The Prophets’ Challenge

Tuesday, December 4, 2012 — Week of 1 Advent, Year 1

John of Damascus, Priest, c. 760

[Go to for an online version of the Daily Office including today’s scripture readings.]

Note: We are now in Year One in the Daily Office Lectionary. We are using the readings on the left side (even numbered) pages starting in the Prayer Book on page 936.

Today’s Readings for the Daily Office (Book of Common Prayer, p. 936)

Psalms 5, 6 (morning) // 10, 11 (evening)

Isaiah 1:21-31

1 Thessalonians 2:1-12

Luke 20:9-18

One of the central themes of the prophetic literature is that God will not spare us from our foolish and selfish choices. Of particular concern to the prophets is the injustice of greed, empty false worship, love of luxury, and indifference to the plight of the poor.

Generally the prophets address the powerful and comfortable with words of judgment. If the leaders continue to use their power to gain power and wealth rather than caring for the poor and the weak, Isaiah says, “You will be like an oak with withering leaves, like a garden without water. The strong will be like dry twigs, their deeds like sparks; the two will burn together, with no one to extinguish them. ” (1:30-31, CEB)

With power comes responsibility. Isaiah and the prophets declare that a central moral value for the nation is the obligation of the powerful to protect the weak and to care for the poor. To do so is to establish justice. Not to do so is to invite God’s judgment. Greed for power and wealth is a primary vice. All of this is the universal message of the prophets. This should be a primary moral value for all Biblical people. When people speak of moral values in politics, this is what the prophets expect — protect the weak; care for the poor; avoid luxury; use power honestly. To do otherwise is foolish and will provoke divine judgment.

The prophets commend an attitude that we see echoed in the Epistle. We are encouraged to be a nurturing people. Paul speaks of his own relationship with the church in Thessaloniki. He was like a nurse, gently caring for his congregation’s growth. Though he was in a position of authority, he didn’t use his power for his own gain, but rather worked hard and responsibly on their behalf. How different might our institutions be — both commercial and governmental — if our leaders adopted Paul’s model of servant leadership?

How do we use power and authority in our lives and in our society? It’s a question the prophets demand that we answer.

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