Israel always killed its prophets. The prophets should have seen it coming, I suppose. Who wants to live under constant criticism? Who wants to be harangued day and night by someone who is telling you that you’re a first class screw up? And that is what the prophets did. They were a chorus of nothing but no’s. Not right. You’re wrong. You are so far off the make you’re in danger of no longer being God’s people. What was wrong with the prophets? Were they just curmudgeons? Were they people who weren’t happy as long as someone, somewhere was enjoying themselves? It’s more than that. Much more.
Israel had a role unlike that of any other nation in all the world. Their task was to show the other peoples of the world how things really work. Other nations, you see, were deceived. They thought the world was based on power. They thought that the way to “win” in life was to get more power than other nations or other people had. More chariots, more soldiers, more money, and that meant you could have more of what you really wanted. More security, more comfort, more pleasure and ease, and more people listening to your grand and glorious ideas. The nations thought things worked that way. And so often Israel did too. Israel, that unique people, was too often like the nations. Power was key. Get enough power and you can make everyone else do what’s right. But that is wrong.
A universe that has Israel’s God at its heart is not a universe that is based on power. It’s based on love. God does not bend people to his will. He doesn’t force or overwhelm. He draws. He woos. He attracts. Israel was to base their lives on loving this God and loving their neighbor as they loved themselves. People weren’t to be used as things so I can get what I want even if it hurts my neighbor. They were to be cared for and sacrificed for. And this, in God’s world, is what really “works”. Israel was the one nation that had that truth. All the other nations were in the devil’s pocket. And Israel, sadly, too often was also, and when they were, the prophets harangued the Hell out of them from the king to peasant. The prophets were thanked for their efforts by being put out of their misery and then later by having monuments built to them.
The church today is what Israel was to be. We are not to be in the devil’s pocket, thinking that getting power is the way to do God’s work and that doing God’s work means winning and putting people in their place so that they have no choice but to do what God wants no matter how grudgingly or angrily they do it. The church is to win, woo, attract, and love. But when we decide God’s way of love doesn’t work and we become like the nations who will be our prophets and harangue the holy heck out of us? And will we listen or will we bump them off as well?