Q: Jesus’ actions in the story of the fig tree (cf. Matthew 21:18-22; Mark 11:12-25) seem to be in the tradition of some of the Old Testament prophets. Could you please give me an example of how one of them uses a symbolic, dramatic action to illustrate his teachings?
A: One example would be in the life of Hosea. His actions were quite dramatic, including marrying a prostitute to show how God bound Himself to an unfaithful, idol-chasing Israel. When she abandoned him to return to her former lifestyle, he sought her out and took her back again, showing how the Lord also sought out sinners — even wilfully disobedient members of His Church — and brought them back to Himself. Hosea also gave his children names reflecting God’s judgment yet the Lord used them also to show His mercy.
If we were to crown a “king” of action prophecy in the Old Testament, two candidates step to the front of the line. One would be Moses, the agent of God’s plagues against Egypt. A convincing case can be made that the plagues targeted specific gods of Egypt, attacking or perverting their sacred creatures and places and turning their “blessings” into woes.
The other strongly action-oriented prophet is Ezekiel, who did all manner of things to illustrate the message of the Lord. For example, in Ezekiel 4, he used a brick as a model of Jerusalem and laid siege to it. Continuing the siege, he then lay bound by the Lord on his sides to show the times of sin and judgment on Israel and Judah. Such prophetic actions continue throughout the first part of the book.
Send email to Ask the Pastor.
Walter Snyder is the pastor of Holy Cross Lutheran Church, Emma, Missouri and coauthor of the book What Do Lutherans Believe.