Monday, May 4, 2015

The Prophets: Messengers of God's Mercy (Ascension Press)

If you're looking for a solid Catholic study program, you used to have to either use a book in the small group format or find someone with the right mixture of qualifications, free time, and willingness to lead the program. Thankfully, we are living in a golden age of Catholic media. Great companies like Word on Fire, Catholic Scripture Study International, and my personal favorite Ascension Press are bringing great teachers/scholars like Dr. Edward Sri, Tim Gray, Fr. Robert Barron, Fr. Mitch Pacwa, etc. into our living rooms or parishes via modern technology. Today, I am reviewing one of the latest programs from Ascension Press called The Prophets: Messengers of God's Mercy.

The Prophets is led by Thomas Smith, who helped co-author another Ascension Press series called Revelation: The Kingdom Yet to Come. Smith is a convert, serves on the Curriculum Advisory Body for FOCUS, and co-founded the Philippine Catholic Biblical Mission Foundation. His presentation style can be described as knowledgeable with some lighthearted humor sprinkled in. What I really appreciate is that he starts and ends each talk with a prayer. It's something so simple, but so crucial when studying Scripture. There are ten sessions total, and they are as follows:

1. Introduction to The Prophets
2. Hosea: Living God's Love Story
3. Jonah: God's Reluctant Messenger
4. Isaiah Part 1: Prophet of Woe
5. Isaiah Part 2: Prophet of Consolation
6. Jeremiah: The Broken-Hearted Prophet
7. Ezekiel: God's Watchman on the Wall
8. Daniel: Faithful to the End
9. Haggai and Malachi: Messengers of Hope
10. New Testament and Modern Prophets: Messengers of the New Covenant

As you can see from the topics above, Mr. Smith focuses on prophets who left a written record, so that rules out prophets like Elijah and Elisha. You will also notice that he takes the time to cover all the Major Prophets - Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, and Daniel. There are two sessions dedicated to Isaiah, and he could have easily done a ten session series on Isaiah alone. But what will you specifically learn from this series? You will learn:

1. What a prophet is
2. Who they were individually
3. Where they were coming from and where were they speaking to
4. When did they speak
5. Who did they speak to
6. What did they say when they spoke
7. How did they say it as prophets

With so many great lessons, I had a hard time picking one that I enjoyed the most. The one on Daniel was very interesting. I grew up Southern Baptist, and for them the Book of Daniel is all about the end times, so it was interesting to hear the Catholic explanation. However, the one on Hosea was very interesting. I have read all the way through the Bible before, and I know I read this book. However, I couldn't tell you a thing about it. Thomas Smith laid it out in beautiful detail, explained the significance of Hosea's wife, the names of their sons, and explained how Hosea's life, his wife, and his sons mirrored Israel at the time. Mind blown!

There are a couple big takeaways from this series. First, as said at the beginning of this series, "A great prophet is one who afflicts the comfortable and comforts the afflicted." This is true not only for prophets, but priests and parents as well. Second, prophets always point us toward Jesus. That was true in the days of the Old Testament. It was true of John the Baptist. And it is especially true in the present day where we still have prophets, like Pope Paul VI. If you are looking for a great Bible study for your parish or small group, I highly recommend this one!

This study was provided to me for free by Ascension Press in exchange for an honest review. Check out this preview of it below!