In follow-up to yesterday's post about the prophets, here are some words from Eugene Peterson in his introduction to the section of the Prophets in his contemporary English translation, the Message.
"Everyone more or less believes in God. But most of us do our best to keep God on the margins of our lives, or, failing that, refashion God to suit our convenience. Prophets insist that God is the sovereign center, not off in the wings awaiting our beck and call. And prophets insist that we deal with God as God reveals himself, not as we imagine him to be.
The prophet's purge our imaginations of this world's assumptions on how life is lived and what counts in life. Over and over again, God the Holy Spirit uses these prophets to separate his people from the cultures in which they live, putting them back on the path of simple faith and obedience and worship in defiance of all that the world admires and rewards. Prophets train us in discerning the difference between the ways of the world and the ways of the gospel, keeping us present to the Presence of God.
For a people who are accustomed to 'fitting God' into their lives, or, as we like to say, 'making room for God,' the prophets are hard to take and easy to dismiss. The God of whom the prophets speak is far too large to fit into our lives. If we want anything to do with God, we have to fit into him.
The prophets are not 'reasonable,' accommodating themselves to what makes sense to us. They are not diplomatic, tactfully negotiating an agreement that allows us a 'say' in the outcome. What they do is haul us unceremoniously into a reality far too large to be accounted for by our explanations and expectations.
Their words and their visions penetrate the illusions with which we cocoon ourselves from reality. We humans have an enormous capacity for denial and for self-deceit. We incapacitate ourselves from dealing with the consequences of sin, for facing judgment, for embracing truth. Then the prophets step in and help us to first recognize and then enter the new life God has for us, the life that hope in God opens up.
They (the prophets) don't explain God. They shake us our of old conventional habits of small-mindedness, of trivializing god-gossip, and set us on our feet in wonder and obedience and worship. If we insist on understanding them before we live into them, we will never get it.
One of the bad habits that we pick up early in our lives is separating things and people into the secular and the sacred. We assume that the secular is what we are more or less in charge of: our jobs, our time, our entertainment, our government, our social relations. The sacred is what God has charge of: worship and the Bible, heaven and hell, church and prayers. We then contrive to set aside a sacred place for God, designed, we say, to honor God but really intended to keep God in his place, leaving us free to have the final say about everything else that goes on.
Prophets will have none of this! They contend that everything, absolutely everything, takes place on sacred ground. God has something to say about every aspect of our lives: the way we feel and act in the so-called privacy of our hearts and homes, the way we make our money and the way we spend it, the politics we embrace, the wars we fight, the catastrophes we endure, the people we hurt and the people we help. Nothing is hidden from the scrutiny of God, nothing is exempt from the rule of God, nothing escapes the purposes of God.
Prophets make it impossible to evade God or makes detours around God. Prophets insist on receiving God in every nook-and-cranny of life. For a prophet, God is more real than the next-door neighbor" (1195-7).