The last 17 books in the Old Testament contain the writings of prophets. The first three of those prophets—Isaiah, Jeremiah, and Ezekiel—wrote four books containing 171 chapters. The remaining 13 prophets—Daniel through Malachi—wrote 79 chapters. During the months of September and October, I studied the books of Isaiah, Jeremiah, Lamentations, and Ezekiel. Here’s some of what I learned:
1. Acknowledging the obvious strengthens our relationship with God.
We don’t choose to be vulnerable, but we do choose to acknowledge it. “The grass withereth; the flower fadeth,” and like the grass and the flowers, we are in God’s hands.
In contrast, we see daily evidence of God’s constancy and reliability in “the ordinances of the Sun, Moon, and Stars.” The rising of the sun is a daily reminder that we can trust God.
2. Discipleship requires pliability.
Self-directed learning is popular, and exploration has its place. But when you’re trying to develop a new set of habits and skills, you would be foolish to try to dictate the terms of your development. You follow the instructions of the person who has already mastered the discipline.
You also accept corrective feedback. No one likes to be told that they are wrong, but a disciple prioritizes truth over their ego.
3. God saves us in many ways.
Jeremiah wrote, “Heal me, O Lord, and I shall be healed; save me, and I shall be saved” (Jeremiah 17:14). I interpret this as not only a declaration of confidence in God’s ability to heal but also an affirmation of Jeremiah’s willingness to accept the gift.
God does have the power to heal us, but He doesn’t always heal us in the way that we expect. We need to have confidence that there is a “balm in Gilead” and that His healing power is active in our lives even if we don’t see it right away.
Sometimes, God changes our environment. Sometimes, He heals us. And sometimes, He opens a path to a new life, just as He led the children of Israel out of Egypt.
4. There is always hope.
Ezekiel saw a field filled with dry bones. As he watched, flesh, sinews, and finally skin began to cover them, and finally, actual people stood upon their feet. That vision can remind us that God can breathe life into even seemingly hopeless circumstances.
After all, Jeremiah bought land nine years after Lehi and his family left Jerusalem. He wasn’t contradicting his own prophecies of the Babylonian captivity. He was expressing confidence in another of his prophecies: that God would bring the people back to Jerusalem. Jeremiah was ahead of his contemporaries both in terms of acknowledging the painful experiences they were about to pass through and in recognizing that there were better days ahead.
We can exercise similar faith on a smaller scale when we aren’t being heard or understood. Isaiah prophesied that the voices of prophets would rise from the dust, a prophecy which was literally fulfilled by the Book of Mormon. (See 2 Nephi 33:13.) This prophecy can also be fulfilled in our lives. Your words may be “buried” now, but they may rise from the dust in the most unexpected of ways in the future. The words you speak, in sincerity and in love, will have an impact somewhere and somehow.