A Prophetic Life
“Speaking prophetically is to comfort the afflicted and afflict the comfortable.” So my preaching professor ingrained into my head. Examining the Old Testament prophets, this is certainly the case. Isaiah’s message of condemnation to an overly comfortable Israel shifts to one of conciliation given to a nation in exile. Jonah’s message is one of condemnation. Once the Ninevites become aware of their precarious state, that God’s judgment is impending, it changes to one of comfort (there are still 3 days!). Amos condemns those who persecute the poor, performing both tasks with the same message at the same time. The one who speaks prophetically always speaks comfort to those who are oppressed and speaks against those who are too comfortable. God always sides with the oppressed, and always calls for reform from the comfortable.
As such, the one who proclaims a prophetic message will always, in the midst of that proclamation find themselves rejected in the dominant cultural paradigm. This does not mean that if you find yourself ostracized and treated poorly you are a prophet (you could just be a jerk, I don’t know). It does mean, though, that if you don’t find yourself meeting opposition, that you are likely no true prophet. Prophecy is not everyone’s calling and is not for the faint.
This is the background to Jesus’ parable. Throughout Israel’s history they had been sent prophets, and the prophets were mistreated. Elijah, the paradigm for post-kingdom prophets, was probably the most rejected of all, but you see similar points by Jeremiah, Ezekiel, Samuel, and others. By being part of the establishment of Israel and the Israelite temple under Herod (under Rome), the chief priests and teachers of the law knew they were part of the establishment that Jesus had come to condemn. Now, being before them, they fail to recognize the irony as they plot to kill God’s Son.
They made the same mistake everyone makes at some point. But they failed to recognize their error. The fact is, the earth, and all that is in it belong to the LORD, not to you, not to me, not to anyone else. The earth is the Lord’s and all that dwell therein. He’s come to reclaim what was left to our care.