I have been to Israel 45 times, and every time my spiritual life has been enriched. I recently took a video cameraman with me and had him shoot on the fly as I led a pilgrimage group through the land. We began in Tel Aviv, and went from there to Tiberias in the north, and then back to Jerusalem.
I'll continue to share some of the sermons I presented from that trip with you. As I do so, I think you'll come to understand why a person once wrote, "A pilgrimage to the Holy Land converts the Bible from black and white into Technicolor."
My next message was presented at one of the most emotionally moving places in all of Israel — the Garden Tomb in Jerusalem. It is the Protestant world's traditional site for the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus. There we'll discover why the Garden Tomb is the most important and spiritually meaningful site in all the land of Israel.
Various Ways God Spoke to the Prophets
Part of the Garden Tomb complex is Skull Hill, which could very well mark the site of the Crucifixion. Today it overlooks an Arab bus station. The tomb itself, which dates back to the First Century, is adjacent to Skull Hill, just as described in the Gospels. The tomb is located in a beautiful garden — again, just as described in the Gospels. The guides never claim that it's the actual burial place. The point they make is that it meets all the scriptural conditions, and whether or not it is the actual site, we can be assured that wherever the tomb may be, IT IS EMPTY!
I was reading through the New Testament many years ago when I got to Hebrews 1. I was really looking forward to this chapter because this is one of my favorite scriptures in all the Bible. That's because it talks about the superiority of Jesus above the angels and Moses and everything else.
I love how it ends in verse 14 where it says that there are ministering angels who are ministering to those who are in the process of being saved. I have depended on those angels many times. I ask the Lord to post one at my house every time I leave on a trip to watch over my family. I ask Him to surround that airplane when flying over that big ocean to Israel. So, if you've never used the ministry of angels, I suggest you start doing so.
Look at what Hebrews 1:1 says, "God, who at various times and in various ways spoke in time past to the fathers by the prophets..." I started to go to verse two and the Holy Spirit said, "Stop." I don't know if you've had those experiences. I'm sure you've had them if you read the Scriptures often. It's called rhema. Rhema is where the Holy Spirit speaks to you from the Scripture to give you a special message. You might read a verse 101 times and it never say anything to you, but the 102nd time it will jump off the page, grab you by the throat, and shake you until your teeth rattle, because you have a need in your life that never was there before that that Scripture is going to speak to you now. That's what happened to me that day.
So, I said, "Lord that passage is not even a full sentence." The Holy Spirit said, "Read it again." So, I read it again. "God who at various times and in various ways spoke in time past to the fathers by the prophets."
I got to thinking. I'll go over to the Old Testament and take a look and see what are the various ways that God spoke through the prophets. It didn't take me long to make a list of the various ways. I'm sure you could, too.
The Writing Prophets
The very first thing that I thought of was the most obvious, and that's the writing prophets.
The Old Testament is full of writing prophets: Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, Daniel, Hosea, Joel, Amos, both Major Prophets and the Minor Prophets. David in the psalms many times spoke prophetically. There are even prophecies in the histories that we have. So, I began to think about the writing prophets.
Then I began to think about how the passage says, "various ways, and various people." I got to thinking about the great variety of people from a king like David to a sophisticated, erudite, educated man like Isaiah and to a man like Amos who was a fig picker from Tekoa. There were brave men like Daniel and cowards like Jonah. There were all kinds of people that God used as His prophets. It depended upon whether their heart was searching for Him or not about whether He could use them.
The Oral Prophets
Then I began to think what was there besides the writing prophets? It occurred to me that the Bible is full of oral prophets as well. These were prophets who never wrote anything, but people wrote about them. Oral prophets were Elijah and Elisha who never wrote anything, but people wrote about them. The Old Testament is full of oral prophets.
One time I tried making a list of all the old oral prophets and I was just overwhelmed because many of them are not even named. Instead, they are referred to as "the old prophet" or "the young prophet" or something like that.
One of my favorites is the prophet Micaiah which many people haven't heard of. There was a time when Ahab and Jehoshaphat — an ungodly and a godly king — were going to go out to battle together against a common enemy. Jehoshaphat said to the effect, "Before I go into battle, I always have the prophets come and tell us whether we should go or not." But, Ahab said, "Ah, you know the prophets. I don't care anything about the prophets. I've got 400 of them and all they ever do is come to tell me what I want to hear. There's only one who will tell me what I don't want to hear, and I don't like him." Jehoshaphat said, "Okay, let's get him." He was Micaiah.
Micaiah came and revealed something that was very amazing. He said, "I saw the Lord in His throne room." Very few people were ever given that opportunity. Isaiah saw the Lord high and lifted up. Micaiah saw the Lord high and lifted up. He said, "I say to you, if you go to battle tomorrow, you are going to be defeated." Ahab turned to Jehoshaphat and said, "See, I told you he always tells me things I don't want to hear."
The New Testament also has oral prophets. Philip had four daughters who were prophets. Agabus confronted Paul at the end of his third missionary journey and wrapped a rope around him and said, "Don't go to Jerusalem. If you do you will end up in bondage." But, Paul said, "I'm going anyway."
The greatest prophet who ever lived of course was John the Baptist. He too was an oral prophet. Jesus Himself was an oral prophet, except when you get to the end of the Bible where He dictates seven letters to seven churches where He actually wrote the Scripture.
So, we've got the writing prophets and we've got the oral prophets.
In the second part of this sermon from the Holy Land presented at the Garden Tomb in Jerusalem, we'll get to know the acting prophets.