It seems inevitable that if someone hangs out long enough with the ancient Hebrew prophets, they’ll start to sound like one. The same unvarnished straight talk, the same open-throated passion for God’s holiness, goodness, and love, the same glaring light of truth on how we, as followers of Jesus, capitulate to our culture and lower the bar for ourselves from who God calls us to be and to do as his children.
People familiar with Walter Brueggemann’s writings will be nodding their heads in agreement. He is, in the estimation of many, a modern day prophet. It is next to impossible to read his writings or hear him speak without feeling the weight of conviction and powerful stirrings of hope.
I’m currently reading Brueggeman’s Hopeful Imagination: Prophetic Voices in Exile—his discussion of the works of the prophets Jeremiah, Ezekiel, and Isaiah.
His section on Ezekiel, the chapter titled “Tough and Submissive,” opens with the following story that reflects the conflict of every Job sufferer in the Bible, the bracing honesty of the psalms, and our own anguished wrestlings. We are caught between the need to speak the truth of our hearts before God and to kneel in worship, trust, and adoration.
Brueggemann and the prophet Ezekiel open wide the door for both.
Elie Wiesel tells a Hasidic story of rabbis who debate and dispute with God over the destruction of God’s people. They challenge God, scold, berate, reprimand God in an abrasive fashion, surely beyond propriety and in violation of normal piety. After this has gone on a while, surely longer than God would wish, one rabbi in the discussion reminds the others that it is time for prayer. The rabbis leave off their abrasive argument with God, don their prayer shawls and bow down in reverence and devotion before the Holy One.
. . . It often happens that these two postures are seen as mutually exclusive. Either we will dispute or we will bow down, but we do not know how to do both in the same life. To be tough and submissive, to be prepared for dispute and for bowing down, is an invitation to a free life with God. . . . It is that capacity to be open in many postures with God that leads to vitality in faith.