The books are long and complex. They include strange visions, speak of skeletons come to life, and frequently describe God’s wrath and judgment.
Studying the Major Prophets can be intimidating to say the least. The language, imagery, and poetry of Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, and Daniel can make it difficult to discern their message, let alone understand how their message relates to the lives of believers today.
In the Mobile Ed course Survey of the Major Prophets, Dr. Paul Ferris highlights the importance of understanding the Major Prophets in context. This includes not just the historical, geographical, and cultural context of the prophets, but also the broader context of God’s promise to restore His creation. But when you appreciate their message in light of their historical situation, the prophets’ relevance becomes immediately apparent.
“The Grand Reconciliation Project”
Dr. Ferris lists four key claims the prophets make that fit into the “grand reconciliation project” of the Old Testament:
First, they claimed that God spoke to and through them. … A second claim the prophets make is that God intends to restore the covenant relationship with His image-bearers. A third claim they make is that it’s not just pagans who have violated God’s righteous expectations but the covenant community as well. Fourth, the prophets claim that this all-holy God will judge and ultimately obliterate sin, and fifth, that a merciful and compassionate God will ultimately renew His covenant and restore all creation.
Essentially, Dr. Ferris says, the prophets, acting as God’s spokesmen, “challenged folks who claim to be in a covenant relationship with this one-of-a-kind God of the universe and the Lord over all history to get real with that relationship.” They did so by pointing out the failures of the people of Israel and Judah, showing the imminent consequences of that failure.
Often, that’s where contemporary readers’ understanding ends. However, the prophets’ message doesn’t end at God’s judgment. It also points to a future restoration God would provide through the coming Messiah. Dr. Ferris puts it this way:
While the prophets live and minister the Word of God in troubled times, they experience firsthand that ministry gets messy and sometimes painful, but there’s hope—not a cross-your-fingers kind of hope, like ‘I hope it doesn’t rain on the party,’ or ‘I didn’t have time to do half the assignments, but I hope I pass the course.’ No! The hope of the prophets was one of confident expectation, or as the writer to the Hebrews refers to this hope as a ‘sure and steadfast anchor of the soul.’
A timely message for our age
This message of hope in God’s ultimate plan of salvation and restoration has great significance for us today. The hope was fulfilled in Jesus the Messiah, but it’s a hope we still look forward to as we continue to live in troubled times, waiting for God to fulfill His promise to completely restore His fallen creation.
This has practical relevance for our daily life as well. As Dr. Ferris says, “The promise, the covenant, this relationship, it’s not just an insurance policy; it affects how I live. Just as Israel was commissioned to declare God’s glory and to be a light to the nations, so you and I are commissioned to be His witnesses ‘in my Jerusalem, in my Judea, my Samaria, and to the ends of the earth’ (Acts 1).”
To learn more about the Major Prophets order Dr. Ferris’ course OT231 Survey of the Major Prophets. In it he highlights the big picture messages of Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, and Daniel. He shows how they set the stage for the New Testament and helps bring to light the relevance of these important books to us today. OT231 Survey of the Major Prophets ships November 15, so get it now while it is 40% off!