Prophets are often rejected because they remind us of how far we are from God’s dream. Yet, Jesus says there is still time to be just that.
We live in a society of virtue signaling and tribalism.
We gain prestige in our people groups if we can be the first to denounce this or support that. We celebrate those quickest to grab the pitchfork and torches and malign others as being too slow on the draw.
We have never been more willing to call each other racist or overly sensitive. We have never been quicker to condemn even in the absence of evidence.
Problems we never knew existed are now just a click away.
People we would never know are suffering are strewn across our screen and they all need you to give them five dollars.
There are more would be prophets with larger stages and bigger microphone than ever.
What are we to do with them all?
How are we to know what to get upset about and what is just noise?
To put another way, how do we know if we are listening to the clanging of a symbol and how do we know when we’ve been sent a prophet from God to minister to us?
Being a prophet is a hard job.
To be successful, you have to be willing to make people mad.
As Jesus reminds us Jerusalem, home of Israel’s elite ruling and religious classes, do not treat prophets well.
But in their defense, the prophets ranged from annoying to disturbing.
The Hebrew scriptures are filled with prophets.
They came from varied backgrounds and had various, shall we say, communication styles.
Isaiah was actually pretty palatable. He pointed out Israel’s mistakes but also foretells the hopeful future God has instore for the people.
But then you have one’s like Hosea.
He’s a big fan of metaphors. Hosea once compared Israel’s infidelity to God with a man married to a prostitute. And as if he needed to put a finer point on it, he married a prostitute himself to be a sort of living metaphor.
Prophets were prone to a low quality and quantity of life because they put a mirror up to the face of Israel as whole and its collective individuals.
They may have had different ways of saying it but boiled down they all really say: Israel, you’re not acting like yourself. You’re not acting the way God made you. Repent and turn again to the Lord or face the consequences.
Prophets hold a mirror up to society.
And they don’t hold the mirror the way we like it.
They don’t move the mirror until the lighting is just right.
They don’t hide our unflattering characteristics out of sight.
They don’t lie. They are like the child who looks up at you and says, “when did you get all of those wrinkles?”
The job of the prophet is not to flatter but to expose.
And exposure is darn uncomfortable.
The prophet doesn’t have time for rationalizing.
The prophet doesn’t have patience for excuses.
Just like a mirror the prophet just shows you how things really are and leaves you to draw your own conclusions.
There are times when the conclusion is conviction.
There are times when we get a word from a prophet and it cuts us to the heart.
We know what they are showing us in the mirror is only too true.
Remember Jonah, the whale guy?
When he finally made it to Nineveh he says that the city will be overthrown in 40 days.
Immediately a fast is declared, the king trades in his robes for sackcloth and even the animals fasted.
The city saw what it had become and turned to the Lord. Seeing this, God did not visit destruction on Nineveh.
So, what do you do to a prophet who delivers an inconvenient truth?
What do you do to a mirror that shows you something you don’t like?
Well you could smash it.
And that’s what Jesus tells us Jerusalem does.
They kill the prophet.
Or, when they’re feeling nice, they ignore the prophet.
Either way, what the mirror reflects stays the same.
The problems don’t go away just because you destroy or ignore what shows them.
And yet, God will just keep sending them.
He will keep giving us a chance to look in the mirror.
But not because he is cruel or wants to tease us.
No, because he loves us.
He knows that if what’s in the mirror doesn’t change, someone he loves in going to get hurt by the consequences.
The chickens always come home to roost.
The track record for individuals and societies adverse to repenting is not good.
And yet, even today, God desires to gather up all who have grown ugly with sin to recuperate under her wings.
Looking in that mirror is darn hard.
It might be the hardest thing you do in your life.
You will see things you haven’t wanted to look at in years.
You will need to be brave to look.
But be brave today.
Know it’s not too late to look in the mirror and say, “God, I don’t look like myself. I need your help.”
Even today, God is waiting for you to turn again to the one who made you in his image.
Even today God is ready to help you to turn around.
Even today and most importantly God is saying there is no one in that mirror that I don’t love.
There is nothing in that mirror that I don’t love.
So, don’t break that mirror.
Look at it.
Because God will keep sending them until you do.
For the love of God, look at it.