…Moses, Miriam, Elijah, Deborah and Isaiah are often considered the five great prophets of the Old Testament. Miriam is treated in the Bible as second only to Moses. Elijah is revered as unequaled in power and scope. Isaiah is regarded as the preeminent witness and Deborah as the greatest of the Judges.
… They were all insiders. Moses a son of Pharaoh and the leader of Israel. Miriam as the head of the mid-wives and as second to Moses. Elijah as the head of the school of the prophets. Deborah as a judge. Isaiah as a preeminent courtier and member of the Court as well as the religious hierarchy.
… And then we have Jeremiah.
… As was noted in my ward’s Gospel Doctrine last Sunday, Jeremiah was a complete outsider. His confrontations were as much with the religious hierarchy as they were with the government.
. Which led several people to ask, how can you tell the difference between a Jeremiah and Nadab and Abihu or similar challenges to the hierarchy?
… Since I wasn’t prepared for that question to come up, and was only in the audience, I didn’t have an answer and just listened to the discussion, but it hit me that it combines some of the core of the Old Testament.
… As far as authority and challenges to it, the big points of the Old Testament are:
… 1. Generally, when God speaks to prophets, he isn’t as clear as we would like. Consider “he said, “Listen to my words: “When there is a prophet among you, I, the LORD, reveal myself to them in visions, I speak to them in dreams” or in riddles and communications hard to understand (Numbers 12:6, . A Moses is unusual – even Miriam wasn’t a Moses, nor was Elijah.
… 2. Prophets and the official hierarchy can be fairly out of line. Consider Eli’s sons, followed by Samuel’s sons.
… 3. Usually, rejecting the hierarchy for their wandering or faults or the faults of those they have put into power (again, see Eli and Samuel) isn’t generally as justifiable as you might think. “for they have not rejected you, but they have rejected Me” (1 Samuel 8:7).
… 4. Yet, every-so-often there is going to be a Jeremiah – but they are rare. God eventually pulls things back. (2 Thess. 2:3-4 indicates just how far it can go first — so does the book of Jeremiah — Jerusalem is destroyed and everyone is carried off into captivity).
… As far as a Church goes, the Old Testament reflects just how fluid things are as to form. Abraham didn’t have a home teaching companion (and neither do we these days). Sometimes the priesthood is limited to a family or a tribe, other times it spreads more widely. I don’t think that Daniel had sacrament meetings like we do, or personal priesthood interviews.
… Which tells me (making use of New Testament citations that are easier to use in some cases):
… 1. We probably do not know as much as we think we know. “In fact, people who think they know so much don’t know anything at all” 1 Cor. 8:2. 1 John 3:2.
… 2. God wants our trust more than our certainty. Luke 13:27. 1 Samuel 15:22. Luke 18:9-14.
… 3. Actions, love and caring for others, are more important than profession (statements of orthodoxy or belief). Matthew 7:23. 1 John 2:4. Isaiah 58:10-11.
… 4. We see through a glass, darkly, but that is part of free will and agency. 1 Corinthians 13:12. God never reveals enough that we lose freedom.
… I think we often stumble because we expect a Moses when we have “just” a “regular” prophet. Given that even Moses had his flaws (and Miriam and Aaron did not get very far when they tried to make a point about those flaws), I think that the underlying lesson is that there is a great deal of room for humility and patience.
… As for Jeremiah, while I admire him, I also remembered that he spent most of his ministry imprisoned in wet holes in the ground and finished it being stoned to death in Egypt by people who ignored him except to use him as a talisman or express their frustrations with him after a holocaust destroyed the nation he was in.
… What are your thoughts?
… What would you have added to the lesson?
… What comments would you have had that I missed the chance to add.
… Post Scripts.
… While not a major prophet, Amos was also an outsider.
… Amos 7:14
… “Then answered Amos, and said to Amaziah, I was no prophet, neither was I a prophet’s son; but I was an herdman, and a gatherer of sycomore fruit”
… For more on Jeremiah:
… Jeremiah grew up in the small town of Anathoth three miles northeast of Judah’s capital, Jerusalem. While close geographically, the two communities were far apart culturally and politically. Jeremiah was born into the priestly line of Abiathar, but had little standing with the priests in Jerusalem. Solomon had removed Abiathar from authority centuries earlier (1 Kings 1:28 – 2:26) and replaced him with the priestly line of Zadok in Jerusalem.
… When God called Jeremiah to be his prophet in Jerusalem, the prophet found himself in the midst of priests who did not accept his inherited priesthood. Jeremiah remained a suspicious and disliked outsider throughout his long career in Jerusalem. Those who face cultural, ethnic, racial, linguistic, religious or other prejudices in today’s workplaces can identify with what Jeremiah faced every day of his life.”