My Disciple Bible study group is studying the prophets in the Hebrew Bible. I have come to appreciate the relationship between politics and a people’s relationship with their God.
Prophesy in the Hebrew Bible isn’t about telling what will happen in the future. The prophets are God’s messengers to God’s people. The prophets say, if you keep doing what you are doing, this is what will happen.
Books like Jeremiah, Lamentations, Micah, Amos and Hosea aren’t light reading.
Disciple study guide tells us, “We must know the history in order to understand the work of the prophets. We must hear them in context.” Each prophet is paired with a king: Samuel with King Saul, Nathan with King David, Elijah with King Ahab, Amos with King Jeroboam II, Hosea and Amos with King Zechariah.
Some of this “history” sounds like this morning’s news. Nathan was one of many of the advisers to King David. Once King David crossed a line, lusting after Bathsheba and sending her husband off to war to be killed so that David could marry her, Nathan became a prophet.
He told King David a story about two men, one rich and one poor. The rich man has many sheep and cattle; the poor man has only one ewe lamb that has grown up with his family. The poor man and his family love this lamb, the way we might love our dog or cat. The rich man has a visitor, and to feed the visitor, takes the poor man’s lamb and feeds it to the visitor. King David sees right away the injustice of this and says “the one who did this is demonic! He must restore the ewe lamb seven times over because he did this and had no compassion.” (2 Samuel 12:5b-6)
And Nathan says—You are that man!
How bold! What courage! He is speaking to the king, who could order him killed.
Much later the prophet Micah enumerated the crimes of the people. The priests only taught if they were paid to do so, government policies and taxes favored the rich, judges took bribes, idolatry was rampant.
TheDisciplestudy guide puts it this way “The prophets preached peace when they ate well but lashed out against those who didn’t pay them…The sanctuary prophets were not shameless charlatans. They simply were so much a part of the sins of the society they couldn’t see the plumb line of God. That’s why they didn’t speak out. That’s why they resented the criticism.”
- Who are today’s prophets?
- Who are today’s kings?
And I wonder, am I so much a part of the sins of society that I can’t see the plumb line of God?
May we remember these words from Micah: “He has told you, human one, what is good and what the Lord requires from you: to do justice, embrace faithful love, and to walk humbly with your God” (Micah 6:8) and do what the Lord requires from us, whatever the criticism, whatever the cost, knowing that the Lord is with us always.
May it be so.
Connie Knapp is a Ruling Elder at First Presbyterian Church in Yorktown and a participant in the Commissioned Ruling Elders program of the Hudson River Presbytery. She will be serving as Moderator-Elect of the Hudson River Presbytery beginning in January 2019.