Walter Brueggemann makes a case for God’s people to recapture the prophetic imagination of God’s prophets. He calls us to recapture it because we are encapsulated by our surrounding, dominant, and pervasive culture. Starting with Moses he demonstrates to the reader how God’s people are to be a part of an alternative community. Moses was not simply interested in social justice but he was preaching a message that ushered in God’s re-creation. The Israelites had been enslaved so long that they did not know an alternative to their way of life as slaves.
The story of the Exodus is the story of God’s people being rebranded, reshaped, retooled, and reborn again into a new society. Moses was not simply a prophet that predicted the future he was also a forth teller. Liberals and conservatives will restrict prophesy into those two categories. Prophesy includes both aspects but at the heart it is critical of the world’s present systems and energizes people toward new realities.
Brueggemann describes energy as being closely related to hope. Moses and other prophets utilize both criticism and energy. They bring both energy and criticism to call people to interact with history. Interacting with history is participating in HIStory, the story of God. This is God’s narrative that includes a new tomorrow and societal betterment.
To recapture the prophetic imagination, we cannot settle for societal change through repentance but the dismantling of oppressive social regimes.
The cultural strongholds that do not allow a full and abundant life in Christ must be broken. The false doctrines of imperial royal consciousness must be countered. To defeat these enemies, we must be concerned with not only how we say things but how we know what we know.
The wealth of our western world causes people to laugh through life when they should be weeping and wailing. Laughter is associated with people who seem not to have a care in the world. They are buoyant and sleep well at night. They haven’t a need from others nor God. They see themselves as self-sufficient, self-made, and powerful. Their privilege and upward mobility cause them to say, “all is well.” They are optimists. They can be in denial of the poverty and oppression surrounding them and will even deny that they have a hand in it.
They believe in triumphalism but the irony is that they are least equipped to overcome the problems of life.
Like health and wealth word of faith preachers they deny the struggles and depression of life and don’t want to hear of such grave things as cancer, hunger, war, or injustice.
The modern-day prophet must reject friendship with the world and embrace friendship with God. In the New Testament letter that James writes he addresses a church that has problems. They were following the false teachings of some leaders who are encouraging them with worldly wisdom, peace keeping and not peacemaking, and the pursuit of wealth to give themselves happiness, status, and fulfillment. But they were not receiving what they wanted and so they slander one another and were filled with bitter envy and selfish ambition.
Henry Nouwen writes in his book, The Selfless Way of Christ,
“We know deep down that money, power and status cannot give us the inner joy and peace that we crave.”
This is the criticism of the world, seek God first and his kingdom through Jesus Christ. The energy we give people is that through the poverty of Christ we become rich.
The crucifixion of Jesus is the ultimate act of prophetic criticism. He ends death for all who believe in him. Death is not our friend but with Christ death is not to be feared. Only the passion of Christ can defeat the apathy of the world. Only the resurrection of Christ can energize the numbness of the world. Only the announcement of these realities can create a new humanity.
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