One of the rich experiences I’ve had in recent years is the opportunity to teach and be taught about God’s prophets. Both major and minor prophetic books are taught at the Church of Christ on Hughes Road at Gooch Lane as a part of the regular Bible curriculum. I commend our elders for leaving no part of God’s word untaught.
Many years ago one of my professors at Freed-Hardeman College told me that, in his opinion, “Homer Hailey knows more about the Minor Prophets than any man living.” I had the privilege of having brother Hailey as a teacher the previous year (while a student at Florida Christian College) and had heard him teach and preach sermons about the prophets. I mention that incident in this article in order to introduce a quotation from Homer Hailey in his introduction to his book, The Minor Prophets:
“From the prophets I have derived an insight into God’s work among the nations which has helped me to determine something of the principles on which He works among them. This has enabled me to look to Him, rather than to men, for the solution of modern problems; for He continues to rule in the kingdoms of men. This study has been of help in preaching to people of today, for the prophets preached to people in similar circumstances and under like conditions. Also, the study has strengthened my faith in Jesus as the Christ, as I have seen fulfilled in Him the glorious promises of the Lord spoken through these great men of God. In the light of what the prophets have meant to me, I have wished to share this rich blessing with others.”
A second interesting quotation from Hailey occurs in the foreword to the workbook, The Minor Prophets, by Robert Harkrider. Hailey advises students:
“One who determines to study the prophets, whether seriously or out of curiosity, will do well to begin with the ‘minor’ rather than the ‘major’ prophets. These are shorter, thus enabling one to complete a phase of his study without getting bogged down in a mass of unfamiliar material. Another reason for beginning with these is that the twelve span a period of approximately four hundred years of Israel’s history. This provides both a spiritual or religious and historical background for a better comprehension of the longer more entailed prophetic writings.”
Then, there is the fact that we often have sermons that elicit thoughts and needed lessons for us from the prophets—major and minor.
In 1 Peter, chapter one, there is the statement that by God’s abundant mercy we have been begotten again unto a living hope, based on the assurance that the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead gives us. This hope points us to an inheritance reserved for us—an inheritance that is “incorruptible and undefiled and that does not fade away, reserved in heaven for you, who are kept by the power of God through faith for salvation ready to be revealed in the last time.” 1 Peter 1:4, 5.
I mention this passage to place a perspective for thinking about—even serious study or teaching of—the prophets. As great as their inspired messages and their work with God’s people were, they did not experience the full blessings we have as Christians! A further reading in 1 Peter, chapter one, describes their interest in what they foretold: “Of this salvation the prophets have inquired and searched carefully, who prophesied of the grace that would come to you, searching what, or what manner of time, the Spirit of Christ who was in them was indicating when He testified beforehand the sufferings of Christ and the glories that would follow. To them it was revealed that, not to themselves, but to us they were ministering the things which now have been reported to you through those who have preached the gospel to you by the Holy Spirit sent from heaven—things which angels desire to look into.” 1 Peter 1:10-12
The prophets, even angels, were not given the details of the salvation which we enjoy in Christ!
To strengthen your faith in the work of God’s prophets, you might look in your reference Bible, or other reference works where such tabulations are made, at “Messianic Prophecies,” or “Old Testament Prophecies about Christ and their New Testament fulfillment.” Be impressed at the sheer numbers of such prophecies. Be impressed by the meticulous, matching details of the prediction and the fulfillment. Be impressed by the use that Jesus, his apostles, and other New Testament writers make of these words from the prophets.
In close connection with thoughts about the prophets and Jesus, you may want to ponder the abundant revelation regarding the coming kingdom/church that God revealed through the prophets. On the day of Pentecost (Acts 2), the apostle Peter (whose sermon we have recorded for us) and the other apostles preached Christ to the multinational audience assembled in Jerusalem. In Peter’s sermon alone, he quotes from Joel’s prophecy and several other prophecies in the Psalms. The events on this occasion are the obvious fulfillment of the writings of Isaiah/Micah, Daniel, and others of the prophets.
The spiritual nature of God’s kingdom—the church—is detailed many times in the prophets—major and minor. The foreshadowing of the kingdom was a vital part of prophetic teaching. How very blessed are we by their words!