Thursday, March 13, 2014

Reading the Prophets: Guest Post by Heather Zempel

Today we have Heather Zempel, author of Amazed and Confused, on the blog talking about the Prophets of the Old Testament. Be sure to check out her new book as well as all the other books in the InScribed series
Several years ago, a friend of mine commented, “I really hope I don’t get seated next to Obadiah at the Marriage Supper of the Lamb, because I’m going to have to tell him, ‘I’m really sorry, dude, but I never read your book.’”

I laughed, but I also embraced a new mission to help people navigate the odd world of prophetic writings. They seem so weird and irrelevant. In Handbook on the Prophets, author and professor Robert Chisholm admits:

The prophetic literature of the Hebrew Bible presents great interpretive obstacles. Its poetry, though teeming with vivid imagery that engages the imagination and emotions, challenges the reader’s understanding because of its economy of expression, rapid shifts in mood, and sometimes cryptic allusions. The reader of the prophetic literature quickly realizes that these books were written at particular points in time to specific groups of people with whom the modern reader seems to share little.

So true. However, Chisholm also contends that they demand our attention because they are the Word of God and contain a message that transcends time and space by helping us see dimensions of God’s character more clearly and challenging us to relate to Him and the world around us according to His ways.

As I read the prophets with new eyes, I realized they were more relevant than I had thought. The prophets accepted the tension of living in a fallen world while waiting hopefully for a new world to come. Their hearts pounded for justice, and they warned that religion was empty unless accompanied by action. They lived through circumstances that didn’t make sense, questioned authority, and challenged people to live at a level higher than the rest of culture expected of them. To me, it seemed the Prophets might be the most real, raw, and relevant writings in the entire Bible. The world in which these authors lived, though separated from my own by thousands of years and thousands of miles, also felt very familiar. Their voices and their messages were as critical and germane to my life as they were to a distant generation; it just took some unraveling and cultural and historical insight to ensure their words resonated in my ears the way they hit their original audiences.

The prophet Habakkuk begged God for revival and that He would turn the hearts of faithless people back to Him. God’s answer to Habakkuk was “Take a look at the nations and watch what happens! You will be shocked and amazed” (1:5, The Voice). The vision God gave Habakkuk was on of warfare and exile. Not exactly the response you’d expect from a “good God.”

Have you ever prayed for something or someone in earnest, seeking God’s will, only to be left confused by God’s response? Have you questioned why a good God would allow bad things to happen to good people? Has a long-standing prayer request gone unanswered? In Amazed and Confused I’ll tackle these questions head-on by exploring the book of Habakkuk,

How do you respond when God’s actions seem out of line with his character and promises? Amazed and Confused proceeds systematically through the book of Habakkuk, exploring the prophet’s prayer, God’s response, and the prophet’s journey from confusion to worship. Please join me on this journey of discovering the Minor Prophets and the wealth of wisdom they have to share. I would love to hear your thoughts and feedback if you do. Leave me a message on my website, or connect through social media, or

**Amazed and Confused is part of the InScribed book collection. Learn more about InScribed and other books in this collection by visiting Parts of this blog are excerpts from my book, Amazed and Confused, released March 4, 2014 through Thomas Nelson.

Heather Zempel - Heather Zempel is the discipleship pastor at National Community Church in Washington, DC. Having obtained bachelor’s and master’s degrees in biological engineering from Louisiana State University, Heather worked as an environmental engineer and as a policy consultant on energy and environment in the United States Senate. Heather lives on Capitol Hill where she can be found searching out the best barbeque joints, watching college football, and enjoying theater with her husband Ryan. In addition to InScribed’s Amazed and Confused : When God’s Actions Collide with Expectations which is  available now ( Heather is also the author of Sacred Roads and Community is Messy.

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