Chapter 4

Reading the Prophets in Light of Jesus

Biblical interpretation is a two–directional highway (at least). Traveling forward from the prophets in God’s plan of salvation, we move toward Jesus. We’ve seen how the circumstances and the messages of the prophets signpost the need for someone greater, someone who doesn’t simply call people to repentance and obedience, but who fulfills the promises and plans of God. All the prophets point to that person, Jesus.

Jesus came as the promised one, the one who would restore the relationship between God and humanity. From Israel’s perspective, the promised one would restore the fortunes and futures of the Israelite people.

Jesus came as the promised one, the one who would restore the relationship between God and humanity.

And it is Jesus, the messiah, the fulfillment of all of God’s promises that provides the other lane of interpretation for the prophets. To understand the prophets fully, we must not only read forward to Jesus, we must also read them in light of Jesus. The God for whom the prophets spoke, and whose character the prophets revealed, was fully revealed in the words and deeds of Jesus. So the picture of God painted by the words and deeds of the prophets can only be fully understood through Jesus.

The God who spoke messages of coming judgment for the sins of Israel was the God who would offer himself to suffer judgment in their place. This is the upside–down nature of the kingdom of God, the unexpected reversal that Jesus brings.

Law, obedience, sin, punishment, kingdom, everything is redefined through the God who gave himself as a ransom. Therefore, the God who hurls his people into judgment in the wilderness is the God who leaves the flock behind to find the one who is lost (Luke 15:1–7). In Hosea God is also the long–suffering, self–sacrificing husband who cares not for himself, but for his bride, giving up his reputation and honor for her good. The warrior God of Nahum is the one who refuses to call down his legions to fight for him (Matt. 26:52–54), and instead offers himself.

As you read the prophets, remember Jesus. Not only do they point forward to him, he, in turn, brings clarity and fullness to understanding them.