The first prophecies from God were spoken as early as 800 B.C. That is not to say that only then were God's peoples warned because we have Noah and the flood, Sodom and Gomorrah and a few more examples to prove otherwise. God warned his people many times throughout the ages to remember who HE was and who he had called them to be, a people created in His own image, a people to be set apart.
A prophet is a mouthpiece and he may use various means to convey his message. While others might doubt his calling, the prophet has no doubt that he has heard from God. He is so convicted by what he has experienced that he could not veer left or right from his message even though it might mean ostracization, imprisonment or death. All prophecies began with warnings of the consequences of sin and while there were some messages that were meant to comfort and give hope, the main purpose of prophecies were to warn God's people of the impending disaster if they continued in their reckless ways.
Following the reign of David and Solomon, the nation of Israel fell further and further away from God. The period from Amos through Malachi spanned a little less than 300 years and was called the Age of Prophecy.
The Age of Prophecy may be divided into three categories. Pre-Exilic, Exilic and Post Exilic.
God had a lot to say in that three century timeframe. He used different men, each with a different message to try and reach his people. Scholars have pondered that many of the men used the same key phrases and words to spread the message even though they were often distant from one another in education, rank of birth, as well as eras. Their messages were similar enough to bear taking notice of.
The prophecies at this time warned the people and the nation Israel of coming judgement because of their disregard of God. The Israelites had ceased to worship God or to follow His Torah laws. Often the priests and kings were even more corrupt than the people whom they were meant to lead. But at the heart of every prophet's message was also the consoling voice of a God who loved them enough to shepherd them.
In the Hebrew there are two words used for repent. The first is the word NACHAM. According to Strong's Concordance the word means 'to be sorry' and comes from an ancient root word that means "To sigh, with a heavy breath." Another definition is to grieve or lament. This word is used often in the books of the prophets but only once in Isaiah. The second word is "SHUB" and means to turn back, return. It is SHUB that is most often used in Isaiah. Return.
But it is NACHAM that speaks to me this week. It is a deep sigh of sorrow, it is a sigh filled with longing. It is a sigh that comes directly from the aching heart within me. I have been so removed from God. I have been lost.
In examining the five tumultuous years behind me, I see that God wasn't distant from me. He has been there all along. If I felt God was distant, it was because I distanced myself from God a little more with each hard thing. It was because I didn't want to hear from Him, I didn't want to continue to examine the painful moments of my life, or understand why I must go through the things I did. I wanted to shelter in my routines and my busyness and not be bothered with the tasks of self examination and earnest seeking.