Interpreting The Times

Some of the Old Testament prophets dabbled in the performance arts, that’s for sure. However, not all of them.

For most of these guys, it was a matter of delivering a message to the people with good old fashioned words. Spoken or written. When we hear of prophets today, our minds often drift to the Nostradamus mode of prophecy- predicting the future, and that type of prophecy was certainly in the biblical prophets’ repertoire. However, they were often just as concerned with revealing God’s character to people, reminding them of God’s commands and promises, and also interpreting present events in the light of these.

One key aspect of their ministry was seeing layers of meaning behind the very natural events that were unfolding around them or even happening to them. So, Hosea’s wife’s adultery was seen as representative of the unfaithfulness of the entire people of Israel. Similarly, Joel witnessed a devastating locust plague and saw it as symbolic of the ‘great and dreadful day of the Lord’ (Joel 2:31) and therefore presented the crisis as a call to repent.

Jesus expected all his followers to keep their eyes open and see what was really going on behind what was really going on (e.g. Luke 12:54-59). But this expectation must be even more pronounced for his followers who make art. After all, artists are always opening up new layers of meaning to the subjects they attend to. It’s kind of what we do.

As I was reading through Joel in my Bible reading plan this summer, I was reminded of all this. Unfortunately, there weren’t any ravenous grasshoppers munching their way through my city, for me to muse on. However, there were a few hiccups with the bins.

As my fellow Brummies will be fully aware, the bin men went on strike this summer. Bin bags filled pavements all over the city as one of the most basic expectations of first world civilisation, regular refuse collections, fell by the wayside for the best part of 4 months.

It was funny, because I hadn’t thought about any deeper meaning to all of this (rather that is was a massive pain), until, in a church leaders meeting, two of my friends were discussing the symbolism of this whole fiasco. Not to be outdone, I put my mind to penning a verse or two. It probably won’t be pored over in 3000 years and it certainly isn’t God’s infallible word, but I’m pretty pleased with the outcome, which I’ve included above (thanks to Chris Donald for video and sound work).

What’s going on in your life/family/community/city/nation/world that God may be enabling you to interpret to your audience?

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