Before introducing us to the prophets, we must realize their purpose, the times in which they lived and the condition of their hearts, along with the condition of the hearts to whom they spoke. Prophets lived in a time when people had learned to separate the secular and the sacred. People had assumed that the secular is what they were, more or less, in charge of: their jobs, time, entertainment, government and social relations. The sacred is what God has charge of: worship, Torah/Bible/Word of God, heaven and hell, church and prayers. The people had created ways to set aside a sacred place for God, designed, we say, to honor God but really it was intended to keep God in his place, leaving them free to have the final say about everything else that goes on.
This is the culture. These are the people. As we read the prophets message which is in direct conflict with living culturally in the world; it is no wonder that the prophets are not popular. The prophets do not explain God. They shake the people out of old conventional habits of small-mindedness, of trivializing god-gossip (what others say about God), and set us on our feet in wonder and obedience and worship. The people did not understand what the prophets were saying at the time they were saying it. Mm, is that normal? Why, yes, it is.
Eugene Peterson writes,
“Over a period of several hundred years, the Hebrew people gave birth to an extraordinary number of prophets—men and women distinguished by the power and skill with which they presented the reality of God. They delivered God’s commands and promises and living presence to communities and nations who had been living on god-fantasies and god-lies.”
“Everyone more or less believes in God. But most of us do our best to keep God on the margins of our lives or, failing that, refashion God to suit our convenience. Prophets insist that God is the sovereign center, not off in the wings awaiting our beck and call. And prophets insist that we deal with God as God reveals himself, not as we imagine him to be.”
“These men and women woke people up to the sovereign presence of God in their lives. They yelled, they wept, they rebuked, they soothed, the challenged, they comforted. They used words with power and imagination, whether blunt or subtle.”
Prophets purge imaginations of what we now call “worldview thinking” in the current culture in which they lived with what really counts in life. Over and over, God the Holy Spirit uses these prophets to separate his people from the cultures in which they live, putting them back on the path of simple faith and obedience and worship in defiance of all that the world admires and rewards. Prophets train us in discerning the difference between the ways of the world and the way of the gospel, keeping us present to the Presence of God.
“Prophets are not particularly sensitive to our feelings. They have very modest, as we would say, “relationship skills.” We like leaders, especially religious leaders, who understand our problems (“come alongside us” is our idiom for it), leaders with a touch of glamour, leaders who look good on posters and on television.”
Yikes! Do we see and hear a similarity from then to now? The shocking, hard-rock reality is that prophets do not fit into our way of life. Today we use words such as “make room for God” as we attempt “fit God into our lives. The even harder reality is that God, whom the prophets speak is far too large to fit into our lives! He is God, we are not.
Could this mean we could learn from the prophets still today? It’s worth reading and exploring, right?! Know this about the prophets then and God’s prophets today (yes, they’re called pastors and teachers, mentors and youth workers) who love God with all their hearts, minds and souls and look to God for wisdom in every day living:
Prophets are convinced that everything, absolutely everything, takes place on sacred ground. God has something to say about every aspect of our lives. God has something to say about the way we feel and behave in the so-called privacy of our hearts and homes, the way we make our money and the way we spend it, the politics we embrace, the wars we fight, the catastrophes we endure, the people we hurt and the people we help. God is in it all. Nothing is hidden from the scrutiny of God, nothing is exempt from the rule of God, nothing escapes the purposes of God. God is Holy. Holy is Our God.
Prophets make it impossible to evade God or make detours around God. Prophets insist on receiving God in every nook and cranny of life. For a prophet, God is more real than the next-door neighbor.
The question we must ask ourselves—and answer—is this:
Do we really believe that what God says is really real?
Eternal life will depend on how we will answer. Our real-life living will reflect our thinking. Are we accustomed to the culture, fitting in nicely, not causing disruptions? Mm.
Tomorrow we will begin with Isaiah, the Prophet called of God, who brings readers into the holiness of God’s Presence. The word “holy” is used often and explained in God-terms, not as the world defines it. Join me as we both learn and grow from God’s words to his prophet Isaiah who will announce the King of kings and Lord of lords, the Savior of the world in which God created and loves.
You are leading us to a new study of people who walked away from cultural living to living in Your Holy Presence with “ears to hear, eyes to see” with tongues to proclaim your message! This is new for me to study more in depth. Teach me, for I am your servant. Show me the way I should think and the way I should walk and I will follow.
In Jesus Name, Amen