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Jeremiah 14-15

February 27, 2017

This section begins with a notice that the land is experiencing a severe drought. When crops fail and people starve, they naturally turn to God in prayer. (I remember a severe drought in the Midwest during the ’80s that lasted for months, and the messages on church signs for people to pray for rain.)  Beginning in verse 7, Jeremiah pleads with God to end the drought. He acknowledges the sin of the people, but calls on God to show compassion–not act like a stranger or a helpless warrior. This prayer may reflect the prayers Jeremiah is hearing from the priests. It sounds utterly sincere. One would expect God to respond favorably to this humble and confessional prayer.

But God does not. In fact, God goes so far as to tell Jeremiah (v. 11) not to pray for the people! Even if the people fast and pray and make offerings, God will not accept it; instead, sword and disease and drought will consume the people. It is a stark and distressing picture of God’s abandonment of his people.

But God’s judgment is strongest against the prophets who claim destruction is not coming (v. 13), that the people will be safe. They and their entire families will be consumed. Here we see again the problem of discerning who is speaking for God, and who is not. We have a tendency to believe what we want to believe, to be influenced by “confirmation bias.” To discern what God is really saying to us we must be able to be self-critical, painfully honest, and give up all self-serving motives. We must be able to hold together the unconditional compassion of God, and the judgment that comes to all behavior that is rooted in selfishness and fear.

In verse 19 Jeremiah again pleads with God to relent from complete rejection of Judah. Jeremiah (speaking for the people?) acknowledges “our wickedness.” He reminds God of the covenant and asks for mercy “for your name’s sake”–for the sake of your reputation as a merciful and gracious God. He reaffirms that only God is God–not the idols of the nations. He concludes with: “We set our hope on you, for it is you who do all of this.”

Once again one would expect a positive response from God. How could a prayer be more sincere and humble and confessional than this one? And yet, once again, God rejects it (15:1-4). God tells Jeremiah that God will not turn back toward his people even if Moses and Samuel begged him to. Moses and Samuel are obviously meant to be the greatest prophets of all. Moses had, more than once, persuaded God not to destroy the Israelites as they rebelled in the wilderness. But even Moses wouldn’t be able to change God’s mind this time!

A little later in the chapter Jeremiah laments his own condition as a prophet (vv. 15-18). Jeremiah found God’s words and ate them (v. 16), giving him joy. Jeremiah has also made a point of not hanging out with the hedonists (v. 17). So why isn’t God protecting him? Why is he suffering insults? Why is his pain unceasing and his wound incurable? Jeremiah wants retribution on his persecutors. He goes so far as to criticize God: “Truly you are to me like a deceitful brook, like waters that fail.” Strong words! Jeremiah is accusing God of abandoning him as well.

God responds with assurance (vv. 19-21). Eventually, it is Jeremiah who will be vindicated. And indeed, from the standpoint of history, that is what happened. Today we remember and honor the words of Jeremiah; but his adversaries are dismissed by us as wrong.

What will be the judgment of God and history concerning our own times? Who will eventually be regarded as the true prophets, and who as the false ones? Who will be judged as true concerning how to respond to climate change? Who will be judged as true concerning immigration policy? Who will be judged as true concerning how to thwart terrorism and promote security? Who will be judged as true concerning the economy? Who will be judged as true concerning race relations, discrimination, courts and policing? Who will be judged as true concerning abortion policy? Who will be judged true as to what is true news and what is fake news?

As Paul says in 1 Corinthians 14:1: “Pursue love and strive for the spiritual gifts, and especially that you may prophesy.” But remember, without love we’re just a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal (13:1).

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From → Jeremiah

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