Understanding the ProphetsThe prophetic book of Isaiah is divided up into 3 main sections of prophetic visions:  Chapters 1-35 are one section and chapters 40-66 are a second group of visions.  In the middle (as a sort of interlude) we are retold the history of the invasion of Judah by Sennacherib, king of Assyria; the account of the Lord defeating Assyria and protecting Judah; the sickness and recovery of King Hezekiah; along with his many mistakes.  This is a rehashing of the account previously recorded in 2 Kings 18-20.

While reading through the first section of Isaiah’s prophecies, you may have found it difficult to follow what Isaiah is saying.  While it is clear that he is speaking as a mouthpiece of God, delivering a message of warning to Israel, it is many times a bit challenging to determine if the vision refers to past or future events.  It is this challenge which has led many to superimpose interpretations upon the Biblical text which either stretch the original meaning or simply do not make sense at all.

To assist – here are 10 basic rules to follow when reading/interpreting prophecy:

1.      Understand that God isn’t trying to hide Truth from us.

2.      The language of the Bible is not mystical – apply the same meanings as you normally would in everyday conversation.

3.      Do not change the literal meaning of words to make them more “spiritual”.

4.      Do not search for “hidden meanings” behind the text.

5.      Understand that prophecy can be understood as it appears – simply a record beforehand of things to happen sometime after it was spoken.  History in advance!

6.      Prophecy does not have to be fulfilled before it can be understood (as some teach).  The meaning of Scripture is clear.

7.      Do not change the obvious meaning of Scripture unless other Scripture interprets it that way.

8.      Assume the literal meaning is the only meaning unless a double meaning is clearly stated. Sometimes prophecy does have a double reference – but other times a future event is written as if it happened immediately, yet thousands of years have in fact gone by between events.

9.      Recognize that the main role of a prophet is to instruct God’s people in righteousness.  Although the visions many times foretell future events, the main point is to rebuke, instruct, correct, edify, and exhort God’s people.  If the interpretation doesn’t follow that guideline then it isn’t correct.

10.  Most importantly, understand that the prophet’s vision was given during a REAL time in history.  Knowing the manners, customs, idioms, and expressions of that time/culture will go far in assisting you with understanding the meanings of the words of prophecy.

Prophecy is a vital part of Scripture that should be studied and interpreted by any follower of Jesus.  The foretelling of future events can be a powerful tool in not only introducing someone to Jesus – but also maturing believers as well.  The main purpose of the OT prophetic writings was to warn God’s people of impending judgment, exhorting them to repent of their current behavior, and instructing them in how to return to a life of obedience.

It is a ploy of Satan to twist this section and make it appear confusing to the average Christian in an attempt to discourage the deep study of Scripture.  Instead, if you approach this section of Scripture in the light we have discussed you will come to appreciate the beauty of the words of prophecy, the urgency of the Prophet, and the power of the prophetic visions they saw.

Be Fruitful & Multiply,