Bowe and the prophets
Once the people of Israel left Egypt and began their desert wanderings, the wilderness became a time of testing for them and a place to figure out their relationship to God. Barbara Bowe in her book “Biblical Foundations of Spirituality” wrote that it was at Mount Sinai that the Israelites entered into a new relationship with God (69). Through the giving of the Law and the Ten Commandments, God laid out his/her expectations of the chosen people. Bowe says that they were to be a holy people because God was holy. They were to follow the Ten Commandments because these laid out how they were to live with one another. They were to follow certain rituals so that they could remain holy in God’s presence.
We often hear the phrase “chosen people” connected to Israel, and in the Bible we see that the people considered this to be a privilege. However, Bowe states that the people were chosen for responsibility, not privilege (74). They were to live faithfully and show the world who God was. More often than not, however, they lived as though their chosen status exempted them from disaster even though they were not following the God who chose them.
After leaving Egypt, the people had lived in a tribal arrangement without a common leader. As conditions changed in the land, and their enemies became more formidable, the people began wanting a king. Once they were given a king, the nation was no longer a theocracy. Instead, “religion and cultic practice were now the servants of the state” (79).
Monarchy, unfortunately, helped lead the people of Israel away from God. To bring them back, God sent prophets “read the writing on the wall” and speak to the people about the consequences of disobeying God. (83). Bowe writes that the prophets were women and men who dared “to challenge the status quo and who served as essential agents for social change” (84).
The prophets had unshakeable faith and they stood as mediators between God and the people.
The role of prophets declined after the exile, when the people of God began to take the covenant more seriously, but their role still exists today. They are still people who are uncomfortable with the status quo, who hate sin and who encourage people to hope in the midst of trouble.
I felt like Bowe’s chapter on prophets was excellent. Her description helped me understand people who fulfill that role in my life and she also challenged me to take that role more seriously in my own life. Sometimes I notice that I get stirred up about issues and when they are not solved, I let them go and move on. Bowe encouraged me to live in that passion for God’s word and for righteousness, to lift up the cause of the poor and the distressed. She encouraged me to become more of a poet and a dreamer (105), one who can see possibilities rather than resting in the status quo.