Basically, the prophets did two things: They worked to get people to accept the worst as God’s judgment — not a religious catastrophe or a political disaster, but judgment. If what seems like the worst turns out to be God’s judgment, it can be embraced, not denied or avoided, for God is good and intends our salvation. So judgment, while certainly not what we human beings anticipate in our planned future, can never be the worst that can happen. It is the best, for it is the work of God to set the world, and us, right.
And the prophets worked to get people who were beaten down to open themselves up to hope in God’s future. In the wreckage of exile and death and humiliation and sin, the prophet ignited hope, opening lives to the new work of salvation that God is about at all times and everywhere.