What is the common theme or motif of the prophets of Israel?
The books of the prophets are group into the Major Prophets and the Minor Prophets. The Major Prophets include five books which are Isaiah, Jeremiah, Lamentations, Ezekiel, and Daniel. The Minor Prophets include twelve books called Hosea, Joel, Amos, Obadiah, Jonah, Micah, Nahum, Habakkuk, Zephaniah, Haggai, Zechariah, and Malachi.
The common theme of these prophetic books is a call to repentance in order to avoid pending judgment interlaced with a promise of the future coming of the Messiah who would setup Israel’s glorious kingdom. The message of the prophets is interweaved with the past apostasy of Israel and the future millennial kingdom which telescopes into the eternal state.
God Call To Be Holy
Isaiah 53:6 summarizes the common problem addressed by the prophets.
All of us like sheep have gone astray,
Each of us has turned to his own way . . . Isaiah 53:6 (NASB)
We are just like Israel. We ignore our God and worship our own idols. If we do not turn away from our sin, God will eventually discipline us. Jeremiah 1:16 describes our common problem.
I will pronounce My judgments on them concerning all their wickedness, whereby they have forsaken Me and have offered sacrifices to other gods, and worshiped the works of their own hands. Jeremiah 1:16 (NASB)
All of us have idols in our lives that take us away from our God. For some it is work, a child, a spouse, a church, a hobby, wealth or something else.
While the book of Amos captures the prophet’s message to the northern kingdoms of Israel, Amos 5:6 is a good summary of God’s call throughout the prophets to everyone who strays like a lamb from God.
Seek the LORD that you may live,
Or He will break forth like a fire . . .
Amos 5:6 (NASB)
God warns us to return or suffer punishment. 2 Chronicles 15:4 records the statement of the prophet Azariah which reveals why God allows us to suffer.
But in their distress they turned to the LORD God of Israel, and they sought Him, and He let them find Him. 2 Chronicles 15:4 (NASB)
God’s Sovereignty Is Revealed In The Prophets
The prophets also reveal that God is sovereign over all in that He calls men and women to repent or experience His discipline and punishment. He is a holy and loving God. So He warns of future suffering unless we repent. Since He is a just God who will not let us escape just punishment, He gives us warnings.
God’s Love Is Revealed In The Prophets
In most of the major and minor prophets, God’s warnings are followed by promises of blessing to the northern kingdom of Israel and the southern kingdom of Judah. These blessings are usually promises of the coming Messiah and the millennial kingdom. God repeatedly promises that the entire nation of Israel (northern and southern kingdom combined) will one day become the universal kingdom of the earth and Messiah will reign over all the earth from Jerusalem. The remnant will return and God will dwell with them.
The Old Testament also points us to Christ while the New Testament points back to Christ. Jesus said in the gospel of Luke,
And beginning with Moses and with all the prophets, He explained to them the things concerning Himself in all the Scriptures . . . “all things which are written about Me in the Law of Moses and the Prophets and the Psalms must be fulfilled.” Then He opened their minds to understand the Scriptures, and He said to them, “Thus it is written, that the Christ should suffer and rise again from the dead the third day; and that repentance for forgiveness of sins should be proclaimed in His name to all the nations, beginning from Jerusalem. (NASB) Luke 24:27, 44-46
Only Jesus Christ, the Messiah, can forgive our sins. An overview of the prophetic books is provided in the Appendix A of Solid Roots Study #1.