So YHWH says this: “If you return, then I will bring you again; you shall stand before Me.”. . . Jeremiah 15:19
Stand Before Me – My friend turned away and walked to the street. The dirt-floor, one-room house with two small children overwhelmed this Wall Street success story. When he heard they had not eaten in two days, he could hardly hold back the tears. From a world of pointless affluence, he was plunged into the extreme poverty of the masses. In an instant, he was lost. His carefully-organized world collapsed. We would all have the same reaction. What should we do? How do we know the right path when so much is unclear? What we desperately need is a prophet.
Abraham Heschel points out that the prophet was more than a messenger from God. He was a man who stood in the presence of God. He was a participant in God’s vision of the world. The prophet was not a soothsayer, a fortune teller or a mystic. This unique position allowed him to cut through the chaff, the ephemeral and the mystical in order to bring God’s perspective to us. In other words, the prophet is not simply one who delivers the mail. He is a co-author of the letter. A prophet can be direct about God’s will because he shares God’s heart.
Just for a moment, a fleeting moment, imagine the life of a prophet. What is it like to share God’s heart about the world? What is it like to see injustice as God sees it? What kind of pain does He feel over the destruction of His children, His world, His image? How does God feel about those who turn away from Him? How is His spirit injured when we choose unfaithfulness? What must it be like to love so deeply that you are willing to die to rescue and still find rejection, rebellion and resentment? How does His heart ache over those who wander away in ignorance? How angry must He be when His precious ones are led astray on purpose? The prophet shares in the heartache of God. That’s why his insight is invaluable. He isn’t just a man with a mission. He is the revelation of God’s evaluation of our world. The prophets die not only because men refuse to turn to the truth, but because the burden they bear is more than mortal men can carry. The are crushed under the weight of divine sorrow. They die from compassion for God.
God reveals the routine of life, the steps needed to participate in His grand plan. The prophets don’t need to remind us of these steps. They are clear enough in the Torah. The prophets come to exhort us to feel as God feels, to empathize with the pathos of the Creator, to break down in tears and trauma over the tragedy that is unfolding before us. Then we will rise to follow His path. Then our questions for guidance will be folded into His agony and His joy for the redeemed. Being lost is but a symptom that God’s grief is drawing near. Perhaps today the prophet’s words will spur you to see the world as God sees the world. You may expect to cry. I am sure that God does. Nothing will change until we cry God’s tears for Him.
Topical Index: stand before me, lefanai ta’amod, Jeremiah 15:19