Think about the basic human emotions we get to preach on: joy, sadness, comfort, anger, and serenity. Now think about the prophets—which emotion most often characterizes them?

A few examples:

"Hear this word, you cows of Bashan on Mount Samaria, you women who oppress the poor and crush the needy and say to your husbands, 'Bring us some drinks'" (Amos 4:1).

"Stop bringing meaningless offerings! Your incense is detestable to me. I cannot bear your evil assemblies" (Isaiah 1:13).

"Should you not know justice, you who hate good and love evil; who tear the skin from my people and the flesh from their bones; who eat my people's flesh, strip off their skin, break their bones in pieces, chop them up like meat for the pan?" (Micah 3:1b-3).

Don't the prophets strike you as kind of cranky? Not only do they use angry words, prophets resort to shock tactics that often look downright bizarre:

—Hosea marries a prostitute to show how unfaithful the people have become;

—Ezekiel eats food cooked over excrement to show people how defiled they've become,

—Jeremiah digs up a filthy, buried, unwashed undergarment to show people how repulsive their behavior was.

The prophets are filled with this stuff. No wonder those of us who preach often avoid them. Our listeners don't always like it. We don't like it. (Does anyone really want to encourage such prophet-like behavior in their congregation?)

We like happy books. In most of our churches, it is easier to preach comfort rather than judgment, mercy rather than justice, because by the standards of God's justice, who can ever measure up?

On the other hand, these passages are in the Bible. In fact, the prophets directly account ...