Wandering around the campus of Ole Miss, you can’t escape the past. There are old buildings and old trees. And there’s an old memorial to the Lost Cause, the house divided, as well as a new one to James Meredith, the first African-American to attend the University. Yes, memories of valor abound and they remind us we should humble ourselves presently because we just might not be as smart as we think.
If you’re reading the Old Testament with us at St. John’s, Solomon is no longer with us. And now that Solomon is dead and the kingdom is divided, we will encounter more powerfully the voice of the prophets as we continue reading. Yes, prophets, and those who have functioned in the prophetic role, have been around, including the likes of Moses, Samuel, and Nathan. But now these characters will take center stage. We’ll encounter first Elijah and Elisha and then others like Amos and Isaiah and Jeremiah and Hosea, who have left a written record of their of their divine pronouncements.
But what is it these emissaries from God will speak to the people of Israel and the people of Judah? In a word, faithfulness. Now that Solomon is dead, the needed word that reverberates with such power from Yahweh through his prophets to his people is one of faithfulness—cultic faithfulness and faithfulness to the divine image in one another. The former is about loving God, the latter about loving one another. Jesus, of course, had something to say about this too.
Now that Solomon is dead and the kingdom is in disarray, the prophets will offer a simple and yet powerful message of faithfulness, by which they simply mean this: Worship Yahweh only. And do justice and love mercy.
If you want a taste of how important the marriage of justice and mercy are, wander around Ole Miss. The memories of the past are there to haunt us and to give us hope for the future.
If you’re wondering how important the notion of divine image is, assume it doesn’t apply to a group or class of people and see how quickly we turn on them.
If you’re wondering how to cultivate a proper understanding of yourself and others, cultivate a life of worship, not of self, but of the God who gave us his image and then took on our likeness.