The Heavy Work of Prophesy

Jeremiah had the unenviable task of speaking truth to a people convinced of their own wisdom and invincibility. From the beginning of his prophetic ministry, he called people to repentance.

Jeremiah sees visions of destruction and defeat. Attempting to turn people from the darkness of their ways, back to God, he warns of impending disaster if they refuse to change. *But the powerful in Israel do not want to hear about a potential disaster. Instead they listen to prophets promising them peace and military success.

“From prophet to priest
everyone deals falsely.
They have treated the wound of my people carelessly,
saying, ‘Peace, peace’,
when there is no peace.”Jeremiah 8:10b-11

The work of prophesy weighs heavily on Jeremiah. He tries to quit, but he cannot keep silent in the face of the coming disaster. He agonizes as he struggles to break through Israel’s national pride and arrogance . . . To keep them from becoming victims of their own foolishness.

Our modern prophets are also met with indifference and denial. Warnings that our actions were leading to catastrophe climate change have been sounding for decades. Instead of uniting and working together, we’ve argued and debated its existence. Meanwhile, oceans rise, permafrost thaws, the Arctic melts, rivers dry up and super fires rage across the planet. In this year of 2022, denial is no longer an option. Our foolishness has brought us to the brink of climate calamity.

Jeremiah spent most of his prophetic years, warning the nation of Israel, of imminent ruin, yet after Israel fell to Babylon, his was the voice “Of a future and a hope.” (Jeremiah 29:11b)

God is future oriented. The one who takes our mistakes, our foolishness, our messes and our wilful blindness, then leads us through the awful consequences of our sin and our folly . . . to a place of hope and healing.

God leads, but only when we listen and only when we follow. The real question is, “Will we?”

I hear that question in Howard Thurman’s prayer:

“Thou hast had long experience with Thy children through all the ages of their climb. Out of the wisdom which is Thine wilt Thou deal tenderly with what Thou seest in us, reminding us in all the ways that Thy creative mind can conjure, that if we nourish that which is a sickness we shall corrupt ourselves, that if we nourish within ourselves those things that are false, we shall pervert ourselves, that if we nourish those things that are out of the light, we shall spend our days stumbling through the darkness. Teach us, O God . . . how we may so live that the richness of all the staggering possibilities of life may find its way into the path we take.” Howard Thurman, The Centering Moment, Pg 60

May it be so.

*Stephen Breck Reid writes of  Israel’s denial to face reality as . . “a symptom of a deep and abiding spiritual stupidity and ignorance.” He says, “The people refuse to change course because they fundamentally do not understand that they need to change.” Feasting on the Word, Year C, Volume 4, pages 52 and 54.