The Prophetic Hope Fulfilled
“He will go before him in the spirit and power of Elijah, to turn the hearts of the fathers to the children, and the disobedient to the wisdom of the just, to make ready for the Lord a people prepared” (v. 17).- Luke 1:5–17
Today we conclude our yearlong study of the Old Testament prophets. Perhaps somewhat unexpectedly, our final text is from the New Testament. Yet given what we saw yesterday in how Malachi ends his work waiting for the Lord’s intervention (Mal. 4:5–6), this is not that unexpected at all. If one reads through the entire Old Testament, one cannot help but walk away feeling that it is incomplete, that there is an ending that is yet to be told. We are left thinking that more is to come, and this is in large measure attributable to the prophets.
Every prophet has a future orientation that expresses confidence in God’s plans for His people no matter if the prophet spoke first to Israel, Judah, or the nations; lived before, during, or after the exile; or wrote in narrative, poetic, or apocalyptic style. Amos directs us to the restoration of the Davidic monarchy. Hosea looks for the full reconciliation of Yahweh and His bride, Israel, never to be separated again. Isaiah envisions a new heavens and earth brought about by the suffering but triumphant Davidic king. Joel foresees an outpouring of the Holy Spirit surpassing anything seen before. Obadiah, Nahum, and Jonah warn the nations that those who oppose God’s people will finally be destroyed but offer hope that anyone can become Abraham’s child by trusting in Yahweh. Micah anticipates the people’s cleansing so that they can do justice, love mercy, and walk humbly with God. Habakkuk assures the remnant that its trust in the Lord alone will be vindicated. Jeremiah predicts a new covenant more glorious than the old, and in Lamentations he mourns for Jerusalem while hoping that God had not finally cut off His people. Ezekiel proclaims the return of pure worship after the exile. Daniel explains that after Judah’s extended exile, the Lord will finally judge the living and the dead, and reward them accordingly. Haggai and Zechariah encourage the people to look past their post-exilic suffering to the glory of the coming temple, calling them to repent for rejecting God. Finally, Zephaniah and Malachi tell us of the final day of the Lord when all the aforementioned predictions will be consummated.
This day could not come until Elijah ministered to God’s people again (Mal. 4:5–6). John the Baptist, son of Zechariah and Elizabeth, was this Elijah—not the literal return of the prophet but one who came in his spirit and power. This second Elijah proclaimed the coming of David—not the literal David himself but His greatest Son. Turning the hearts of God’s elect in first-century-AD Palestine back to Him, John paved the way for the Davidic king.
John the Baptist was the last prophet of the old covenant even though his story is told in what we commonly call the New Testament. Jesus tells us that John was the greatest prophet of the old covenant, but greater still is the least one who has seen the inauguration of the kingdom (Matt. 11:11). Our Savior is the Davidic king and fulfillment of the prophets. We must trust Him to bring all the prophetic promises to pass, for He will surely do it (1 Thess. 5:24).
Passages for Further Study