Waiting in Expectation
The prophet seldom tells a story, but casts events. He rarely sings, but castigates. He does more than translate reality into a poetic key: he is a preacher whose purpose is not self-expression or “the purgation of emotions,” but communication. His images must not shine, they must burn. (Abraham Joshua Heschel, “The Prophets: An Introduction”)
Many people like to think of prophets as fortune-tellers. Nothing could be further from the truth. Prophets are those who see truth clearly and are not afraid to speak the truth, especially to those in positions of power. This makes them anything but popular. Amos was threatened with expulsion from the Northern Kingdom of Israel; John the Baptist was beheaded.
Prophets were also those who had an expectation for the future. This vision frequently centered on a mysterious figure called the Messiah—the Anointed One (in Greek, Christos). Most people saw the Messiah as the conquering hero, the superman, the one who would rid Israel of its enemies and usher in the thousand years of peace. They also stressed that the people must be ready and prepared for the reign of the Messiah. This was a key part of their expectation.
However, Isaiah came up with a new Messianic concept—not the all-conquering demigod of popular myth, but the Suffering Servant. This servant would appear, not brandishing a sword, mounted upon a magnificent steed, but as a tiny, helpless baby, born in a barn to a teenage peasant girl. This baby grew up to live a strange and wonderful life and, like many prophets before him, was murdered by the authorities. What followed, of course, was completely Messianic. Thanks be to God!
Blessed Lord, who caused all holy Scriptures to be written for our learning: Grant us so to hear them, read, mark, learn, and inwardly digest them, that we may embrace and ever hold fast the blessed hope of everlasting life, which you have given us in our Savior Jesus Christ; who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen. (Collect for the Sunday closest to November 16 — Book of Common Prayer)