God’s Spirit Calls for Faithfulness in Unfaithful Times
What do you think of when you think of a prophet?
You might imagine someone whose eyes are in a trance uttering cryptic riddles related to future events. Maybe, you think of the Old Testament prophetic books pointing to the coming of Jesus the Messiah. Perhaps, you think of someone who shares with others personalized messages from God about their lives. All of these contain some elements of how God’s Spirit spoke through prophets in the Bible, and yet mostly the images are too limited to accurately portray the role of the prophets in scripture.
There are times when prophets seem to be in some ecstatic state of being or contemplation, but there are many times prophets speak when they are not in some hyper-state of awareness. While most Christians see many of the Old Testament prophecies of the Messiah finding their fulfillment in Jesus of Nazareth, many other prophetic messages confront injustice and moral failure. There are prophetic messages addressed to individuals in the Old Testament, but those individuals are typically political or religious leaders who represent the trajectory of the nation or people of God.
In the Hebrew Bible, commonly referred to as the Old Testament by Christians, prophets are as unique as the lives of the people through whom God’s Spirit is speaking. Isaiah’s prophetic work is majestic and stately. Jeremiah’s prophetic scroll lays bare his own emotional turmoil and lament. Ezekiel’s visions and prophetic actions are graphic and startling. And that’s just the three major prophetic scrolls (we call them major because of their size, not because they are more important).
These prophets were inspired by the Spirit of God to boldly, dramatically, and creatively confront systems of injustice, communities of indifference, and wayward leaders of power. They would often speak impending judgment to the perpetuators of the status quo. At the same time they would speak words of hope to the broken and oppressed. Whether being sent to the stubbornly obstinate or the sorrowfully oppressed, these prophets always had challenging work to faithfully represent God to disinterested or discouraged ears.
In 2 Chronicles, we come across Azariah who found himself undeniably empowered and under the influence of God’s Spirit. Azariah confronts King Asa of Judah with a message rooted in the theology of Deuteronomy, concerning God’s blessing to the faithful, and God’s cursing of the unfaithful. Azariah spells out the cycle of disobedience and punishment plaguing God’s people for generations. The message was clear… in unfaithful times, we are called to be faithful. It took conviction to confront the nation’s highest power with this prophetic pronouncement. Who was Azariah to a king? And some might have found it more than a little presumptuous for Azariah to lecture his ruler on national history and domestic public policy!
Yet God is always calling unconventional and unanticipated people to go into situations where the odds are hopelessly stacked against them to embody God’s message of Divine justice to the world. When we are aware the stirrings within us are more than ego or self-interest, then we begin to sense God’s Spirit undeniably calling us to embody to power what it means to be faithful in an unfaithful world.