“But this is the new covenant I will make with the people of Israel after those days,” says the Lord. “I will put my instructions deep within them, and I will write them on their hearts. I will be their God, and they will be my people. And they will not need to teach their neighbors, nor will they need to teach their relatives, saying, ‘You should know theL ord.’ For everyone, from the least to the greatest, will know me already,” says the Lord. “And I will forgive their wickedness, and I will never again remember their sins.”
The final trait that I want to focus on is how the prophetic tradition reminds us of the significance of articulating salvific hope from the reign of God in the midst of despair.
When we focus on the great collections of Jeremiah, Isaiah, and Ezekiel we see a clear pattern of prophets speaking hope in a season of deep desolation. These prophets were situated in the exilic time period of the Jewish community. God’s people had been scattered, dispersed because of their unfaithfulness to Yahweh. Their world had crumbled and it had seemed that God had abandoned them forever. The prophets, in the middle of exile, were consistent in their message of hope to the Hebrew children that their mourning would not last forever.
Walter Brueggemen in Prophetic Imagination, writes “The task of prophetic ministry is to nurture, nourish, and evoke a consciousness and perception alternative to the consciousness and perception of the dominant culture around us… that alternative consciousness to be nurtured serves to energize persons and communities by its promise of another time and situation toward which the community of faith may move.”
I love Brueggemen’s line, evoke a consciousness that is alternative to the perception of the dominant culture around us. The prophets implanted an idea that was fundamentally different than what was presently happening to the Hebrew exiles. The dominant thinking consisted of abandonment, rejection, and confusion; and here comes the prophetic word – filled with faith that they still are Yahweh’s possession, promising hope and a better day.
Even when the individual or community fails in it’s faithfulness to God, hope is possible because the future does not depend on human efforts alone, but the future is under God’s sovereign rule. (Birch, 2007)
I love the words from the 43rd chapter of Isaiah, but now thus says the Lord, he who created you…, do not fear for I have redeemed you; I have called you by name, you are mine” (43:1).
Many people that are coming to your life group, Sunday school class, small group, Bible study, discipleship appointment, and worship service have been broken to pieces. Emotionally, they’re living in the strange land of Babylon and don’t know how to return home. Do we promise hope? Do we believe for healing? Do we dare to evoke a consciousness of love that is alternative to a world that is dark and devoid of love?
1 Corinthians 14:3 says, But one who prophesies strengthens others, encourages them, and comforts them. Prophetic speech will tell you what you don’t want to hear, but it will also comfort. The Hebrews that we’re exiled we’re judged for their behavior and had to endure the consequences of it, but God uses the prophets to speak these people’s failings by saying, You are precious in my sight, and honored, and I love you. Isaiah 43:3
Dwight Moody once said, “oh how we are leaky vessels and we must remain under the fountain in order to be kept full and be used by God.” That was the problem with the Israelite people – they would quickly forget who they were (and so do we). The prophet’s job was to remind them of another realm, to communicate to them an other-worldly love. The prophetic tradition challenges us to remember who we are – a people that are loved by this transcendent, omniscient, and omnipotent God. This takes innovation, imagination, and energy. As leaders, we need to find creative ways to consistently express this salvific hope.
We need to remember that hope is a gift from a God who loves us. We have to be tireless in our proclamation that God is in control! He is faithful when we are faithless. He loves us! He is fighting for us! If you are in the midst of a desolate and barren land I want to tell you that God is sending forth the river of His presence to nourish, refresh, and revive you.
I’m Harold Dorrell Briscoe. Thanks for reading.