PROPHETS AND PROMISES: ADAM TO ISAIAH
“When a prophet of the Lord is among you, I reveal myself to him in visions, I speak to him in dreams” (Num. 12:6). “In the past God spoke to our forefathers through the prophets at many times and in various ways, but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he has appointed heir of all things, and through whom he made the universe” (Heb. 1:1-2). “For all the Prophets and the Law prophesied until John” (Mt. 11:13). Prophets were and are messengers of the law of cause and effect set in place by the Creator to determine the destiny of everyone. “And the Lord God commanded man, ‘you are free to eat from any tree in the garden; but you must not eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, for when you eat of it you will surely die’” (Gen. 2:16-17). That message resonates into our time and days to come. “For in Adam all die, so in Christ all will be made alive” (I Cor. 15:22). The Promise of all Promises is life eternal.
The prophets were the guardians of the Promises by reminding the leaders and the people of the Conditions that stood in the way of claiming or inheriting the Promises. The measuring gage as to where everyone stood were God’s Statutes and Commandments. Prophets predicted what direction events would take based on how the people obeyed the conditions or the Laws of God. In other words, prophets, on the basis of God’s Laws, could foresee the outcome of a person’s or a nation’s life. Unfortunately, in Biblical history and when it should have counted the most, the prophets were regarded as being against God’s own people. God’s people took the Promises for granted and saw no need to listen to the warnings of some nobody or shepherd. Even for us to day, we who have been saved by grace alone without works, the prophetic warnings are not welcome.
The second prophet was Noah and man did not heed his warnings and the flood left Noah only. Abraham was the third messenger of God. He was a man whose faith and prayers pleased God (Gen. 20:7). The status, role and function of the prophet culminated in Moses. Of him it was said, “Since then no prophet has risen in Israel like Moses, whom the Lord knew face to face” (Deut. 34:10). God’s answer to those who objected to Moses’ special prophetic role was as follows in Num. 12 6-8, “When a prophet of the Lord is among you, I reveal myself to him in visions, I speak to him in dreams. But this is not true of my servant Moses; he is faithful in all in my house. With him I speak face to face, clearly and not in riddles; he sees the form of the Lord. Why then were you not afraid to speak against my servant Moses?” To this we must add one more quotation from Deut. 18:18-19.” I (God) will raise up for them a prophet like you (Moses) from among their brothers; I will put my words in his mouth, and he will tell them everything I command them. If anyone does not listen to my words that the prophet speaks in my name, I myself will call him to account.”
In essence, God appointed prophets. He revealed to them His Promises and they upheld His Mandate. They disclaimed any human interference in their proclamation of God’s intention. The prophets of Yahweh were in the minority and served as the conscience of the people. In their day, their message was unpopular and only God-fearing individuals responded. Many of the prophets died as martyrs. Later, the children exonerated them by building monuments. In comparison to our own twentieth century, these prophets were fundamentalists, fanatics and rigid legalists. They were out of touch with a progressive and enlightened society. Their understanding of God was antiquated and so were their ideas about morality. The public regarded them as freaks of another time. Yet, their message was and still is timeless. Society then as it is today insists that God and His Mandate have changed. The creature is telling the Creator that He needs to grow up, that is, if He wants to keep pace with a maturing humanity. To all of this, the prophets still say, “God’s Law cannot be changed, man must change.”
The prophets do not represent a particular time in history like the Patriarchs, the Judges or the Kings. Rather, they were spread throughout all these periods. God brought these individuals on the scene whenever His people required a reaffirmation of His Mandate. Beginning with Adam, these people served as witnesses to God’s Promises governed by the Laws instituted through Moses. This was especially apparent when Israel requested a king. Saul had Samuel to lean on. David had Gad and Nathan in his council (I & II Sam). Even the rebel Jeroboam sought advice from the prophet Ahijah (I Ki. 11-14) and the sinful king Baasha from the prophet Jehu (I Ki. 16). The notorious pair, Ahab and Jezebel had Elijah and Elisha to content with (I Ki. 17-20). The messages of these prophets to their monarchs were not always favorable. Samuel had to tell Saul that God had given the kingdom to another because he had not walked in the footprints of the conditions set forth by the law (I Sam. 15). Nathan had to correct David on adultery (II Sam. 12) and Gad on counting the people (II Sam. 24). Solomon’s rise to glory corresponds to the time Nathan was alive. Shortly after the Temple was dedicated, Solomon’s godly influence was strangely absent. The historian records that the Lord became angry with Solomon because he no longer obeyed the Lord’s command. He was also told that Solomon’s son would lose ten tribes and keep Judah only, and that because of David’s faithfulness to the Conditions of God’s Promises (I Ki. 11: 9-13).
At the time the prophet Ahijah was sent to Jeroboam and promised that he would become ruler of the ten tribes of Israel in the North, Solomon’s son Rehoboam was told that he would keep Judah only (I Ki. 11:26-39). Later on, God had designated an unnamed prophet to warn king Jeroboam of his evil ways and fatal end (I Ki. 13-14). The evil Ahab and Jezebel received several severe judgments from an unnamed prophet and from Elijah and Micaiah (I Ki. 20-22). When Jehoshaphat of Judah agreed with Ahab of Israel to war against Aram, Jehoshaphat asked, “Is there not a prophet of the Lord here whom we can inquire of?” Ahab’s answer was that there was such a man but he never had anything good to say (I Ki. 22). The prophet was Micaiah. He also predicted Ahab would not return alive from this war.
The most powerful voice, next to Moses, was Isaiah. Scholars have been telling us that there were two prophets by the name of Isaiah. Actually there were three. One addressed Israel, one spoke to Judah and one announced the Messiah. He lived during the time when Assyria carried the ten tribes off into oblivion; then he predicted a similar fate to Judah and Jerusalem; and he was allowed to see what God’s ultimate plan for mankind was. Isaiah was one of the greatest spokesmen for God. No one had as keen a perception of Israel’s problems as this man of God. With one stroke of the pen, he came to the very heart of Israel’s curses. These were nothing but the fruits of their labor of sin and rebellion against the Conditions of God’s Covenant with His people. And what Isaiah found most painful was that his own generation refused to heed the message of the Lord. Today, we can view a life or a story via a movie. In days of old, God flashed quick visions on the prophet’s mind. The very first flash was about a nation that had turned its back on her benefactor. In this vision, Isaiah heard the voice of God saying, “Hear, O heavens! Listen, O earth! For the Lord has spoken, “I reared children and brought them up, but they have rebelled against me. The ox knows his master, the donkey his owner’s manger, but Israel does not know, my people do not understand.” “There was more, “Ah, sinful nation, a people loaded with guilt, a brood of evil doers, children given to corruption. They have forsaken the Lord; they have spurned the Holy One of Israel and turned their backs on him. From the sole of your foot to the top of your head there is no soundness – only wounds and welts and open sores, not cleansed or bandaged or soothed with oil” (Isa. 1:2-6).
Isaiah lived and prophesied circa 700 BC. His contemporaries did not accept his message; hence, he saw them being swept away and replaced by people who would welcome a branch of Jesse. Only a remnant would repent and welcome the Messiah, who would implant the Promises and the Conditions in people’s hearts. Most of what Isaiah said was what could have been and not how things actually were. The tender feelings of a loving Creator were unheeded by leaders depicted as dogs that did not bark and shepherds that did not understand (56:9-12). Injustice, perversion and debauchery were their norm. One of these was the sacrifice of children (Isa. 57:5). Youth and women ran the country (Isa. 3:11-12). The prophet was ordered repeatedly to issue harsh warnings such as these statements, “Till your dying day this sin will not be atoned for, says the Lord, the Lord almighty” (Isa. 22:14) Isaiah continued, “The earth is defiled by its people; they have disobeyed the laws, violated the statutes and broken the everlasting covenant. Therefore a curse consumes the earth; its people must bear their guilt” (Isa. 24:5-6). ‘They say to the seers, “See no more visions!” and to the prophets, “Give us no more visions of what is right! Tell us pleasant things and prophesy illusions. Leave this way, get off this path, and stop confronting us with the Holy One of Israel!” (Isa. 30:10-11). “If only you had paid attention to my commands, your peace would have been like a river, your righteousness like the waves of the sea. Your descendants would have been like the sand, your children like the numberless grains; their name would never be cut off nor destroyed before me” (Isa. 48:18-19). “Because of your sins you were sold; because of your transgressions your mother was sent away” (Isa. 50:1). Isaiah gave Israel an “F.” The prophets Hosea and Amos were active during these days in Israel and Judah. Both predicted the fall of these kingdoms.