Do you remember King George? The King George who couldn’t understand why those colonists weren’t happy? According to the musical Hamilton, he took it very personally that there were people under his rule who didn’t like the way he was running things. Their criticism was a sign of their disloyalty, which in the end proved to be true. However, what if instead, King George actually listened to the criticism, took seriously the “voice of their complaint”? (Psalm 64:1)The US might still be part of England; it could have gone that way.
The prophets of Israel were loyal contrarians. They criticized the way things were because they understood how God wanted things to be. It’s hard to be the prophet, the one pointing out the problems. No one likes a complainer, but without these diehard loyalists, Israel was lost. Yes, they were among the most loyal, the most faithful to God.
Still today, we presume that when someone criticizes something, they do not love it. Our country is built on the foundation of criticism of government, so it always surprises me when people are called unpatriotic for criticizing our nation. It’s in our DNA!
Mike is preaching from the prophets this Fall. We are hearing harsh words of judgment: “My people are foolish…they are stupid children.” (Jeremiah 4:22) And we will hear words of hope: “Houses and fields and vineyards shall again be bought in this land.” (Jeremiah 32:15) The biblical record keeps alive the discord and dissent, the messiness of God’s relationship with God’s own people. In some ways it is comforting to know we aren’t the first ones to struggle with this relationship. And there are some things we could learn from mistakes made by those thousands of years before us.
There are prophets today reminding us to turn and tune our hearts to God. Even Jeremiah has a thing or two to tell us from across the millennia. Perhaps his proclamations and those of the other Hebrew prophets can guide us in knowing which present day prophets resonate with the hope of God.