Editorial: On the Preaching of Prophets and the Pulling of Hair

We all differ; an understatement of course! Part of the process of maturing is the ability to accept others and not to think that everyone must act and think the same as you do.

Perhaps the difference between those who served God is seen nowhere in greater contrast than in the men who were instrumental in the return from Babylon and the building of the Temple and the wall: Ezra and Nehemiah, and Haggai and Zechariah.

When Ezra heard of the failure of the people to maintain separation, he tore his hair out, rent his clothes, and sat down in grief and repentance before God (Ezra 9:3). What of Nehemiah? When he heard about the intermarriage of Israelites with the heathen of the land, he pulled out the hair of the guilty rather than his own (Neh 13:25). You may well think this a more appropriate response. Their different actions are reflective of two entirely different personalities; yet God used the man for the moment. More importantly, they worked together for the blessing of the nation. When Nehemiah traveled to Jerusalem, he was accompanied by the king’s soldiers. Ezra’s conscience, however, after testifying to the sovereign care of God, would not allow him to ask for a band of soldiers for protection (Ezra 8:21-23). Was one right and the other wrong? This is not situational ethics; it is sensitivity of conscience and personality differences.

Haggai and Zechariah differed as well in many ways. Haggai was the practical, no-holds-barred, direct, conscience-stirring preacher who roused the people from their lethargy. He saw the present and its effect on the future. Zechariah was the visionary, the man who saw the future and its impact on the present. Haggai’s preaching is relatively easy to understand, even if difficult to receive and to carry out. Zechariah’s is difficult to understand but thrilling to the heart. Each man influenced the people of God and caused the Jews to rise up and build (Ezra 5:1-2). We read that they prospered through the prophesying of both of these men (6:14).

The Lord Jesus took a group of men from diverse backgrounds and callings and molded them into a band that “turned the world upside down” (Acts 17:6). No human resources expert or corporate headhunter would have ever tapped any of them for leadership or success. Yet the Lord patiently worked with them and fulfilled His promise: “Follow Me and I will make you … ” (Matt 4:19).

Even a cursory glance around your assembly will reveal many diverse personalities. An acceptance of others, vision to see, not their problems, but their potential, and a willingness to labor together is vital for assembly growth and prosperity.

You may prefer, as would most of us, to have an Ezra who pulled out his own hair rather than a Nehemiah who might pull out your hair. You may prefer the soothing and thrilling strains of a Zechariah instead of the conscience-probing words of a Haggai; but remember that God has gifted each and “tempered the body together” (1Cor 12:24) according to His wisdom.