Preaching The Prophets -- By: Paul D. Wegner

Journal: Journal for Baptist Theology & Ministry
Volume: JBTM 13:2 (Fall 2016)
Article: Preaching The Prophets
Author: Paul D. Wegner

Preaching The Prophets

Paul D. Wegner

Paul D. Wegner is Director, Academic Graduate Studies Program;
Professor of Old Testament Studies at Gateway Seminary in Ontario, California.

At first glance we might not expect that a message from an Old Testament (hereafter OT) prophet could have any relevance to life in our postmodern world, but the sins of the Israelites and the crumbling of their society are not so very different from our own. Not only that, OT prophets and modern-day preachers share some significant similarities.1 Both are called by God to communicate his messages to their people. Both have a responsibility to communicate these messages clearly and to exhort their people to obey God; to do so poorly, or fail to do so results in suffering for their people. The OT prophets needed to warn their nation against the dangers of wandering away from God and into Baalism, bringing as a consequence God’s punishment. Today the dangers are just as real, although some of our modern gods—money, pornography, pleasure, etc.—may not seem like an idol but can just as easily steal our hearts away from the true God. Where are the modern day “watchmen” that we need to call us back to God?

There are some important differences, however, between OT prophets and preachers today. First, God sent the prophets before the full revelation in the biblical canon was given. Prophets not only helped the people understand how God’s revelation up to that point applied to their lives, they also declared new revelation from God. Second, the words of the OT prophets came directly from God and thus carried his authority. Pastors, on the other hand, teach people how to follow God based upon what has already been revealed by him in Scripture. It is therefore crucial that we exegete and communicate Scripture clearly and correctly.

It is unlikely that God’s commands given through the prophets well over 2,000 years ago can be applied directly to our historical contexts. For example, God told Jonah to go and announce destruction on the city of Nineveh (Jon 1:2; 3:2–4), Isaiah to walk around naked (Isa 20:2–4), and Hosea to marry a harlot (Hos 1:2), but it would be most unwise for us to think that God is commanding any of us to do these same things. So how do we apply OT passages? Throughout church history people have attempted to find new and fresh ways to apply OT passages to their own historical contexts by using methods such as allegorical, typological, rabbinic, or pesher hermeneutics. For example, the Habakku...

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