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Sermon Illustrations on the Prophets

The Mountain Range & The Prophetic Perspective

When I was cutting my teeth on the prophetic books in seminary, one of the really helpful things I was taught was that the way prophets looked at the future was the way we may look at a mountain range with distant mountains and nearer mountains in the one mountain range, all of them looking like one mountain.

For example, to the north of our home in Pasadena was Mount Wilson. From where we stood on East Orange Grove Boulevard, it looked like one mountain. But in fact, if you started hiking, or driving, you quickly found that it was not merely one mountain, but a series of ever-higher ridges with valleys in between, about five of them.

We called that the “prophetic perspective.” From where Isaiah stood, God granted him to see the Mount Wilson of the future. Some of the nearer ridges of Sennacherib’s comings and goings he knew were very near, and when they would happen (e.g., Isa. 37:29). But beyond that there were other events he saw on Mount Wilson with no clear idea about how distant they were.

Taken from John Piper in Coming Home edited by D.A. Carson, © 2017, p. 31. Used by permission of Crossway, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers, Wheaton, IL 60187, www.crossway.org.

To the Prophet, God is Intimately Involved in Life on Earth

To the prophet, God does not reveal himself in an abstract absoluteness, but in a personal and intimate relation to the world. He does not simply command and expect obedience; He is also moved and affected by what happens in the world, and reacts accordingly. Events and human actions arouse in him joy or sorrow, pleasure or wrath…

Man’s deeds may move Him, affect Him, grieve Him or, on the other hand, gladden and please Him. …the God of Israel is a God Who loves, a God Who is known to, and concerned with, man. He not only rules the world in the majesty of his might and wisdom, but reacts intimately to the events of history.

Abraham J. Heschel, The Prophets I, II, Harper and Row, 1962.

A True Prophet

What if a true prophet—a true follower of the King—is not designed to stand by while all around them falls but instead is created to be the one who walks into the storm to engage—and yes, even confront—the almighty God? What if the One who created us is not unaware of the storm that surrounds us but rather is desperately searching for someone who will finally run to Him with these many burdens and invite His mighty power to intervene in them? What if He is willing to be confronted by someone He created?

What if the main purpose for the people He created is His interaction with them and through them in order to bring glory and fame to His name? What if a conduit for His glory and fame is what He has been seeking all along? What if He has stayed His hand simply because none of His creation has come to Him offering to be used by Him in this way?

What if we have had it all wrong? Because doesn’t the prophet’s situation feel a bit like today? Doesn’t it feel as though the wicked are winning? Doesn’t it feel as though the pleas of the righteous are being ignored? Doesn’t it feel as if millions are suffering injustice and the justice of God is all too often absent? Doesn’t it feel like your cries for solutions are being shouted into the void?

Thann Bennett, My Fame, His Fame, Thomas Nelson, 2020, pp. 3-4.

What is a Prophet? 

In Eugene Peterson’s wonderful book, Run With Horses, Peterson draws from the life of the prophet Jeremiah to provide a picture of what a great life looks like. Not in the world’s eyes, but in God’s eyes. In this short excerpt, Peterson describes the role of a prophet within the community of faith:

A prophet lets people know who God is and what he is like, what he says and what he is doing. A prophet wakes us up from our sleepy complacency so that we see the great and stunning drama that is our existence, and then pushes us onto the stage playing our parts whether we think we are ready or not.

A prophet angers us by rejecting our euphemisms and ripping off our disguises, then dragging our heartless attitudes and selfish motives out into the open where everyone sees them for what they are. A prophet makes everything and everyone seem significant and important—important because God made it, or him, or her; significant because God is actively, right now, using it, or him, or her. A prophet makes it difficult to continue with a sloppy or selfish life.

Taken from Run with the Horses by Eugene H. Peterson. ©2009, 2019 by Eugene H. Peterson.  Used by permission of InterVarsity Press, P.O. Box 1400, Downers Grove  IL  60515-1426. www.ivpress.com

See Also Illustrations on Justice, The Old Testament, Righteousness