by Rosemary Walters
from Signs of the Times No. 69 - Apr 2018

The keywords in this book’s title, ‘justice’, ‘poetry’ and ‘passion’, reveal the author’s conviction that in discerning the priority of establishing justice in a radically changing world, the biblical prophets can be read from the imaginative perspective of the sensitivity and passion of poetry.

As he explains in the preface, these poetic impulses include longing, lamenting and celebrating – this sets the tone for a fascinating, accessible and stimulating journey through the identity, context and mission of the prophets.

The author has constructed the book so it can be dipped into or read sequentially. He grounds it in the belief that approaching the prophetic literature with

an open mind and down-to- earth questions

will challenge the reader to

feel the passions that moved the prophets to speak and to see how relevant they are to our own time.

He effectively demonstrates that the ‘how’ of the prophets’ communication is vital to its content. The key to the methodology of the hermeneutic which Vincent attributes to the prophets, and which sings out from his own voice as author, is the aspiration to encourage the reader to let their imagination work on

the kind of situation that lies behind the words.

This flows into a desire for readers to see the relevance to contemporary situations and

so incorporate them in our big story, our Bible.

This book amply fulfils its objectives. It provides the basic scholarship needed on the factual background, ‘Who were the prophets?’, ‘In their time and after their time’, to enable the reader to begin a confident reflection on a variety of material: Amos, Nathan, Isaiah and Jonah on justice, idolatry and culture in Elijah, the tension between justice and compassion in Hosea, transformation and new beginnings in the later Isaiah, Jeremiah, and Ezekiel. In a series of carefully and clearly titled chapters, information and interpretation from Old Testament, New Testament and current preoccupations blend to illustrate how the accounts of prophetic word and activity stimulate vision and hope for a better world. Vincent argues for the paradox of dreams which can practically change the world, continually taking inspiration from the passion of the prophets to do just that. Sing out for justice is, as Vincent claims, a

kind of introduction to the prophets, but not a textbook.

At the end there are suggested passages for reading. An index to the content of the book would also have been useful, especially for browsers. The heritage of the prophets is convincingly linked to the contemporary struggles for a fairer world, based on faith, hope and love. His concern is that they should be seen to speak to now from their various places in biblical history rather than from a closed and traditionally interpreted ‘original meaning’, historical context or even modern variation of theology. The book will be of great value to those who lack confidence in making this link and avoid focusing on Old Testament lectionary readings in preaching or using  Old Testament material in discussion groups. The conviction of the author in the final chapter that ‘Prophecy For Today’ is a vital component in the ‘faith that takes risks in the real world’, is infectious.

His own writing has the credibility of this conviction - to read the book is to share his energy, enthusiasm and motivation to Sing out for justice.

Rosemary Walters is a Reader in the Parish of St Martin and St Paul, Canterbury.