The prophets are amazing books and unique to scripture. They are not for the most part the books you want to read if you’re looking for the warm fuzzies of the Bible. However, I am reminded of something wonderful about the nature of God. Jeremiah’s book begins with a bleak picture of Israel. The nation has (yet again) turned from her God, and Jeremiah’s opening chapters are, well, pretty graphic. The warnings are scary. Political and military ramifications are promised, and one biblical word comes to mind – judgment. I seem to hear this word a lot today, too. When we see patterns in our nation and the world for which there was judgment in scripture, we warn of the same judgment today. Here’s where the hope comes in.
A refrain appears at the beginning of Jeremiah 4 that I seem to recall in virtually all the Prophets – “If you, Israel, will return…” God’s judgment, even in the sternest chapters of Old Testament history, was always paired with an offer of mercy and restoration. God has never been limited or restrained in His desire to extend mercy, grace, restoration, and offer a chance to start again His way. (This is certainly a lesson the prophet Jonah learned the hard way.) We learn in Romans that it’s God’s kindness that leads us to repentance (Romans 2:4), not His wrath. This is our chance to participate in God’s activity, model His nature, and have an impact on our community, nation, and world. Our job is twofold: first, begin with ourselves. Are we finding fault with God that we would stray and get distracted by other things (Jeremiah 2:5)? Are we confessing and repenting that we might live in the obedience of faith? Second, are we influencing those around us with our witness and prayers? I thank God for His mercy today, and that He can even use a handful of people in remote parts of the world to wake others up to the reality of His presence and love.
Yesterday was an amazing day at Shalimar United Methodist Church. We heard from two amazing young preachers that were raised in the church and are pursuing God’s call to full-time ministry. Lori Galambos is headed into her final year at Duke Divinty School. She preached in our 8:00 Traditions service that rather than being a people who “limp between two opinions,” we are to limp as those who have “struggled with God.” Hunter Griffin Bethea is halfway through his undergraduate work at the University of Alabama. In our 9:30 Connect service he challenged us to be modern day Elijah’s (whose name means “My God is Yahweh”) pointing people to God, uniting people rather than dividing them, and listening to God’s voice. We were so honored and inspired to hear both of these servants of God proclaim His message to His people. You can find both sermons here: http://shalimar-umc.org/livestream.php.
In this series we will explore one of the three “offices” or appointed roles of the Old Testament: prophet, priest, and king. Jesus fulfilled each of these. So, what was a prophet? What was his or her role? How did Jesus fulfill the prophetic role and redefine the prophetic calling for God’s people of the New Covenant? In Deuteronomy 18:14-22 God explains what a prophet is to be and why the people of God should require them. Essentially, while a priest goes to God on behalf of the people (think sacrifices and atonement for sin), a prophet is to go to the people on behalf of God to deliver His message. Jesus not only performed this job in a supreme and ultimate way, He is the Word of God, the Word made flesh (John 1:1). Jesus is the full revelation of God. The Church of Jesus Christ filled and influenced by His Holy Spirit is called to hear the voice of the Lord still today, obey it, and proclaim it. We are also called to be the megaphone for His Word to continue to pierce through the dark of a broken and distorted world. After all, His voice was first: “Let. There. Be.” It created, and it is recreating still.