 3:14-17, 2 Timothy 3:14-17. Note Peter’s clear instruction in how we are to give an answer.
Big Idea: We are to proclaim the word.
What is it like for you to speak out God’s truth in the marketplace, in your family, in a close relationship? Some would say it is HARD! Highly Antagonistic Resistant Dialogue. Read the following references for the four Major Prophets and see if their context was HARD!
- Isaiah - Read Isaiah 6:1-6 - How is God described? If you read the context - the first 5 chapters - you will discover that the Israelites are Unholy, Unholy, Unholy. The exact opposite of the character of God and His message. Isaiah had his work cut out for him.
- Jeremiah - Read Jeremiah 38:1-6- Why is he in the mud?
- Ezekiel - Read Ezekiel 2:1-7, about his call to ministry. How are the people described? HARD?
- Daniel - Read Daniel 6, but note v.5. Note how antagonistic the people were to the law of God!
Discuss the various contexts where you have opportunity to speak out the Word of God. Can you relate at all to the four Major Prophets? If so, in what way? Do you find the Canadian context becoming “HARDer”?
Listen to how a pastor from Australia describes the changing spiritual landscape of his country. See any parallels?
“…the ministry remains interesting in a changing world. I have been reading and thinking lately that the climate for Australian Christians is changing quite a lot. The catch phrase is that it is no longer Athens but Babylon, and that we are now in a hostile culture that doesn't tolerate or interact with Christians, but detests them. We are now seen as misogynistic and homophobic and intolerant and therefore a social evil to be eradicated. The uncovering of massive child abuse by the Catholic Church in the royal commission doesn't help the perception either. This all makes for interesting days for the preacher, pastor and church leader. How do you navigate church when Christendom is most definitely dead? All of a sudden Daniel and 1 Peter and the language of Exile is all the more poignant.”
With the encouragement from Scripture to proclaim the word, yet with a HARD spiritual landscape, we can experience great tension.
What are you learning in that tension as you attempt to speak out God’s truth with gentleness and respect?
Here is one thing I am learning in speaking up in the public arena:
I wrestle at times with fear, and with pride - not wanting to be labeled as “misogynistic and homophobic and intolerant and therefore a social evil to be eradicated”. I need to get used to the new labels, the new pushback, the new categorization of being a Christ follower. On top of that, my pride sometimes makes me hesitant to speak up as readily as I should. I am not ashamed of Jesus, but sometimes ashamed of those who follow Jesus. Sometimes the labels that Christians get stuck with are well deserved. However, I realize that at other times, those labels are coming from people who truly despise the words of Jesus and all the message of Christianity represents.
That’s my journey. How about yours?
If interested in joining or starting a small group contact our Director of Worship and Discipleship Amanda Van Halteren firstname.lastname@example.org
There is some controversy in the Church today about the whole notion of prophets and prophetic gifts. Some, called “Cessationists”, believe that certain spiritual gifts (such as prophecy and prophets in the Old Testament sense) have come to an end, for the following reasons:
As Mark mentioned above – “Long ago, at many times and in many ways, God spoke to our fathers by the prophets, but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son…” (Hebrews 1:1)
We now have the complete Bible with all His teachings (as well as those of the apostles He Himself trained)
Jude (Jesus’s half-brother) also reminds his readers that the faith we believe “was once for all delivered to the saints”, i.e. in the case of doctrine, there is nothing new under the sun – we have it all.
So for those reasons (and more which space here doesn’t allow), they argue that there is no reason at all for God to have to speak through an Old Testament-type prophet anymore. 2 Timothy 3:16 confirms this, telling us about the sufficiency of Scripture for teaching, for reproof, and so forth.
Now, on the other hand are those who believe that those spiritual gifts still exist (“Continualists”) for the following reasons:
There are people in Scripture who clearly weren’t Jesus’ twelve apostles, but who demonstrated these various spiritual gifts (the Seventy in Luke 10, Philip the Evangelist’s four daughters in Acts 21:8-9, and many more)
In a few places (1 Cor. 13:8-12, Eph 4:11-13) Paul indicates that the gifts will not pass away until the “perfect” has come. He is ostensibly referring to the return of Christ and the fulfilment of everything.
So since the early church experienced the fullness of God’s spiritual gifts, and everything is not yet complete, they reason, we have no reason to think God’s gifts don’t continue today, and will until Christ returns.
So which is correct? You decide! :-) This, like some other biblical issues such as eschatology, is a secondary issue. Good Christians can debate it, but must not divide over it, okay?
Here’s one thing we can ALL agree on though: there are some today who suggest that prophecy can be “learned”, and that because you’re “learning” how to listen to God, it’s okay to make mistakes. This is a truly unbiblical position since Deuteronomy clearly tells us that the prophet, since he or she is speaking GOD’S words, will never make a mistake (because our omnipotent God who gives that word is incapable of making mistakes!) In fact, people were warned not to be afraid of those who prophesied falsely, and even to put them death at the time. I think what Moses was saying there is that this is Serious Business, and I guarantee that if it does still exist, God won’t make mistakes. Amen?!
Arthur, Kay. Teach Me Your Ways: The Pentateuch (New Inductive Bible Study Series) Harvest House Publishers, 2002. ISBN: 978-0736908054. Begin at the beginning - Creation, marriage, sin, civilization. Then learn about God's continuing lovingkindness and faithfulness to His covenant people, even when they let Him down.
Geisler, Norman L., and Thomas A. Howe. When Critics Ask : A Popular Handbook on Bible Difficulties. Wheaton, Ill.: Victor Books, 1992.
Grudem, Wayne et al. Understanding the Big Picture of the Bible: A Guide to Reading the Bible Well (p. 40). Crossway. Kindle Edition.)
Koukl, Greg. How Does the Old Testament Law Apply to Christians today? Available at the Stand to Reason website at http://www.str.org/articles/how-does-the-old-testament-law-apply-to-christians-today#.VTpOJSFVikp
Longman III, Tremper. Making Sense of the Old Testament. Baker Books, 1998. Answers 3 questions: What are the keys to understanding the OT? Is the God of the OT also the God of the NT? How is the Christian to apply the OT to life?
Redford, Douglas. The Pentateuch. (Vol. 1, Standard Reference Library: Old Testament). Cincinnati, OH: Standard Publishing, 2008.
Schreiner, Thomas. 40 Questions about Christians and Biblical Law. Kregel Publications, 2010. (ISBN 978-0825438912) – all that Law… what still applies to us? What doesn’t? Why or why not?
Zacharias, Ravi and Vince Vitale. Why Suffering?: Finding Meaning and Comfort When Life Doesn't Make Sense. FaithWords, 2014.