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02. Understanding the Old Testament
 
2. KINGS AND PROPHETS

Throughout the prophetic and historic accounts provided in the books of the Old Testament that follow their entry into the Promised land, the central themes hinge on two main issues.

Firstly, a tension exists in that God unconditionally gave the land to the Jewish people who had entered under Joshua's leadership but their occupation of the land was and is still conditional - depending on their willingness to obey the Lord. So we see times of prosperity and times of occupation and exile. God raises up other powerful nations and the people of God are forced out of Israel at different times by both the Assyrian and the Babylonian empires. There are laments to return to the land and return to God's blessing and their repentance leads to restoration until they next rebel.

Secondly there is a tension of leadership. Ultimately Yahweh, the Lord, is the King of the Jews and therefore it makes more sense to have appointed leaders to govern the people in times of crisis (hence the Judges). However the people also want to have an earthly king and for this reason God allows monarchs to reign. The name Israel often referred to the northern Jewish tribes and Judah refers to the southern region which includes Jerusalem. For this reason there were kings of Israel and Judah. The United Monarchy is the name given to the Israelite kingdom of Israel and Judah, during the reigns of Saul, David and Solomon.

The Judges
The appointed leaders known as the judges were far from perfect. Gideon was fearful, Jephthah reckless, Samson unfaithful and so on. However God used them despite their failings. They were raised up to lead in Israel and Judah in times of crisis. It is interesting to see that God anoints them, temporarily, with his Holy Spirit to perform their tasks. The difference today under the new covenant is that all believers can be led and empowered by God's Spirit. In the times of the Judges a few selected men and women temporarily experienced God's anointing in this way.

Jesus, of the line of David, is the ultimate fulfilment of kingship. While he came first as the Suffering Servant, he will come again as King of kings and of his reign there will be no end.

Prophetic Themes
The prophetic books contain warning and encouragement through the successes and failures of Israel and Judah. They are concerned about the holiness of the people who were supposed to be separate from the corruption and idolatry of the surrounding nations. They warn and also provide hope in the messianic promises and salvation which is to be their inheritance. An important characteristic of the prophetic writings is that they sometimes have partial fulfilment in events occurring in the prophet's historical context and often allude to a greater fulfilment which will be evident in Christ and also the end of the age.

The Dead Sea Scrolls include a copy of Isaiah's writings - as such it is one of the best attested Old Testament books. It is amazing that at the time of writing (which was probably about 700 years before Christ) Isaiah describes so much about the ministry of Jesus. Chapters 49-57 describe the Servant of the Lord (who is the Christ) who dies and rises again. Chapters 58-66 deal with the promise of God's Kingom in its fullness, even as it has already been introduced by Jesus who proclaimed the year of God's favour in Luke 4.

Describe the ministry of Jesus using only a passage from Isaiah.

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