Gospel Gazette Online
Vol. 15 No. 5 May 2013
Page 5

The Old Testament Prophets

Gary C. Hampton

Gary C. HamptonThere can be no doubting the role Old Testament prophesy plays in helping one to understand and fully appreciate the New Testament, in general, and Jesus Christ, in particular. In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus said, “Do not think that I came to destroy the Law or the Prophets. I did not come to destroy but to fulfill” (Matthew 5:17). After His resurrection, He explained to the two disciples on the road to Emmaus, “These are the words which I spoke to you while I was still with you, that all things must be fulfilled which were written in the Law of Moses and the Prophets and the Psalms concerning Me.” After helping them to understand more fully, the Lord went on to say, “Thus it is written, and thus it was necessary for the Christ to suffer and to rise from the dead the third day, and that repentance and remission of sins should be preached in His name to all nations, beginning at Jerusalem” (Luke 24:44-47).

Modern man may have limited his view of prophesy to the books that were written by prophets like Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, etc. Clearly, the Lord did not see these as the only prophetic writings. Instead, His words indicate He viewed all of the Old Testament to be prophetic in nature (John 5:37-39). A full understanding of the writings of the Old Testament can only come to one willing to explore the meaning as revealed in the New Testament.

The Greek word “prophetes” means, “a proclaimer of a divine message” (Vine). In a sense, any inspired writer could appropriately be described as a prophet. So, Paul could tell the Jews of Antioch of Pisidia, “For those who dwell in Jerusalem, and their rulers, because they did not know Him, nor even the voices of the prophets which are read every Sabbath, have fulfilled them in condemning Him” (Acts 13:27). Because the Jews did not understand the meaning of words they read every Saturday, they crucified the very Son of God! Interestingly, their ignorance led, in part, to the fulfillment of the very prophecies they failed to understand (Acts 13:38). As a result, Paul was able to write, “For I delivered to you first of all that which I also received: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, and that He was buried, and that He rose again the third day according to the Scriptures” (1 Corinthians 15:3-4).

Peter confirmed the same when he told the people in the Temple, “But those things which God foretold by the mouth of all His prophets, that the Christ would suffer, He has thus fulfilled.” He went on to say Jesus had been received into heaven “until the times of restoration of all things, which God has spoken by the mouth of all His holy prophets since the world began.” One of the prophets he was referring to was Moses, who foretold the coming of a prophet like himself. “Yes, and all the prophets, from Samuel and those who follow, as many as have spoken, have also foretold these days” (Acts 3:18-26; 26:22-23).

One of the most perplexing truths about prophecy is that those who spoke, or wrote, it may not even have been aware of the meaning of their message. Peter explained this to his early Christian readers.

Of this salvation the prophets have inquired and searched diligently, who prophesied of the grace that would come to you, searching what, or what manner of time, the Spirit of Christ who was in them was indicating when He testified beforehand the sufferings of Christ and the glories that would follow. To them it was revealed that, not to themselves, but to us they were ministering the things which now have been reported to you through those who have preached the gospel to you by the Holy Spirit sent from heaven – things which angels desire to look into. (1 Peter 1:10-12)

Later, Peter answered the question that follows in many of our minds. That is, “How can someone write about things they do not even understand?” He said, “Knowing this first, that no prophecy of Scripture is of any private interpretation, for prophecy never came by the will of man, but holy men of God spoke as they were moved by the Holy Spirit” (2 Peter 1:20-21). In other words, the words of the prophet were not a product of his own mind, or invention. Instead, they were carried along in their message, much as a ship is carried along by the wind, by the Holy Spirit.

An excellent example of such a prophetic writing is found in Psalm 22, which may have been written by David during the time he was being persecuted by Saul. F. Delitzsch, in his Commentary on the Old Testament, plainly states that he knows of no historical time in the life of David that exactly coincides with the events described here. They were realized in some small degree in the life of David. He went on to say, “On the other hand, the first portion exactly coincides with the sufferings of Jesus Christ, and the second with the results that have sprung from His resurrection” (Vol. 5, 305). There can be no doubt that David was speaking in the spirit of God’s Anointed when he wrote this beautiful psalm!

The opening verse was quoted by Jesus as He hung on the tree (Matthew 27:46). The tragic agony of one being crucified is vividly pictured in verses 14-17. No wonder our Lord cried, “I thirst” (John 19:28)! Of course, someone might say Jesus was fully versed in Scripture and simply quoted the words of David. However, it should be observed that others who had no apparent thought of God’s Word also delivered lines from this prophetic psalm. Those around the cross clearly showed their contempt for Him with their mouths (verse 7). They also said, “He trusted in God; let Him deliver Him now if He will have Him; for He said, ‘I am the Son of God’” (verse 8; Matthew 27:39-44). Though the soldiers who crucified the Lord had no known respect for the writings of the Old Testament, they did divide His garments and cast lots for His coat (verse 18; John 19:23-24). The writer of the letter to the Hebrews uses a quotation from verse 22 to portray the role the resurrected Lord would play among the saved (2:11-12). Interestingly, Jesus did call the disciples His “brethren,” after the resurrection (Matthew 28:10; John 20:17). The closing verses of Psalm 22 are a beautiful depiction of the evangelistic thrust of Christ’s followers into all the world (Verses 27-31).

Works Cited

Delitzsch, Saul. F. Commentary on the Old Testament. Vol. 5.

Vine, W. E. An Expository Dictionary of New Testament Words. Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 1983.

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