Our world is in turmoil, our country divided by race and politics, and we are more and more burdened by depression and despair. Although Jesus prioritizes our oneness (John 17), many Christians seem more concerned about politics than the unity of the church. The way out of division is to look to Christ and seek him over all other allegiances. After all, we are aliens here, not citizens. The church cannot lead the way when we are embroiled in conflict over what is fading away instead of loving what is forever. To do that we seek God’s worldview.
It’s as if we are living in the Old Testament world. Despite the fact that the Jews of that era had the Scriptures and the temple, etc., their faith was superficial. In their hearts and lives they actually served idols, not God, and put their faith for peace in alliances with ungodly nations instead of trusting the Almighty.
But our great and gracious God is always reaching out to his people, even the disobedient and rebellious. In that day he sent prophets to warn them to return to him and live out their faith by loving others. The prophets speak for God about what doing right looks like.
When we try to understand and apply prophetic messages written to another group of people in a very different culture and time, we must jump into their world. I’ve provided background as we go through the study, but feel free to use commentaries and the notes in your Bible to help you understand what is happening and why. Remember that although God’s Word was not written directly to our generation, God’s character is eternal and what he values is transcultural. I hope that these messages will speak to your heart about our world today, shift our focus to God, and prioritize the unity we have in him over anything that divides us.
Keep in mind that the promises and warnings are specifically written to the Jewish people. But also remember that they are God’s people just as we in the church are. As God’s people, we are judged for our corporate sin although he forgives us as individuals. God doesn’t change. The things that he hates about sin and unfaithfulness to him remain the same. The ultimate promises of a time of complete restoration and peace will include all of God’s people. (There is more explanation in the Appendix section “Understanding the Prophets.”)
If you want to avoid misinterpretation, keep verses in the context of the original audience. Focus on what you learn about God’s character and what it means to image him to the world.