Jeremiah, like Isaiah, is a massive literary work. Five of these lengthy books are referred to as the Major Prophets: Isaiah, Jeremiah, Lamentations, Ezekiel, and Daniel. The Minor Prophets are shorter, though nonetheless significant. The prophetic tradition of Israel was a current word to the people of God in a time of apostasy or distress—both a word of warning and a word of hope. Note, though, how often Jeremiah recites the tragic words “but they would not listen.” Hearing, listening, and obeying are constant themes throughout Scripture, a theme continued by Jesus. “Let anyone with ears to hear, listen!” (Mark 4:9) . . .
When Israel broke the divine covenant, Jeremiah proclaimed the Lord’s righteous anger. But since this is God’s covenant sustained by God’s authority, “the word of the Lord that came to Jeremiah” proclaimed a word of hope as often as it threatened a word of judgment.
Justice is God’s foundation but compassion is God’s essence.
Surely I know the plans I have for you . . . plans for your welfare and not for harm, to give you a future with hope.Jer 29:11
As you read the book of Jeremiah and other biblical writings, remember that the word proclaimed by the prophets, the stories recalled by the narrators, and the witness offered by the faithful storytellers of Scripture is a word for the community of God.
Sometimes we moderns tend to read the Bible as if it is a personal letter written just to me. Consider the lovely verse above, which is a favorite of many faithful Christians, and consider how the meaning shifts if we take that promise as assurance of some specific divine plan for an individual in contrast to its meaning for a hopeful future for a community of God’s people. We Western individualists would do well to critique our self-centeredness and continue to grow in our practice of community . . .
Jeremiah’s indictment of the politics of his day makes me ponder the politics of our own time. These prophetic proclamations against religious leaders who subvert politics (and/or against political leaders who subvert religion) could be chronicled almost verbatim in our own day and age . . .
Some of us may be called to be prophets within this death-dealing culture of ours. We may be called to publically proclaim prophetic wrath for the creeping death that damages our own society. Such a calling will move us out of our comfort zones because such a ministry will conflict sharply with the self-righteous fury of the status quo.
But, if (and when) we are called, we can be confident that God will accomplish God’s will within us.
Read more at Charlotte Vaughan Coyle, Living in The Story: A Year to Read the Bible and Ponder God’s Story of Love and Grace (Resource Publications).