Having covered the prophets Elijah and Elisha in previous installments, we now make our way to the group known as the “Major” Prophets in the Old Testament: Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, and Daniel. With these individuals, the Incarnational aspect of our faith undergoes considerable development. In modern language, when many people see “prophet” they think of someone telling the future. I would suggest the meaning is far deeper than this.
While these men do indeed predict the future, I would say they also spend time on the past. They remind Israel of their sins. For the future, they attempt to point Israel back to their initial calling. One could even say that there is precious little “new” about their ministry. The “newness” comes from the fulfillment of that original calling, and how will be carried out.
The prophets, despite living millennia ago, also live during a time which is quite relevant for our reflection. In one sense or another, they all lived during a time of apostasy. Those who were meant to act as custodians of the faith of Yahweh allowed the faith to weaken, whether through negligence or an active persecution of the true faith. In their varied walks of life, they used the understanding gained from these experiences to confront those leaders.
Is this not what we see today? The errors of the world have in many cases infected many Christians, even those whose job it is to guard the faith. In the world at large, they have not simply turned their back on God. Rather, they turn to face him, and raise their swords. This is a war man cannot win.
Like our heroes of old, God sends prophets into the world even today. Not in the sense of giving new revelation, but in the sense I described above. These prophets are meant to call the Church and the world back to what they were meant to be. They are meant to point out the folly of idols, whether they are actual “gods” or the self. Yet many times a fair question can be asked: where are today’s prophets? It seems that the Church grows weaker and weaker by the day, because there are no prophets to guide her message.
If one is upset over this state of events, we can blame nobody but ourselves. We are called to be today’s prophets. Through our baptism (of which we will discuss more in the future), we become citizens of Christ’s Kingdom, His Church. We are meant to proclaim God’s truth about man’s calling and destiny to both the secular and the religious. It is for this reason that we must turn to these great heroes.
Unfortunately, today’s Church frequently neglects the Prophets. They are viewed in two ways. Firstly, as those who were relevant millennia ago, and only dealt with issues particular to their time. Others look at the Prophets solely in light of prophesies about the Messiah. With those prophesies fulfilled in Christ, their value for the Christian today is minimal. Both are tragic, and nothing could be further from the truth. Not only is their message timeless, their message takes on a higher meaning in Christ. He never did away with their message, since He came to fulfill, not destroy. Indeed, the Incarnation of Our Lord elevates this message to an entirely new level. We read the message of the prophets in light of Christ’s elevation of their work.
It is with this understanding that we shall continue our study, beginning with the one known as the greatest prophet of them all, Isaiah.