By Dr. David R. Reagan, Founder & Director, Lamb & Lion Ministries
I was reading through the New Testament many years ago when I got to Hebrews 1. Look at what Hebrews 1:1 says, “God, who at various times and in various ways spoke in time past to the fathers by the prophets…”
I started to go to verse two and the Holy Spirit said, “Stop.” I don’t know if you’ve had those experiences. I’m sure you’ve had them if you read the Scriptures often. It’s called rhema. Rhema is where the Holy Spirit speaks to you from the Scripture to give you a special message. You might read a verse 101 times and it never say anything to you, but the 102nd time it will jump off the page, grab you by the throat, and shake you until your teeth rattle, because you have a need in your life that never was there before that that Scripture is going to speak to you now. That’s what happened to me that day.
So, I said, “Lord that passage is not even a full sentence.” The Holy Spirit said, “Read it again.” So, I read it again. “God who at various times and in various ways spoke in time past to the fathers by the prophets.”
I got to thinking. I’ll go over to the Old Testament and take a look and see what are the various ways that God spoke through the prophets. It didn’t take me long to make a list of the various ways. I’m sure you could, too.
The Writing Prophets
The very first thing that I thought of was the most obvious, and that’s the writing prophets.
The Old Testament is full of writing prophets: Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, Daniel, Hosea, Joel, Amos, both Major Prophets and the Minor Prophets. David in the psalms many times spoke prophetically. There are even prophecies in the histories that we have. So, I began to think about the writing prophets.
Then I began to think about how the passage says, “various ways, and various people.” I got to thinking about the great variety of people from a king like David to a sophisticated, erudite, educated man like Isaiah and to a man like Amos who was a fig picker from Tekoa. There were brave men like Daniel and cowards like Jonah. There were all kinds of people that God used as His prophets. It depended upon whether the person’s heart was searching for God or not about whether He could use them.
The Oral Prophets
Then I began to think what was there besides the writing prophets? It occurred to me that the Bible is full of oral prophets as well. These were prophets who never wrote anything, but people wrote about them. Oral prophets were Elijah and Elisha who never wrote anything, but people wrote about them. The Old Testament is full of oral prophets.
One time I tried making a list of all the old oral prophets and I was just overwhelmed because many of them are not even named. Instead, they are referred to as “the old prophet” or “the young prophet” or something like that.
One of my favorites is the prophet Micaiah which many people haven’t heard of. There was a time when Ahab and Jehoshaphat — an ungodly and a godly king — were going to go out to battle together against a common enemy. Jehoshaphat said to the effect, “Before I go into battle, I always have the prophets come and tell us whether we should go or not.” But, Ahab said, “Ah, you know the prophets. I don’t care anything about the prophets. I’ve got 400 of them and all they ever do is come to tell me what I want to hear. There’s only one who will tell me what I don’t want to hear, and I don’t like him.” Jehoshaphat said, “Okay, let’s get him.” He was Micaiah.
Micaiah came and revealed something that was very amazing. He said, “I saw the Lord in His throne room.” Very few people were ever given that opportunity. Isaiah saw the Lord high and lifted up. Micaiah saw the Lord high and lifted up. He said, “I say to you, if you go to battle tomorrow, you are going to be defeated.” Ahab turned to Jehoshaphat and said, “See, I told you he always tells me things I don’t want to hear.”
The Acting Prophets
I then began to wonder if there was another category, and there is. It’s one of my favorites.
Sometimes God spoke to the writing prophets and the oral prophets and said, “Stop speaking, stop writing, and start acting.” He wanted to get people’s attention and God knew that one way to get the people’s attention was to have them start acting.
I think the greatest actor, and the one who is going to get the Oscar when all the awards are handed out, is going to be Hosea. Can you believe Hosea was asked to marry a prostitute? He was the holiest man in all the land, and God commanded him to go marry a prostitute, which Hosea did. I heard someone say once that she must have been very beautiful, because he certainly was not attracted to her by her name. Her name was Gomer!
Hosea married Gomer and God then said, “Now go, preach the message. Preach the message of this marriage.” Hosea went out and he preached all over the land. “You Jews are full of pride and arrogance. You think that God called you as His chosen people because you are better than everybody else. Let me tell you something. You are no better than anyone else in all the world. When God called you, you were like a child that had been born and thrown on the side of the road and was lying there in its blood and nobody wanted it. I didn’t select you for your beauty. I didn’t select you for your intelligence. I didn’t select you for any of that. I selected you out of My grace. You need to put that arrogance aside and you need to repent.”
You can imagine Hosea’s message wasn’t very popular. He was severely mistreated.
When Hosea returned home, what he finds out is that while he was out preaching his heart out and being persecuted that this wife to whom he had given his good name, his wealth and everything he had, had suddenly succumbed to her passions. She was actually back out on the auction block in the center of town auctioning herself off to the highest bidder. He was crushed.
Hosea cried out to God, “God, how could you allow this to happen, for my wife to return to prostitution?” And God said, “Go preach the message.” The message was this. “I gave you my good name. I gave you blessing after blessing after blessing. And what did you do?” These are the actual words, “You spread your legs to the first person who came along. You are a harlot nation and you are a prostitute nation. You must repent. You are just like Hosea’s wife.” Hosea preached that message, and again, nobody liked it.
Another time upon returning home, Hosea saw his next door neighbor worshiping and kissing a golden idol. Hosea cries out, “Oh, my God, men kiss calves!” I think if he were in our nation today and he went all over America today, and he were to get up and preach, Hosea would say, “Oh, my God, men kiss calves. They kiss power. They kiss CD’s in the bank. They kiss fame and fortune.” But Hosea advises, “Kiss the Son. Put it all aside and fall in love with the Lord Jesus Christ.”
Hosea is a type of Christ in the Old Testament. He went down to that auction block, and in front of the entire city, he paid the price to buy his wife out of harlotry. Can you imagine that? There Hosea is stepping up and everyone’s mocking him and laughing at him, and he begins to bid. The auctioneer raises the bid, and Hosea bids and bids until he’s paid everything he has to buy his wife out of harlotry.
Gomer didn’t deserve it. It was grace. The whole story of Hosea is about grace. By the grace of God Hosea bought his wife out of harlotry, just as Jesus Christ bought us out of our slavery to sin.
The story ends there. It doesn’t tell us anything else, but it doesn’t have to, because I guarantee you one thing. From that day on, this woman was faithful to him because she could not conceive of such grace that he would forgive her and forget her indiscretions and buy her out of harlotry.
Even inanimate objects are prophetic symbols. One of the most powerful is the Ark of the Covenant. The Ark of the Covenant was made out of wood, which was a symbol that the Messiah would be human. It was overlaid with gold, which was a symbol that the Messiah would be divine. It had three objects in it, and one of those objects was the Ten Commandments that were given to Moses. This was a symbol that the Messiah would perfectly fulfill the Law. There was a pot of manna, which was a symbol that the Messiah would be the Bread of Life. There was the rod of Aaron that budded, which was a symbol that the Messiah would be resurrected from the dead.
Over these objects was what was called the Mercy Seat. Once a year the High Priest would go in and sprinkle the blood on the Mercy Seat to indicate that one day the Messiah would spill His blood to make it possible for the grace of God and mercy of God to cover the Law of God, which makes it possible for us to be reconciled to God. On the seat were two cherubim, one at each end with their wings spread over the Mercy Seat. Their wing tips were touching. That was where the Shekinah Glory of God dwelled in the Temple.
When you understand these symbols, it brings the Scriptures alive in a way that it never has before. It also helps you to understand some things in the New Testament that don’t seem to be all that important. For instance, look at John 20. I will show you something very simple there that has a profound meaning.
John 20:11-12 reads, “Mary stood outside by the tomb weeping; and as she wept she stooped down and looked into the tomb and she saw two angels in white sitting, one at the head, and the other at the feet where the body of Jesus had lain.”
This may seem like a simple historical statement. Mary sticks her head in the tomb, looks over to the burial chamber, and sees where the body of Jesus had been lying. There is an angel at each end. But, if you understand symbolic prophecy, you will understand that what Mary really saw when she looked into the tomb was the Mercy Seat where the blood had been spilled with a cherubim at each end. This was a symbol that the whole meaning of the Ark of the Covenant had been fulfilled in the life and death and burial of Jesus Christ.