I’m working my way through Ezekiel in the Old Testament, and before that I read Jeremiah. These are challenging books to read and to apply to our daily lives. Here and there is a nugget with direct – and easy – application, but I think these books are there for a much bigger purpose. The Old Testament prophets show us what is important to God. As I read, I find that God is primarily concerned with two things:
- That His people trust in Him and not in idols of their own making. This seems reasonable, since He alone is trustworthy. An idol made of stone or gold – or as we often trust in these days, of paper in the form of money and stocks – cannot protect us or provide a sure and trustworthy future. Only God can do that.
- That His people care for the “widow and the orphan,” that is, the less fortunate of society who are in need of a helping hand. This seems reasonable, too, since those of us who have been blessed should not find it a burden to bless others in return.
These are simple principles. When asked what the greatest commandment was, Jesus echoed these two principles when He answered, “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’” Matthew 22:37-38 (NIV).
And yet the prophets were hated and ridiculed for telling the Israelites that they would suffer and were suffering exile and death, war and famine, because they failed to follow these two simple principles. Instead of loving and trusting the God who had seen them through so much and protected them, they trusted in idols and the ways of their neighbors. Instead of loving their neighbors and caring for the downtrodden, they cared only for their own gain and gluttony. The Israelites were warned over and over by the prophets. I believe that the message of the prophets – that these two principles are paramount – is just as relevant for our world today as it was for ancient Israel.
The other day I received this wonderful quote in my Quotemeal email from Heartlight.org. I believe it illustrates not only the struggle the Old Testament prophets faced, but also the struggle those who trust in Christ alone for salvation and seek to share His expectation that we love our neighbors with the world face today.
To be forged upon the anvil of God’s purpose, to be at once His hammer, His tongs, and His molten iron; to hear words that rend the heart, see visions that pierce the chest; to be emptied like an urn, again and again and again until one desires only rest, only an end to the refilling — and to know one cannot live without the refilling. To be given words that one dare not speak, and to feel those words churning and boiling in the belly until one must speak them aloud, or die. To be despised, soon or late, by everyone except Adonai — and to desire it so, while hating it. This is to be a prophet.
– Thom Lemmons
I’m not suggesting that I am a prophet, but there have been times in my life when I was compelled to speak, or to write, words I did not wish to say or write. I have had words churn and boil in my mind and in my heart, felt the fear of saying or writing them, but had to push through that fear and let those words fly and land wherever God desires.
Just writing that last paragraph makes it seem all so dramatic, but really it just is. Sometimes I don’t push through the fear and I fail to share the words that are on my heart. Although I have not yet died as a result, a small part of my spiritual growth does whither. Perhaps my faith would be stronger and more souls would have been saved if I had always spoken up.
But, in the end, I know that God loves me and knows I am being sanctified daily, though sometimes more slowly than I would like.