369. How to Read Prophetic Books

369. How to Read Prophetic Books

We have started the new sermon series on Minor Prophets. (the last 12 books of the Old Testament) As you begin to read (personally or in Bible Group Reading), you will realize that the prophetic books call out specific sins of ancient Israel. And God declares judgment on them, yet he also asks them to return and promises to restore them.

But what was the result? God’s plea never gets answered, Israel kept on sinning, never returning to God. His promise to restore never gets realized. It feels like an unfortunate story. But when people felt like God was silent and abandoned his promises, God reached out at the right time and fulfilled all the unfulfilled promises in Christ. And we as a church live in that reality.

So as uncomfortable as we might get as we read through these judgments God declares, we are to look at them from the vantage point of what Christ has fulfilled for us. All of the judgments pronounced on their sins were exhausted on the body of Christ at the Cross, along with ours. (John 19:30) All of God’s promises to restore and heal are already fulfilled in Christ. (2 Cor 1:20) So, we are not looking forward to hoping this restoration would happen, we are looking back on the reality of God’s redemption that already happened. Therefore, there’s the safety valve and comfort.

Moreover, when we lose sight of the magnitude and seriousness of sin, we lose sight of the magnitude of Christ’s forgiveness for our sins. Every anger, and troubled emotion expressed by God through the prophets should not be interpreted as a tyrannical God lashing out his fury uncontrollably, but a loving God who hates to see his people suffer expressing his sorrow. As we read, we must strive to feel God’s agony as he watches his people harming themselves through lies and deception, forsaking the one true God who created them.

I acknowledge that it is difficult to preach from prophetic books. However, more than ever, we need to hear from the voices of the prophets as we continue to witness syncretism, the rise of human pride, and moral collapse in the world we are living in. Though the writings were not directly written to us, these sins of Israel are the sins we also commit today, which have practical relevance and guidance for us in this modern day. Prophets appeared when people were so used to living the way they had been living. I hope their message becomes a fresh reminder of God’s heart, expressed in his raw and honest emotions.