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5 Reasons to Preach the Tough Stuff of Prophecy

As a preacher, I’m called to proclaim the whole counsel of God, yet for years I shied away from the prophetic books.

After all, most of them are confrontational, controversial, and confusing. Then, one Labor Day weekend, I invited one of my board members (not even a staff member, mind you) to do a message on the end times. Our attendance usually flags a bit on holiday weekends, but that weekend it surged. I decided it was time to face my fears and tackle the perils of prophecy head-on.

Okay, maybe not exactly head-on. I decided to start by preaching the book of Daniel. Ask any small group what they’d like to study next, and a substantial number of them will say, “Either Revelation or Daniel.” Daniel is the shorter of the two, and besides, one-half of it is history, not prophecy. I titled the series “Future History,” and scheduled it to begin December 1. It allowed me to use Christmas Eve to talk about Daniel’s influence on the Wise Men.

To my surprise, the church filled up during that series! We grew by 17% over the next ten weeks. People were so hungry for more, I ended up writing a book on Daniel. Was that series a fluke, or had I tapped into something?

I am not a prophet or the son of a prophet (I work for a non-profit institution), but I’ve discovered five reasons why you and I ought to preach through the prophets.

1. People are curious about prophecy.

People everywhere want to know what God says, and some of his most direct communication comes from the pens of prophets. People especially want to know about what God says about the future, which makes books like Daniel, Zechariah, Revelation, and passages like Joel 2 (The Day of the Lord), Isaiah 65-66 (The New Heavens and The New Earth), and Ezekiel 36-48 (The Valley of the Dry Bones, Ezekiel’s War, and The Millennium Temple) particularly palatable to them.

2. People need help understanding prophetic literature.

Personally, I need help in understanding biblical prophecy. I have years of formal education in Biblical Studies, yet I still find myself consulting commentaries every time I open apocalyptic literature. I need to be reminded of the context in which the prophets spoke. I need help from smarter men than I to decipher the word-pictures and references from that day. If pastors need help understanding prophetic literature, how likely is it that the average layperson will dig into it unless we teach it to them? More than 20% of Scripture is prophetic in nature!  Surely preachers should not skip over more than a fifth of the Bible!

3. People need assurance about the future.

In uncertain times, people need to know the certainty of God’s victory. Isaiah 40:1 says, “Comfort, comfort my people.” With all the unrest in our world, people are looking for the comfort of God’s clear teaching about the future of planet Earth.

I suspect that some communicators feed their churches a low-fat prophetic diet because they’re afraid they’ll drive people away with higher doses. My experience shows that prophecy is actually one of the great draws of the 21st century. A year after I preached “Future History,” I led our church through a series on the book of Jonah. With four short chapters, the story’s over almost before it’s begun. But the church grew by 18% over those four weeks.

4. People need to hear what God says about things that displease him.

Personally, I love living in this day and age. In sheer variety of worldviews, 2009 rivals 33 A.D., and options for ethics and standards of right and wrong run the gambit. People can believe anything (and sometimes they do). But at the core of our beings is the image of God (Genesis 1:26), and inside our hearts is eternity (Ecclesiastes 3:11). When we use pointed passages of prophecy to describe God’s displeasure at sin, our words cut to the core and resonate with God’s image-bearers. People need to hear what God says about chasing lesser things, lack of care for the poor, manipulation of the truth, perpetuating social injustice, and the like. When God says, “Turn to me now, while there is still time. Give me your hearts” (Joel 2:12), those words can pierce cleansingly, effectively, and life-changingly into the tender places of our souls.

5. People need to experience the mystery of God.

In no other type of literature is God’s mystery and wonder on display as it is in the books of the prophets. Daniel’s description of the Ancient of Days (Daniel 7:9-10) is one of the most awe-inspiring glimpses of God in the Bible. Isaiah 6:1-5 rivals it. Where in the Epistles can you find this same level of mystery? Flip through the minor prophets (the ones you’ve been avoiding), and you’ll see what I mean.

Mark Sanchez was recently named starting quarterback for the New York Jets. Sanchez excelled at USC, but he’s new to the NFL, so the Jets will limit the variety of plays they call until he’s fully up to speed. I make no claims that I have mastered the art of preaching the prophets. But now, when I’m praying about what God would have us study during the coming year, I consider all sixty-six books, and I make a point of remembering the prophetic books. We’ve got the whole playbook available to us, and the less-common plays can be just the ones that turn the game around and win one for the Kingdom.  

Dr. Hal Seed is Founding Pastor of New Song Community Church in Oceanside, CA. In the past three years, New Song has seen over 2,000 people make first time decisions for Christ. Hal is the author of Future History:  Understanding the Book of Daniel and End Times Prophecy, Jonah:  Responding to God, as well as The God Questions. Each of these books is being used in small groups and church-wide campaigns around the country. You can reach Hal through his website, PastorMentor.com.

Originally published on SermonCentral.com. Used by permission.