Three Keys to Unlock Prophecy

How to Unpack Difficult Scripture Passages

By Todd Wethall — Study Content Specialist 

I have a confession – I have struggled to read through the Old Testament prophets. Maybe you can relate. 

As a long, long, long-time BSFer, I did my best to swallow the passage whole and glean something close to an answer. I was quick to respond in my group to the simple questions and avoid eye contact with the deeper, more challenging ones.  

But I had to ask: Is this what God intended for me? Is this how God wants me to encounter, understand, and be transformed by Him?   

I don’t think so. 

In the midst of People of the Promise: Kingdom Divided, you may be weary. So much rebellion. So much judgment. Perhaps it even sounds redundant. But God has something deep for us to uncover. He longs for us to understand our utter need for Him and see His glory amid the darkness of fallen humanity.

BSF has taught countless people, like me, not only to read God’s Word but how to unpack His Word. As I encounter God through the Bible, I approach His prophecy much like I approach any part of His Word.

I look at context. I look for meaning. And I look for Jesus. 

The minor prophets may seem cryptic or unrelatable, but I have discovered deep meaning through this approach. As an example, let’s look at the book of Amos.

I look at context. I look for meaning. And I look for Jesus. 

What is the context? 

Ask: How would the original audience have heard this passage? What makes this passage unique?  

Amos spoke to Israel during the height of wealth and prosperity. The people worshipped, they sacrificed, and they declared, “God is with us!” Unsurprisingly, God declared judgment on their neighbors. But in a shocking twist, Amos’ narrative shifted. The same accusations brought against God’s enemies applied to His own people.  

Beneath their pretense of piety, the people were ruled by selfish ambition and decadence. They oppressed the poor and accepted bribes – God declared “the times are evil.” Judgment was coming for those who refused to repent of their false morality. 

What is the meaning? 

Ask: What is the passage saying about God? What does it say about His people? What is God saying to me (Is there something I’m supposed to know or do from this passage)? Why should I care?

Amos’ words are strikingly relevant. If we’re honest, we can admit that people have not changed since 750 BC. With vivid imagery, Amos foretold “wailing in all the streets and cries of anguish in every public square” (Amos 5:16). But God offered hope. At the heart of His warnings, God revealed His character. He is holy, He is judge, He is righteous. And He is love.

God willingly dealt with the people’s sin. He could have counted them as lost. He had every right to let them rot from the inside out. But the One “who made the Pleiades and Orion, who turns midnight into dawn and darkens day into night, who calls for the waters of the sea and pours them out over the face of the land” pursued His people (Amos 5:8). He exposed their false sense of security to offer a new way forward. Speaking into the darkness, God’s Word brought light.

I see myself in Amos’ words. I see my sin and long for hope. The words of Amos lead me to repentance. They bring me to my knees in worship. They soften my heart in gratitude for Jesus. They stir my heart toward joyful obedience.

Speaking into the darkness, God’s Word brought light.  

What does this teach me about Jesus? 

Ask: What does this passage say about the Son of God? 

While the name “Jesus” may not be obvious, the book of Amos (and the rest of God’s prophecy) was not recorded in a vacuum. Each word is part of the grand narrative of God’s story. And we can read Amos with the Savior in mind. Through the prophets, God’s Word entered into humanity’s darkness. Through Jesus, that Word became flesh.

The last six verses of the book of Amos (9:11-15) conclude with the glorious promise of restoration. Repaired shelter, restored ruins, rebuilt cities, and new wine certainly foretold of preserving a remnant of Israel. But it also promises a future restoration of heaven and earth – pointing to the return of Jesus. When life feels hard or overwhelming, this is a promise you can cling to. 

Each word is part of the grand narrative of God’s story.

What if I’m still struggling? 

Reading a book like Amos can feel overwhelming, but in BSF we don’t wander through Scripture alone. Through our BSF groups, we can share our struggles. On a tough week, be honest with your group. In moments of inspiration, celebrate together. God preserved these prophetic books for a reason, and they aren’t just for Bible scholars. When we read these warnings with Jesus as our hope, the gift of eternal salvation becomes more precious with every verse.

Todd Wethall

Study Content Specialist

Todd Wethall serves as a Study Content Specialist at BSF. Having been involved in BSF – as a class member, Group Leader, Teaching Leader, and HQ staff member – since 1993, Todd credits this ministry as having the greatest earthly influence on His life in the growth of His intimate relationship with Jesus Christ. Todd and his wife, Holly, are blessed with two children, their spouses, and two new grandchildren.

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  1. how do I get study guide for John?

    • Hi Jim! Materials for the John study will be released in June and July to members. You will receive an email at that time.

  2. Thank you so much for this article. It has truly help me on how read, understand and see what the Lord is trying to teach me through these Old Testament events. I am very grateful to BSF for all that I’ve learned through their studies.


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