“Respectable” Prophets in the Public Square: The Naked Isaiah and the Yoked Jeremiah

John C. Rankin

In the Sacred Assemblies for the Unborn (SAU), the pursuit is for mercy and justice for women and their unborn equally, in the face of great male irresponsibility and chauvinism.

There is the need for Christians of all socio-economic positions to be involved. And for those who have higher educations and income, and for whom “respectability” in the social order might cause them to hold back, let’s consider Isaiah and Jeremiah.

Isaiah lived prior to and after the Assyrian exile of 721 B.C., where northern Israel was swallowed up, leaving only the southern Judahite lands, including Jerusalem, intact until 586 B.C. Isaiah was a scholar and he wrote the most beautiful Hebrew poetry in history, and had access to the royal court. He had his “social standing.” Yet, he warned northern Israel of the coming Assyrian exile, and later warned Judah of the coming Babylonian exile — for the idolatry of sorcery, sacred prostitution and child sacrifice. He was radical enough to obey Yahweh in his methodologies.

The short chapter of Isaiah 20 shows how Yahweh called him to walk naked for three years in Jerusalem. Assyria will  carry away Egypt and Moab “stripped and barefoot .. with buttocks bared” just as they had done earlier with Israel. Can “respectable” Christians thus refuse the prophetic civility of the SAU and Jeremiah 19 Liturgy?

Jeremiah was a highly educated priest who had access to the royal court, and thus, a “respectable” position if he wanted it. But he was faithful in prophesying against idolatry, sorcery, sacred prostitution and child sacrifice, and made many enemies among his peer leaders. He acted out many of his prophetic words at the behest of Yahweh.

In chapter 27, Jeremiah is called by Yahweh to “make a yoke out of straps and crossbars and put it on your neck.” He then walks about Jerusalem wearing it, and prophesies that Judah and neighboring pagan nations will have to submit to the yoke of Babylonian king Nebuchadnezzar in judgment for their sins.

In chapter 29, the false Hebrew prophet Hananiah grabs the yoke off Jeremiah, breaks it, and proclaims a reversal of fortunes for Judah against Nebuchadnezzar within two years. Jeremiah says essentially that time will tell who is right, and  walks away. Shortly thereafter, Yahweh has him prophesy against Hananiah’s falsehood, and Hananiah dies seven months later.

Can “respectable” Christians thus refuse the prophetic civility of the SAU and Jeremiah 19 Liturgy? This liturgy is also rooted in another one of Jeremiah’s public prophecies.

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