The Orthodox Faith – Salvation History (8C)

However, as was mentioned above the Bible is not only about future events. Biblical prophets were sent by God to announce His will for His people. For example, when the Hebrews strayed from God’s will by oppressing the poor, worshipping false gods or marrying foreign women God would send a prophet to condemn this kind of behavior. For example Jeremiah 23:1,10-15. Jeremiah foretold the coming destruction of Jerusalem and the carrying away of the Jewish people to Babylon. Jeremiah is condemning the failure of some of the Jewish people.

“Woe to the shepherds who destroy and scatter the sheep of my pasture!” says the Lord. For the land is full of adulterers; because of the curse the land mourns, and the pastures of the wilderness are dried up. Their course is evil, and their might is not right. “Both prophet and priest are ungodly; even in my house I have found their wickedness, says the Lord. Therefore their way shall be to them like slippery paths in the darkness, into which they shall be driven and fall; for I will bring evil upon them in the year of their punishment, says the Lord. In the prophets of Sama’ria I saw an unsavory thing: they prophesied by Ba’al and led my people Israel astray. But in the prophets of Jerusalem I have seen a horrible thing: they commit adultery and walk in lies; they strengthen the hands of evildoers, so that no one turns from his wickedness; all of them have become like Sodom to me, and its inhabitants like Gomor’rah.” Therefore thus says the Lord of hosts concerning the prophets: “Behold, I will feed them with wormwood, and give them poisoned water to drink; for from the prophets of Jerusalem ungodliness has gone forth into all the land.”

This is a strong condemnation of the Hebrews behavior.

Or Hosea 7:1-5. In the Book of Hosea, the prophet condemns injustice and misbehavior on the part of some of the Jewish people. He prophesies Israel’s coming punishments, but also God’s love and compassion.

When I would heal Israel, the corruption of E’phraim is revealed, and the wicked deeds of Sama’ria; for they deal falsely, the thief breaks in, and the bandits raid without. But they do not consider that I remember all their evil works. Now their deeds encompass them, they are before my face. By their wickedness they make the king glad, and the princes by their treachery. They are all adulterers; they are like a heated oven, whose baker ceases to stir the fire, from the kneading of the dough until it is leavened. On the day of our king the princes became sick with the heat of wine; he stretched out his hand with mockers.

There are many such passages with God condemning the bad behavior the Israelites through the voice of his prophets. On the other hand God sent out prophets to comfort the Jewish people in times of trouble. The Book of Isaiah was compiled over a long period of time from before the Assyrian captivity of the Northern Kingdom until several years after it. It shows that God condemns His people’s misbehavior and the punishment which follows but also God’s lover and final redemption of His people. The following texts refer to this love and redemption. For example, Isaiah 40:1-5, 9-11 or Isaiah 54:7-8, 10, 13-15.

Comfort, comfort my people, says your God. Speak tenderly to Jerusalem, and cry to her that her warfare is ended, that her iniquity is pardoned, that she has received from the Lord’s hand double for all her sins. A voice cries: “In the wilderness prepare the way of the Lord, make straight in the desert a highway for our God. Every valley shall be lifted up, and every mountain and hill be made low; the uneven ground shall become level, and the rough places a plain. And the glory of the Lord shall be revealed, and all flesh shall see it together, for the mouth of the Lord has spoken.” Get you up to a high mountain, O Zion, herald of good tidings; lift up your voice with strength, O Jerusalem, herald of good tidings, lift it up, fear not; say to the cities of Judah, “Behold your God!” Behold, the Lord God comes with might, and his arm rules for him; behold, his reward is with him, and his recompense before him. He will feed his flock like a shepherd, he will gather the lambs in his arms, he will carry them in his bosom, and gently lead those that are with young. Isaiah 40:1-5, 9-11

 Upon a high and lofty mountain you have set your bed, and thither you went up to offer sacrifice. Behind the door and the doorpost you have set up your symbol; for, deserting me, you have uncovered your bed, you have gone up to it, you have made it wide; and you have made a bargain for yourself with them, you have loved their bed, you have looked on nakedness. You were wearied with the length of your way, but you did not say, “It is hopeless”; you found new life for your strength, and so you were not faint. When you cry out, let your collection of idols deliver you! The wind will carry them off, a breath will take them away. But he who takes refuge in me shall possess the land, and shall inherit my holy mountain. And it shall be said, “Build up, build up, prepare the way, remove every obstruction from my people’s way.” For thus says the high and lofty One who inhabits eternity, whose name is Holy: “I dwell in the high and holy place, and also with him who is of a contrite and humble spirit, to revive the spirit of the humble, and to revive the heart of the contrite. Isaiah 54:7-8, 10, 13-15.

 Ultimately, the prophecies in the Old Testament are on the one had God’s word to His people in specific situations, on the other hand there have a timeless message especially as they point to Jesus Christ. We will see how they are fulfilled in the next article.

Fr. John