The author of the book of Hebrews tells us, “Long ago, at many times and in many ways, God spoke to our fathers by the prophets.”
He’s referring here to the Old Testament prophets. God spoke to men who then spoke to the people. These men, called prophets, were God’s spokesmen. God communicated to these men (and sometimes women) by different means, such as in dreams or through sound waves or in a burning bush or theophanies, which is when God appeared in human form. The point is that all communication between God and humanity was and is mediated, meaning it comes through a source of media He uses. There is no unfiltered communication with the God of the universe, because we could not handle it. The same way that we can handle the rays of the sun, but not the sun itself. If an aspect of creation is too much for us, how much more the One who created it?
Now the question is, why would people believe anyone who said, “God told me to tell you?” Well, the simple answer is they didn’t. It’s not why people then or people now believe the words of the Old Testament prophets. People both then and now believed the Old Testament prophets because God backed up all the words He spoke to them with signs and wonders.
God also instructed the people that if any prophet said something that did not come true then they were not to listen to that prophet. That was the end of his or her career. So, an Old Testament prophet had to speak with 100% accuracy. God often performed miracles through the prophets so the people had confirmation that God was speaking to them.
What about now? How can we confirm the words of these Old Testament prophets now? Where are the signs and wonders now? This is the beauty of the written word. It serves as documentation regarding the date and time the thoughts were recorded. God has not only recorded His thoughts and actions for us, but He foretold the future of Christ to the prophets in ways that can be verified even today. These words are wondrous signs to behold.
Here are three brief examples of how God has also given us confirmation of this prophetic witness.
1. The only reason any of us are familiar with the little town of Bethlehem is because approximately 700 years before the birth of Christ the prophet Micah gave this prophecy:
2 But you, O Bethlehem Ephrathah,
who are too little to be among the clans of Judah,
from you shall come forth for me
one who is to be ruler in Israel,
whose coming forth is from of old,
from ancient days.
This phraseology — “whose coming forth is from of old, from ancient days” — is like saying, “I’m sending you an eternal one.” In other words, one who has no beginning and no end. This verse speaks of the incarnation, the Second Person of the Triune God taking on human flesh. This isn’t idle speculation. This is exacting prophetic detail.
2. Some 400 years before crucifixion was invented as a form of capital punishment, listen to what the prophet Zechariah said:
10 “And I will pour out on the house of David and the inhabitants of Jerusalem a spirit of grace and pleas for mercy, so that, when they look on me, on him whom they have pierced, they shall mourn for him, as one mourns for an only child, and weep bitterly over him, as one weeps over a firstborn.
After many came to realize who Christ was they understood that they had crucified the Lord of glory. The One who should have been the most esteemed was the most ill-treated.
3. Finally, Isaiah chapter 53, when examined, preaches a gospel just as clear as the deep theology of the Apostle Paul. This person in Isaiah 53 called the suffering servant embodies the very life, death and resurrection of Christ 700 years before He was born. Jesus told His disciples that He had many more things to share with them, but that He couldn’t because they weren’t ready for them yet. This Old Testament book preaches a gospel that the disciples wouldn’t understand fully until after the ascension of their Lord. Again, this is 700 years before Jesus was even born. It’s a pretty impressive chapter.
In Isaiah chapter 53, we can find this servant who is ultimately scorned by humanity, subjected to an unjust trial, does not speak in his own defense, is executed in the company of criminals and then buried in the grave of a rich man. Not only that, but this chapter makes it clear that this servant suffered all of this in place of those who actually deserved it. He died in the place of rebels. Isaiah also tells us that this servant will see life again and that by the knowledge of him many will be counted as if they were righteous in the site of God. In short, what we have in Isaiah chapter 53 is nothing less than substitutionary atonement and imputed righteousness, theological terms that describe the Apostle’s explanations of the gospel found in the New Testament.
This is why the Apostle Peter wrote:
2 Peter 1:19-21
19 And we have the prophetic word more fully confirmed, to which you will do well to pay attention as to a lamp shining in a dark place, until the day dawns and the morning star rises in your hearts, 20 knowing this first of all, that no prophecy of Scripture comes from someone's own interpretation. 21 For no prophecy was ever produced by the will of man, but men spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit.
These are only three examples of words that have been fully confirmed. They are demonstrable proof that God has confirmed His word for us today.