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Lesson 7: The Work of the Prophets *

Introduction: What, exactly does a prophet do? Is the job about telling the future? Is it religious instruction? Is it finding donkeys? Is it making us feel bad? Is it being God's agent for all sorts of things? Let's dive into our Bibles and find out!

  1. Donkey Finders

    1. Read 1 Samuel 9:3-5. What does this tell us about the character of Saul? (He was considerate of his father, he was diligent and he was trustworthy.)

    2. Read 1 Samuel 9:6. Is this servant joking? Are prophets available for donkey finding? Would God take the time to deliver a donkey-finding message to a prophet?

    3. Read 1 Samuel 9:14-16. What prophet work do we find in these verses? (God revealed to Samuel the future, He made Samuel His agent to select and anoint a leader in answer to the prayers of the country.)

    4. Read 1 Samuel 9:18-20. What prophet work do we find here? (Donkey finding! Notice that Samuel knew the past, not just the future. God revealed both the past and the future to Samuel so that he could advise Saul.)

    5. As you consider this story, how would you describe a prophet's work? (The prophet is God's agent on earth to do the things God directs. This includes simple things like keeping track of lost property, to major things like directing the leadership of the country.)

      1. Should a modern-day prophet be active in politics?

        1. On what should your answer depend?

      2. Is it selfish to pray to God to help us with little things, when people are praying to God to be healed of cancer?

        1. Can we say "God has unlimited ability to answer prayers, when I'm asking about small things I'm not taking His attention away from those dying of cancer?" What about the prophet Samuel? Did he have unlimited time? (Saul enjoyed the favor of God and God was willing to help Saul with what was the main matter on his heart at that time.)

  2. Correcting and Reminding

    1. Read 2 Kings 17:13. Last week we noted that Jeremiah spoke of a distinction between prophets who said things we want to hear and those who say things we don't want to hear. Are the prophets referred to in this text saying things the people want to hear?

      1. Are these prophets adding new rules to what God has already laid out? (Not here. God uses the prophets to remind the people of His rules, and to point out how the people have strayed from those rules.)

    2. Read 2 Kings 17:18-20. The people did not listen to the prophets. What happened as a result? (Other people plundered them.)

      1. Is God just mad at His people? What about our picture of a loving and forgiving God?

      2. Read 2 Kings 17:17. Why would these people sacrifice their children? (They thought it would help them with their gods. This is true late term abortion. To make my life easier, I will sacrifice my child.)

      3. Notice again 2 Kings 17:18. What sense do you get from the phrase "removed them from His presence?" (God is holy. When His people rejected His warnings and engaged in the most vile sins, He did not want them "in His presence." When they were out of the presence of God bad things happened to them.)

        1. Is this just an "Old Testament thing?"

    3. Read Isaiah 30:10-11. What are the people asking when they say "stop confronting us with the Holy One of Israel?" (God is holy. They don't want to come face to face with a holy God.)

      1. Does that mean this "out of My presence" is not just an Old Testament thing as opposed to a mutual thing - that sinners want to be outside the presence of God?

    4. Would Jesus want to be outside the presence of sinners? I thought that was where He went?

    5. Read Matthew 9:10-12. Are the Old Testament rules out the window? Jesus and sinners want to be in each other's presence?

      1. Is this just a temporary situation? (Read Luke 4:24-27. When people do evil, they do not want God. Jesus' main point is that prophets are not accepted in their hometown, but His secondary point is that the prophet goes elsewhere. Jesus came to sinners. They came to Him. But at some point they had to make a decision for Jesus or for sin. In the main, Israel rejected Jesus and His gospel went to others.)

      2. Read Matthew 8:11-12. Will Jesus cast people out of His presence? (Yes. Those who reject His invitation.)

    6. Are we getting off our topic here? What does a sinner's resistance to correction have to do with the work of the prophet? (It is a warning to us not to reject the prophet just because the message makes us uncomfortable.)

    7. Let's continue reading in Isaiah. Read Isaiah 30:12-14. What message is the prophet giving here? How is sin catching up with the unrepentant sinner? (The sin problem gets so big is just figuratively explodes and takes out the sinner. The sinner cannot be used thereafter for even simple tasks.)

      1. Do you know someone like that?

      2. Has this happened to you?

    8. Read Isaiah 30:15,18. What is God's goal for us? How are prophets (like Isaiah) involved in that goal? (The primary work of the prophet is to warn and correct. The goal is to be gracious. We do not have an Old Testament/New Testament face of God. God longs to be gracious to us, that is why He sends His prophets to warn us of the dangers of sin. At the same time, He is a holy God and that means that sin cannot ultimately live in His presence.)

      1. What are your prophet issues? Are you struggling over whether a modern day prophet is true or false? Ask yourself if your struggle is primarily about your pride? Ask yourself whether it is primarily about a feeling of condemnation when considering the prophet's words?

    9. Read Romans 3:19-20. Is the work of a true prophet to make you feel good or make you feel guilty? (Recall that we determined that the "gold standard" for communications from God is the Ten Commandments. These verses tell us that the purpose of the law is to "silence" our pride. To convict us of sin and to drive us to Jesus. This is clearly an important part of the work of a prophet.)

    10. Read Romans 3:21. What other prophet work do we find? (The work of the prophet is also to share the good news about God's grace. The warnings drive us to repentance, and that brings the good news of grace.)

  3. Record Keeping

    1. Read 1 Chronicles 29:29-30. What other prophet work do we find? (Recording history. Another work of the prophet is to record the workings of God through history so that the people can better see and understand God's work. This helps to give them confidence in God's hand in their lives.)

  4. Reveals Mysteries

    1. Read Daniel 2:45-47. What prophet work do we see here?

      1. Why would God give this work to His prophets? (It gives us courage and confidence about our God and His role in shaping the future. When the things predicted come to pass, we have confidence in our God and His care for us.)

    2. Friend, are you open to accepting the work of a prophet? Do you believe it is one way God uses to communicate to His people?

  5. Next week: The Authority of the Prophets.
* Copr. 2009, Bruce N. Cameron, J.D. All scripture references are to the New International Version (NIV), copr. 1973, 1978, 1984 International Bible Society, unless otherwise noted. Quotations from the NIV are used by permission of Zondervan Bible Publishers. Suggested answers are found within parentheses. The lesson assumes the teacher uses a blackboard or some other visual aid.

© 2021 Bruce N. Cameron, J.D.
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