Session 12: Prophets & Prophecy Part 3

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Aims

By the end of this session you should be able to: 

  • decribe the books of Micah, Zephaniah, Nahum, Habbakuk & Jeremiah and demonstrate an understanding of their main themes

  • understand and describe the notion of the involobility of Zion and why the prophets denounce this

  • describe the prophetc approach to the end of exile found in the book of Jeremiah

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Prayer

Blessed are you Lord our God,

for you come to us and seek to make your home in us.

As we study now, let our eyes and our ears

be open to you

let our hearts find their rest and their joy in you

that we may grow in grace and live to your glory.

Blessed are you, Creator, Redeemer and Sustainer.

Amen.

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Introduction

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In this session we will explore the prophets of the exile. The disaster the previous prophets warned about has come to pass and tGod's people find themselves displaced and ruled by other nations. This session brings us to the middle of the 6th Century BCE on the timeline. Watch the videos below and make notes on anything that strikes you in your learning journal. There are links in the Resources section to overviews for the other books that Hayes discusses in this session if you would like to watch them (optional).

The Literary Prophets

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"Micah, eighth-century southern prophet and contemporary of Isaiah, is discussed in this lecture. Structurally, the book of Micah alternates three prophecies of doom and destruction and three prophecies of hope and restoration. Micah attacks the doctrine of the inviolability of Zion and employs the literary form of a covenant lawsuit (or riv) in his denunciation of the nation.

 

Several short prophetic books are also discussed: Zephaniah; the Book of Nahum, depicting the downfall of Assyria and distinguished for its vivid poetic style; and the book of Habbakuk, which contains philosophical musings on God’s behavior. The final part of the lecture turns to the lengthy book of Jeremiah. A prophet at the time of the destruction and exile, Jeremiah predicted an end to the exile after 70 years and a new covenant that would be inscribed on the hearts of the nation." (Hayes, Intro to Lecutre 18)

Jeremiah

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Jeremiah is often considered to be a 'prophet of doom', yet there are also some lovely moments of consolation and hope in the book.  Perhaps the best known and most often quoted verse is 29:11 'For surely I know the plans I have for you, says the Lord, plans for your welfare and not for harm, to give you a future with hope.' 

 

Jeremiah stands in strong opposition to an idea called the ‘royal temple ideology of Jerusalem’.  Isaiah’s prophecy about the Assyrians withdrawing from Jerusalem seems to have encouraged the view that Zion was inviolable – it could not be captured and the temple would never fall.

This ideology, fostered by the King and temple Priests, claimed that the God of Israel had made promises to the temple and the monarchy that meant it (and they) were somehow exempt from all the curses of the law and God’s judgement.  Jeremiah’s theology is in clear opposition to this idea and articulates a sustained challenge to the royal temple ideology, dismissing the notion of immunity from judgement.  History showed that indeed Jeremiah was correct and Jerusalem was certainly not immune to judgement (Birch et al, 2005, p.340-41).

If Isaiah is a prophet who focuses on the unconditional covenant with David, Jeremiah stands as the prophet of the deuteronomic responsibility - and a corrective to the ida that the temple guarantees the safety of the city.  For Jeremiah, that idea leads to all sorts of corrupt practices.  In ch 7:1-13 Jeremiah goes so far as to describe this sort of Zion theology as ‘the lie’!

The text goes on to offer a critique of Judahite life and how it might be reformed as people take responsibility  for the way they live.

 

Two files giving a short summary of the book of Jeremiah, its structure and key themes can be found in the Resources Section.

Spotlight on Doctrine

 

Jeremiah 11:29, quoted above, is often used to defend a doctrine known as pre-desination which is adhered to by some Christians but not very many. The doctrine states that only some elect people will eventually be saved. Most Christians disagree with this. What do you think about this and what is your interpretation of this beautiful and hopeful verse?

Spotlight on Spirituality

 

Some Christians take many of the promises of hope in Jeremiah, and indeed all of scripture, as a vision of what life will be like when Jesus returns and God renews the earth. In terms of doctrine this is known as eschatology. In terms of spritiuatlity it can lead to a dismisal of a lot of what is wrong in terms of both social justice and climate change because there is a feeling that nothing will change because of our fallen nature, but eventually God will come and make all things new. What are your thoughts about this and how do the promises of hope express themselves in your journey of faith?

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Reflect

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Spend some time prayerfully thinking about what you have discovered in this session. What are the most significant things for you? How might you use what you have learned in your own faith journey? Write this down in your learning journal and be prepared to share it at the next Study Day.

Prayer

Blessed are you, Lord our God, all things come from you:

from you come our life, this world and all that we have and are.

Teach us to love and respect your creation and give glory to you.

Blessed are you, Creator, Redeemer and Sustainer.  Amen

Something Practical To Do

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Watch the news this week with this session in mind. Where do you see the doom, and perhaps the lies, and where do you see the hope?

Does anything in your church service(s) speak of this tension and if so how?

Share some of what you have found on the discussion board in the Forum.

Resources