Something was rotten in the state of Israel. Their forefather, Abraham, had been called by the creator of the cosmos (aka God) to help fulfill God's purposes for his creation. The world had been rendered to frustration by evil and the sin of the first humans, who had not only disobeyed God in Eden, but had know built a tower to reach into the heavens.
But now, God had made a promise to Abraham, that through him and his descendants all the nations would be blessed (cf. Genesis 12, 15, or 17 with promises of land, offspring and blessing, and redemption from slavery in Egypt). The children of Abraham were to exist in the world for the world, part of God's plan to end the problem of sin. This promise was passed down from Abraham to Isaac, Jacob and his children (who were to become Israel) as they went into Egypt. It was to his promise that Israel clung to as they marched out of their slavery in Egypt, having been delivered by God from bondage and gathered at Sinai as his people - a status made visible through Israel's possession of the Torah, God's good Law. The Torah promised life to all who kept it.
However, despite the promise of life, the Torah produced death as none were able to keep it's standards. And the people called to be the light to the nations (Isaiah 49) were marred in darkness and sin. Even at the height of Israel's glory under David and Solomon the people of God were immersed in idolatry.
So it is that 1000 years after the giving of the Torah at Sinai, and after 500 years of incompetent kings, Israel was in crisis. Already, the northern kingdom had been obliterated by Assyria for their covenant faithlessness. And the same was promised for Judah (cf. for starters Isaiah 1-12).
So the question then is, what will happen to the descendant's of Abraham? What will happen to God's promises to Israel and his plan for his creation? And what will happen to God's good and holy Torah (Psalm 119) and his own faithfulness? These are the questions that the prophets begin to ask - and these are the questions we shall look at in the next post. There is more to come...