Text: Hebrews 1:1-2, Jeremiah 1:5-10, Jeremiah 30:1-3, Isaiah 7:14, Isaiah 9:2-7, Isaiah 40:1-5
In the Old Testament, prophets were set apart to deliver God’s Word to God’s people. The prophets of old delivered various parts of the same message: the people’s need for redemption and God’s plan of salvation.
The Old Testament prophets delivered a message they themselves did not accomplish. This sets Jesus Christ apart from all other prophets. He is both the messenger of redemption and the means through which it is accomplished.
Until Christ, prophets were only the bearers of God’s Word, pointing to another who would ultimately fulfill it. Christ comes to us as the Prophet bringing the words of God, but He is also the One who would accomplish the salvation He and all the other prophets proclaimed.
In this first week of Advent, we will look at what a prophet does: proclaims what is to come, calls for repentance, and declares God’s living Word. And we will see how Christ was the perfect Prophet and remains our perfect Prophet today, calling us to share in the work of proclaiming the message of mercy and grace He secured through His life, death, and resurrection.
A prophet proclaims what is to come. One of the main roles of a biblical prophet was to foretell the future, highlighting both the discipline and healing that would come to God’s people. Foretelling the future would often lead to repentance, while also kindling hope that God would bring lasting peace to His children.
Every year I try to begin the season of Advent by convincing my children to watch A Muppet Christmas Carol with me. Sadly they missed the heyday of The Muppet Show, and are thus scared of both puppets and muppets, so they have little appreciation for Kermit as Bob Cratchit or Miss Piggy as his disgruntled wife. But to me, Charles Dickens’s classic story of Christmas Past, Present, and Future stumbles into some gospel truth.
Dickens’s ‘Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come’ whispers my worst fears about the future: the world is dark and bleak, and my own life life is deemed as worthless and regrettable as yesterday’s ashes. The future that is foretold by Dickens’s ghost hinges on the life and behavior of Ebenezer Scrooge. And I make that same assumption when I think about the future: I look to see myself. If the future depends on whether or not I’m on my best behavior, Christmas Future is bleak indeed. But when the prophets of the Bible foretell the future, the future they foretell is Christ.
Foretelling the future seems like a risky business. The punishment for getting it wrong was actual death, so it doesn’t seem worth it to idly prophesy about horse racing and love affairs. In spite of this, it’s tempting to look to the prophets for “what will happen next”—for answers to questions like, What will I get for Christmas? But a prophet’s ministry is not about doing spectacular tricks for a crowd. Still, that’s really the crackerjack truth: we would like our prophets to give us a small picture of what’s coming next.
Biblical prophets didn’t focus on those details; they gave the big picture of what is to come. The true focus of a prophet was to proclaim, “Here is who God is,” and because of that, “Here’s what He will do.”
An example of a prophet foretelling the future, both in the big and small picture, is Ezekiel. He was 30 years old when he received his call to be a prophet (Ezekiel 1:1), and he spent the rest of his life prophesying about the restoration of Israel and the coming Messiah. He did give details about the rebuilding of the temple, but the big picture was this: The Messiah is coming! (Ezekiel 17:22-24; 21:25-27; 34:23-24; 37:24)
Old Testament prophets foretold Christ’s promise to come and redeem humanity. That is Christmas. That is the answer to the bleak darkness of any future. The answer to the threat of the Assyrians was Christ. The answer to the terror of King Herod was Christ. The answer to race wars is Christ. The ultimate answer to any temporal problem is Christ.
The Old Testament prophets are straining and longing for the future. They are looking for fulfillment, and that fulfillment is Christ (Hebrews 1:1-2). He is the future we are longing for. He is the reason we have great hope, for “the people who walked in darkness have seen a great light” (Isaiah 9:2).
The future is bright. Amid the cold of winter, Christ is our bright shiny future, just as men have sung for thousands of years. The prophets foretell the future, and the future they foretell is Christ. Because of this, we can cheer with Tiny Tim, “God bless us, every one!” We can look at the days to come with courage because the truth of our future is Christ.