Mouthpieces of God
The prophets were mere men, having feet of clay and often frail. Their boldness came not from themselves but from God. They often suffered and labored in much pain.
The overwhelming crux of their message exposes the putrid affront of maintaining hypocritical religion while engaging in adulterous affairs of the heart in idolatry against God. Israel's rebellion and unfaithfulness is a pervasive stench among the prophets. They issue repeated rebukes and prophecies of judgment. The Lord’s faithfulness, sovereignty, covenant love, and righteousness in His judgments all stand in strong relief to His bride’s unfaithfulness. The need for forgiveness and an alien righteousness in the hearts of the people is the refrain of their heavy song. All who turn not away from their wickedness and to the Lord for refuge will be judged—even those nations that have served as instruments of God's wrath. But judgment is not the only verse they sing. The prophets mightily proclaim a sure hope and anticipation of a future restoration and blessing.
Many of the major themes of sin and judgment, siege and exile, destruction and calamity, idolatry and harlotry, pride and humiliation, lamentation and future hope are in some measure repeated by each of the prophets.
The prophets unveil the theological consistency of God alongside the historical progression of His dealings with His people. Beginning in Isaiah, the unmistakable source of rebuke against Israel stems from their sinful neglect, rebellion, and even ignorance of their national covenant with Yahweh (Is 1:3; Jer 22:9; Eze 16:59; etc.). It becomes evident that much of the judgment that befalls the nation finds its anticipation in the Torah, specifically a reflection of the curses promised for covenant unfaithfulness (cf. Lev 26; Deut 28). The prophets clearly illustrate that sin is transgression of God’s holy and good covenant law (vows). Among the many types of sins rebuked, perhaps the most abundantly repeated category of sin is that of idolatry. Tragically corresponding to the first and foremost law of the covenant. Israel's idolatry is often likened to harlotry and portrayed as marital unfaithfulness. At times, and with some of the prophets (i.e. Ezekiel, Hosea, Nahum, etc.), the portrayal is quite graphic—depicting a powerful image of detestation. Along these lines, nearly each of the prophets remind Israel that it is Yahweh who chose them and it is by their choice, even if the nations tempt them, that they are unfaithful.
Exposure of hypocrisy and apostate worship is yet another recurring theme. The hypocrisy and corruption of the people is seen in the priesthood. The whole economy of sacrifices and offerings at the temple serves more to provoke wrath than to offer worship. False security developed in the land and with temple sacrifices, giving a false since of peace and ease, largely promoted by false prophets, apostate shepherds, and corrupt kings. Consequently, the true prophets were often subject to persecution and disbelief.
The warnings and woes were often very strong, profound, and severe. The "Day of the Lord" as a day of wrath and retribution is a prominent theme, especially in the minor prophets (cf. Joel; Amos; Obad; Zeph; Zech; Mal). The earlier prophets focused more intensely upon the more immediate invasions of Assyria and Babylon and related exiles (cf. Isa; Jer; Eze; Hosea; Mic; Zeph). The warnings of invasion revealed that Israel was trusting in themselves and the strength of neighbors or idols rather than the Lord.
The prophets were clear to proclaim judgment upon those who act wickedly, even if it was in the employment of judging Israel's sin; so there was a fair portion of judgment against the nations as well. The judgment of invasion and exile most clearly demonstrated Israel's failure to abide in the covenant of Yahweh. The destruction of the temple demonstrated a departure of Yahweh's presence while they themselves were taken captive in exile. So the temple and—even more so—the land were repeated as key points of interest throughout the prophets. Combined with the lack of a righteous and just king, the kingdom of Israel was without hope. Which is precisely what the prophets addressed, namely that a truly righteous King will come, Yahweh Himself (cf. Jer 23:5–6), and will restore the true kingdom of God. He will revive His people and reign over all the land. Included in this future campaign, is the prerequisite forgiveness of the sin of His people, and the regeneration of their hearts by His Spirit. Healing and blessing of the land and people will accompany this renewal. In the end, the prophets powerfully portray the character of man and the character of God, which ultimately serves to inspire awe, fear, and true worship.