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Written by Jim Jordal   
Tuesday, 26 October 2010

ELIJAH SPEAKS TRUTH TO POWER (PART 2)

By Jim Jordal

Cry aloud, spare not, lift up thy voice like a trumpet, and show my people their transgression, and the house of Jacob their sins.

Isa. 58:1 (KJV)

I hate, I despise your feasts, And I can't stand your solemn assemblies. Yes, though you offer me your burnt offerings and meal offerings, I will not accept them; Neither will I regard the peace offerings of your fat animals. Take away from me the noise of your songs! I will not listen to the music of your harps. But let justice roll on like rivers, And righteousness like a mighty stream.

Amos 5:21024 (WEB)

Last week we investigated why and how the prophet Elijah, under threat from a wicked dynasty, dared to speak truth to greedy, tyrannical King Ahab of Israel. And speak truth he did. When Ahab and Jezebel conspired to murder the commoner Naboth in order to seize his property, Elijah confronted Ahab with this challenge: "Thus says the Lord: Have you murdered and also taken possession? In the place where dogs licked the blood of Naboth, dogs shall lick your blood, even yours." Later, when Ahab said to Elijah, "Have you found me, O my enemy," Elijah replied, "I have found you, because you have sold yourself to do evil in the sight of the Lord."

Consider also the above passage where Amos reflects God’s displeasure with religious festivals and sacrificial offerings unless they are accompanied by justice and righteousness. I imagine that view was not too popular with religious authorities of the day, nor would it be today. Amos spoke truth to power—both sacred and secular—without fear or apology. If he could do that then, why don’t we have more prophets doing the same today?

Why is corruption and malfeasance among national economic and political leaders almost always exposed by whistleblowers, malcontents, and the media; and almost never by the clergy and other ecclesiastical leaders? It seems as if the generic church speaks out only on issues involving sexual behavior, violent crime and sometimes poverty—but seldom on the causes of these behaviors. So why has the church seemingly lost its voice on so many other pressing political/economic issues of the day? If the prophets could speak out back then, why not modern churches today?

One reason is that the modern church in its mad scramble for members and money tends to minimize the historical prophetic function in favor of a more people-friendly type of gospel. They define "gospel" as the good news of salvation, which it certainly is. However, it’s also much more: it’s nothing less than the good news of deliverance, not only from sin, but from all forms of human oppression—political, economic, social and even religious. And it’s not just deliverance in this life, but in that to come.

 

Another is that prophecy now is defined more as apocalyptic fortune telling than as thundering forth God’s word and truth. Yes, certain prophets did reveal God’s future plans, but basically their function was exposition of God’s will and purpose to their people and national leaders. When you hear the term "prophecy" used in religious circles today it generally means a rather fundamental detailing of the "last days" using terms such as rapture, tribulation, mark of the beast, antichrist, and so on. Rarely does prophecy include speaking truth to power by presenting God’s laws for national and human betterment and demanding accountability and transparency on whatever issues arise.

Another is a misapplication of the biblical doctrines of law versus grace. Many church leaders view the function of the church solely in terms of preaching the gospel of salvation through grace, and not much else. When we persist in minimizing or even discarding large portions of God’s Old Testament commandments on justice and equity because they don’t fall under our definition of "grace," we lose a good portion of what we could learn from the prophets and the law of God. Grace is of God and is our gift from him: but so too is the law and the prophets.

Christ properly ended the sacrificial and ceremonial ordinances since they were no longer needed. Not so with the law and the prophets, because their strength of purpose and clarity of message is needed today as much as back then.