Growing up, I experienced many churches who gave little regard to the authority of the Bible. Many of the pastors I knew would use Scripture as a springboard to say whatever they wanted. I will never forget one Sunday sitting in service when the Scripture reader was supposed to read just a few verses but became nervous and read all of Revelation 22. I will always remember looking at the pastor’s face which was bright red with embarrassment. His typical practice was to pick and choose verses to read, proof-texting and calling our attention only to the parts that applied to what he intended to say. Here was a man who was supposed to be heralding the Word of God to his people, and he was utterly ashamed to have been accidentally discovered proclaiming his own words and not God’s.
This childhood example is why we must study closely the role of the prophet that gives way to our greater Chief Prophet. In order for us to avoid being swayed by the culture and caught red-faced at God’s Word, we must draw courage from this important topic. But, before we can look more deeply into the prophet’s role throughout the Old Testament and leading up to Christ, we must first zoom out and answer the question, “what is a prophet?”
What is a Prophet?
A prophet is a sovereignly chosen instrument of the Lord used as a tool in His hand to bring about His purposes through His own spoken message. The prophet speaks on behalf of the Lord as His mouthpiece. The prophet speaks under a borrowed authority, therefore he has zero authority to alter the message.
The words spoken by the prophets are given as a divine composition from God Himself. We see this clearly in Jeremiah 1:9-10: “Then the Lord put out His hand and touched my mouth. And the Lord said to me, ‘Behold, I have put my words in your mouth. See, I have set you this day over the nations and over kingdoms, to pluck up and to break down, to destroy and to overthrow, to build and to plant.’” Prophets act as instruments of mercy towards the people of God, serving as a temporary mediator between God and man, voicing the concerns and commands of God to man and communicating for the people in response to God.
For Christians today, standing on the other side of the cross, we already can begin to see how the role of the prophet that existed in the divine mind of God from eternity past is giving the people a foretaste of the one Chief Prophet to come. But, before we look at this Supreme Prophet, we first need to get a closer look at the prophet’s role in the Old Testament book of Amos.
The Role of the Prophet Through Amos
The role of a prophet in the Old Testament follows a consistent pattern that contains several different elements. We find these same elements in the book of Amos. What we see first with this minor prophet is an implied need for repentance because of consistent sin committed against the Lord. Second, we see that, due to their continued willful disobedience, Amos is given a message of judgment to pronounce against the people on the Lord’s behalf. But, in the midst of the hopeless predicament the people of Israel find themselves in, the Lord gives Amos a final message of promised future restoration. The Lord is declaring through Amos to the people of God that things will not always be like this.
Even when facing the judgment of God, we see, at the same time, the unrelenting mercy of God towards His people. The Lord always stacks the odds against Himself through taking the initiative to do what His people can’t to display His glory. Consider God’s choosing of Amos to be His messenger; he was not a man of noble birth or of a priestly status. Amos was a simple man, a sheep breeder, which made him completely ordinary by human standards. This is who God ordained to mediate between Himself, Israel, and the neighboring nations.
During the time of Amos, the nation of Israel was content in their current season of peace with the nations surrounding them. They were so satisfied that they passively stood by while injustice devoured the city. Their devotion was also no longer to the God of their fathers who rescued them out of the land of Egypt, but their devotion was now to fleshly crafted idols. Because of their treacherous sin against the Lord and their lack of repentance, the Lord gives Amos a message of judgment to deliver. His judgment is swift and direct as He states in Amos 2:3, “Behold, I will press you down in your place, as a cart full of sheaves presses down.”
Further in the book of Amos, we can see that Israel continues in her grievous ways, choosing not to repent. Then, Amos speaks again the words of God, “I struck you with blight and mildew; your many gardens and your vineyards, your fig trees and your olive trees the locust devoured; yet you did not return to me, declares the Lord.” But, what is amazing is that God would not idly sit by waiting for a rebellious people to come to Him; instead, HE came to them. The announcement of Amos from the Lord at the end of the book lets us and the people of Israel know, “Behold, the days are coming.” This day tells us of the one Chief Prophet who completes and guarantees the promises of God for our future restoration.
Christ as our Chief Prophet
Like Amos, this Chief Prophet is raised up in the most unlikely ways. He was born in the humblest of circumstances. There was nothing spectacular about His trade as a carpenter. The prophet Isaiah said, “He had no form or majesty that we should look at him, and no beauty that we should desire him.” But, unlike Amos, this was no ordinary man. This is who the prophets from long ago spoke about, and who Matthew 1:21 says, “She will bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.” This is the one whom John says, “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.” The Chief Prophet is no ordinary prophet because He is the Word made flesh! He is the God-man who speaks! The writer of Hebrews says in 1:1-2, “Long ago, at many times and in many ways, God spoke to our fathers by the prophets, but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son.”
Jesus Christ is the eternal Word that perfectly communicates and reveals God to His people. In addition, because of His divine nature as our Prophet, He possesses all authority within Himself. Our Chief prophet doesn’t need to say, “Thus saith the Lord,” but rather, “Truly, I say to you.” Jesus is not speaking on borrowed authority as a mere human, but as the divine Son of God who holds all things together by the word of His power. This means we must attentively listen to what this Chief Prophet has to say.
In His perfect life, His sacrificial death, and victorious resurrection, He has done the work necessary for our salvation. This incredible good news should cause us to listen with eager ears and propel us to joyfully follow Jesus! We do not want to become like the people of Israel in the book of Amos who were content with the culture around them, which is one reason why we must gather regularly and be part of a healthy local church. We need to hear from our Chief Prophet continually, both in our personal time with the Lord, and corporately as we sit under the preaching of the God-breathed Word.
This truth of Jesus as our Chief Prophet means that He lived among us, died a substitutionary death on our behalf, rose to life to conquer death, and continues to communicate this gospel message to us on a daily basis to build us up in sanctification. His role as a Prophet means that we heed His words, we follow as He instructs, and we seek to be like Him, serving as a mouthpiece for God Himself to a world that desperately needs to hear the good news of Jesus Christ. Praise God that He has never abandoned His people in their sin, but instead, He draws us to Himself through the means of the prophets—who alerted the people to their sin—and through the Chief Prophet—who dealt with our sin once and for eternity.
Editor's Note: This originally published at Thinking & Theology.