Bible in a Year – The Prophets

I have been sitting with this photo for nearly a week now.  It is a selective color image from a walk one morning.  I go back and forth on whether it is a hopeful or a grieving image.  Maybe it is both.  But what I have kept feeling about it is that it reminds me of the prophets that I have been reading through in my read through the Bible this year.  I am just about finished with Jeremiah and getting ready to move into Lamentations, Ezekiel, Daniel and then into what are known as the “Minor Prophets.”  The prophets are not an easy read.  They can feel repetitive – many times reading something akin to “God’s judgment is coming upon ________.”   They can feel a bit depressing with the balance of places that are words of encouragement vs words of judgment.  And they can be confusing as there’s a lot of history that is interwoven throughout and it isn’t always clear what is happening.  One of the groups with whom I am going this one-year-read have shared regularly their frustrations with Isaiah and Jeremiah and I’ve warned them that there’s more of the same with the rest of the prophets still to come before we finish in December.  

As I have been sitting with this photo, I have been sitting with it not as a reader of the prophets but trying to put myself in the position of one of the prophets.  Being a prophet whether in ancient days such as Isaiah or Jeremiah or Nahum or in modern days such as Romero, Bonhoeffer, or King is a lonely gig.  Not many people grow up thinking to themselves, “I want to be a prophet!  I want to be someone sharing messages with people that are really poking at things that need to change in society!  I want to be threatened as I make people in power angry and uncomfortable.  I want to likely be killed because of what I say.”  I don’t hear too many people saying that.  I know that there have been times that I have taken some heat for more “prophetic” messages and it can feel pretty lonely but that’s nothing like what we read in the prophets in the Hebrew Scriptures or what those who I named have faced.  

But there’s another part to this photo for me with the prophetic word.  A prophetic word is trying to draw attention to something.  The prophets in the Bible weren’t necessarily about “telling the future” and trying to show a big picture of how a bunch of little clues come together to reveal something.  Instead they were trying to clear away the clutter and get people back to who God called them to be.  In this photo, that is clearing away the color of everything else except the red..  So, in this photo, eyes are drawn to the tree and the leaves.  Yes, you can be drawn to the bench, the background trees, or the rest of the ground but you always get pulled back to the red.  That’s the prophetic word…stop getting drawn to everything else and get back to who God calls you and me to be and how we are called to live.  

So, yes the prophets are a tough read.  But they’re a necessary read because there’s a great deal in their ancient words that speak today.  Calls to honest and real justice, care of those who tend to be without voice in a society, pointing people to being righteous and holy before God, and to keep God at the center of our lives.  

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