Prophets minister in times of crisis, sounding the alarm, warning Israel of impending judgment whenever it has failed to seek the Lord, calling it back to its mission in the world…The prophets are complainers. They rant; they rave; they threaten. The prophets rail against Israel’s worship, the monarchy, the cultic institutions, and the general lifestyle of the people. They aim their criticisms at the habits and presumptions, the complacency and waywardness of Israelite society.
A student once asked me why the vast majority of my criticism in lectures targeted the contemporary church and Christian culture rather than the sins of the secular world. I answered that I was merely following sound biblical precedent. The prophets do not expend their critical energies complaining about the militaristic cruelty of the Assyrians. Nor does Jesus deliver scathing rebukes of the easy syncretism of Roman culture. Rather, both level their criticism at Israel, the people whom God had called to be his light within a sin-darkened world (pp. 188-189).
Like the prophets of old, perhaps there are some Christian bloggers who are called to rant, rave, and rail against the Church’s worship, institutions, and “the general lifestyle” of her people. Perhaps we need someone who will “aim criticisms at the habits and presumptions, the complacency and waywardness of [Christian] society.”
However, the prophet’s ministry was not merely one of indictment, but also one of encouragement:
But the fact that the prophets focus on the covenant people of God shows that their complaints and threats have a positive purpose: to call the covenant community back to faithfully obeying the God who had redeemed them by his mighty deeds on their behalf…The problem the prophets address is not some failure inherent in the promises of provisions of God but the failure of Israel to respond rightly to God’s gracious initiations. Rather than being characterized by faithfulness and love, rather than being a light to the nations through its embodiment of covenant life, Israel engages in idolatry, gross social injustice, and religious syncretism. There is no shortage of religion and ritual, but the people have forgotten the covenant. They have forgotten why Yahweh had delivered them from Egypt and elected them, why he had given them the land, and why he had given them his law…The situation calls for a policing of Israel’s response to the covenant. the prophets assume this role. Thus we might think of them as covenant enforcers (pp. 189, 191).
So also Christian blogger-prophets ought not to merely criticize the Church, but also call the Church “back to faithfully obeying the God who had redeemed them by his mighty deeds [the life, death, and resurrected life of Jesus] on their behalf.” Christian bloggers have a unique opportunity to be “gospel enforcers,” to preach the good news of the New Covenant to the people in the pews as well as the preachers in the pulpits. God’s people must be reminded that the root cause of the Church’s failure to live out her calling to be and act like the New Covenant community of Christ is our failure to respond by faith to the New Covenant, the gospel (see Galatians 5:6).
Therefore, the Christian blogger should not insist on innovation in the Church as an organization so much as invite the Church as an organism to return to her first love. Williams reminds us that:
What the prophets denounce is not the institutions of Hebrew religion but rather what the Israelites had come to make of these things…The prophets are not confessional, political, or social innovators. Rather, they serve as heirs and interpreters of a tradition that goes back to Moses and Abraham. They call Israel back to its true character and calling, back to the law, back to the covenant (pp. 190-191).
Too many bloggers decry the practices of the Church as culturally irrelevant, suggesting that the solution to the Church’s poor reputation in today’s culture is a willingness to blend and bend a little. But, as Ezekiel 36:16-38 suggests, the problem is not that God’s people are too different from their neighbors, but that they are not different enough. God’s solution was the New Covenant, the promise that through Christ he would transform his people into a community that would bear and bless his name among the nations. so that they might see the difference and be drawn to it. Like Ezekiel, the blogger-prophet must help remind the Church of her true identity as God’s beloved covenant people who by his grace flesh out the Royal Law of Love (James 2), serving as bondservants of their King in the place he has put them.
So, to sum up these thoughts, I’m suggesting that these descriptions of the Old Testament prophet might serve as a call for Christian blogger-prophets to speak from God in order…
- to point out the waywardness of God’s New Covenant community, the Church, and
- to point the Church back to heart-rending, life-transforming belief in the New Covenant promises as they are proclaimed in the gospel of Jesus Christ,
- being careful not to promote innovative change in the institution as much as proclaim Christ’s invitation for the Church to remember their identity as his beloved bondservants.
One last thought: The OT prophets “spoke with divine authority” (Williams, page 194). They knew their message was from God. They did not presume to speak for or from themselves. Even as they rail against corruption and rally the Church to gospel-centeredness, Christian bloggers (including me) must remember Peter’s encouragement in 1 Peter 4:10-11:
As each has received a gift, use it to serve one another, as good stewards of God’s varied grace: whoever speaks [or blogs], as one who speaks oracles of God; whoever serves, as one who serves [Christ and his Bride] by the strength that God supplies—in order that in everything God may be glorified through Jesus Christ. To him belong glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen.