Isaiah to Malachi: The Prophet
The prophets that we read of in the Bible story were individuals to whom the Lord gave words to speak to the people. What prophets do you remember? Elijah was a prophet who made the sacrifice on Mt. Carmel. Elisha was his servant and was the prophet after him. Isaiah was the prophet in Jerusalem when Hezekiah was king. Another prophet of the same time was Micah. King Josiah had instruction from the Lord through Huldah the prophetess. Zephaniah was a prophet in the days of Josiah. It was also while Josiah was king that the Lord called Jeremiah to be His prophet. If you can, you should see Sargent's picture of the prophets. We have writings of some of these great prophets in the Bible. Here is a Bible. Can you find the book of Isaiah? Of Micah? Of Jeremiah? Of Zephaniah?
Where do we find the books of the prophets in our Bible? They are the last group of books in the Old Testament. Please find them. How many of these books are there? Four longer books come first, which because they are longer are called major prophets. What are their names? Then follow twelve shorter books, which because they are shorter are called minor prophets. It is worthwhile to learn their names and the order in which they come. We have no book of Elijah or Elisha or of Huldah the prophetess. We do find a book of Isaiah and books of Micah, Zephaniah, and Jeremiah, who were in Jerusalem in the times of which we have been learning. A little later when the people of Judah were taken captive to Babylon, Jeremiah was the great prophet in Jerusalem, and Ezekiel and Daniel were with the captives. You should have, and study, Sargent's picture of the prophets.
Who can open the Bible to the Prophets? The Psalms are very near the middle of the Bible, and the Prophets come a little after the Psalms. Who can find Isaiah? It comes first of the prophets in our Bible, one of the four longer or major prophets. Who can find Micah, one of the twelve shorter or minor prophets? These two prophets were living at the same time in Judah, when Hezekiah was king. Read of the kings under whom they lived in Isa. 1:1 and Micah 1:1. Isaiah was the older man and belonged to an influential family in Jerusalem. Micah was the younger man and was from the village Moresheth, toward the Philistine country from Jerusalem. The Lord chose prophets, as He chose disciples, from various kinds of people, and gave them His work to do and His message to speak. Both prophets rebuked the oppressive conduct of the rich, and condemned their worship as worthless to the Lord while they continued their evil ways. (See Isa. 1:1-20 and Micah 6:1-8.) While comparing the two prophets, notice almost the same words in Isa. 2:1-5 and Micah 4: 1-5. Find predictions of the Lord's coming in Isa. 7:14-15; 9:6-7; 11:1-8, and in Micah 5:2.
It is interesting in study of the prophets to learn what we can of the times in which they lived, and of the people to whom they spoke. This helps us to understand the clothing of their message. But continually as we read we feel that the message bursts its local setting. Its rebukes and promises are spoken to us and to people of all times. From the little happenings of Judah shine out promises for the world, especially promises of the coming of the Lord.
The word "prophet" usually means one who foretells or predicts. We are so accustomed to this signification of it that we find it difficult to admit any other. The Scripture usage of the word, however, means not so much "one who speaks before," as "one who speaks for, or on behalf of, another." (See Exod. 4:16; 7:1.) The former prophets record the conquest of the land, the establishment of the throne of David in it, and the subsequent degeneration and captivity of Israel and Judah, just history. They dramatize the progressive unveiling of the weaknesses in the flesh that separate one person from another. And the preaching of the latter prophets, understood in the spirit, uncovers the evils that separate humanity from its Maker. The revelation is given to build up the Kingdom of God on earth, and reunite humanity in fellowship with the Lord. The prophetic word, so far as it points to the future, simply implies the Divine assurance of the power of the Word to ultimate itself in one form or other in the lives of people.