I sometimes feel sorry for the Old Testament prophets. Their messages from God were often described as a “burden.” That’s understandable given their divinely appointed task of publicly pointing out the nation’s sinful behavior and total disregard of God. Beyond that, they were obligated to announce the judgment that their rebellion against God would unleash. The consequences of rejecting God are not always immediate, but they are ultimately unavoidable, and God’s prophets were burdened messengers of grace sent to warn the potential victims.
An Intolerable Vacuum ~
When God is rejected, there’s an emptiness left in the space God designed for Himself. It leaves a spiritual vacuum that the hearts and minds of human beings cannot tolerate, and a process begins that quickly fills the space with idolatrous substitutes. Every nation, race, culture, tribe, and tongue in human history has demonstrated the innate human compulsion to fabricate some kind of deity to worship, some authority to serve, some greater force to venerate and obey. Subservience to these self-made gods is compelled by promised rewards of pleasure, power, or the fulfillment of other hedonistic desires. Idolatrous deities always appeal to personal indulgence, mostly sexual or sensual in nature, but always self-centered. Allegiance to these false deities is further ensured by fear that if the god is not placated, the reward will be taken away.
Reading the messages of God’s servants in the Old Testament reveals that the current spiritual/moral state of our own nation is in so many ways a mirror image of the conditions faced by those courageous prophets. Clearly, Israel was not unique in experiencing a recurrent cycle of moral and spiritual decline, and much of the “burden” of God’s prophets is a timeless message for every nation that turns away from Him.
No Easy Path ~
Our tendency is to think that because God can’t be seen, He isn’t paying attention. The prophets always announced that God knows what’s going on with us nationally and personally. They were charged with unloading volumes of irrefutable evidence of the nation’s sins to support God’s indictments. Prophets didn’t take the path of “political correctness” and avoid addressing behaviors that were reprehensible to God and destructive to the nation. They made it clear that sin’s popularity, or its legality, never make it acceptable to God. Prophets were criticized, imprisoned, and sometimes killed, but they weren’t frightened into silence by those who didn’t like their message. The apparent lack of familiarity today with the words of God’s prophets, particularly those we refer to as the “minor prophets,” is troubling. Too often,, our fear of being targeted by the “political correctness” trolls lurking in the shadows of Twitter and Facebook have effectively silenced us and muted the prophets’ words. In any case it appears that our culture is missing important elements of God’s truth like the sobering charge delivered by Hosea.
Hear the word of the LORD, You children of Israel, For the LORD brings a charge against the inhabitants of the land: “There is no truth or mercy Or knowledge of God in the land. By swearing and lying, Killing and stealing and committing adultery, They break all restraint, With bloodshed upon bloodshed. Hosea 4:1-2 (NKJV)
A second element of God’s message to His disobedient and rebellious people was that their behavior would result in consequences that have existential implications on their entire nation. As Hosea declared, when God is abandoned, all restraint is broken. Without Him the protective boundaries He designed and instituted are eliminated, and every despicable form of human depravity becomes acceptable. The end result is that self interest rules and laws become meaningless. Justice is subjected to the ones who hold the reins of political power and violence and corruption are allowed to run rampant. Throughout history, that pattern has invariably led to the eventual collapse of the nation. The painful judgments that God announced never failed to unfold in every case where the prophet’s message was ignored.
A Rainbow of Hope ~
But there’s another element in the prophet’s message that offers a rainbow hope where none is deserved. The threat of consequences was always accompanied by a reminder of His love for them. Love never allowed God to find delight in initiating the promised consequences of their sin, but His righteousness never allowed His love for them to be deterrent to delivering catastrophic judgment if their rebellion persisted. The one thing that would effectively alter God’s response was their repentance. When they confessed their sins, and discarded their phony, deceptive idols and returned to Him, there was grace, forgiveness, and a restoration of peace and prosperity. Isaiah delivered the primary desire of God’s heart beautifully.
“Wash yourselves, make yourselves clean; Put away the evil of your doings from before My eyes. Cease to do evil, Learn to do good; Seek justice, Rebuke the oppressor; Defend the fatherless, Plead for the widow. “Come now, and let us reason together,” Says the LORD, “Though your sins are like scarlet, They shall be as white as snow; Though they are red like crimson, They shall be as wool. If you are willing and obedient, You shall eat the good of the land; But if you refuse and rebel, You shall be devoured by the sword”; For the mouth of the LORD has spoken. Isaiah 1:16-20 (NKJV)
There is no shortage of things to be “burdened” about in America these days, but God does things in the midst of dark times to remind us of that rainbow of hope that His prophets always included. He reminded me of that with an obscure news item that caught my attention recently about a baby girl who was born last December. A baby being born isn’t unusual, of course, but in this case, her tiny body weighed a mere 8.6 ounces, less than a good sized apple. Doctors told her distraught parents that she might live about an hour, but as they watched and prayed, that hour became two, then five, then a day, then a week. Now the healthy little girl is living at home with her parents. In these dark days, the “pro-choice” kill squads, would have happily ripped her little body apart and tossed it aside like so much garbage and their narcissistic, sex-obsessed Hollywood cohorts would have enthusiastically applauded. But God gave us a “rainbow” in spite of them. There’s a little girl living today in total defiance of the medical experts and in total repudiation of the claims of murderous abortionists.
We don’t need more prophets in America today. We have a Bible full of them. But we desperately need courageous men and women who will read their words, assume their burden, and join them in trumpeting the truth and heralding the hope we have in a God who did more than condemn a sin-cursed race. He became one of us at Bethlehem and took our curse upon Himself at Calvary. Now in the midst of our national rebellion, He asks again as He did to Isaiah, “Whom shall I send, and who will go for Us…?” Isaiah 6:8 (NKJV). May God help every one of us to answer, “Here am I, send me.”
“TWEETABLES” ~ Click to Tweet & Share from the pull quotes below. Each quote links directly back to this article through Twitter.
- “When God is abandoned, all restraint is broken. Without Him the protective boundaries He designed and instituted are eliminated. Every despicable form of human depravity becomes acceptable. Self interest rules and laws become meaningless.” @GallaghersPen (Click here to Tweet)
- “Throughout history, abandoning God has invariably led to the eventual collapse of the nation. The painful judgments that God announced never failed to unfold in every case where the prophet’s message was ignored.” @GallaghersPen (Click here to Tweet)
- “There is no shortage of things to be burdened about in America these days, but God does things in the midst of dark times to remind us of that rainbow of hope that His prophets always included.” @GallaghersPen (Click here to Tweet)
- “We desperately need courageous men and women who will read their words, assume their burden, and join them in trumpeting the truth and heralding the hope we have in a God who did more than condemn a sin-cursed race.” @GallaghersPen (Click here to Tweet)
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