Some parts of the Bible are tough to understand. No greater misinterpretation happens than with the prophetic books of Scripture. Here is a quick tutorial:
There are 66 books in the Bible, so it is not just one big book.
The Old Testament has 39, the New Testament 27.
The Bible has books of history, poetry, law, diaries, songs, and letters..as well as prophecy.
A prophet was an individual, called by God, who, prior to Jesus coming in person to Earth, spoke on behalf of God to whomever he or she was instructed. There were professional prophets, like Jonah and Daniel, who were known for delivering God’s messages throughout their lives, and there were prophets who did other things, like Amos. He was a farmer who God called to give a specific message, to a specific people, at a specific point in time. As we enter into the Easter season, we can understand better the point of Jesus death, burial, and resurrection in light of this knowledge. He died to take our sin, He rose to show His power over it, and He lives to be our Savior from death and Hell, and to guide us in our purpose here. When a person is saved, they have a direct line to God Himself. We no longer need a prophet because we can boldly go directly to God on our own behalf in Jesus’ Name. Plus, God will speak to us, as individuals, through His Word and through His Spirit. Hebrews 1:1-2 states… “Long ago, at many times and in many ways, God spoke to our fathers by the prophets, 2 but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed the heir of all things, through whom also he created the world.”
However, this does not mean that the Scriptures from the Old Testament prophets have no bearing on us today. On the contrary, God never changes. What was important then, is important now.
One of my favorite books of prophecy to study is Ezekiel. I like theater, and Ezekiel was instructed not to just say his prophecies, but to act them out for all of exiled Israel to see! He made some outrageous statements to humiliate his countrymen, and embarked on some of the weirdest play acting anyone had probably ever seen!
Ezekiel was in Babylon, exiled with the rest of Israel. If you don’t know what that means, the Bible follows the Hebrew people from their very beginnings all the way to their promised Messiah’s appearance and ministry. In Genesis, you find the early start of their nation with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. Then, you can track their escape from Egypt after the time of Joseph, with the Exodus and the history of Moses, Joshua, and Caleb. After that, you can see the decline of a nation that had become complacent because they had their “Promised Land”, and the misrule of the book of Judges. Finally, God allowed them to have a king, and you can read of the exploits of the various kings in First and Second Samuel, First and Second Kings, and First and Second Chronicles. You can see the rise and fall of Saul, David, and Solomon…who ruled the United Israel… to Rehoboam and Jeroboam, who split the nation in half, and all the others who ruled Judah in the south and Israel in the north. The end didn’t come quickly for either country, as first the Philistines, then the Egyptians, and then the Assyrians ransacked through the northern kingdom of Israel, and worked their way toward overtaking the heart of Judah. But it was the savvy Babylonians who put the final nail in the coffin for the misled country. God allowed His people to be taken into captivity by Babylon so that He could teach them to love Him, and raise up heroes such as Daniel, and of course…Ezekiel.
Ezekiel suffered greatly to speak God’s word to his stubborn and displace countrymen. He lost his wife and often his dignity. And, unlike Jonah who lived long before, he wasn’t called out of his own country to go speak truth to a foreign nation. Zeke was already in a foreign nation, stuck there, and God called him to reach his own people..right where they were.
In Ezekiel 3:4-8, God says this to Ezekiel…” And he said to me, “Son of man, go to the house of Israel and speak with my words to them. 5 For you are not sent to a people of foreign speech and a hard language, but to the house of Israel— 6 not to many peoples of foreign speech and a hard language, whose words you cannot understand. Surely, if I sent you to such, they would listen to you. 7 But the house of Israel will not be willing to listen to you, for they are not willing to listen to me: because all the house of Israel have a hard forehead and a stubborn heart. 8 Behold, I have made your face as hard as their faces, and your forehead as hard as their foreheads.
We aren’t in Babylon, we are in Ashland. Here in Ashland we have stubborn people with stubborn problems, but God has placed many of us here to meet those “hard foreheads”, and head butt them right back! Eventually, God saved the Israelites through a different national takeover courtesy of the Persians and Cyrus the Great, and the help of a courageous little lady named Esther. God worked then, and He is at work now. As long as we listen to His words, and stay true to His goals, He will provide the answers to everything from our addiction and homelessness issues, to our citywide political needs. Ezekiel’s life and situation may have been tragic in his time, but that hard, headed actor provides a lot of encouragement for this one!
What does God want you to stand up for today?
Talk to Him…He will let you know!
Reaching Until He Comes,
Renee’, Director HC