4 Things I Learned from Reading the Prophets

prophets

It was tempting not to speedread Malachi chapter four. After hundreds of pages and thousands of words, I’d finally crossed the finish line of the Old Testament prophets.

Folding my Bible closed, I started to churn the thick mass of information left in my brain. There were treasures here.

In fact, four specific truths about God surfaced as I read through the prophets:

  1. God is Always Just

The LORD within her is righteous; he does no injustice; every morning he shows forth his justice… (Zeph. 3:5a)

God’s justice tints every page of the prophets. Israel’s stone heart consistently provoked their God to righteously and severely punish them.

Who gave up Jacob to the looter, and Israel to the plunderers? Was it not the LORD, against whom we have sinned, in whose ways they would not walk, and whose law they would not obey? So he poured on them the heat of his anger and the might of battle… (Is. 42:24-25a)

Israel wreaked of sin and God, in just holiness, acted. He had chosen an unclean people who stained his laws and trashed his name. Holy justice called for holy wrath.

In the same way, God’s justice preserved the handful of righteous priests and prophets who remained in Israel.

Thus says the LORD: “As the new wine is found in the cluster, and they say, ‘Do not destroy it, for there is a blessing in it,’ so I will do for my servants’ sake, and not destroy them all” (Is. 65:8).

Reading through the prophets proved that God is never unjust. He is just and merciful.

  1. God is Always Merciful

Return to the LORD our God, for he is gracious and merciful, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love; and he relents over disaster (Joel 2:13).

The steadfast love of the LORD never ceases, his mercies never come to an end (Lam. 3:22).

If God’s just wrath is underscored by the prophets, then his mercy is radiantly highlighted. In every prophetic book God includes a merciful reprieve from punishment or hope of future grace. Oracles of destruction are trailed by passages of mercy, like this one from Micah:

He does not retain his anger forever, because he delights in steadfast love. He will again have compassion on us; he will tread our iniquities underfoot (Micah 7:18b-19a).

Micah’s book opened with woes and warnings against Israel. A mountain-melting God reminded his people to lament of their sin before him. The following chapters are a dance of punishment and promise.

The final sentences of his book find Micah emphatically acknowledging God’s phenomenal mercy.

  1. God Always Acts for His Glory

Your people shall all be righteous; they shall possess the land forever, the branch of my planting, the work of my hands, that I might be glorified (Is. 60:21).

Whether justly judging his people or mercifully preserving them, God always acts for his glory.

I noticed this pattern weaved throughout Ezekiel as a phrase was tacked onto the end of numerous chapters:

…and you shall know that I am the LORD. (Ezek. 6:14, 7:27, 13:23, 24:27, 25:8, 28:26, 29:21, 30:26, etc.)

God consistently reminded Israel (and us) why he does what he does: He acts for the sake of his fame and glory.

  1. God Always Keeps His Word

Reading through the prophets set the stage for where I was headed next in Scripture. I started a read-through-the-Bible plan.

Day One carried me from Creation to the Gospels. I saw man rise from dust because God breathed, and woman emerge from his rib because God spoke. Then sin slithered into the Garden and God’s children stumbled.

My plan took me to Matthew next. There, I saw God condescend to the infinitesimal size of an embryo—just like he prophesied.

From Genesis to the New Testament, nothing about God changed. His glory never wavered; his promises never faltered. Seeing Jesus—Creator God in flesh—descend to Earth reminded me that God always keeps his word.

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, whom he appointed the heir of all things, through whom he also created the world (Heb. 1:1-2).

In the time between the Fall and Christ’s coming, kingdoms rose and nations tottered and prophets warned. Israel tottered often. But God’s promises didn’t.

Reading the prophets was a powerfully hopeful reminder that no matter our hopelessness, God remains just, merciful, glorious, and promise-keeping forever.

“For the mountains may depart and the hills be removed, but my steadfast love shall not depart from you, and my covenant of peace shall not be removed,” says the LORD, who has compassion on you (Is. 54:10).

 

 

5 thoughts on “4 Things I Learned from Reading the Prophets

  1. OK. SO. i love this because i have been in the ot for like, 2 years (with some diversions) and tonight will finally finish malachi and cross into the new testament. o.0 i’ve been really pondering all the richness of the ot, specifically the prophets, and your insights are right on!!

    Liked by 1 person

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