Prophets were called by God….they rarely chose to be one! Their ‘job’ was to speak God’s message to the people living right then or for the future. They were mostly messages to the Israelites about improving their behaviour! Remember the Israelites were called to be a light to the nations…they were supposed to be showing the then known world, how to live God’s way. But they kept making a mess of it and often deliberately. The trouble was when the prophet’s message was about changing behaviour and saying ‘sorry’ to God, the people just carried on and ignored the prophet or worse still the prophet’s life would be in danger!
Often the messages were about impending judgement…so the prophet was telling them that something, usually bad, was going to happen because of the Israelites’ disobedience to God.
Sometime the prophets would also advise kings or leaders. The king would ask the prophets if God approved of a certain course of action he was about to carry out. If the prophets said ‘no’ the king might get very angry about it, so it wasn’t easy advising leaders! Sometimes, the king would choose a prophet who was a ‘Yes’ man, not prepared to tell him what God really thought, either because the prophet didn’t know or he was too scared to!
The messages would be spoken or written but sometimes the message the prophet gave was performed as a symbolic act or a dramatic action. For example:
Isaiah, who stripped off all his clothes and wandered around naked.
Jeremiah, who not only hid his underwear in a rock but then went back to retrieve it after a “long time.” Another time he wore a cattle yoke fastened to his shoulders until another prophet broke it off.
Ezekiel: ate a scroll, went on a diet of barley cakes baked over cow manure, used a sword to shave off his beard, dividing his hairs into thirds. He set one third on fire; he scattered another third around the city and stabbed it with his sword; he threw the remaining third into the wind. But the hair histrionics were far from over: Ezekiel had saved a few hairs from such abuse, which he sewed into his clothing. Then he burned some of those hairs too!!!
Hosea married an unfaithful woman to show Israel how unfaithful they, as a nation, were being to God.
Some prophets had very elaborate visions:
|Ezekiel’s wheel within a wheel||Daniel’s vision of the four beasts|
Sometimes prophets predicted the future, the sex of an unborn baby or the outcome of a battle. Of course when the prediction came true, the prophet became more credible.
There are major prophets and minor prophets. Major prophets wrote longer books than the minor prophets.
Major Prophets: Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, DanielMinor Prophets: Hosea, Joel, Amos, Obadiah, Jonah, Micah, Nahum,Habakkuk, Zephaniah, Haggai.
I guess this all sounds really weird….I think the prophets probably were quite eccentric but God really longed for His people to return to worship Him, and live their lives as He had asked them to promising He would be with them. If that meant loud proclamations of impending doom or strange dreams and even stranger dramatic acts it was because He had to get the attention of his people, the Israelites, somehow!