Grocery store baggers, gas station employees who refill the soda fountains, mailmen and paper delivery boys, the lemonade sellers at baseball games, Walmart greeters, all paleontologists, the inventors of “As Seen on TV” products, Jon Voight, the on-call technical support staff for computer companies, the Big 12 Conference, and stenographers: This blog is dedicated to you. In honor of everything you do that goes unnoticed, in recognition of your tireless behind-the-scenes work, we salute you. Your efforts do matter, and you make a difference in so many lives. On behalf of the countless masses who reap the fruits of your labor, I would like to say “thank you.” … So, thank you.
However, these workers aren’t the only ones left out of life’s “love bombardment.” And so for this reason, I would also like to thank everyone whose jobs make them not only under-appreciated but also “over despised.” That’s right; this is a shout out to all IRS workers, to customer service people, especially those who work at “return” counters after Christmas, lawyers, insurance agents, used car salesmen, concert security staff and all bouncers. To anyone else who experiences animosity because of their job, I’d like to thank you for taking one for the humanity team. We may not always like you, but we really do appreciate you.
Although that introduction was meant to be funny (laughter lengthens life spans, right?) I wasn’t being sarcastic. I truly do want to thank all of those people who work so hard yet so rarely get noticed. Everyone deserves appreciation because everyone matters. Unfortunately, though, people with lower-profile or highly-hated jobs don’t often receive gratitude. This blog is for you.
You may feel alone in your crappy position of employment, you may feel as if you’re the only one who doesn’t get “the love,” but you aren’t. In fact, thousands of years ago lived a group of people who knew exactly how you feel. They lived in a time when people still “killed the messenger” (literally), and their messages were rarely pretty. They were hated, despised, scorned, kicked out, ridiculed and persecuted. They came from all walks of life—from farmers to fig planters—but they all walked the same path. In an era when popular opinion mattered, they won every anti-popularity contest. Underpaid and over-hated, these individuals understood under-appreciation in all its lack of glory. And yet, they stuck it out; they persevered because they knew that not only was it the right thing to do; it was also exactly what God wanted them to do. Who were these brave—and potentially crazy—people? Let’s give a round of applause to….
The Old Testament prophets.
Okay, I know what you’re probably thinking. The prophets? Really? Of all the people to celebrate, why in the world would I choose them? I understand your confusion because, to be honest, not long ago I would have agreed with you. But then I spent a week learning about these sixteen men, and I finally see how awesome they are. And now I’d like to share their awesomeness with you.
Normally, the prophets don’t get much attention from people like you and me. They have funny names that are either impossible to spell or pronounce—or both. (Who in their right mind would name their child Habakkuk? Seriously.) If for some reason you’ve ventured into one of their books at the end of the Old Testament, you likely discovered the second reason that they get overlooked: They use strange language. (Fruit baskets, fig trees, and adulteress wives don’t usually come up in typical dinner conversation—unless maybe you’re on Jersey Shore.) And if the names and the images didn’t deter you, the contents probably will. (Why should the little kids in Edom be murdered? And where the heck is Edom anyway?) For all these reasons and plenty more, most people avoid the prophets like the plague. (Pun intended: Prophets sometimes predicted plagues.)
I generally fall into this category, preferring a Pauline epistle or one of the Gospels to a bizarrely named book with wacky metaphors and seemingly outdated predictions. But having studied them last week at the Kanakuk Institute, I discovered a whole new appreciation for this under-appreciated Bible genre. And while I wouldn’t run for president of the “OT Prophets Appreciation Club,” I get who they were, what they did, and why they matter today. And that’s what I’d like to share with you. 🙂
The prophets were special people sent by God to deliver specific messages. All in all, there were sixteen of them, and they wrote a total of seventeen books to a variety of audiences, including the northern kingdom Israel, the southern kingdom Judah, and some of their enemies (i.e. Edom). Although their specific circumstances were different and their individual messages and audiences varied, the prophets shared one common theme: God’s call to repentance and His perpetual offer of hope.
You see, God loved His chosen people. He called them to be different, special, and set apart. He wanted the best for them, and He knew that this could only be found in a relationship with Him. Like a loving husband, He desired with all His heart that Israel, His bride, would be faithful to Him. He created them, and He alone could satisfy them; He alone could be their God. But Israel wouldn’t listen and instead chased after other gods, making idols and rejecting their one true Love. However, God wouldn’t let them go so easily, so He sent the Prophets to give them this message: “Return to Me! I am the only One for you!” Despite their unfaithfulness, God was still faithful to them. However, the people rejected the Lord and His messengers, turning instead to their new gods and the rulers who told them what they wanted to hear. And because they wouldn’t listen, God let them be taken to captivity, first by Assyria and later by Babylon. But even this punishment was out of love, an effort to get their attention and bring them back.
2000+ years later, God’s message is still the same. He created us, He loves us, and He desperately wants a relationship with each of us. He knows that He alone can satisfy us, that He alone can make us complete. Yet we run after lesser things, making idols of jobs, success, relationships, money—we chase after everything but Him. Although He may not send men with funny names to talk to us, He still got our attention by sending His Son Jesus Christ. Jesus was the fulfillment of the prophets’ message, the ultimate picture of God’s undying love for us. Even if we already know Jesus and already have Him as our Savior, we can still imitate Israel. We can still chase after other things but Him; however, He remains faithful despite our constant unfaithfulness. The circumstances of our lives, the emptiness we may feel, the struggles we face—even the words of the OT Prophets—all point us back to Him.
So just like Israel, we too have a choice to make—not just once, but all the time. Are we going to run away and make our own “broken cisterns that can’t hold water?” Or are we going to run to Him who is the Spring of living water?
Whether you’re a grocery store bagger, an IRS worker or Jon Voight, the choice is yours. And every time you choose the latter, know that sixteen funny-named guys (and one normal-named girl) will be cheering you on. 🙂