Where are the prophets?
The prophets were not hyper mystical individuals as Christian tradition evokes, rather, they were thinkers, academics, social critics, community organisers; pressing for socioeconomic reforms for the people. They tackled the issues of their time headlong by Speaking Truth to Power, hence they were unpopular with the elites of their time.
When the Old Testament makes reference to the phrase: “Then the word of the Lord came to…”, or, “The Spirit of the Lord came upon…”; these were not some trancelike episodes, but the translation of their ideas to their audience. From their ideas of Yahweh and their vision of how their society should work, they spoke in the place of God.
They were highly controversial within the circles of mainstream thinkers, and hugely unpopular among the elites; in fact they were marginalised. They were mostly on their own, they suffered poverty, violence and persecution. They did not speak for money, recognition or power, hence the story in Kings of the greedy disciple, and that of the Unknown Prophet. But they were filled with desire for social justice, so much so that Jeremiah chose a celibate life.
They drew insight from history, cultural trends, classical texts, wisdom texts, poetry, and geopolitical developments around their world. Once the seeds of their ideas were uttered they came alive – although invisible. These ideas will catch up with their times, often revisited decades or even centuries after they were born. Dear friends, their ideas outlived them and are now mainstream.
To this end Jesus spoke against those in authority in his time:
“You snakes! You brood of vipers! How will you escape being condemned to hell? Therefore I am sending you prophets and sages and teachers. Some of them you will kill and crucify; others you will flog in your synagogues and pursue from town to town. And so upon you will come all the righteous blood that has been shed on earth, from the blood of righteous Abel to the blood of Zechariah son of Berekiah, whom you murdered between the temple and the altar.”
– Matthew 23:33-35
So, in response to the question: Where are the prophets? I say, they are with us. But can you see them?