Prophecy is one of the most important phenomena of the Old Testament. A Prophet is the person who has had a close relationship with God, that is, he “has spoken” with God, or has received a message from God, or has been sent by God to a person or a nation to transfer His message. The main characteristic trait of the true prophet is his being incorruptible, independent, brave and extremely faithful to the divine message and commandment.
The author of prophecies is God. He has transferred his revelation to man thanks to the inspiration of the Holy Spirit. First He has inspired His ideas, and then man, under His influence, comprehending the ideas, has transferred them to the people.
Prophet Ezekiel, whose name means “strengthened by God,” grew up in Jerusalem, served as a priest in the temple and was among the second group of captives taken to Babylon, along with King Jehoiachin. While in Babylon he became a prophet of God; he is the author of the Old Testament book that bears his name.
Ezekiel’s ministry began with condemnation and judgment of the nation Judah. After the destruction of Jerusalem, Ezekiel’s prophecies speak of hope for the future. Ezekiel wanted to help the people learn from their failures. He announced impending judgment upon the nations that surrounded Judah and reestablished hope for the restoration of Israel. His vision of the valley of dry bones (Ezekiel 37) pictures new life being breathed into the nation, which will occur in the Millennial Reign of Christ on earth.
Ezekiel did not hesitate in his mission and steadfastly followed God’s instructions. He had a passionate view of judgment and hope, and he reflected God’s own sorrow over the people’s sins.
Prophet Ezra was the second of three key leaders to leave Babylon for the reconstruction of Jerusalem. Zerubbabel reconstructed the temple (Ezra 3:8), Nehemiah rebuilt the walls (Nehemiah chapters 1 and 2), and Ezra restored the worship. Ezra was a scribe and priest sent with religious and political powers by the Persian King Artaxerxes to lead a group of Jewish exiles from Babylon to Jerusalem (Ezra 7:8, 12). Ezra condemned mixed marriages and encouraged Jews to divorce and banish their foreign wives. Ezra renewed the celebration of festivals and supported the rededication of the temple and the rebuilding of the Jerusalem wall. Ezra 7:10 describes a shaping of the community in accordance with the Torah. Ezra’s goal was to implement the Torah (Law of Moses), and his impeccable priestly and scribal credentials allowed him to remain the model leader.
Ezra’s effective ministry included teaching the Word of God, initiating reforms, restoring worship, and leading spiritual revival in Jerusalem.
Zechariah (Zacharias) is John the Baptist’s father, who served in the temple of Jerusalem. He is different to the minor prophet, Zechariah, who wrote the book of Zechariah.
Zechariah and his wife Elizabeth, who was the sister of Anna, St Mary’s mother, had no children for many years. Elizabeth was well past child bearing age when Zechariah was offering a sacrifice in the Temple. The angel Gabriel appeared to him and said “Do not be afraid, Zechariah; your prayer has been heard. Your wife Elizabeth will bear you a son, and you are to call him John. He will be a joy and delight to you, and many will rejoice because of his birth, for he will be great in the sight of the Lord. He is never to take wine or other fermented drink, and he will be filled with the Holy Spirit even before he is born. He will bring back many of the people of Israel to the Lord their God. And he will go on before the Lord, in the spirit and power of Elijah, to turn the hearts of the parents to their children and the disobedient to the wisdom of the righteous—to make ready a people prepared for the Lord.” (Luke 1: 11-17)
Although this was great news, Zechariah did not initially believe the angel. He objected that this could not be possible, since he and his wife were too old. Because of Zechariah’s unbelief, Gabriel told him that he would be rendered mute until the baby was born. Zechariah was immediately unable to speak, and, when he came out of the temple, he had to communicate with hand gestures. The people gathered outside the temple praying, realised that he had seen a vision of some kind. Zechariah went home, and it happened just as the angel had said. Elizabeth became pregnant (Luke1: 18-24).
The next time Zechariah is mentioned is after the birth of his son. At the child’s circumcision, Elizabeth’s family and friends wanted to name the baby after Zechariah, but Elizabeth insisted that his name should be John (Luke 1:59–60). When they consulted Zechariah, he asked for a writing tablet and to everyone’s astonishment he wrote, “His name is John’” (Luke1:63). Immediately, Zechariah was able to speak and began at once to praise the Lord. Luke 1:67–79 records the prophetic words that Zechariah proclaimed, which may have been in the form of a song. His words indicate the change of heart and the faith that had grown during his nine months of muteness.
Zechariah died protecting his son. When King Herod ordered the slaughter of all males under the age of two, in an attempt to prevent the prophesied Messiah from coming to Israel, Zechariah refused to divulge the whereabouts of his son (who was in hiding), and he was therefore murdered by Herod’s soldiers.