GRUMPY OLD MEN
What the Old Testament Prophets Can Teach Us
By Valerie McIntyre
I’ve always been strangely attracted to the Old Testament prophets. Strange, because what would a fairly sophisticated NYC (now London) gal have in common with a group of apparently grumpy, sometimes reluctant, mostly old men? Let’s take a look… The mighty prophet Elijah had just decimated the priests of Baal in a miraculous show of fire that was so potent it turned a collection of water soaked wooden altars into smoldering ash. 400 Baal priests died that day. And yet, when faced with the threat of a woman, Elijah literally picked up his flowing “skirt” and ran. Stubborn Jonah finally made it all the way to evil Ninevah where he camped out under a God-given vine for shelter while he awaited the total destruction of this ancient capital. But when God sent a hot wind to wither the vine (and refused to destroy the city), Jonah was so upset he wanted to die. Honestly, he had just survived a few days in the stinking belly of whale, what was a little sunburn? And then there was Moses. He said no so many times to God’s call that by the time he said yes he had basically given up his “right” to speak, that privilege being given to his brother Aaron. The list goes on. Poor, long suffering Jeremiah was such a pariah to the king they threw him down a sewer pit to shut him up. Eli was a drunkard, and a bad father. Hosea married a prostitute. So, what do I find so alluring? What is it about these prophetic men of God that attracts me? Their humanity. They were human. Even after a major success they felt deeply afraid. Even when they had stared death in the face (or in the bellybutton) they were desperately disappointed. They served and still found all their dreams dashed. You would like to think that they all triumphed, and some did, but not all (at least not on this earth). They were human. Humanity matters. When God wanted to reach us he had to send Himself as a man because how could we ever trust Him if he didn’t know, firsthand, how tough it was to live here, in this world, doing this life. These Old Testament men, they knew what it was like to have a message that could save and still be shut out and shut down. They might have been able to bring fire down from heaven, but they still needed water when they were thirsty and a friend when they were lonely. A human friend. A hand they could hold. I like these men. I love these prophets because they were real. They help me feel better about myself because with all the power they had going for them they still “had their moments.” Just like me. But when push came to shove they didn’t lose their faith. They had their eyes set on a future place, a heavenly place, a city where God lives. And so do I.