Did you know that 16 out of the 39 Old Testament books are prophet books? That is almost half of the Old Testament. There are generally three things people do with the Old Testament prophets. The first thing people do is ignore them. Some people realize that it is difficult to understand so they just turn their eyes and forget that those books are there. This makes me a little sad (even though I do this) because so much is missed. The second thing people do is “read” them and use them. I put read in quotes because when these people “read” the OT prophets to use them they are looking for weapons to smash the unrighteous with. They are looking to smite the non-believer with the hammer of righteousness and justice and if you read that in Thor’s voice it is better. The last thing some people do with the OT prophets is they ponder their writings. They read them and think what am I do with this, what am I to take away from this, who are you God, and what do you think of me? This is by far the best thing to do with them in my opinion.
When we read the OT Prophets and their prophecies we must keep certain things in mind. For example, audience, time, context, culture, general situation, and fulfillment. I think it is because of these things that some choose to avoid them. There is just too much to think about and too much that is honestly foreign to us to really get something from them. However, if we just keep in mind that there are things in these books that we do not understand then we can get to the things that we can understand. Zephaniah is a great example of this.
If you read through Zephaniah, then you will probably notice it is not the most chipper book in the Bible. There is a lot of judgment going on but at the end of the book there is this beautiful verse about God being a mighty warrior who saves His people, rejoices over them bring them renewal, and delights in them with shouts of joy. Now you can just jump straight there and read the beautiful verse and I am sure you will enjoy it but there is something about a journey that makes the destination better.
If instead, you choose to read through the book you will see that God is not pleased when people call on His name and the name of other gods. You read that God has a zero-tolerance policy for worshipping Him and idols. You read that those who aim to please men are seen as low in God’s eyes. You read that He is a God with a jealous love for His people.
If you choose to read all the way through you will also read how God hates when His people are prohibited to worship Him. That God desires justice and mercy. That God is not pleased and will not always tolerate wickedness. That God says one day there will be a reckoning. Before you read about God being a mighty warrior who saves His people, rejoices over them bring them renewal, and delights in them with shouts of joy you first read about a God who says one day a cleansing will come.
So why is that important? Because the words about God being a mighty warrior who saves His people, rejoices over them bring them renewal, and delights in them with shouts of joy are meant for those who love Him. They are the message to the people who call on His name and worship Him in spirit in and truth. Now don’t misunderstand me I am not being all fire and brimstone here, but the Bible teaches that one-day God will come to rule and reign here on earth and when He does – that’s that for the wicked. In the meantime, though God is saying I am also a God who delights in my children so come be my child.
If we just jump straight to the pretty verse, we miss so much about who God is and who He wants us to be. So here is my recommendation. Pick an OT Prophet book and read it. Read it and keep these questions in mind: who are you God, and what do you think of me?
Just a thought,