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The queen of Israel, Jezebel, wanted to kill the prophet Elijah. So he hid in the desert, knowing that no one would go into a death zone to kill someone. They would have considered him already dead. But God came to Elijah by way of an angel to give him food and water. Elijah was then instructed to go to the Mount of God. And so the prophet got up and walked for forty days and forty nights. Think about that for a moment. Imagine traveling through the most barren desert on the planet without, a water fountain, a mini-mart, or shoe stores to pick up a fresh pair. Why is God so hard on us? Why not meet nearby in an air-conditioned restaurant? Elijah learned something from the experience. He learned that no matter how hard the circumstances or the situation, God will sustain you. You can imagine when Israel had a seven-year drought, Elijah had a very helpful message for them.
Hosea, the prophet, was married to an unfaithful wife. In those days, they were allowed to dump the partner and get a new one. But God told the prophet not to do that. “Try to win her over.” He tried, but it did not work. God didn’t care, He told Hosea, “Keep winning her over.” What did the prophet learn from that experience? He discovered that God is not like us! We like to push the delete button on the people who no longer have use to us. But not God. He never gives up on us. That is a powerful message for the unfaithful Israelites: “You can always return to God.”
Ezekiel was in a concentration camp, hundreds of miles away from his home in exile. It was his thirtieth birthday, the day he was to be ordained in the Temple in Jerusalem. Needless to say, he was very sad. He was sitting by the river and he looked up and saw a cloud coming toward him. In the cloud, there was a chariot, and God was driving the vehicle. God left the temple to be with Ezekiel on his birthday and anoint him a prophet. What did the prophet learn from that experience? He now knew that no matter where you are or what situation you find yourself, God will come to you. That was a terrific message to give to his fellow captives. There is a pattern here. Prophets must experience and learn the message before they deliver the message.
My father grew up during the Depression. His family had no money and often he went to bed hungry. In the winter he was always cold in the house. But that was not the most difficult experience he had. He told me that the hardest thing he ever had to do was to quit smoking. Everyone smoked in the army because at the time no one knew it was hazardous. He told me, “If you didn’t start smoking, you will never have to quit.” That was a powerful message, and it resonated with me. My father saved me from cigarettes.
Sometimes we may wonder why God can be so hard on us. Why does God not make life easier? Actually, we learn through difficult moments. And the knowledge and experience can help people. Remember, a prophet has to experience and learn the message before he or she can deliver the message.Back to All Homilies