Summary: Prophets, then and now, don’t just address current events in the life of God’s people; they shape the minds of the people in an alternative consciousness that stands against the dominant worldview of the societies around them.
The task of prophetic ministry is to nurture, nourish, and evoke a consciousness and perception alternative to the consciousness and perception of the dominant culture around us. Thus I suggest that prophetic ministry has to do not primarily with addressing specific public crises but with addressing, in season and out of season, the dominant crisis that is enduring and resilient, of having our alternative vocation co-opted and domesticated. It may be, of course, that this enduring crisis manifests itself in any given time around concrete issues, but it concerns the enduring crisis that runs from concrete issue to concrete issue. That point is particularly important to ad hoc liberals who run from issue to issue without discerning the enduring domestication of vision in all of them. (Walter Brueggemann, The Prophetic Imagination, p. 3)
Summary: YHWH, the God who delivered the Israelite slaves from Egypt, ever-remains an advocate on behalf of the poor and oppressed.
Yahweh had taken the role of an advocate for the slaves in Egypt and had made war on Egypt in order to set them free. The Exodus/Sinai traditions continued to remind Israel, “for you were aliens [elsewhere, slaves] in the land of Egypt,” and you have a God who continues to take the role of advocate for all who are too weak to maintain their own cause, intervening in human affairs as the enemy of oppressors. In Amos’ time, Israel appears to have neglected to apply that principle to themselves, but Amos does so. This was thus not a new idea, making Yahweh the upholder of social justice, but the drawing of conclusions about where Israel stood in Yahweh’s sight based on what they had long been taught about the character of the God of the Exodus. (Donald E. Gowan, Theology of the Prophetic Books: The Death and Resurrection of Israel, pp. 32-33)
Check out my blog- Covenant Lawsuit in Micah: You Have Oppressed the Poor
Summary: Idolatry is not just a violation of a law, but also of a relationship.
Idolatry was not simply a minor ritualistic shortcoming, but it was an abandonment of faithfulness to Yahweh. It struck at the heart of the relationship between Yahweh and his people. Throughout the Old Testament the covenant is often founded on the central covenant formula made by Yahweh: “I will be your God; you will be my people. I will dwell in your midst.” When Israel turned to other gods, they were rejecting this relationship. Yahweh’s departure from the temple (i.e., no longer dwelling in their midst) was an acknowledgment of that shattered relationship. The decision by Israel and Judah to forsake Yahweh to worship other gods had both legal and relational implications. Because they violated the legal covenant stipulations of Deuteronomy, judgment would follow. Yet the seriousness of this sin goes even deeper. Several of the prophets stress the emotional hurt that Yahweh feels at this rejection. For Yahweh, the issue is not only legal but relational- the people he loves so much have forsaken him to worship other gods. (J. Daniel Hays, The Message of the Prophets: A Survey of the Prophetic and Apocalyptic Books of the Old Testament, pp. 64-65)
Summary: A theological explanation of the existence of the prophetic books.
A theological explanation of the existence of the prophetic books may put it this way: God had called a people into a special relationship with himself, giving them a land of their own, addressing them in their cultic ceremonies with the assurance that he had made a covenant with them, and defining their character as his people in terms of a law. He had given them priests to instruct them, kings to maintain justice, sages to guide them, and prophets to warn and exhort them when they forgot who they were. It had not worked. Neither Israel’s worship nor daily life was truly distinct from their neighbors. They were no true witness to the nations concerning the character of their God, and the fate of the widow, orphan, immigrant, and the poor in their midst was no better than in other countries. With the rise of the great empire builders in the Middle East- Assyria, followed by Babylon and Persia- God determined to do a new thing, in effect to start over. The little kingdoms of Israel and Judah would lose their political existence forever, but out of the death of Judah, God would raise up a new people, who would understand about God what most of their preexilic ancestors had never been able to comprehend, and who would commit to obeying his will to an extent their ancestors had never done. The first step to making that happen was to raise up a series of prophets, messengers of God, whose responsibility was straightforward… The kind of prophet represented in the canonical books is thus the one who appears when God determines that a radical change in human history must come about. (Donald E. Gowan, Theology of the Prophetic Books: The Death and Resurrection of Israel, pp. 9-10)
Summary: A God who transcends humans is free to be who he wants to be with no one having the ability to alter who he truly is. A transcendent God thus gives oppressed people someone to appeal to who is greater than their oppressor.
The social purpose of a really transcendent God is to have a court of appeal against the highest courts and orders of society around us. Thus a truly free God is essential to marginal people if they are to have a legitimate standing ground against the oppressive orders of the day. But then it follows that for those who regulate and benefit from the order of the day a truly free God is not necessary, desirable, or perhaps even possible. Given the social setting of most churches in America, these matters may give us serious pause. (Walter Brueggemann, The Prophetic Imagination, p. 23)