Jeremiah has a pattern of hope to hopelessness. God starts saying how the people could fix their relationship with him, but then says they won’t.
Here its done with the covenant. He reminds them of it, says that they could still obey him, then says they never have and never will. He emphasises how long it’s been since then, and how now they have “more Gods than cities”.
Proceeding further into the heart of darkness, God reveals to Jeremiah in a poetic section a plot to take his life. For speaking God’s word! The chapter ends with dire predictions of what will become of the plotters.
It’s a chapter of God’s speaking to Jeremiah, not him to the people, except the poetic section in his voice.
Judgement isn’t a big part of theology day to day in churches. Sure is a huge theme of the old testament though.
Though it’s more like a sort a tagging of God’s direction. This book is the five minutes to midnight before Babylon takes Jerusalem – it’s tagging Babylon as God’s agents.
When AIDS hit there were Christians who tagged that as God’s judgement. And there is a way that any death can be seen that way. But we don’t get to do the tagging.
And it’s different now anyway that Jesus has come. That was just an exercise in cruelty.
Starts with a section about idols, and not learning from other nations.
A returning theme for a few chapters now is the use of the heavens as a substitute for God . Appealing to the heavens is an idolotrous practice.
The dead, man-made nature of an idol is compared to the living God. Idols are the dumb sum of a list of materials, the earth quakes when God speaks.
He warms to the theme, describing God stretching out the heavens, stirring the waters, choosing his people. All the while their ignorance and stupidity for choosing idols is decried.
It ends with Jeremiah calling for mercy. He recognises that it is God who makes us good, we can’t do it ourselves. He calls for justice not wrath, but asks that wrath be directed at the godless nations.
As you see from this rather cold summary, I’m still not connecting with Jeremiah that well. I have my unfair dismissal conciliation today, and am in the second week of my new job at salvation army.
The experiences have affected me in ways I can’t quite process. I’m quite anxious.
The thing that has resonated best with me from the chapter is Jeremiah asking to be treated with justice not anger.
I’ve been thinking about that a bit. I rejected a monetary settlement for my unfair dismissal claim in the hope of getting some justice instead.
At the moment for me responsibility is weighing heavier on me.
My prayer is for wisdom and clarity.
Argh, I’ve slowed right down. I’m finding Jeremiah hard work.
I started a new job, as a writer for the salvation army. So now I’m sort of doing this for a living.
On the downside, it’s less pay and only a six month contract. The salvos are restructuring in a major way, so it’s quite likely to be a real six month contract too.
But in the upside it’s work, and good work. I’m enjoying the stimulation of a culture change and writing about things I care about.
Each chapter pushes despair further.
Ever more extreme predictions of disaster… This kicks off with a vision of the bones of ancestors being disinterred and treated as rubbish.
Ever more bleak about the inability of the people to respond. This chapter compares animal’s natural instinct for self preservation to the people self destructive behaviour.
And it ends with Jeremiah’s personal pain. Messenger guilt.
I’m loving the practicality of the salvation armies response. Do what you can, one life at a time.
Having condemned and warned both kingdoms, Jeremiah does the same for Jerusalem, calling Benjamin, because it is in that tribes territory, his own tribe.
I do like the sense of great personal alarm and sadness coming though. You think of the fiery old testament prophets as being angry and self righteous, but this is a man in pain.
He goes though the drill: their evil has reached the limit, they must prepare for invasion which is God’s judgement. They will be devastated.
The variations for context include poignantly mentioning how delicate they are, unmatched for war.
Also more mention of how many warnings they have had, and how deaf they have been: uncircumcised ears.
And because it’s Jerusalem, reference to the religious rituals they should be doing to prepare, signs of true repentance, and how unacceptable the sacrifices they do offer are.
There is also reference to a surviving remnant, and a metal refining process.
I’m feeling a confusing bunch of emotions. Starting a new job next week. Slightly less pay, for a Christian organisation. It could be great. But the whole redundancy experience has been wearing. I don’t think I can complain that I’m being refined by fire.
I feel I need to hold onto some of the priorities and feelings from this time before I slip into busy complacency again.
Picking up the theme that the southern kingdom of Judah is no better, maybe actually worse than the northern kingdom Israel because of their hypocrisy.
In Kings, it seems like the southern is better because at least some of their Kings follow God, where none of the northern kings do. But this is about the people.
It’s a picture of people hardened by prosperity and indulgence, incapable of spiritual responses. They are completly indifferent to the poor.
It includes hypothetical dialogue by the people saying that God will never do anything.
God talks about them being ripped apart like being attacked by a lion.
So ends the condemnation of both kingdoms. and most terribly the priests and prophets who act at direction of the corrupt.
When spiritual leaders become enablers of ignoring God, things are in a bad way.
It’s the bleakest and most vivid picture of terror over the complete destruction of your society, of everything you know, that words can convey.
It’s cinematic leading the reader through a present tense eye witness description of the destruction.
Invading armies from the north are treated as synonymous with God’s wrath and judgment. It’s compared to a hot burning whirlwind.
There is too much imagery and poetry to describe in one entry per chapter. Apparently Charles Spurgeon peached a whole sermon on the image of evil thoughts being lodgers in our minds.
You see the futility of all institutions, army, king, priests and prophets. This even prompts a even a moment where he steps out from being God’s mouthpiece and accuses God of deceiving the people with promises of peace. His personal anguish is shot through it.
You see the people in makeup and finery now in terror.
It’s divided into 3: a call to repent, scenes of visceral chaos and judgement that echo genesis as a sort of anti creation, and a wail of mourning over the desolation.
It all stands in contrast to how society views my message, and how I view it. I need to brainstorm the content of the sign for our church. Hmm.
The wicked and the new Jerusalem.
We are back to God’s voice after the last two prayers.
First is a fierce rejection of the wicked, people who refuse to acknowledge God, repeatedly rubbing his nose in their worship of their own Gods.
Then a promise not to judge them all, and the promise of a new Jerusalem, where pain is gone, aging is gone. It is his holy mountain. (there is so much mountain imagery in the Bible!) God delights in it.
So for me that is a bit now, because Jesus said the kingdom of God was at hand, and a bit at the end times.
I can revel in the promise of the new earth of God’s presence, but I should also sense the urgency of telling people about God’s judgement. I’m terrible at this. All I can do is blog!
I can get the drift of Isaiah 63.
It starts talking of God’s judgement. Dramatically he appears from Edom, a neighbouring country in clothes red with blood which he compares to trampling the grapes in a wine press.
It’s a grisly image, jarring after 3 glorious chapters about his love and salvation. But it’s making the point that God alone can judge the world.
And it is quick to make the point that there is much more to it than judgement. God reminds us in his self description that he is “mighty to save”. He has a day of vengence but a year of Jubilee.
Then there are passages remembering his mercy and promises in the past, and praying for his forgiveness and salvation now. The author goes so far as to blame God for his sin, wondering why God made us capable of rejecting him.
It’s a huge cry of pain. It’s a message to those of his chosen people either facing ruin, as their enemies grow stronger, or feeling bereft in exile having been defeated. People full of fear and anger.
And it’s urging them, shocking them even, into staying the course with God. Channel your fear into anticipating God’s peace. Channel your betrayal into trusting God’s justice.
To tell the truth I’m feeling a bit of betrayal and fear this week having lost my job. It’s tempting to let gloomy feelings about my situation blur into sadness over my children and aspects of the world in general.
I’m tempted to escape into achievable activities, or laziness, variations of putting my head in the sand. Or full on self pity, that advances my situation not a jot.
I need to trust God and act sensibly to remedy the situation.
Pray I will stay the course with God.
The birds. There’s a creepy Alfred Hitchcock movie where the birds inexplicably take over an island.
Here is a vision vast and bleak.
It seems to lead on from the justice of the last chapter, the comforting thought that the Assyrian and Babylonian kingdoms will not last forever, will get their comeuppance.
While mentioning the neighbour Edom by name, this tells of judgement against the whole world.
It is for sin. We have a metaphor of God’s sword that generally requires sacrifice.
It is absolute, destruction is total and there are only birds left to divide the land amongst.
Sufjan Stevens likes to sing “we’re all going to die” perhaps there will be an end time tribulation, Armageddon. I hope not in my time.
But the curse of death is over us.
I’m more engaged with my church than I ever have been, so many opportunities for telling people the good news, but I am so shy of it.
God’s urgency/infinite time is doing my head in. This judgement passage is all crisis. But God will still take hundreds of years before Christ, so the crisis is not always temporal. The rich fool does not know the day or hour his life will be required of him.
Pray for wisdom. I have a sense that I am doing what i should be. Pray for my kids!
I think we are mercifully getting to the end of the list of condemnations of countries in Israel’s region.
This summarises how God’s judgement will work universally. It’s a great equaliser. It points to the kind of great tribulation still to come, mentioned in revelation and Jesus’ apocryphal statements.
Kings, the wealthy, even mysterious rulers of non earth worlds.. “fallen angels?” Will be bought low by God’s judgement.
There is a theme of no escape. It recognises that alcohol is an escape, and it says even the merriness of wine will be gone and drink will be bitter.
It is followed by a just world, a rule of God without oppression.
This vision of the proper importance and order of things should inform how I act now. I should speak truth to power, fight for justice and tell of God’s love.