We begin a new chapter in our readings today. Another set of characters begins to emerge in the Biblical narrative at this point, a class of godly servants known as the prophets. Right off the bat, let me point out tow things:
1) Prophets were active in Israel’s history before this point. Moses was a prophet and so was his sister Miriam. There are other personalities in the scriptures who are gifted prophetically all through the story of Israel.
2) There are two kinds of prophets active in this portion of Israel’s history. There are prophets of action (like Elijah and Elisha) and there are writing prophets (like Amos and Hosea). That’s not to say that the writing prophets didn’t take action (in fact we read about Jonah actively participating in Jereboam II reign in 2 Kings 14). But we read about the active prophets and we read the words of the writing ones.
Perhaps it would also be helpful to clarify what prophesy is. We tend to mystify prophesy and limit it to the idea of foretelling – predicting future events, like Daniel and John do. But the truth of the matter is that for most of the Bible, prophesy is not so much foretelling as it is forth-telling: the idea of proclaiming the Word of God as lead by the Holy Spirit. That is not to say that the writing of the major and minor prophets do not hold elements of foretelling, the certainly do. But they do so in the context of proclaiming God’s words (often of warning or rebuke) to the nations (Israel and other wise).
We begin our walk through Isaiah today, whose ministry focused mainly on the kingdom of Israel and extended through the reigns of more kings than any of the other prophets. He ministered through the Judean reigns of Uzziah, Jotham, Ahaz, Hezekiah and into the rign of Manasseh. He ministered between 762 and 670 B.C.
Isaiah is a book that have a vast mixture of themes in it. Calls to repentance and return to obedience are a major theme along with the prediction of punishment for ignoring these calls. But Isaiah gives us a wonderful picture of what God expects from those who follow him; calls to justice, calls to protect the powerless and the oppressed, calls to faith of the heart and not empty religious ceremony.
There are also some wonderful pictures of the salvation story that God is crafting in Isaiah. Most of the major pictures of what the Messiah will accomplish come from Isaiah. Even in a book that proclaims judgement for disobedience and ignoring relationship with God, there are these beautiful pictures of God’s plan to restore and bring salvation to the world. Isaiah 1:25-26 is a good first example of this.
Take time as you read these prophetic chapters to allow the Holy Spirit to show you both any warnings that God may have for you, but also what encouragements he has for your to revel in.
- What was familiar from this passage of scripture? What was something I already knew?
- What was new from this piece of scripture? What was something that really stood out for me that I have never paid attention to before?
- Does Jesus appear in this passage of scripture?
- How does this passage apply to my life, here and now? Do I need to do anything about it?
- What prayer would I offer up to God after reading this piece of scripture?
Tomorrow’s Reading: Isaiah 5-8