Why Prophets Cry in the Wilderness

In Matthew 3 (part of the reading for the second week of Advent), John is a prophet who cries out from the wilderness, warning even the people who know the Bible the most that they, too, need to repent of their sins before they are caught up in judgment.

Until tonight (Sunday), the thought never occurred to me: why does this voice have to come from the wilderness? Why not a synagogue or the Temple?

One answer is, Isaiah predicted it that way, so that’s how it had to happen. Okay, I understand that. But I also wonder if sometimes, our houses of worship don’t get so bad that prophets have to sound off from the wilderness because the wilderness is the only place willing to accommodate the relentless cries of the prophets.

In word, churches want to follow Jesus and to become more like him. And I think that’s their goal in most things, too. But it’s very easy for churches to become places where we get comfortable and complacent. We think we’re secure because of something other than our repentance–our returning, on a daily basis, to the God who made and loves us. We aren’t willing to hear warning cries, because aren’t warnings for people who don’t know Jesus? Aren’t those for the “world”, not Christians?

Sadly, and against our best efforts, sometimes our churches that were designed to be a place where you could hear the voice of God becomes the kind of place where you go to keep Him out.

Because being comfortable in a false sense of knowing Him is better than having to listen to people like John.

People like John tell us that if we have more than enough food or clothing, then our excess belongs to the poor. People like John tell us to be content with what we earn for a living. People like John are the type of people we wish would just shut up, not because they’re not speaking from God but because they are and we don’t like what He has to say.

So I suppose a challenge for me this week is this: look at the purpose of my spiritual activities–church, small group, prayer, readings–and look at whether I’m doing those things to actually hear the wild Voice or to find a replica of it, something that sounds godly but isn’t actually strong enough to shake up my life. 

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