Books of Prophecy (Isaiah, Jeremiah, Lamentations, Ezekiel, Daniel, Hosea, Joel, Amos, Obadiah, Jonah, Micah, Nahum, Habakkuk, Zephaniah, Haggai, Zechariah, Malachi)
Reflections (New Every Morning, Prophets)
The books of the Prophets are collections of writings by people who were brave enough to speak out against the power-brokers of their day. Sometimes they made predictions about the future, but mainly their ‘prophecy’ entailed speaking out against manifest injustice or interpreting the signs of their times. Conventionally they are divided into ‘major’ and ‘minor’ prophets according to the length of their books, but even the minor prophets pack a powerful punch.
In the year King Uzziah died, Isaiah saw a vision of God
Send me, he said, and he prophesied to Israel and to her enemies.
A virgin will bear a son as a sign of God’s judgement and favour,
Israel will suffer for her sins but be restored, and her enemies subdued:
Arise, shine! God will lead you in safety and will send His Holy One:
He will be despised, rejected, a man of sorrows, acquainted with grief.
Judgement would fall on God’s chosen people because of their faithlessness:
Evil practices and false prophets had brought the nation low,
Reigned by stiff-necked kings, Judah was about to fall to Babylon.
Egypt looked like a safe haven but was a fickle and idolatrous ally.
Mercy is on offer from God in return for repentance, Jeremiah prophesied;
Instead, they threw him in a well, burned his writings and plotted his death.
Accept Babylonian rule and God will ultimately redeem you, he counselled,
However they fought Babylon, Jerusalem was sacked, and they were led captive.
Look upon the deserted city and wail over her distress
All the splendour has departed from the daughter of Zion
Mourn for her exiled youths and maidens, her starving priests and elders:
Enemies gloat over her, her prophets are exposed as false and worthless,
Nothing and no-one has escaped God’s anger.
The prophet (Jeremiah) bemoans his disgrace
And yet he knows the Lord’s compassions never fail
They are new every morning, and great is his faithfulness
I will say to myself the Lord is my portion, I will wait for Him.
Once worth their weight in gold, the precious sons of Zion are like clay.
Needful of restoration, Jeremiah pleads with God, saying
Save us, unless you have utterly rejected us and are angry beyond measure.
Eagle, lion, ox and man – manifestation of God calling Ezekiel to be watchman-prophet.
Zion would be punished for her sins and the glory would depart from her temple;
Each would be judged for their own deeds and could not blame their forebears;
Kingdoms would fall – first, idolatrous Israel, then her arrogant neighbours.
Israel, long exiled, would be revived like a valley of dry bones receiving flesh and breath;
Elevated miraculously, Ezekiel gazed on a rebuilt temple to which God’s glory returned,
Living waters flowed from it, as lands were restored to the tribes of Israel.
Dreams tormented Babylon’s rulers during the years they held Judah captive,
Astrologers from their own courts were unable to interpret these strange visions,
Nebuchadnezzar and his successor Belshazzar turned to Daniel for explanations:
In God’s power, he explained a statue with feet of clay and writing on the wall.
Envious of Daniel, Babylonian governors provoked Darius to throw him in a lions’ den.
Later, Daniel dreamed of end-times, the rise and fall of kingdoms, and of God’s Anointed.
Hearing the Lord’s command, Hosea took an adulterous wife
Only to love her, as God loved Israel, despite her infidelity.
Sowing the wind and reaping the whirlwind, Israel lusted after false Gods:
Ephraim, so unfaithful, might once again sow righteousness
And reap the fruit of God’s unfailing love.
Judah, facing God’s wrath for her sins, is laid waste by swarms of locusts,
Omen of armies sweeping from the north to conquer and debase her,
Except if the people repent, so the Lord may pour out his spirit and blessing:
Let the weak say I am strong, dream dreams, see visions, reclaim the land.
A humble shepherd, Amos had a prophetic vision of God’s anger for Israel
Many were her sins of violence, injustice, idolatry and complacency
Only if justice and righteousness flowed like rivers would God show mercy
Sin would bring destruction, yet a remnant would live and ruins be restored.
Obstinate Edom, the Sovereign Lord will debase and destroy you
Because of your violence and contempt towards your brother Jacob,
Allies and friends will deceive and desert you,
Destruction awaits you – for you gloated over Judah’s misfortune.
Israelite exiles in Canaan will occupy your land
And exiles from Jerusalem will possess the towns,
Holiness will return to Zion and the kingdom will be the Lord’s.
Joppa, a good port to sail west and defy God’s call to head east to Nineveh:
Overboard the crew threw Jonah as his disobedience caused a raging storm.
Next, a great fish swallowed him, spewing him on the shore after three days.
And so Jonah went to Nineveh, told that sinful city to repent, which they did.
However, God didn’t punish them, and Jonah slowly grasped the wideness of His mercy.
Mountains will melt as God, in His fury, strips Israel of her blessings;
In the last days, though, the mountain of the LORD’s temple will be restored;
Coming from Bethlehem will be a ruler over Israel, of ancient origin.
Act justly, love mercy, walk humbly with God and you will be forgiven;
Humbled for a season, Israel will rise, and her enemies will fear the LORD.
Nineveh’s cruelty and wickedness have provoked the LORD’s wrath –
Anger which afflicts the guilty with whirlwind, earthquake, fire and drought.
Healing is impossible, for Nineveh’s injury is fatal and her friends fickle.
Until now she has enslaved Israel, but the LORD is a refuge: His
Messenger will arrive and will restore the splendour of Judah.
How long, O LORD, must I cry for help?
Answer me, why do you tolerate treachery?
Be patient – though it linger, judgement will come.
As the waters cover the sea, so will
Knowledge of the glory of the LORD fill the earth;
Keep silence, O Creation, for the LORD is in his holy temple.
Undeterred – even when crops fail and livestock are barren
Know that I will still rejoice in the LORD and be joyful.
Zeal for righteousness consumes the LORD
Everything will be swept away from earth, air and sea
Punishment will befall the idolatrous and complacent
Houses will fall and vineyards wither on the great day of the LORD.
Against proud Philistia, and insolent Moab and Ammon, He will rise;
Nineveh will be left desolate, Cush will fall by the sword;
Israel, arrogant and profane, will find her streets deserted.
A faithful remnant will be gathered to a safe, secure Jerusalem;
Humble and meek, living in peace, their fortunes will be restored.
High priest Joshua and governor Zerubbabel, listen up!
A prophecy has come to Haggai telling you to restore the temple:
God sees you living in plush houses while His house remains a ruin.
Gather the remnant of the people in Judah (this was during the exile)
And rebuild the temple, so that you may prosper and be blessed;
In peace you shall live and Zerubbabel will be as God’s signet ring.
Zion will be restored by the LORD’s mercy, spoke an angel to the prophet –
Even though ruinous, God will stretch out a measuring line and rebuild it.
Coming through strange visions, the LORD showed Zechariah many things:
Horns of proud nations, a crown and clean garments for the High Priest,
A stone with eyes, a gold lampstand, a flying scroll, a woman in a basket,
Running oil from two olive trees, chariots. What did these mean? –
Israel’s enemies being defeated, evil driven out, a remnant returning:
And not by might, nor by power, but by the spirit of the LORD Almighty.
Hope would come through a king, righteous, gentle and riding on a donkey.
Maimed animals and defiled food are what you sacrifice to the LORD;
An awesome God deserves awe, but you defile His table;
Levi’s priesthood has caused you to stumble with false teaching.
Almighty God will return to the temple like a refiner’s fire, so repent:
Come with your full tithe, that you may be in the Book of Remembrance.
His chosen one will rise like the sun of righteousness with healing in his wings –
I will send Elijah to prepare the way before that great and dreadful day.
New Every Morning
The book of Lamentations is an unlikely place to find a couplet of the most inspiring verses from the Bible. It is a book about Jeremiah (the wailing prophet) lamenting the sack of Jerusalem by Babylon’s army. However, even in the midst of desolation he declares that God will not fail his people, but will stay with them and bring them hope: Because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail. They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness (Lamentations 3:22-23). Christians can suffer low mood and depression; there is no quick fix, but God carries us through tough times more than we realise.
Night falls. For some, it’s very dark.
Evening’s stars hunker down behind cloud;
Where lamps glowed, now there’s barely a spark.
Empty hearts break, black-dog heads are bowed.
Very faintly on the breeze someone chants a prayer,
Echoing its hope somebody lights a candle –
Risible weapons against a world’s despair
Yet still too hot for Hell’s hordes to handle.
Moonlight still dances behind its shroud
Oceans still yield their gentle luminescence
Rims of silver trim each nimbus cloud –
Nocturnal sentinels of a numinous presence.
In a few short hours the boundless day will dawn
New promises will comfort those who mourn
God’s mercies are, with each fresh sun, re-born.
Prophets are not just famous dead men that you read about in the Old Testament. Sometimes ordinary Christians have to speak out prophetically…
Prophets are messengers who
Respond to God’s warning word,
Old or in their youth.
Prophets bid their comfort zone farewell,
Holding fast to what they heard
Even if they must tell
The most inconvenient truth.
Sometimes it has to be you!