Prophets of the Old Testament times are known to be people who speak for God. They are Gods messengers whose sole job was to proclaim the word of the Lord to His people. In short, they are Gods mouthpiece. There are however misconceptions and confusions as to the exact work of the prophet. This essay will try to elaborate on the true work of the prophet.
The work of the prophet is commonly misconceived by many well-meaning people. Most of these, revere, and regard the Bible as the Word of God, and therefore authoritative in life. However, confusion has wreaked havoc in their understanding of the true nature of prophetic writings because these people misunderstood the prophets themselves. A wrong perception of the personalities of these messengers of God has led to wrong interpretations of their writings. One prevailing false impression of the prophets generally is in the area of their mental state. Usually, they are perceived as people who were not in their normal state of mind especially while they were receiving their prophecies from God and while they were fulfilling their task of prophesying to Old Testament kings and the people of Israel.
Their whole personalities, as well as their public functions, are veiled with mystery or paranormal occurrences. For example, some think that these prophets of Old were people who from time to time would experience some kind of a trance, a state of dazed existence, at certain occasions to receive their messages, much like the pagan prophets of Baal and other ancient religions of those times. This is a false notion of a biblical prophet, of course (Pratt Jr, thirdmill.org). Prophets have come to be known as such, not because they are primarily mystics who during several special occasions went through beyond normal encounters with God, but because they are messengers of God who proclaimed Gods word to Israel and remind them at certain times the forgotten laws of their Lord.
Prophets are prophets because God must have His choiced spokespersons to deliver His word to His people. And so, they are normal persons with normal personalities like any other ordinary citizen of Israel. In fact, they have come from all walks of life in the nation of Israel. Some of them were statesmen like Isaiah, Jeremiah, and Daniel. Others like Zechariah came from levitical backgrounds; Amos, on the other hand was a shepherd and a farmer. Certain marks distinguished these people as prophets of God: they were chosen by God (Jer.1:5), they were people with heightened sensitivity to the holiness of God and the evils of men (Am.8:4-6), and they were people whose words they carry were not really theirs but Gods, hence, they were able to predict future events.
As to the hyper-sensitivity of biblical prophets to evils in society, they were somewhat beyond the normal. The otherwise normal occurrences in life such as falsehood, injustice, hypocrisy, misery, etc., were magnified in their consciences by their knowledge of the laws of God (Heschel, 1962). With regards to sin, because it is the major problem with which God has been dealing with His people Israel since their inception, the prophets were so keen to highlight. Jeremiah prophesied doom for the non-repentance of Israel (Jer.1:16), and that they would eventually go into exile for their sins.
The prophesy was historically fulfilled during the reign of Nebuchadnezzar (597 BC). In spite of the imminent judgment of exile on the people of God, the prophets pronounced a yet coming day when God would show His long-term eternal plan to redeem His people through the Messiah who would come first as a Suffering Servant (Isa.52-53).
Through the coming Messiah, God would deal with the sin problem decisively and restore His people by making a New Covenant with them not like the one which God made in the time of Moses (Jer.31:31-33). Through the prophets then, God has clearly revealed His permanent hatred of sin, His righteousness, and everlasting plan for His people.