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The Prophets Were Warning Us to Turn Back to God

The Prophets Were Warning Us to Turn Back to God

This decade began like no other, with a worldwide pandemic that affected every aspect of our lives. Since 2020 began, we have been facing disease, violence, riots, economic problems, supply shortages, political upheaval, and numerous other issues. People were stuck in their homes for weeks or even months, and it powerfully affected everyone. Just as the children of Israel did in the Old Testament, people were crying out, “Why didn’t the prophets warn us?” But

But the prophets had spoken. They had been sounding a warning. They had been raising the alarm. But as it so often happened with the children of Israel, the people today did not heed the word of the Lord. They ignored the warning, and they continued not walking in the ways of the Lord. And as Ezekiel 7:26 says, “Disaster will come upon disaster, and rumor will be upon rumor. Then they will seek a vision from a prophet.”

Sometimes it takes a season of trouble for people to turn to God. The people of Israel demonstrated that over and over again. You can see the pattern over and over again throughout the Old Testament: the people turned away from God, they got in trouble, they cried out to God, God rescued them, they did OK for a little while, then they turned away from God again. But as the years passed, they got progressively further and further from the Lord as a nation.

In the four hundred years leading up to the coming of the prophet Elijah, from around the time Deborah was judging Israel until Ahab was king of the northern kingdom, Israel continued their pattern of apostasy and depravity. While there were brief times when they turned back to the Lord, overall they were getting further from Him. As the pattern continued, with repeated warnings from the Lord from various prophets, they eventually were conquered by other kingdoms, with the ten tribes of the northern kingdom disappearing from history, the two tribes of the southern kingdom going into exile in Babylon, and the temple in Jerusalem being destroyed.

The four hundred years leading up to the coming of John the Baptist, the second Elijah and the forerunner of Jesus, were silent. The Lord spoke through the last prophet of the Old Testament, Malachi, around 400 BC. Then there was silence. Four centuries passed, with many of the children of Israel continuing to turn away from the Lord. But there were some who remained faithful, who stayed to true to the Lord, and continued to worship and serve Him with all their hearts, all their souls, all their minds, and all their strength. Living under the weight of Roman rule, the faithful were crying out to the Lord. They were hoping for the promised Messiah. They were looking for God to deliver them and set them free. But there was only silence.

Then one day the word of the Lord came to a priest named Zacharias serving in the rebuilt temple in Jerusalem.

Zacharias had a wife named Elizabeth. The Gospel of Luke says that “they were both righteous before God, walking in all the commandments and ordinances of the Lord blameless. But they had no child, because Elizabeth was barren, and they were both well advanced in years” (1:6-7). Barrenness was often viewed as a judgment, the outward manifestation of some hidden sin or issue. But the Word clearly says that Zacharias and Elizabeth were blameless and righteous before the Lord. Their barrenness was rather the situation out of which God was going to work a miracle.

An angel of the Lord appeared to Zacharias in the temple as he was burning incense on the altar of incense in the Holy Place as an act of worship. The angel said:

Do not be afraid, Zacharias, for your prayer is heard; and your wife Elizabeth will bear you a son, and you shall call his name John. And you will have joy and gladness, and many will rejoice at his birth. For he will be great in the sight of the Lord, and shall drink neither wine nor strong drink. He will also be filled with the Holy Spirit, even from his mother’s womb. And he will turn many of the children of Israel to the Lord their God. He will also go before Him in the spirit and power of Elijah, “to turn the hearts of the fathers to the children,” and the disobedient to the wisdom of the just, to make ready a people prepared for the Lord. —LUKE 1:13-17

After four hundred years of silence, God sent another Elijah to turn the children of Israel back to the Lord in preparation for the event that changed history like no other—the first coming of Jesus Christ, the prophesied and promised Messiah, the Lamb of God who came to take away the sins of the world.

The Word of God is a sure foundation. It is a solid foundation. When a nation and a people keep the Word as their foundation, they will stand strong. The storms of life and history and the times we live in will not destroy them. But that’s not the case when a nation and a people turn from the Lord and reject or despise His Word. Jesus taught us this:

Therefore whoever hears these sayings of Mine, and does them, I will liken him to a wise man who built his house on the rock: and the rain descended, the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house; and it did not fall, for it was founded on the rock. But everyone who hears these sayings of Mine, and does not do them, will be like a foolish man who built his house on the sand: and the rain descended, the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house; and it fell. And great was its fall. —MATTHEW 7:24-27

It is time for the hearts of the children of God to be turned back to Him. It is time for modern-day Elijahs to stand up, boldly proclaim the truth, speak out against the spirit of religion and the traditions of man, and challenge people about their idolatry. It is time for voices to be heard in the wilderness, preparing the way for the Second Coming of the Lord.

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