Opening prayer –
Begin by praying this prayer.
Gracious and holy God, give us diligence to seek you, wisdom to perceive you, and patience to wait for you. Grant us, O God, a mind to meditate on you; eyes to behold you; ears to listen for your word; a heart to love you; and a life to proclaim you; through the power of the Spirit of Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord. Amen.
Part 2: So What’s a Prophet?
Contrary to popular belief, a Biblical prophet is not: a fortune teller; a person who can predict the future, or how much money you make when you sell something. For a helpful explanation of what a prophet is in 60 seconds or less, click on the link below and listen to Dr. Dan Simundson’s definition at: enterthebible.org.
Part 3: Where to find the Old Testament Prophets . . .
While there are a number of people who proclaim God’s message in the Old Testament. Some prophets, like Elijah, Elisha and Samuel are included in Books of the Old Testament that focus more on historical accounts concerning the people of Israel like 1 and 2 Samuel and 1 and 2 Kings. Other prophets, like Isaiah, Jeremiah and Micah, show up in a section of the Old Testament focused on the prophets.
Within this prophetic section of the Old Testament, the books of the Old Testament are often divided into Major Prophets and Minor Prophets. Don’t be fooled by the names “Major” and “Minor”. Those names don’t indicate how important the prophet was, they simply refer to how much is written down in the Old Testament about or by each of these important messengers from God.
The Old Testament books described as the Major Prophets often include:
The Old Testament books described as the Minor Prophets often include:
Part 4: Who’s Who?
While it would be helpful if we could say that all Old Testament prophets were the same, the reality is that each one announced a unique message from the Lord that spoke to a specific time and place. Some Old Testament prophets were king-makers like Samuel. Some were pointing to the future like Isaiah. Some were calling for social change like Amos. Some were announcing God’s word to a foreign land like Jonah. Here is a quick summary of ten of the major prophetic players.
Samuel: 1 Samuel 1-15
Samuel was born to Elkanah and Hannah after Hannah prayed for a son and promised that he would be given to the Lord. As a child, Samuel was given to the priest Eli. One evening while he slept, young Samuel was called to be a prophet. As he grew, Samuel became a well known prophet. He anointed Saul and David as king of Israel and served as a judge for the people.
Elijah: 1 Kings 17 -2 Kings 2
Elijah was a God’s prophet to Israel around 850 BCE. During his ministry, Elijah revived a boy who gravely ill, warned the king of a drought, destroyed the prophets of the false gods Baal and Asherah to prove God’s power. When necessary, Elijah spoke words of judgment to Kings who defied God. At the end of his life, Elijah is carried off into heaven by a chariot of fiery horses and his ministry is passed to Elisha.
Elisha: 2 Kings 1-13
Elisha was a disciple of the prophet Elijah. He witnessed Elijah being taken into heaven and succeeded him as prophet to Israel. Elisha performs a series of miracles which prove his power including parting the Jordan River, providing a unlimited oil for a widow and healing the Syrian Commander, Naaman, of leprosy. On several occasions, Elisha helps the people of Israel conquer their enemies.
Isaiah: Book of Isaiah
The prophet Isaiah was the son of Amoz who called the people of Judah and Israel to turn away from their sinful ways and follow God’s teachings. Isaiah’s ministry began following King Uzziah’s death and continued for 40 years. He offered judgment upon sinfulness, guidance to kings and ordinary people and hope for those who faithfully followed God.
Jeremiah: Book of Jeremiah
Jeremiah became a prophet in Jerusalem during the reign of King Josiah, proclaimed God’s word and called God’s people to turn aside from their sinful ways. He stressed the importance of obeying the law. When King Nebuchadrezzer invaded, Jeremiah made it clear that the Babylonians invasion and destruction of Jerusalem was God’s judgment upon the people for their sinfulness. At the same time, Jeremiah offered hope that God would restore the people of Israel.
Ezekiel: Book of Ezekiel
Ezekiel is a priest from Judah who is living in exile in Babylon. The Lord appeared to Ezekiel and calls him to be a prophet to warn the people that they will be punished for turning away from God. Ezekiel’s warnings go unheard and Jerusalem is destroyed. The Lord then instructs Ezekiel to announce that in the future God’s people and Jerusalem will be restored.
Daniel: Book of Daniel
After being taken captive by the Babylonians as a young man, Daniel and three of his friends eventually become government officials. While serving the government, Daniel remains faithful to the Lord and obeys Jewish law. Because of his faithfulness, Daniel and his friends are thrown into a lion’s den, but God protects them. Daniel interprets dreams and signs. His visions reveal God’s will for the people.
Amos: Book of Amos
Amos is a herdsman and a dresser of sycamore tress who is called by God to be a prophet to the people of Israel. He speaks a word of judgment upon foreign nations and upon the people of Israel for their various sins, including their mistreatment of the poor and powerless and their worship of false Gods. Amos warns that the only way for Israel to avoid punishment was to be faithful to God.
Jonah: Book of Jonah
Jonah is a prophet who is called by God to go to Ninevah, but he disobeys God and attempts to flee on a ship. During a terrible storm, Jonah is thrown into the sea and swallowed by a big fish which takes him to Ninevah. Jonah preaches to people of Ninevah. They give up their evil ways and believe in God. Jonah wanted God to destroy the Ninevites and becomes angry when God showed mercy.
Micah: Book of Micah
Micah was a prophet from Moresheth who called the leaders of Judah and Israel to change their evil ways. While he predicted judgment and destruction upon the nations because of the way they mistreated the poor and powerless, Micah also promised a future of justice and peace where all lived in harmony. Micah instructed people to justice, love kindness and walk humbly with God.
Discussion Questions answer in comments below:
- Based on the descriptions above, which prophet would you least like to meet and why?
- Based on the descriptions above, which prophet would you most like to meet and why?
- What do you think was the key to being a good prophet?
Part 5: Conclusion & Closing Prayer
Closing Prayer – Pray the follow prayer at the close of the session.
Direct us, Lord God, in all our doings with your most gracious favor, and extend to us your continual help; that in all our works begun, continued, and ended in you, we may glorify your holy name; and finally, by your mercy, bring us to everlasting life; through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord. Amen.
Opening and Closing Prayers adapted from Sundays and Seasons.com. Copyright 2017 Augsburg Fortress. All rights reserved. Reprinted by permission under Augsburg Fortress Liturgies Annual License #25165.