AS we have already seen, God at various times broke the periods of His silence by sending a messenger to His people, who declared His word. In the early days of Israel the prophet was called a "seer." This name was used, because in primitive times God ordinarily pictured in a visual manner the revelation to His spokesman, who related to his audience the things which he had seen in the vision. The true prophets were always very careful to speak the very words which the Spirit gave them. It seems that, when God raised up a true prophet, Satan always inspired some evil person to rise up and give a counter-revelation. These men were enabled by satanic power to duplicate, up to a certain given point, the miracles and utterances of the true men of God. Under these conditions there was always a wide margin between the overwhelming evidence produced by the true messenger and the spurious credentials offered by Satan. God permitted this situation in order that men who loved the truth might have an opportunity of exercising their faith, for "without faith it is impossible to be well-pleasing unto him" (Heb. 11:6).
At Sinai God made His will known to Israel through Moses, the great lawgiver. The revelations given through Him are found in Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy. The exact plans and specifications for everything in connection with the Tabernacle were disclosed to him. Minute instructions were likewise given him in order that the priesthood might properly carry on the worship which was to be a reproduction of the services in heaven. The entire ritualism was ornate and beautiful in the extreme. At the same time it was very simple. Everything had a meaning.
Although God gave the Law, a service, and a ceremonialism--perfect in every particular and adapted to purposes for which they were given--these sacred things became commonplace to most of the Israelites. They, like other people, very frequently longed for that which was new and spectacular. Thus constantly there were inroads made into the civilization and culture of Israel by heathen practices and doctrines. Very often even the priesthood was corrupted by these. All too frequently, those officiating at the divine services looked upon their task in a professional manner and went about the same in that spirit. What was a holy, divine calling became to many of them no more than a job, a day's work. This attitude of insincerity and formalism naturally reacted upon the people, who from time to time would forsake the worship entirely and would withhold their offerings and gifts; therefore the tribe of Levi who depended upon these offerings for their livelihood often suffered. At times the departure was so very thoroughgoing that the worship was forsaken altogether. This occurred several times during the existence of the Temple, which on a few occasions was closed completely after idolatry had been introduced. When Israel departed from God, it seemed that she went farther and farther in her sin and shame.
To meet such a spiritual declension, God always raised up a true servant who with a deep sincerity and a flaming eloquence denounced the current apostasy and called the people back to Himself. Thus all the prophets were preachers of righteousness, called and commissioned of God to bring the people back to Himself.
As shown in the study of "The Seven Great Revivals in Israel," there have been six nation-wide awakenings among the Hebrew people. A careful study of all the facts brings this important truth to light. In each instance God called the people back to Himself by the preaching of the Word. If one will study the writings of each of the prophets, he will see that invariably one of the dominant notes of their preaching was that of repentance and return to God in order that He might bless Israel. These prophets also sternly denounced everything that was of a questionable nature, all heathen customs, and all immoral practices. Furthermore, they showed the spiritual content of the messages of the former prophets and the beauty of simplicity and holiness of the divine service. In other words, they reinterpreted to their generation the spiritual values of life, of man's relation to man, and of man's relation to his Maker. They were, therefore, great evangelists calling the nation back to God.
One of the great functions performed by the prophets was to illuminate the future and to tell of the wonderful days that lie ahead when King Messiah, the Son of God, shall come and perform His great work of redemption. Figuratively speaking, His portrait is blocked out in Genesis. Each of the succeeding prophets, as a rule, took up the brush of inspiration and added more strokes until at last Malachi put on the finishing touches. There is no study in the Scriptures that is more illuminating and more profitable than that of the entire redemptive career of King Messiah.
Under the title, "Four Types of Messianic Prophecy," I have shown that some of the prophets spoke only of the first coming of Messiah. Others focused their attention upon His second coming in glory and power. At other times some of the prophets blended a description of the events of the two comings into one picture. Often certain ones of them, figuratively speaking, unrolled before our astonished gaze a blueprint outlining the entire redemptive career of King Messiah. Israel made her mistake in not accepting all four lines of prophecy. We today make a mistake if we are not willing to receive all that God has said.
Though the messianic predictions found in the Old Testament were written primarily for the Hebrew race in order that they might recognize Messiah when He would appear, we Christians can derive much profit and benefit from the study of these predictions. The Apostle Paul asserted that it was his sole aim to know Christ, to be found in Him not having a righteousness of his own but that which is by faith through Christ Jesus, to have fellowship in His sufferings, and to share in the out-resurrection from among the dead ones (Phil. 3). Paul wanted to know Christ. Although he had been a Christian for twenty-five or thirty years when he made this statement, it was his desire to know Him more and more in an experimental way. Everyone who has his viewpoint today will want to get a new vision of our blessed Lord. For us, therefore, all the messianic predictions in the Old Testament are recorded in order that our concept of our glorified Lord might be enriched.
GOD always selects the men whom he wishes to speak for Him. Note, for instance, the call of Isaiah, chapter 6, that of Jeremiah chapter 1, and that of Ezekiel chapters 1 and 2. They were from various stations of life. Some entered the ministry being men of the countryside whereas others were city-bred. Some were old and others were young. It seems that some were more highly educated than others, whereas others had not enjoyed many of the cultural benefits of a highly civilized people. Nevertheless God used these various men from the different callings to present His message to His people. He does the same thing today. He takes some from the country; others, from the city. One is engaged in this vocation; another, in that profession; while still another has no particular training, scholastic or otherwise. God wants men--real men. God wants men who are willing to sacrifice and die, if need be, for the truth and for the salvation of souls. We who speak the Word of God are prophets in the original sense of the term--spokesmen for God. The prophets were inspired by the Spirit of God. They simply spoke forth that which was given them--word for word, thought for thought. Today we have the written, infallible Word. We must learn what it says. To do this we must study the Scriptures from beginning to end with the desire to know what God has said to the end that we might conform our lives thereto and teach others. It is only by earnest prayer and hard work that one can acquire an accurate knowledge of the Word. May we who have been called into the ministry be faithful servants until Jesus comes.