Saturday, February 23, 2008

Thoughts on Jeremiah 1

I've been reading Jeremiah recently and been inspired by Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel. He writes about the prophets, in his appropriately named book "The Prophets",

"...the sorts of crimes and even the amount of delinquency that fill the prophets of Israel with dismay do not go beyond that which we regard as normal, as typical ingedients of social dynamics. To us a single act of the prophets it is a deathblow to existence..."

I've basically just tried to accumulate some thoughts on the chapters, they might be helpful for someone so I'm writing it out. It probably will make alot more sense with the passage open: hence the link


Jeremiah Ch.1
I love this chapter, it's amazing to think about God's call for Jeremiah, the fact that he calls us all so differently. Imagine the place of Jeremiah, just a child in war torn Jerusalem growing up in a world filled with people who had an amazing history but who it seemed had been abandonned by their great God.

Suddenly Jeremiah is called and it shakes him immensely and it should, the voice of the creator of the Universe is enough to shake anyone I'm sure.

Look at 1:7-10
But the LORD said to me, "Do not say, 'I am only a child.' You must go to everyone I send you to and say whatever I command you. Do not be afraid of them, for I am with you and will rescue you," declares the LORD. Then the LORD reached out his hand and touched my mouth and said to me, "Now, I have put my words in your mouth. See, today I appoint you over nations and kingdoms to uproot and tear down, to destroy and overthrow, to build and to plant."

3 Things I note about this as interesting:
1. God comforts Jeremiah -> He tells him not to be afraid, and reaches out and touches him.
2. God gives him Authority. It's funny that whenever God gives someone authority or the ability to preach, like Paul, how even though God says they have authority to speak, no one else realizes it and they usually end up beaten or rejected or killed. Maybe Jeremiah knew this and that's why he was so scared. I think it's both sad and interesting that the God who created this world is never recognized. Not by Jews who Jeremiah preached to in the 8th Century BC, not to Christ about 900 years later. That must make God heartbroken. His own people. His own children don't recognize him.
3. God promises Protection. God says he will rescue him. I wonder if Jeremiah was thinking about these words while he was thrown into a well later on for preaching God's word to the people. It would take quite a bit of faith to hear words like that, to live the life he did, and then still have faith.

Then Jeremiah gets told his message.

1:16 "I will pronounce my judgments on my people because of their wickedness in forsaking me, in burning incense to other gods and in worshiping what their hands have made

If God said this to me in North America in the 21st century I'd have to fight not to respond "is that it?... I hate to break it to you God but the church has been trying for a long time, and they're just not listening, why don't you just beam us up now and leave these people"

This was true for Jeremiah as well. There were already lots of prophets, Jeremiah probably walked by other prophets yelling in the streets. It wasn't a 'popular' profession by any means. If you prophesied and it didn't come true...they would kill you. That adds some pressure.

It's also very similar to today because while the West only worships one god now, Mammon, the Greek god of money and materialism, we know all about worshipping what our own hands have made. The iPod is better understood than the gospel, and man is not slow to congratulate themselves for all their 'accomplishments'. It's funny to me that this isn't God's view.

I had a Roman Catholic friend the other day talk to me about doing drugs and drinking and partying. When I told him I thought it was wrong he said, "do you think God really cares? Does he care what we do all the way up in Heaven?" My answer was an awkward 'yes' but I wished I said "He seemed to think our sin was important enough to come down here and sort it out himself, and go through an excruciating death just to cover the horror of our iniquity"...

Rabbi Heschel says this about Disobedience and God as well, "... [in] our moral comprehensians, the incapacity to sense the depth of misery caused by our own failures, is a fact... Our eyes are witness to the callousness and cruelty of man, but our heart tries to obliterate the memories, to calm the nerves, and to silence our conscience. The prophet is a man who feels fiercely. God has thrust a burden upon his soul, and he is bowed and stunned at man's fierce greed. Frightful is the agony of man; no human voice can convey its full terror. Prophecy is the voice that God has lent to the silent agony, a voice to the plundered poor, to the profaned riches of the world. It is a form of living, a crossing point of God and man."

It is amazing to think that God cares so immensely. While people may feel guilty or scared when they read Jeremiah, to me it is deeply filled with the love of God, he is a God who cares so much about his people, he continually sent them messages, and tried to show his world how to live, how it was made to function, and eventually in Jesus he lived out what our lives are to look like. That is no God of Deism, it is the mark of someone deeply involved in our day to day lives.

Finally, look at 1:17-19"Get yourself ready! Stand up and say to them whatever I command you. Do not be terrified by them, or I will terrify you before them. 18 Today I have made you a fortified city, an iron pillar and a bronze wall to stand against the whole land—against the kings of Judah, its officials, its priests and the people of the land. 19 They will fight against you but will not overcome you, for I am with you and will rescue you," declares the LORD."

I like that God says "Do not be terrified by them...I will terrify you" That's so powerful. It's as if God is saying if you think they're scary you don't understand my holiness, my glory, and my authority. And all of that awesome power is now with you.

The Lord tells Jeremiah that he will be an iron pillar, and that all of the country including the priests who are to bear God's name and purpose, will be against him. It was not an easy task for poor Jer. But at the same time imagine his resolve. Imagine God telling you that he will make you like a fortified city and be with you rescue you. That would bring a huge amount of confidence.

Basically, It is a good part of God's story to know - the Call of Jeremiah - if God is truly unchanging, he could call us to the same thing and it is interesting to look at God's relationship with Jeremiah and see it in the light of our relationship with him. I think if we were honest in our prayer and seeking for God, we would have much scarier but ultimately more real lives.

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