Prophets have notoriously been treated poorly because their messages are often hard to hear. Most of them held Israel accountable for injustice and dealing harshly with the poor, orphan, widow, and immigrant. When the people looked back on their history from the perspective of exile, they saw their unfaithfulness. They wrote their history (Kings and Chronicles) from that perspective, telling the truth about the corruption of their leaders. They repented for their failings and rejoiced at the opportunity to return and try again. And yet, thousands of years later, we still make the same mistakes.
Part of the challenge for prophets and those who hear them is this: How do we know that they are sent by God? How can we be sure they speak for God and not for themselves? It’s particularly difficult when we hear words that portray us or our community in a harsh light. We may want to hide from them—or silence them.
Work together as a family/household as you participate in the activities and readings.
Read: Amos 5:10-15 and Jeremiah 8:8-12
God has had enough of Judah’s idolatry. The people worship anything and everything except the God who loves them. If you heard these words today, what might they sound like? Would you welcome them or feel offended and upset?
Read: Isaiah 43:1-7
This is one of my favorite passages of hope. It reminds the people that, even when times get difficult, God is with them. How might this passage go if it were spoken to us today? What promises could you hear in it?
Watch: Way of Exile: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XzWpa0gcPyo
Discuss: The elements that determine a prophet are:
Call—God usually gives prophets a vision and mission, a special message to convey to a certain people.
Content—The message is often harsh and challenging (to both hear AND say). But there are also messages of grace and hope for a broken heart.
Community—Prophets typically spoke to the community of which they were a part. The message was as much for the prophet as for the rest of the community.
Consequences—Just like when parents warn about what will happen if you continue bad behavior, there were also consequences for the people of God when they misbehaved.
Can you name modern-day prophets? What was their message? Who was their community? What are the consequences? Where is the hope?
Extra Credit (for 2 sermon notes): Sometimes, when messages make us uncomfortable, we want to silence them. This is why groups of people seek to ban books that portray different ways to view the world. Find a site with a list of banned books (here is an example) and choose a banned book to read during Lent (one you haven’t read before). Will you share what you learn to our groups when we reconvene? Why do you think it was banned?