Ever been stumped when trying to read the book of Isaiah? Have you ever tried to read Revelation only to get to chapter 3 and want to give up? Have you ever wondered why the biblical authors were inspired by God to write such difficult literature? I have often wondered these very questions as I walked through the books of the Bible in my personal devotion and study times. For me, reading and understanding the prophets has often been challenging and discouraging. I can see how some passages point to Jesus or how the NT authors used them to make their points. However, I have always wanted to make these connections for myself. I have desired to devour and enjoy the prophets in the way that my heroes in the faith have enjoyed them. Peter Gentry’s “How To Read And Understand The Biblical Prophets” is a fantastic place to start this wonderful journey.
A Resource For A Variety Of Readers
Gentry’s book is an entry-level text that can be read by pastors as well as average church members. As he works to help readers understand the prophets, his opening chapter ends with a remarkable statement:
“…the majority of what (the prophets) had to say constitutes proclaiming a message that explains how the word of God, already revealed and received in the past, applies to present circumstances and situations. The promise or prediction that Israel would be exiled and judged for disobedience and disloyalty to the covenant did not require anything special beyond reading and preaching the book of Deuteronomy, given so long ago. And this is the largest part of the messages of the prophets.”
This is important as it gives us a starting point in understanding prophecy. It allows readers to understand that much of what is written in the prophets is not apocalyptic literature predicting the end times. Rather—especially in the Old Testament— prophetic literature primarily deals with the situation of Israel at the time of the prophet. We are reminded that much of biblical prophecy is centered on Israel’s breaking of the Mosaic covenant and God’s restoring of the covenant relationship with His people—and the nations— through His Son.
Valuable Tools For Reading The Biblical Prophets
Gentry spends much of this little book describing the various features found in biblical prophetic literature. He talks about the importance of repetition and gives examples of how this repetition is found. He helps readers understand the significance of foreign nations and why God is so concerned with them. Much of the book is devoted to understanding the futuristic elements of prophecy, including:
- The use of typology and Exodus as a type.
- The use of apocalyptic language and the need for this language to be understood symbolically rather than literally and sequentially
- The “already but not yet” nature of prophecy fulfillment
I highly recommend “How To Read And Understand The Biblical Prophets”. This will prove to be useful for many years to come; especially for readers who desire to spend more time in this major section of the biblical literature. This is a great tool to supplement personal study, a small group bible study, or a sermon series.