“But I will put hooks in your jaws and make the fish of your streams stick to your scales. I will pull you out from among your streams, with all the fish sticking to your scales!” Ezekiel 29:4
This prophecy against the Pharaoh of Egypt firstly paints the allegory of his imagining that he is the King of the Nile, a great river dragon (crocodile), and then tells him how God will bring him down. At first I was puzzled by this picture of sticky fish, but it seems that this particular Pharaoh was unseated by an upstart who had the support of the Egyptian people. The fish in the river are his people, not as he thinks, his loyal subjects, but heavy weights, maybe even a parasitic burden in this imagery.
Even kings with great power may be unthroned, and if all the fish in the river get together, they can suffocate a crocodile. Earthly prestige and power may be foiled by the actions of the powerless. Again and again God shows us that he likes to use the lowly to bring down the mighty. The Magnificat contains one of the most beautiful, heartfelt expressions of this facet of God:
“He has performed mighty deeds with his arm;
he has scattered those who are proud in their inmost thoughts.
He has brought down rulers from their thrones
but has lifted up the humble.
He has filled the hungry with good things
but has sent the rich away empty.” (Luke 1:51-53 NIV)
We should never, then, despise the poor or the humble, but rather count them as world changers and tools of God. How often has the Lord used a shepherd or a fisherman, a prostitute or a teenager to kill the Goliaths of this world? We would be better counting ourselves among those at the bottom and the edges of society, among those the world says are unlikely to achieve anything grand, for with God anything is possible, and he loves to defy our closed minds and crack open our hard hearts.
Better a poor and lowly shepherd boy with a stone, a teenage soon-to-be carpenter’s bride, a stuttering outcast prone to seeing fiery bushes, than a proud and arrogant crocodile, thinking himself invulnerable in his scaled hide and protected by his great jaws, who then has these imagined strengths used against him.
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“Elisha stared at Hazael with a fixed gaze until Hazael became uneasy. Then the man of God started weeping.” 2 Kings 8:11 NLT
What must it feel like to be stared at by a powerful prophet of God? I should think Hazael must have been squirming inside. And yet Elisha was far more ill at ease. He wept because he knew what Hazael was to become, and that he was to do terrible things. It is a scene that was surely part of the inspiration for Macbeth, since Elisha predicts Hazael will become King, and Hazael takes this prophecy into his own hands and kills the current king, his master, the following day.
The things in the future that Elisha saw Hazael would be responsible for, which he called terrible and Hazael hears and calls “great”, are truly awful, murderous acts. It must have been beyond distressing for Elisha, and yet as a prophet he clearly felt impelled to tell the upstart his future, though we might wonder why. Some of us might say, well, if Elisha knew that Hazael would do all these terrible things, and kill the king, he should have stopped him, maybe even killed him. But to me, Elisha’s acts of staring and weeping are commensurate with his role. He stared because he saw and the seeing made him weep. But I am sure that as well as the future mapped out, he could see the heart of this man full of darkness before him. In fact, I think for a prophet the seeing and the reaction to it always go together. If we can see someone’s heart, we also see what they are capable of. This should make us uncomfortable too, for the Lord looks first and foremost at our hearts: “The LORD does not look at the things people look at. People look at the outward appearance, but the LORD looks at the heart.” 1 Samuel 16:7 partial NIV
If your inner motives and greatest desires were being examined by a seer right now, would you be uncomfortable? I guess we all would up to a point. But knowing the heart is the seed bed for all sin and all belief, perhaps doing a little inner seeing might do us all good. When we bare our souls and consciences before the Lord in the prayer of examen, or we do soul or shadow work in prayer or with trustworthy mentors, this is a good thing. To know ourselves well means we can be on the alert for the things that would prompt our wicked desires into wicked actions, and we can ask the Lord to guard us and help us weed out those seeds. It is good to cultivate healthy heart desires, to pray for the Lord’s promptings to be the things that motivate us. I fear that men and women of God might weep to read the leanings of some of our hearts today. Lord have mercy.
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