The Importance of Prophets:
Today, many people consider prophets to be a thing of the past—a largely Old Testament oddity required before Jesus—despite Jesus Himself operating in the prophetic and quoting the word of the prophets. Still today, prophets and the prophetic gifts are active and used by God to bring warning, relief, and testimony to many.
When we accept the Three-in-One—God, Jesus, and the Holy Spirit—we are, each to a degree, given a prophetic gift as the Holy Spirit guides us and speaks of things our flesh-filled self would not otherwise understand. Yet, there are those whose main gifting and call is that of prophecy… and while rarely used in the same settings it once was, it is still important.
“…So they said to Him, ‘The things concerning Jesus of Nazareth, who was a Prophet mighty in deed and word before God and all the people…’
“…Then He said to them, ‘These are the words which I spoke to you while I was still with you, that all things must be fulfilled which were written in the Law of Moses and the Prophets and the Psalms concerning Me.’”—Luke 24:19, 44
Prophecy allows us to know the signs of the time, what to pray for, and what to expect.
Yes, there were and are false prophets, but we who have been given the Holy Spirit are equipped with the gift of discernment. As we use that gift, keep our eyes on God, and are not moved by our flesh and emotions, we cannot easily be deceived.
“Behold, I send you out as sheep in the midst of wolves. Therefore be wise as serpents and harmless as doves.”—Matthew 10:16
“Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ravenous wolves. You will know them by their fruits… every good tree bears good fruit, but a bad tree bears bad fruit. A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, nor can a bad tree bear good fruit… Therefore by their fruits you will know them.” —Matthew 7:15-18, 20
Prophets of the Word:
In biblical times, particularly when Israel and Judah were the nations of the Promised Land, prophets were used by God to keep His people on the right path—most importantly, to help keep them in their covenant relationship with Him.
Many prophets were treated with honor and respect, acting as prophets to kings, telling them directly the will of God. Yet, being a prophet was not easy—even when they were accepted by a king—for correction was not always desired, and danger was present for many.
Jesus Himself, who used the prophetic gifts and is referenced as a Prophet in Luke 24:19, knew well the dangers of the prophetic and the resistance to His Message. Yet, for all that was to come, He was joyful—even in His suffering.
Likewise, John the Baptist—also known as Yochanan, the Immerser—a prophet of God who prophesied the coming of Messiah, felt the dangers of the prophetic… as well as the joys. For he who did not view himself worthy, was given the greatest gift and honor—immersing the King of kings!
Throughout the Word, we see that the role of prophet was not a position to be envied in the natural—for the only joy and honor in the role was not of the flesh. Yet, it was not merely an Old Testament calling, despite the role being more prominent there. For Jesus, Yeshua, though a Teacher and a Rabbi first and foremost, was also called a Prophet—as was John the Baptist, and other mighty men of God.
‘Major’ and ‘Minor’ Prophets of the Old Testament:
The three longest prophetic books in the Bible are related to the three prophets, Isaiah, Jeremiah, and Ezekiel—sometimes known as the ‘major’ prophets. Daniel, who is sometimes considered a prophet, is on occasion, included as a fourth ‘major’ prophet. Yet, since Daniel’s role is not exclusively a prophetic one, most do not include him in either the ‘major’ or ‘minor’ prophet categories.
Additionally, a group of twelve prophets, sometimes known as ‘minor’ prophets due to the short length of their presence in the Word, does not, surprisingly, include every remaining prophet. The prophets considered to be ‘minor’ prophets are: Hosea, Joel, Amos, Obadiah, Jonah, Micha, Nahum, Habakkuk, Zephaniah, Haggai, Zechariah, and Malachi.
Elijah and Elisha are not included within these two groups, even though they are two of the most well-known and important prophets. But, since they did not write, or are connected to a specific biblical oracle, they were not considered as ‘major’ or ‘minor’ prophets. It’s interesting to see that even today, during the Jewish Passover, a seat is left unused in the hope that Elijah will return as foretold, while alternately, many in Christian circles believe that John the Baptist was Elijah returned.
Other prophets too, such as Samuel and Nathan, who are well-known in their own rights, also do not fall under the two categories of ‘major’ or ‘minor’ prophets—even though being prophets of God who had relationships with various kings of Israel.
The chart below lays out the detail of the kings and the prophets who interacted with them. It gives us the time frames and the scripture references where we can study their stories in the lives of the kings of Israel and Judah.
Considered a ‘major’ prophet, Isaiah was a prophet of God to many kings of Judah. In fact, he was a prophet to as many as four kings of Judah!
Of these kings, Hezekiah—one of the most well-known kings of Judah—not only followed the commands of God, but had a close relationship with Isaiah… even allowing Isaiah to enter his presence unannounced! Additionally, Isaiah’s role as prophet to Hezekiah is heavily documented not only with Isaiah’s conveyance of God’s Word, but Hezekiah’s acceptance of the Word—a rarity amongst kings.
“…Hezekiah said to Isaiah, ‘What is the sign that the Lord will heal me… that I shall go up to the house of the Lord…?’
“Then Isaiah said, ‘This is the sign to you from the Lord… shall the shadow go forward ten degrees or go backward…?’
“…Hezekiah answered, ‘It is an easy thing for the shadow to go down ten degrees… let the shadow go backward ten degrees.’
“So Isaiah the prophet cried out to the Lord, and He brought the shadow ten degrees backward…”—2 Kings 20:8-11
Apart from his unique relationship with kings, Isaiah is the prophet who not only has the longest prophetic book written by a single prophet, but is also found in two additional books, 2 Kings and 2 Chronicles.
Yet, evidence of Isaiah does not stop there! He is currently the only prophet known to be found within the archaeological record!
A seal—attributed to Isaiah—was found within a few feet and in the same archaeological layer as a seal belonging conclusively to King Hezekiah! Because of Isaiah’s relationship with Hezekiah, the finding of the two seals together not only grants validity to the finds, but displays their close connection within the City of Jerusalem.Yet, in spite of Isaiah’s relationships with earthly kings, it is because of his willingness to listen to God and speak His Words—no matter the cost—that Isaiah is well remembered as a prophet of the Lord.
“He shall judge between the nations, and rebuke many people;
they shall beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruning hooks;
nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war anymore.”—Isaiah 2:4
During the course of this series we will examine the lives of other prophets of the Word. We will see how those of the Old Testament prophesied not only of what was about to occur—or would occur without action—but, how they laid out prophecies which not only came about during the days of Jesus, but are still coming to pass to this day!
Finally, we will examine New Testament prophets and how, from the book of Matthew to Revelation, what was and is to come, was revealed to us in part…