Bible Reading Plan – June 18-24
Bible Project Reading Plan (June 18-24):
Jeremiah 4-29; Psalms 14-20
Jeremiah’s task was daunting, and not for the fainthearted. He was tasked with a message that would not be met with favor, from a God that was misunderstood and ignored, to a people who despised both that God and his messenger. God placed the calling within Jeremiah from a young age; he was set apart for this from the womb (cf. 1:5). The judgment of God was justified and necessary. Yet neither of these facts made the prophetic ministry of Jeremiah easier. Jeremiah seems to be faithfully-reluctant, continually bemoaning his lot (see 15:10 ff.) while at the same time faithfully fulfilling his calling.
Judah had fallen to the same traps that Israel had some time before; idolatry was rampant, and with idolatry the wake of injustice, oppression, greed, and pride followed. Yet, even in the midst of this, there was hope, as there always is, for repentance to do its work:
If you return, O Israel, declares the LORD, to me you should return. If you remove your detestable things from my presence, and do not waver, and if you swear, ‘As the LORD lives,’ in truth, in justice, and in righteousness, then nations shall bless themselves in him, and in him shall they glory.”
Jeremiah 4:1-2 (ESV)
What does all this look like? It looks like a new heart, like the fulfillment of a prophecy of long ago, even long ago for Jeremiah:
For thus says the LORD to the men of Judah and Jerusalem: “Break up your fallow ground, and sow not among thorns. Circumcise yourselves to the LORD; remove the foreskin of your hearts, O men of Judah and inhabitants of Jerusalem; lest my wrath go forth like fire, and burn with none to quench it, because of the evil of your deeds.”
Jeremiah 4:3-4 (ESV)
This sounds suspiciously like the promise that God made in Deuteronomy 30:6, where he stated that when Israel fails, and exile comes upon them, he will one day gather them from the ends of the earth and:
the LORD your God will circumcise your heart and the heart of your offspring, so that you will love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul, that you may live.
Deuteronomy 30:6 (ESV)
This promise in Deuteronomy is, of course, a work of God, not the work of man. But God would not work his miracle for this people at this time; destruction was to come. Jeremiah’s anguish over this rebellious people, even in his faithfulness to God, is real:
My anguish, my anguish!
I writhe in pain!
Oh the walls of my heart!
My heart is beating wildly;
I cannot keep silent, for I hear the sound of the trumpet,
the alarm of war.
Jeremiah 4:19 (ESV)
The destruction that would come would be like the undoing of creation, a great and terrible judgment:
I looked on the earth, and behold, it was without form and void; and to the heavens, and they had no light. I looked on the mountains, and behold, they were quaking, and all the hills moved to and fro. I looked, and behold, there was no man, and all the birds of the air had fled. I looked, and behold, the fruitful land was a desert, and all its cities were laid in ruins before the LORD, before his fierce anger.
For thus says the LORD, “The whole land shall be a desolation…”
Jeremiah 4:23-27 (ESV)
Jeremiah is indeed anguished over the judgment, but also over a people who refuse to head the words of God. He is caught – as we should also be – between his love for those who live around him and his belief that the justice God is bringing is good and true. Even so, Jeremiah’s comfort comes not from his surroundings, but from the very word of God:
Your words were found, and I ate them,
and your words became to me a joy and the delight of my heart,
for I am called by your name, O LORD, God of hosts.
Jeremiah 15:16 (ESV)
There is much more going on in Jeremiah than this, but it is a helpful reminder. Jeremiah stands between a people that he is a part of, and loves, and a God who is justifiably angry about their continual sin. He knows that painful judgment is coming, even while grace will be found. In all this, he comforts himself in the words of his God, because this is who Jeremiah is: one known by God.
Friends, let us also be in anguish over the sins of our neighbors, even as we agree to the just wrath of our God. But let us find our joy in his words, and entrust ourselves to his justice in Christ. For Jesus has fulfilled for us the very promise of Deuteronomy 30, given us new hearts and taken away God’s wrath from us!