Wednesday, August 29, 2012

How Would Have Our Postmodern Church Treated the Prophets?

Among the most neglected of biblical books, the minor prophets (and perhaps the prophets as a whole) should be ranked at the top. I truly believe that this is why our postmodern church has such a distorted view of God. It's ideas that negativity, wrath, judgment, etc. all tend to be bad things has produced a theology of God that is much like the theology of God's community in the Bible. Unfortunately, it's the theology of God's community that is under God's wrath and judgment, as it is not an accurate view of who He is. Because of this, I truly believe that the pomo church today would reject the messages of the prophets had the prophets lived in our day, or those within the pomo church had lived within the day of the prophets. We don't want to believe in a God of wrath and judgment that would send people to hell for sins. We don't even like to think of sin as evil atrocities committed against God, but as minor mistakes we make along life's journey that a grandfatherly figure we imagine to be God doesn't care much about. Hence, we dichotomize our relationship with God and repentance from sin as two separate issues in life. There is no need for repentance in order to have a relationship with God, so it's optional. Since it's optional, sin is not all that serious. Someone proclaiming judgment upon sin, then, is not to be taken all that seriously. But let's look at the messages of the prophets in order to see if what is said would really be all that palatable to the pomo church.

Isaiah declares that God is sick of Israel's worship and doesn't want them to bother offering things to Him if they're not going to repent of their sin. He declares that He will bring destruction and destitution upon the people for their evil.

Jeremiah proclaims that Judah will indeed suffer horribly and be sent into exile because God's wrath upon them has been filled up, and He is ready to cut them off from the land by the hand of the Babylonians. He proclaims this in the midst of numerous other "prophets" declaring that God is loving toward His people and would never bring such violence against them.

Ezekiel proclaims that God has indeed judged His people, and that His wrath is upon every wicked man who does not repent.

Daniel proclaims that the wicked will be completely overthrown, destroyed, and that their civilizations will perish.

Hosea reports that God rejects Israel as His people and continually likens them to an adulterous whore, that despite what Israel thinks, they do not have the truth, faithfulness to God, or knowledge of God. He further proclaims that the judgment applies to the priests and leaders as well. His wrath and harsh judgment is seen throughout.

"Woe to them, for they fled from Me;
destruction to them, for they rebelled against Me!
Though I want to redeem them,
they speak lies against Me." (7:13)

Joel prophecies that the day of the Lord (i.e., God's anger and swift judgment) has fallen upon His people. 

Blow the horn in Zion;
sound the alarm on My holy mountain!
Let all the residents of the land tremble,
for the Day of the Lord is coming;
in fact, it is near— a day of darkness and gloom,
a day of clouds and dense overcast,
like the dawn spreading over the mountains . . . (2:1-2)

Amos proclaims judgment and destruction upon the king and Israel so much so that he is told by the priest at Bethel to stop preaching against God's people and to go back to his homeland to do something else. He also informs Jeroboam that Amos is stirring up trouble against him. Amos' response is to proclaim the destruction of God's people (Amos 7:10-17).

Obadiah proclaims God's wrath and judgment upon Edom. He declares, "You will be covered in shame and destroyed forever . . ." (1:10).

Jonah proclaims a judgment against Nineveh that indicates God's wrath is upon the city for its sin and He will therefore destroy it.

Micah preaches that Judah will be destroyed and its children exiled due to God's wrath upon their sin. The people are said to respond by saying, 
“Quit your preaching,” they preach.
“They should not preach these things;
shame will not overtake us.” (2:6)

God replies that they will certainly be destroyed even though the people want to hear about joy and comfort from God.

Get up and leave,
for this is not your place of rest,
because defilement brings destruction—
a grievous destruction!  If a man of wind comes
and invents lies: “I will preach to you about wine and beer,”
he would be just the preacher for this people! (v. 11)

Nahum proclaims the destruction of the great city of Nineveh by describing God as a God of jealousy and anger. 

The Lord is a jealous and avenging God;
the Lord takes vengeance
and is fierce in wrath.
The Lord takes vengeance against His foes;
He is furious with His enemies. The Lord is slow to anger but great in power;
the Lord will never leave the guilty unpunished . . .
Who can withstand His indignation?
Who can endure His burning anger?
His wrath is poured out like fire,
even rocks are shattered before Him. (1:2-3a, 6)

Habakkuk calls upon God's wrath to be carried out upon the unjust. He proclaims judgment upon the wicked, and says of God, "You march across the earth with indignation;You trample down the nations in wrath" (3:12)

Zephaniah preaches that God will utterly destroy Judah for its compromise in pledging loyalty to both God and their human authorities who lead them into false views of Him and disobedience. 

I will completely sweep away everything
from the face of the earth —
this is the Lord’s declaration.

I will sweep away man and animal;
I will sweep away the birds of the sky
and the fish of the sea,
and the ruins along with the wicked.
I will cut off mankind
from the face of the earth.
This is the Lord’s declaration. (1:2-3)

Haggai prophesies against His people for not be concerned about what is sacred and belongs to God as much as they are about their own possessions and lives.

Zechariah proclaims that God's judgment and wrath was against Judah for its wickedness, and so He sent them into exile, but His wrath is now against its enemies. He states,

"For the idols speak falsehood,
and the diviners see illusions;
they relate empty dreams
and offer empty comfort.
Therefore the people wander like sheep;
they suffer affliction because there is no shepherd.

My anger burns against the shepherds,so I will punish the leaders. (10:2-3a)

Malachi proclaims judgment against Judah for defrauding God in terms of what is due Him (tithes, covenant children, religious leaders who sanctify themselves, etc.).

All of the prophets speak God's judgment as a warning that God isn't playing around with sin and rebellion. He seeks the repentance of people everywhere. The warning itself is meant to be a catalyst for salvation. It provides the means through which one can wake up from the slumber of sin and be restored to God. It also provides comfort to the people of God that their destroyers will be destroyed. In other words, these judgments and proclamations of God's wrath are intended to be rebukes that bring about repentance, which in turn, brings redemption. But they are almost never perceived as such by the prophet's contemporaries. In fact, it always seems as though it is the generation that comes after the judgment has taken place that finally "gets it," simply because the reality of the destruction that has occurred forces them to receive the prophet as a genuine prophet, and to therefore, receive his rebuke. But the prophets are almost always rejected by their own generation. Even the Lord Jesus said that "a prophet is not welcome in his own home"; and that it was the very people of God, the ones who should have recognized God as a God of wrath and judgment, who repays evil with destruction, who persecute the prophets for saying negative and judgmental things toward God's people. 

There are many examples outside of the prophetic books that display this unwillingness by those who claim to be of God to acknowledge that God is impartial and is indeed a God of wrath when it comes to sin. Even the greatest of the prophets in the Old Testament are not heeded in their time. Elijah is called a troublemaker for calling upon God's judgment for Ahab's sins. Moses is both ignored and rebuked for speaking judgment on Israel in the wilderness. Elisha is mocked as a fool rather than honored as a wise man sent from God. 

So, in asking how our pomo generation would receive the prophets, we need only to look at how they receive the doctrine that God is a God of wrath and judgment when it comes to sin. In doing so, I'm afraid that many within our generation are simply repeating the pattern of their unbelieving ancestors, who once thought that God was not like that, or that they were somehow immune from His judgments because they had some special understanding with God that allowed them to continue in unrepentant sin and self worship. I'm afraid that those who reject preachers of God's judgment and wrath upon sin today are but echoes of those who have perished in the past. They speak well of men who tickle their ears with pleasant things that can neither teach them about the just nature of God nor aid them in turning to God for redemption (as the Lord Jesus said, "so they treated the false prophets in the same way"); but they speak ill of those today who would proclaim His righteous wrath and judgment upon sin and self worship (and so the Lord proclaimed, "so their fathers used to treat the prophets in the same way"). 

In any case, it should be clear to all who know the Bible, that if your God is not the God of the prophets, then he is not the God of the Lord Jesus who vindicates the prophets, and he is therefore, not the God of the Bible (Old or New Testament) either.

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