One of the characteristics of the prophets was that they could feel the pain of others: they could feel the pain God felt; they could feel the pain that their own people would feel when they came face to face with the judgment that was awaiting them if they did not turn away from their self-seeking ways.
Isaiah in chapter 5:1-7 feels the pain God feels due to the sins of his people. Isaiah describes God’s pain through the metaphor of the gardener and the vineyard. God worked so hard to develop his vineyard, and all he got for all his hard work and for all his watchful care over the vineyard (i.e., the watchtower) was sour grapes. It is a powerful, poignant verbal picture.
Jeremiah demonstrates the depth of his feelings in 8:18-9:1. He sees into the future and says: Since my people are crushed, I am crushed. I mourn, and horror grips me.
This ability to see beyond oneself and feel the pain of God and others was part of the prophetic gift.
This prophetic gift is something that the Lord wants to give each and every one of us. Acts 2:17-18 says that in the last days God will pour out his Spirit on all so all may prophesy. Prophecy is not just limited to “forth-telling”. It includes this incredible gift to see into others’ lives and feel their pain, feel their anguish, and be moved by what is seen.
When we get this kind of vision – the vision of the Spirit, the vision of how God feels, the vision of how others feel – then we are no longer the same. We change. The Spirit takes us and shapes us more into the image and likeness of God our Father and Jesus Christ our Lord. It is this vision that becomes the heartbeat for justice, and it is this vision that becomes the heartbeat for the Unseen Quarter – the unengaged and unreached peoples of our world.