This month's readings bring to life Elijah, Elisha, Amos, and Hosea, prophets who turn up the heat on the status quo. They show us how God speaks through flame, smoke, water, and wind. Through poems, songs, stories, and powerful monologues, prophets are God's representatives in human history.
In their introduction to The Inclusive Hebrew Scriptures: The Prophets, Craig Smith and Mark Buckley explain both the definition and role of a prophet. "Prophet" means "to speak for," which means the prophet also shares what Abraham Heschel calls "the pathos of God's heart." The prophet listens to, understands, and finally proclaims a message that comes from the very heart of God.
The four prophets, using the language of repentance, call the children of Abraham to return to faithful living. God's uniqueness, faithfulness to covenant, justice, and kindness all mingle to create a portrait of God that confuses and distresses as much as it reveals. But this is not a bad place to be. As Smith and Buckley write, "Prophets revive our capacity to feel and draw our attention to what we would rather not see."
Paired with stories of Jesus' ministry from Luke's gospel, episodes from the prophets' lives can take on new meaning in a world that desperately needs to hear righteous words of judgment and healing. These words can save us from ourselves, but only if we are willing to be led to God's heart.
Malinda Elizabeth Berry is a dissertation fellow at Goshen College in Goshen, Indiana.
2 Kings 2:1-2, 6-14; Psalm 77:1-2, 11-20; Galatians 5:1, 13-25; Luke 9:51-62
As a child, an illustration in my sister's Bible especially caught my eye. It was of Elijah being taken up to heaven in a chariot of fire. I hadn't remembered this story from Sunday school, or at least it failed to make an impression on me. But I was fascinated by this illustration.