2 Things Outdoor Leaders Can Learn from the Hebrew Prophets

hebrew prophets

They looked and acted “weird” but actually were the “normal” ones.

How Wilderness Ministry Models Effective Prophetic Ministry

Like the Hebrew prophets of the Old Testament, Jesus is willing to be controversial and push things to their logical conclusion.  He has a jealous love for people’s souls.

The Hebrew Prophets Seemed Weird but Look Closer and You’ll Find They Were the “Normal” Ones

The ministry of the prophets during biblical times was crucial for the health of society.  And in many ways, wilderness ministry is a conduit for bringing a healthy and much-needed prophetic perspective to people we lead in the outdoors.  In Education in Ancient Israel, Swift helps us understand the important role of prophetic leadership:

Through their spoken public addresses and writings they became creators of… social ideals, critics and inspirers of public policies, denunciators of social wrongs, preachers of individual and social righteousness….  In fulfilling each of these capacities they were acting as public teachers.  In every national crisis they were at hand to denounce, to encourage, to comfort and always to instruct.  They were the public conscience of Israel, the soul if it’s religion, the creators of public opinion, its most conspicuous, its most revered, its most convincing teachers.  (38)

The Prophet’s Blunt Edge | It’s the Things We Can Understand that Really Get Under the Skin, Not the Things we Can’t

F.F. Bruce observes that just like the prophets, Jesus had two kinds of hard sayings:  1. Those that were hard to understand, and 2. Those that were too easy to understand!  Mark Twain even picked up on this as he read the Bible. He once remarked that the things that bugged him the most about the Bible weren’t the things that he couldn’t understand, but it was the things that he could understand that really got under his skin.

Wilderness ministry can be a very effective tool to reveal that to be “weird” in the world’s eyes is actually “normal” in God’s eyes. How ironic.

Take Action

  • Take a few moments and think about the Scripture you have been reading lately. Jot down a passage or two that is hard for you to understand. Could it be hard to understand because of the callousness of your own heart?
  • Now join in the ranks with Mark Twain for a moment: Are there any passages that you DO understand that are really getting under your skin? If so, try to be brave and say “yes” to whatever God might be saying to you in those passages.  Beware of the obvious.

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10 thoughts on “2 Things Outdoor Leaders Can Learn from the Hebrew Prophets

  1. I love that Jesus is controversial. I love how He pushes the boundaries, especially when dealing with Pharisees. Really, how much more controversial can you get than living a sinless life? That is the weirdest and most unnatural thing you can find. This carries over to us as Christ-followers in receiving grace.

    This kind of ‘weird’ makes people uncomfortable because most people want you to be just as screwed up as them so they feel normal and ok. When the prophets came into the picture, they had a closeness to God that was not understood, and they often brought challenging messages that forced people to deal with some messy things. Even if you’re not eating locusts in the desert and preaching on the street corner, people will probably think you’re weird because hearts are stirred when something about God can be seen in you. But this ‘weird’ is really the normal because those ‘weird’ people have been restored by God to how they were originally made – pure.

    I also found the part about Bruce and Twain very interesting. Sometimes it is
    easier to look at the things we can’t understand than to face what we can understand, because it requires us to act. We get hung up often in arguing theories in Christian circles, and often ignore many simple, but important points.

    This mixture of simple and complex in the Bible is part of the controversy of Jesus. As annoying as this combination can be, it allows us to clearly see simple truths while still wondering at the awe of the mysteries of God.
    This post makes me want to evaluate more at what is truly normal despite what society instills in us. And I want to make sure I am not skimming over the parts of the Bible that are easy to understand because I don’t want to deal with their message.

  2. This post was interesting and made me realize the role of an outdoor leader is to not to do things normally but put things in a logical perspective to which people can understand and to help them grow. This shows me God’s character by showing how God is trying to teach us easy things. Sometimes for us it is hard but then we realize the things that are easy that is what teaches us the most. It will teach other people not to overlook scripture and that a good way of teaching people is in the outdoors, where you can use simple illustrations to help you to understand the Bible and see the obvious trues that we might be overlooking. Through this though I would like to learn how the prophets of old used the outdoors to show people the logical conclusion. Another thing is that I want to know more about how crucial prophets were during biblical times and how they can be examples to how outdoor leaders should lead today? I would like to see some examples of some Old Testament prophets and hear the ways an
    individual shows us to teach to the outdoor communities. If we know this then how can the people in the outdoor community go about becoming leaders to teach people effectively? Thanks for making me realize that when I look at something to try to see it in its logical meaning.

  3. Reading this post reminded me again of how easy it is for Christians, especially those who are constantly surrounded by other Christians, to put more importance on trying to understand the hard parts of the Bible than living out the simple ones. Studying at a Christian University has made me notice this trend. I often catch myself wondering if I, or the people around me, would act differently if we were always around non-Christians. I
    think we would show Christ’s love more freely if we realized that those around us did not know of it. Instead, we let ourselves slide by without letting our love for Christ show because we assume that we can let down our guard around other Christians. This attitude is just what the prophets of the Old Testament wanted to put an end to. They repeatedly made the people aware of their foolishness, their tendency to turn to idols instead of God, and the offerings that they brought with the wrong heart. While there is nothing wrong with seeking to understand the words of God, it is hypocritical and sinful to neglect what we know to be true in this pursuit. Like the Jewish religious leaders who focused solely on the law, Christians can dedicate their lives to studying what God said without surrendering themselves to Him. We must let the love of Christ consume our lives instead of allowing the study of Him to numb us to His glory.

  4. God is so strategic. It is such an obvious truth, yet sometimes I forget it. Today in one of my classes, we spoke about the prophets and their audacity. We discussed how the prophets were not afraid to speak the hard truth, meanwhile calling people back to God. Evidently what we talked about today in class coincides perfectly with this post. Indeed, through these things, I was reminded of the fact that God is constantly speaking. Sometimes it is in whispers, yet other times His messages to us are loud and clear. Sometimes God speaks to us through others and sometimes He speaks to us in the quiet place. Needless to say, God constantly speaks. I was profoundly reminded of this today. Something else that I was reminded of was of the courage that it takes to listen to God. More times than not it is easier to live life without looking at what is in our heart. However, when we live a life that is unexamined we, like the post mentioned, miss out on God’s jealous love for ALL of our souls. This post definitely helped to give me a spark of hope that I can have courage to examine myself and see where I am callused, failing, and broken. Furthermore, I think that this post will help others to partake in self-examination as well, for it certainly communicates the need for introspection. In another blog post, I would be interested to hear of other’s journeys of self-examination. As we are all a body of believers, I think that God can teach each of us something from everybody else’s brokenness and journeys with Himself.

  5. This post reminds me that my posture while reading the prophets is often with a feeling of strange wonder. I often find myself wondering what is going on. Perhaps I need to take a different approach at my method of reading, and rather than seeing the prophets as “weird,” trying to relate to them as followers. I believe that this should help me in the future to hopefully teach on these books. God’s character truly is interesting. We get so caught up in the ways of the world and what “normal” means in society’s eyes that we forget what God is really calling us to. Obviously there is some overlap, but still, a refresher of who God truly is and was is never a bad thing.
    This post also makes me want to do a book study on a major or minor prophet! It would be interesting to learn from a new book of the bible!

  6. This post brings up many things that our generation does not like. It started out by stating that Jesus loved bringing up controversial issues. While some people love to argue things out, most prefer to take a more chill approach or even run from confrontation. Another point is that reading scripture is too hard, or too easy. Sometimes I would rather have the meaning spelled out to me, but also have it seem like I did all of the work. The blog ended with a description of Christians being weird. We are social outcasts to many, but we fit in perfectly with God’s crowd.

    These three things can make Christianity tough. But it is also these three things that make it worth it. We have been called into this life and we are to .fully take it up no matter how controversial or weird we may seem. We will gain much more in the end than those who are normal to the world. The tie to wilderness ministry was great in this post. It is a wonderful way to seek a deeper connection to God so that we are not so influenced by the world.

  7. This post reminded me of how I often say that the weird people in society keep life interesting and make it worthwhile. Your example of this principle in the prophets, as well as how they had an outdoor ministry makes an intriguing point. Additionally, the reminder that one needs to be aware of what God is trying to say through His word is important. The most obvious passages in the Bible that I often scan over are often what I really need to hear. I was reminded how the Gospel is simple, and how God is simple enough that a child can understand him and deep enough to drown the most avid scholar. This is important for individuals to remember: that the gospel is not hard to
    understand, and that if one feels like they are “weird” or “strange,” to remember how much their peers may look up to them for council and advice. I think another blog post fleshing out how prophets were viewed and treated by people in authority and individuals in general would be interesting and perhaps beneficial to help believers see the bigger picture of how people view them.

  8. I love the idea of being ‘weird,’ and to the world that is just what Christians should be. While it may be ‘normal,’ it is super strange to the world because we are supposed to go against the norms, and this was a reminder of that. The prophets were the strange guys that no one understood because they broke the social norms, and I believe that it was Jesus that exemplified this the most. I wrote a blog a while back on how ‘weird’ Jesus was and how that excites me. I don’t need to care about my status in this world because my perfect example didn’t, and He hung out with the weird people. It is and encouragement to know that our Savior knows exactly how we feel when we are on the outside. In fact, we are called to do the opposite things of this world, while, at the same time, living in it, and that is super hard. It’s hard to be different in this world, it always has been, but I think it is a good hard.
    The other thing that struck me in your blog was that we get frustrated by what we can understand in the bible. I would love to see more insight about this! I think it stems from what I talked about first: the Bible calls us to do the ‘weird’ thing, and that can get under our skin. Also, it tends to call us out big time, and that makes us uncomfortable. Thanks for posting this!

  9. I think the structure of this blog fits the content very well. It is pretty short and very clear; just like what this is talking about with Scripture. Yes, there are some very tough scripture passages to deal with. They are hard to understand and often times we are not sure what to do with them. On the other hand, I believe it is very common for readers of the Bible to over analyze, misunderstand, misinterpret and completely miss the point of Scripture.
    People need to understand that scripture is not complicated. Sometimes we do not understand it, but God is very clear about what He expects from us in His Book. Let’s be “weird” together, like the prophets, and share what He shared with us.

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