Reflection: 2 Corinthians 3:2 – 3
A few of the Old Testament prophets were more than just messengers declaring God’s pronouncements, they became part of the message, as they demonstrated in their lives the significance of their message. The symbolism they took on, undoubtedly at God’s behest, was intensely personal, often coupled with a challenging lifestyle. Hosea’s experience comes to mind instantly as he narrates a heart-wrenching account of his marriage to Gomer, a known prostitute: an allegory of Israel’s unfaithfulness to Yahweh (Hos 1-3). The familial metaphor of a husband’s relentless pursuit of his unfaithful wife despite her habitual sinfulness, symbolizes God’s unswerving commitment to redeem His people. He even gave his children names that reflect God’s relationship with capricious Israel: Jezreel (the site of royal infidelity to God’s instruction – 2 Kings 9:7-10:28), Lo-ruhamah (means ‘not pitied’), and Lo-ammi (means ‘not my people’). Perennially, wherever they go, their uncustomary names raised questions, reminding Israel of God’s reproof of her spiritual adultery during King Jeroboam II’s reign.
Likewise, during the reign of Judah’s King Ahaz, Isaiah too, chooses revealing names for his sons (Isa 7:3, 8:1-4), Shear-jashub (means ‘a remnant will return’) and Maher-shalal-hash-baz (means ‘speeding to the plunder, hurrying to the spoil’), transforming his family into living-walking epitaphs of the impending destruction of the House of David, as Ahaz turned his back on God and trusts his political allies for his own preservation. Much later, the prophet went around naked and barefoot for 3 years as a sign of what will happen to Cush and Egypt (Isa 20:1-6).
Ezekiel, using his body, enacts a siege on a model of Jerusalem made from a soft brick, epitomizing an impenetrable wall that God had placed between Himself and the city as He turned His back on them. He lies on his side for over a year, bearing the nation’s punishment for apostasy. Later, he burns his hair after shaving it off his head, carries baggage, digs a hole in the wall, and wields a sword (Ezek 5:1-4,12:1-20, 21:1-32), all in the hope that these Divine warnings will lead to Judah’s repentance.
When it came to Jesus, God became the ultimate Message and Messenger in the embodied Word (Jn 1:1-5): the image of the invisible Father (14:8-11, Col 1:15), who holds all things together by His power (Heb 1:3). It is this life-changing Message and Messenger that is transforming us. We will perhaps never deliver the kind of messages the prophets of old had done, but our world in many ways is not all that different. Like the Corinthian believers, we need to be mindful that we are ‘letters to be read’ by those around us, in the midst of injustices, transgressions, evil, pain, suffering and death. We need to be mindful how our life speaks to others of the power, freedom, and gracious love that Jesus offers. We need to be mindful, like the prophets, that we never are in control of our lives. And we need to be ever mindful that Jesus is all we will need, as He is all we have at the heart of life itself!