Really sucked you in with that title, eh? Anyway, something I have been thinking about for a week is how my context uses the prophetic texts in sermons. The Prophets are rich and expansive in what they tell us both about God's character and the human heart. What we often hear are those beautiful passages of God's restoring actions and His ability/desire to heal, redeem, and bless. These passages use powerful metaphors and strong language to speak of God's love and power to bring his people back to a good land, a state of blessing, a state of unswerving fidelity to Him.
What is not so often touched on in is what precipitated the need for restoration as pointed to in the Prophets. The reason Nebuchadnezzar is at the gate is rarely the makings of a popular sermon. But the reason exiles were longing for home, and the reasons old men stood and wept at the foundations of the second temple in Jerusalem, remembering the splendor of Solomons', is that the judgement came and was not abated by confession and repentance on the part of the King or his people.
So often, the chapter before restoration, if one turns the page to the left from these golden texts of God's tender mercies, reveals the anger of a spurned husband. The Prophets spoke against the sin of the nation, of the corporate reality of their turning away from God. The Prophet not only addressed the King but also his subjects in their infidelity to God, their mistreatment of the oppressed and the stranger, as well as their disregard for the poorest among them. Judgement comes to the disobedient, but judgement comes to bring repentance, renewal of relationship. All judgement that precede the final one are for the purpose of restoring God's people to right relationship. This is one thing the Prophets tell us.
I love the prophetic texts, and the hope they bring. I am depending on the words of the prophets even now. But the prophets not only give us something to shout about, but also to weep about. There must be discernment in recognizing the voice of the prophets, discernment in rightly dividing their words of truth. We must hear all their words, and take up the Burden of the Lord they have delivered.