The prophetic books have always been a challenge to me as a preacher and pastor. I prefer to work with narrative portions of the Bible: stories that make a point about God and humanity. The Biblical prophets rarely tell stories (the prophet Jesus being the exception). Isaiah, Jeremiah, Hosea, Micah and others tend to use poetic language of metaphor and direct speech. The language is often harsh and demanding. Law seems to prevail over gospel; God’s judgment over God’s mercy.
Do not rejoice, O Israel! Do not exult as other nations do; for you have played the whore, departing from your God. You have loved a prostitute’s pay on all threshing floors. Threshing floor and wine vat shall not feed them, and the new wine shall fail them. They shall not remain in the land of the Lord; but Ephraim shall return to Egypt, and in Assyria they shall eat unclean food. (Hosea 9:1-3)
Yet this is God’s Word and needs our faithful attention. Like a good doctor, the prophet gives a proper diagnoses of our spiritual condition. The prophet does not sugar-coat the news, but rather forcefully calls for the repentance of God’s people. The prophet shows us our sinful arrogance and calls us back to God’s ways. It is our disloyalty to God and God’s ways that causes the judgment. It is our mistreatment of our neighbor that causes God’s to be angry.
Return, O Israel, to the Lord your God, for you have stumbled because of your iniquity. Take words with you and return to the Lord; say to him, “Take away all guilt; accept that which is good, and we will offer the fruit of our lips. (Hosea 14:1-2)
The prophets announce God’s mercy and tenderness. God’s love permeates even the judgment. The prophet Hosea proclaims God’s grace towards us in a poem that reminds of the paradise garden of Eden in Genesis 2.
I will heal their disloyalty; I will love them freely, for my anger has turned from them. I will be like the dew to Israel. . . They shall again live beneath my shadow, they shall flourish as a garden; they shall blossom like the vine, their fragrance shall be like the wine of Lebanon.
The prophets can still speak God’s Word of life for us. Are we willing to listen?
Lord Jesus, you have the words of eternal life. Open our hearts to hear them.