Truth to Power (February 5, 2013)

…Opening To…

If you look at a window, you see flyspecks, dust, the crack where junior’s Frisbee hit it. If you look through a window, you see the world beyond. Something like this is the difference between those who see the Bible as a Holy Bore and those who see it as the Word of God, which speaks out of the depths of an almost unimaginable past into the depths of ourselves. (Frederick Buechner)

…Listening In…

When God saw what they did, how they turned from their evil ways, God changed his mind about the calamity that he had said he would bring upon them; and he did not do it. But this was very displeasing to Jonah, and he became angry. He prayed to the Lord and said, ‘O Lord! Is not this what I said while I was still in my own country? That is why I fled to Tarshish at the beginning; for I knew that you are a gracious God and merciful, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love, and ready to relent from punishing.’ (Jonah 3:10—4:2; context)

…Filling Up…

The second word that we say quite often when we talk about the Bible is “Prophecy.” This is possibly the single most misunderstood word in the English language when it comes to Biblical interpretation.

Prophets are not fortune-tellers or predictors or spiritual meteorologists. Prophecy is not about predicting the future. Prophecy is about telling the truth of the present in order that the future may change. This last sentence is the one that will be on the pop quiz, so let me say it again: Prophecy is about telling the truth of the present in order that the future may change. Prophets call people back to God and hope that those people will listen and change their lives.

The story of Jonah illustrates the true nature of biblical prophecy. People usually remember the bit about the fish, but there is more. Jonah goes to the city of Ninevah and says, “Forty days more, and Nineveh shall be overthrown!” He says this to shake them out of complacency, to get them to turn back to God. And they do: the city isn’t destroyed! Does this make Jonah a false prophet because his words didn’t come true? No. Quite the contrary: Jonah succeeds as a prophet because the people listened and changed. (What’s funny is that Jonah himself gets a little sour with God for not destroying the Ninevites. Jonah didn’t understand his own Job!)

“Prophecy” is about telling present truth, especially telling present truth to the powerful, not about predicting the future. Martin Luther King Jr. was a prophet. The Nostradamus was not. Telling truth to power doesn’t just happen in the big places of the world — in government, society, religion. You can be prophetic today at school or at work. If you see an injustice happening, speak out. And in a way, you’ll be following in the footsteps of the prophets.

…Praying For…

Dear God, you are merciful and you abound in steadfast love. Help me to recognize the situations I find myself in during the present so that I may make good decisions about the future. In Jesus Christ’s name I pray. Amen.

…Sending Out…

I leave this moment with you, God, endeavoring to learn more about you, learn more from you, and learn the best ways to be your child in this world.

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