The child prophet

The prophet Jeremiah was unique in that his calling to serve as God’s mouthpiece was not a secondary  occupation that temporarily fulfilled God’s need to deliver a message to his people, but a lifelong vocation that Jeremiah had been specifically created for. God told Jeremiah, “Before I formed thee in the belly, I knew thee; and before thou comest forth out of the womb I sanctified thee, and I ordained thee a prophet unto the nations” (Jeremiah 1:5). The Hebrew word translated formed is yatsar (yaw – tsar´). “Yatsar is a technical potter’s word, and it is often used in connection with the potter at work. The word is sometimes used as a general term of ‘craftsmanship or handiwork’…Yatsar is frequently used to describe God’s creative activity, whether literally or figuratively” (3335).

The prophet Isaiah used the word yatsar in connection with God’s  relationship to the nation of Israel and redemption of his people. In general, it could be said that yatsar refers to someone that has been saved or born again. Isaiah spoke of this when he said, “Bring my sons from far, and my daughters from the ends of the earth: even every one that is called by my name: for I have created him for my glory, I have formed him; yea, I have made him” (Isaiah 43:6-7). These words were spoken in the context of God’s redemption of his people. Although it could be said that every person is a child of God, only those that have been redeemed or saved go through a transformational process in which they are conformed into the image of Christ. This process is referred to as sanctification. God said of Jeremiah, “before thou comest forth out of the womb I sanctified thee” (Jeremiah 1:5). Therefore, it could be said that Jeremiah was born a fully matured Christian in order to accomplish his vocation as a prophet unto the nations.

One way of looking at a fully mature Christian is to see him as someone that has completely submitted himself to God. He does this because he understands God’s role as Creator and sees himself in the context of a divine order that is intended to accomplish God’s will. Sometimes it is easier for a child to get this perspective than an 80 year old man. When Jesus was a child, he was found in the temple “sitting in the midst of the doctors, both hearing them, and asking them questions” (Luke 2:46). Even though Jesus was only twelve, he had the ability to discuss deep theological issues with men that had been studying the scriptures their whole lives. It is possible Jeremiah had this same or a similar capacity and began his ministry as young as 12-14 years of age (Jeremiah 1:6-7).

Jeremiah’s ministry began in 626 B.C., in the fourteenth year of king Josiah’s reign. Josiah was only 22 years old at that time. In the eighth year of his reign, Josiah began to “seek after the God of David his father” (2 Chronicles 34:3) and by the eighteenth year of his reign, he had purged the land of idolatry  and begun a building project to repair the house of the LORD his God” (2 Chronicles 34:8). So, Jeremiah’s ministry started under positive conditions in the nation of Judah. The people may have expected peace and prosperity to return to their nation because they were doing the right things. Unfortunately, time had run out for God’s people and his judgment was inevitable. The LORD warned Jeremiah of an impending disaster that would come soon. Jeremiah received two visions from God about this event (Jeremiah 1:11-14).

Although is must have been difficult for Jeremiah’s young mind to comprehend all that was about to take place, his ability to “see” the future helped him to grasp the situation ahead for Judah and to communicate it clearly. Twice, the LORD told Jeremiah to not be afraid of or dismayed at the faces of those he had to speak to (Jeremiah 1:8, 17). The Hebrew term for face, paneh (paw – neh´) refers to the look on one’s face or one’s countenance (6440). In other words, Jeremiah was going to have to confront some scary people, but God assured him that he would protect him. He said, “And they shall fight against thee; but they shall not prevail against thee; for I am with thee, saith the LORD, to deliver thee” (Jeremiah 1:19).

 

Redemption

The prophet Hosea’s relationship with his wife provided a real life example of what God went through to redeem his people. God commanded Hosea, “Go yet, love a woman beloved of her friend, yet an adulteress, according to the love of the LORD toward the children of Israel, who took to other gods, and love flagons of wine” (Hosea 3:1). The word used to describe the love Hosea was to show his wife was ’âhêb (aw – habe´), which meant to love “in the sense of having a strong emotional attachment to and desire either to possess or be in the presence of the object” (157).

The kind of love Hosea was to have for his wife was similar to what we think of today as being in love with someone. It was supposed to involve making love and having a romantic desire for her. It was clear that those kinds of feelings would not be natural for Hosea, and therefore, God’s command to love his wife made it a matter of obedience to the LORD that caused Hosea to act appropriately toward his wife, not his own feelings.

The challenge for Hosea was that his wife had been sold into slavery and had to be purchased for more money than Hosea had available. It says of the transaction in Hosea 3:2, “So I bought her to me for fifteen pieces of silver, and for a homer of barley, and a half homer of barley.” Hosea spent all the money he had and also gave up necessary food for his family in order to obtain his wife’s freedom. If his wife had been loving and faithful to him, the transaction might have made sense, but Hosea’s wife was an adulteress that was probably married another man and had been sold to pay his debt.

The reference to Hosea’s wife as a harlot (Hosea 3:3) indicated that Gomer had become a prostitute. In that case, the purchase price Hosea paid could have been the amount owed on her contract for sexual service. Typically, slaves, even sexual slaves, could be redeemed by a family member for a set price. The total value of the silver and barley Hosea paid for Gomer was likely 30 shekels, the redemption value of a woman (note on Hosea 3:2, Leviticus 27:4). In essence, what Hosea was doing was buying back Gomer’s spiritual life, so that she was no longer obligated to server her “true” master, the devil.

The goal of Hosea’s redemption of his wife was to restore their relationship. If Hosea had merely brought his wife back into his house and not resumed their sexual activity, Gomer would have continued to be a slave rather than a wife to Hosea. She was not just a possession, but a member of the family, the mother of Hosea’s children. No doubt, Gomer felt shame after she returned to her home. Like Israel, it says in Hosea 4:19, “The wind hath bound her up in her wings, and they shall be ashamed because of their sacrifices.”

The last days

After Isaiah presented the LORD’s case against Judah and Jerusalem, he shifted gears and focused on the future. In the transition, Isaiah made it clear that God had given up on Judah’s kings. He no longer expected his people to do his will. Instead, the LORD would accomplish his purposes through a single person, the Messiah, who would once and for all triumph over God’s enemies.

Isaiah described the time period in the future he was referring to as “the last days” (Isaiah 2:2). The term “last days” is used frequently today in connection with Bible prophecy. The last days are always associated with the reign of the Messiah, but there is a discrepancy as to whether or not the last days occur before or after the return of Christ. According to Isaiah’s message, all nations would worship the LORD in the same location (Isaiah 2:2) and God’s law would be the law everyone was judged by (Isaiah 2:3).

Adistinct difference in the last days that indicates this time period has not yet occurred is there will be no war. It says in Isaiah 2:4, “they shall beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruninghooks: nations shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war any more.” This description is in stark contrast to what we are experiencing in the world today. At the time when Isaiah delivered his message, Judah’s army played an important role in the lifestyle of its people. The thought that weapons would no longer be needed must have made the people wonder if Isaiah had lost his mind.

Within the context of the last days, Isaiah talked about a day in which “the LORD alone shall be exalted” (Isaiah 2:11, 17). The Hebrew word translated day in this verse is yôwm (yome). Yowm can refer to a 24-hour period of time, but within the context of the last days, Isaiah was most likely focusing on the beginning or initiation of the last days, which would occur when the LORD was exalted over all other rulers on earth. “Yowm can also signify a period of time of unspecified duration” (3117). In that case, Isaiah may have been suggesting that the day of the LORD would begin during the last days and continue on for an indefinite period of time.

A characteristic of the last days that Isaiah made clear was that it would take place on this side of eternity. In other words, time will exist during the last days, so life as we know it will still be going on. With this in mind, it is understandable why the people thought the Messiah, Jesus, would establish his kingdom immediately. The point the people of Judah missed was that God’s kingdom would include everyone. The integration of Jewish and Gentile cultures had not taken place when Jesus was born. Therefore, God had to first make a way for everyone to know the LORD.

A second chance

After Jonah was swallowed by a giant fish, he realized he could not escape his calling and would continue to suffer until he submitted to God’s will. Jonah described his experience inside the fish as being in the belly of hell (Jonah 2:2). Jonah was fully conscious and aware of what the fish was doing. For three days and three nights, Jonah’s life was miraculously sustained like a child inside his mother’s womb.

At first, Jonah may have thought he would die inside the fish. It wasn’t until the third day of his torture that he cried out to the LORD. The best explanation for why Jonah waited so long to pray was his refusal to accept that God was still in control of his circumstances, even while he was inside the fish at the bottom of the sea.

Jonah’s change of heart is recorded in Jonah 2:8. “They that observe lying vanities forsake their own mercy. But I will sacrifice unto thee with the voice of thanksgiving.” Jonah’s reference to observing lying vanities indicates he may have been involved in idol worship at the time he was called to Nineveh. If so, his resistance to go could be attributed to an affection for the gods of the Ninevites.

Jonah’s message to the people of Nineveh included a deadline for their repentance (Jonah 3:4). The Hebrew word Jonah used to describe what was about to happen was haphak. “In its simplest meaning, hapak expresses the turning from one side to another…The meaning of ‘transformation’ or ‘change’ is vividly illustrated in the story of Saul’s encounter with the Spirit of God” (2015). In response, it says in Jonah 3:5, “So the people of Nineveh believed God, and proclaimed a fast, and put on sackcloth, from the greatest of them even to the least of them.”

The overwhelming response to Jonah’s message shows that the people were affected by the word of God. Even the king of Nineveh, acted accordingly. “For word came unto the king of Nineveh, and he arose from his throne, and he laid his robe from him, and covered him with sackcloth, and sat in ashes” (Jonah 3:6). For the king of Nineveh to humble himself in such a way, he must have been converted or transformed by the Spirit of God.

A sign that the king was truly a changed man was his attitude toward God. The king spoke of God’s mercy as if he knew the LORD personally (Jonah 3;9). As a result of the change that took place, it says in Jonah 3:10, “And God saw their works, that they turned from their evil way; and God repented of the evil that he said he would do unto them; and he did it not.

Out of control

The story of Jonah reveals to us that God’s purpose in choosing the Israelites to be his people was not to exclude the rest of the world from having a relationship with him, but to demonstrate his sovereignty and control over his creation. Jonah’s view of the world was that boundaries existed around God’s kingdom. There were certain areas outside of God’s control. God showed Jonah that he controlled everything and could accomplish his will in spite of Israel’s disobedience.

When Jonah received instructions to go to Nineveh, he chose to go to Tarshish instead because he thought it was outside the boundary of God’s control. It says in Jonah 1:3, “Jonah rose up to flee unto Tarshish from the presence of the LORD.” One way to think of fleeing from the presence of the LORD is that you are hiding from him. He can’t see you and is therefore, unaware of what you are doing. Jonah thought if he got far enough away from Israel, he would be outside the boundary of God’s awareness and control.

Jonah’s trip to Tarshish was interrupted by a hurricane (Jonah 1:4). As the ship was beginning to be broken into pieces, the men on board searched for a cause for their misfortune. “And they said every one to his fellow, Come, and let us cast lots, that we may know for whose cause this evil is upon us. So they cast lots, and the lot fell upon Jonah” (Jonah 1:7). Jonah’s attempt to conceal his identity was another way he thought he could escape God’s control. When he was exposed through the casting of lots, Jonah realized God was with him on the ship.

The men on the ship did not know the LORD, and yet, they believed he was in control of the storm that had overtaken them. “Wherefore they cried unto the LORD, and said, We beseech thee, O LORD, we beseech thee, let us not perish for this man’s life, and lay not upon us innocent blood: for thou, O LORD, hast done as it pleased thee” (Jonah 1:14). The phrase “hast done as it pleased thee” conveys the idea of, you know what is best, we will leave this in your hands. The men had placed their  trust in God.

Jonah expected to die when the men threw him off the ship. Rather than submit himself to God’s will, Jonah preferred death. But, even when Jonah tried to escape God through death, he was not successful. “Now the LORD prepared a great fish to swallow up Jonah. And Jonah was in the belly of the fish three days and three nights” (Jonah 1:17).

 

 

Open his eyes

Elisha’s gift enabled him to perceive things that were normally outside of human awareness. When the king of Syria attacked Israel, Elisha knew what he was planning to do and warned the king of Israel. The king of Syria thought someone in his camp had leaked the information to the Israelites. “And he called his servants, and said unto them, Will ye not shew me which of us is for the king of Israel? And one of his servants said, None, my lord, O king: but Elisha, the prophet that is in Israel, telleth the king of Israel the words that thou speakest in thy bedchamber” (2 Kings 6:12).

The king’s servant knew about Elisha’s ability, therefore,  Elisha’s reputation for revealing secrets must have been widespread. The servant’s reference to Elisha telling what was said in the king’s bedchamber implied that no place was outside of Elisha’s awareness. It is possible that Elisha could actually hear what the king was saying, but the information may have been relayed to him through some other supernatural means.

Elisha’s insight into the spiritual realm included an ability to see angelic beings and heavenly objects. When Elijah was taken up to heaven, Elisha saw what was happening (2 Kings 2:12). The chariot of fire and horses of fire were spiritual objects that the normal person could not perceive. When the king of Syria sent his army to capture Elisha, he told his servant to “fear not: for they that be with us are moe than they that be with them” (2 Kings 6:16).

Elisha was referring to the heavenly host that was camped around him and his servant. In order to alleviate his servant’s fears, “Elisha prayed, and said, LORD, I pray thee, open his eyes, that he may see, and the LORD opened the eyes of the young man; and he saw: and behold, the mountain was full of horses and chariots of fire round about Elisha” (2 Kings 6:17).  Elisha’s servant was given a rare glimpse into the world that Elisha lived in everyday. There is no way to know for sure why he was given this opportunity, but Elisha’s servant went from being completely unaware to aware of what was going on instantaneously, as if a curtain had been pulled back from a stage.

Not chosen

The prophecy about Edom recorded in the book of Obadiah was a result of the nation’s rebellion against Judah (2 Kings 8:20). Edom, also known as Esau, was the older twin brother of Jacob who sold his birthright for a bowl of soup (Genesis 25:32-33). Esau was predestined to serve his younger brother, and yet, he refused to accept his position. The struggle between the two brothers was manifested in hostility between their two nations, and after Israel went into captivity, Edom sought to take advantage of Judah’s misfortune.

Edom made the mistake of aligning itself with the world powers hostile to God and his kingdom. Therefore, the nation was doomed to destruction. Instead of defending their brother nation, Edom joined a confederacy that stood against Israel and made a pact to support their enemies. It says in Obadiah verse 10, “For thy violence against thy brother Jacob shame shall cover thee, and thou shalt be cut off forever.”

Like a gambler that makes a wager against his own team, Edom showed no loyalty to God’s chosen people, but rather reveled in the thought that they would be beaten by their enemies. Since a time had already been set for his people to be justified, God made it clear to the nation of Edom that they had chosen the wrong side. “For the day of the LORD is near upon all the heathen: as thou hast done, it shall be done unto thee; thy reward shall return upon thine own head” (Obadiah 15).

While the foreign nations may have been able to claim ignorance about God’s plan for the nation of Israel, Edom could not. As descendants of Abraham, the people of Edom were aware of the promise God made to bless his chosen people. Jealousy and envy caused Edom to resent the choice God made. The nation, like their forefather Esau, could not get over the fact that God was in control and he would decide their fate. “And there shall not be any remaining of the house of Esau; for the LORD hath spoken it” (Obadiah 18).

Edom could have been saved if they would have continued to serve Judah. It was because they broke away and became hostile to Israel that they were condemned. The problem was that Edom wasn’t interested in God’s mercy. God’s plan for Israel included salvation for the gentiles. The only requirement was that they had to submit to God and do things his way, but Edom would not. “And saviours shall come up on mount Zion to judge the mount of Esau; and the kingdom shall be the LORD’s” (Obadiah 21).