Friday, March 22, 2013

Lenten Feasting - The Prophets

This Lent I am feasting instead of fasting.  I am feasting on the Word of God.  I have chosen to read through the Bible cover to cover.  I’m following a reading plan suggested by Margaret Feinberg and hope to blog occasionally about what I am learning through the process.

I love the prophets.  It’s probably my favorite genre of Scripture.  But 250 chapters of prophecy crammed into a week and a half was overwhelming.  The relentless accusation of unfaithfulness is met with an infusion of judgment in almost every chapter.  The tone is quite harsh.  But I needed this, maybe more than any other chuck of reading.

The Israelites are spiritual adulterers, betraying their covenant “marriage” with God.  They became prostitutes working the corner, eager to spread their legs in wanton lust.  They are extremely promiscuous.  “You gave yourself as a prostitute to every man who came along (Ez. 16:15).”  They will lift their skirt for just about anyone.  Worse yet, they expect no payment and even bribe their lovers with gifts (Ez. 16:33-34).  The prostitute is paying the customer. 

These images of whoring Israel are repeated over and over again, especially in Jeremiah, Ezekiel, and Hosea.  The language is profane.  Fifty shades in the holy book.  Even when the vocabulary of adultery is not used, the theme of unfaithfulness continues.  They have forsaken God and chosen worthless idols.

This is sin.  Not just Israel’s.  Mine.  I’m the idol worshipper.  I’m the adulterer.  All this strong language of slutty betrayal is a reminder of the heinousness of my sin.  I tend to minimize the gravity of my offense.  The sins of others are disgusting, repugnant, offensive, and shocking, but my own sin is justifiable.  I can excuse my poor behavior.  It doesn’t seem so terrible when it is so familiar.  The prophets remind me of how grievous my sin is.  My heart is blacker than I care to admit. 

But in this there is hope.  The prophets ring loud with judgment but the judgment paves the way for redemption.  I was startled by how often the phrase is repeated in the book of Ezekiel, “Then they will know that I am the Lord.”  All this judgment is a wake up call.  God’s wrath is rousing his people from their stupor.  He is shaking them (another repeated theme), as if grabbing them by the shoulders to get their attention.  Judgment is not a vindictive reaction.  It is a loving discipline.  God is drawing us back to himself, opening our eyes to who he is.

There are assurances of forgiveness (Jer. 50:20), promises of hope (Jer 29:11), the expectation of a good shepherd (Ez. 34:23), an offer of a new heart (Ez. 36:26), the return of God's glory, and a city named “the Lord is There” (Ez 48:35), reflecting God’s longing to live among his people.  The prophets are a 250 chapters of variations on a theme neatly summed up by Paul, “But where sin increased, grace increased all the more” (Romans 5:20).  I needed this reminder of how disgusting my sin is and how extravagant God's grace is in return.  

1 comment:

  1. Our personal awareness of how wretched our sin is makes God's grace shine all the brighter. Good perspective to keep in the front of our mind's eye. Another awesome post!