August 14, 2012

Scorched By The Word of God

Below are some ideas from Abraham Heschel's The Prophets. He describes the absolute discontinuity and strange disconnect between a person that is truly attached to God and those of the world. The prophets and those with a prophetic voice are utterly alien to most around them even to those that are in the faith but are comfortable floating around the periphery of the church living as marginal Christians (if they are Christians at all). We sense by reading this and the Scripture included...that the prophet is one who is, by his vocation, distinct from the world but forced deeply into it only to stand out as odd all the more. Close to God but called to sojourn into a hostile and desensitized world. 

Many will claim prophets and those with a prophetic voice are harsh, unloving and lacking in grace but it is the very nature of their calling that makes them this way. Nor does this mean that all who are caustic and lacking in pleasant words are of a prophetic bend (they're tactless). For the prophet, it is what they are and how they've been made. To stop this is to change what they are and what they are made for. It is the very way God has made them to deliver his message in the manner He expects. Not everyone who has a message from God will be well received, just ask people like Isaiah and Jeremiah. His way / דַרְכּ֑וֹ (the way of Him) or the way God wants them (a la Proverbs 22:6) is often demanding on the prophet or one with a prophetic voice. Since this is the case they should deliver the message as it has been expected of them after much prayer, meditation on Scripture and God Himself.

The two staggering paradoxes in the life of a prophet or those with a prophetic voice are: God's turning to him, and man's turning away from him. This is often his lot: to be chosen by God and to be rejected by the people. The word of God, so clear to him is totally unintelligible to others....

Isaiah 28:9-13 ~“To whom will he impart knowledge, and to whom will he convey a message? Those who are weaned from the milk, those taken from the breast? For it is precept upon precept, precept upon precept, line upon line, line upon line, here a little, there a little. Nay, but by men of strange lips and with an alien tongue. The Lord will speak to this people, to whom He has said: This is rest; give rest to the weary and this is repose; yet they refused to hear. Therefore the word of the Lord will be to them precept upon precept, precept upon precept, line upon line, line upon line, here a little, there a little; that they may go, and fall backward, and be broken, snared, and caught.”

What baffles the prophet is the disparity between the power and impact of God and the immense indifference, unyieldingness, sluggishness, and inertia of the heart. God's thunderous voice is shaking heaven and earth, and man does not hear the faintest sound. The Lord roars like a lion (Amos 3:8). His word is like fire, like a hammer which breaks the rock in pieces (Jeremiah 23:29), and the people go about unmoved, undisturbed, unaware. What to the prophet is like the sun piercing the thickest cloud remains unnoticed by the people.

Isaiah 5:20 ~ “Woe to those who call evil good, and good evil, who put darkness for light, and light for darkness, who put bitter for sweet, and sweet for bitter.

The prophet is scorched by the word of God-"There is in my heart as it were a burning fire shut up in my bones" (Jeremiah 21:9), “…but the hearts of the people are asbestos, fireproof. I have become a laughingstock all the day, everyone mocks me…The word of God has become for me a reproach and derision all day long. They refuse to hear the instruction of the Lord. ~ Jeremiah 20:7-8

The central message of the prophets is the insistence that the human situation am be understood only in conjunction with the divine situation. The absurdity of isolating the human situation and treating it in disregard of the divine involvement is exemplified by the self-defeating course of man-made history. Modern interpretations see history as the arena in which man reigns supreme, with the forces of nature as his only possible adversaries. Man is alone, free, and growing stronger. God is either nonexistent or unconcerned. It is human initiative that makes history, and it is primarily by force that constellations change. Man can attain his own salvation.

This view of history, starting with man's consciousness of freedom and sense of sovereignty, arrives at the antinomy of freedom and fate: the frustration and collapse of freedom. Man is not the master of his own destiny. Forces he cannot completely control emerge imperceptibly to stifle him and to defy his intentions, his plans, and his visions. Prophetic reflection begins, we might say, with the abuse and consequent failure of freedom, with the irrationality of human conduct, and it points to God Who stands above history. Man-made history is not history's only dimension. The pathos and judgment of God transcend the human dimension. Great conquerors are seen as mere tools of His mysterious will. Man has choice, but not sovereignty.

Can we hear the crackling of the fire that burns within these types of people. When we come near their flame we feel the heat that flares from them like star burst. The sounds that emanate from their mouths are more akin to snaps and pops that discharge sparks that fly up and outwards...often singeing those bystanders unprepared for the work of the Spirit coming through them. Caustic, cauterizing, searing...but real and truthful. Perhaps too true for mortal ears. Perhaps to truthful for sinful mortal ears.

They are different and they do not march to the beat of the world but rather, they march to the beat of the Word. They march to the cadence and measure beat out by God. This is often why when they speak it has the tone of a large booming drum.

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