Poor Jeremiah

August 3, 2017

I have forsaken my house,

I have abandoned my inheritance;

I have given the beloved of my soul

Into the hand of her enemies.

--Jeremiah 12:7


Why did God destroy God's chosen people? Why did God choose Israel only to one day destroy them for their wandering hearts? What is this God of the Hebrew Bible all about? 


Poor Jeremiah. I really do feel for him. His great calling for the Kingdom entails pronouncing doom upon all the people of Israel and Judah for their idolatry and apostasy. Can you imagine being the one God tells to go out on the streets and tell the folks their nation will be overrun and handed over to their worst enemies? People would laugh and call you crazy! There are plenty of others saying don't fret, sleep well at night. We are a blessed and Christian nation founded on the principles of God. God will protect us from the evils out there.


Poor Jeremiah. He faced that very dilemma. There were lots of false prophets saying, "Oh Israel! You are fine! God loves you and always will. Don't you fret Judah and Jerusalem, you're all good with God. You have the temple. That keeps you tight with God. So you all worship your Ba'al and bow down to your Asherah poles and live your lives."


Jeremiah, son of Hilkiah the priest. prophesied during the reign of Josiah. He was a contemporary of the Prophetess Huldah who also prophesied the doom and gloom of God's people for having so forgotten God's commandments they could not even recognize a Book of the Law when they saw one (2 Kings 22 and 2 Chron. 34)! Other prophets also had the same message for Judah and Jerusalem: Isaiah and Zephaniah both called on them to turn back to the God of their fathers or suffer destruction and exile. 


Poor Jeremiah. Most of the prophets are telling tall tales about the bright and happy future of Israel and Judah, and God sent him to the potsherd gate to say you all are going to be like a bunch of broken pottery in the hands of your enemies if you don't stop worshipping Ba'al. So what does Jeremiah get? He gets beaten up and put in the stockade for it. Jeremiah laments to God, and God tells him to keep on trucking. 


Okay. So God's people worshipped false gods. They moved so far from God they did not know how to rightfully discern true prophets from false ones. They worshipped the fake gods of pagan nations. 


Why, then, turn them over to those pagan nations? Why not find another way to cleanse them of their apostate ways? 


I don't really know. I can surmise a few good reasons. Humanity is awfully hardheaded. I am incredibly hardheaded. I insist, sadly, on learning the hard way. So God gives me over to my hardheaded ways until I see that God's way is best. Fortunately, I have not yet resisted to the point of exile to Babylon! 


From our distance of thousands of years, it is easy to ask why. Why didn't God find another way? Was God just so fed up with God's children in Judah and Israel that God said, "Fine. I am so over you. I am putting you in a time out until you can learn your lesson."


Take a closer look at Jeremiah 12:7:


I have forsaken my house,

I have abandoned my inheritance;

I have given the beloved of my soul

Into the hand of her enemies.


"I have given the beloved of my soul..." God loved God's people deeply. In the depths of God's soul. There is a coursing of God's lament over God's destruction of God's nation throughout the book of Jeremiah. God was not fed up with them. God was not so over them. 


God loved them. God desired to cleanse them and draw them back to God. 


Jeremiah 31:3:


The Lord appeared to him from afar, saying,
I have loved you with an everlasting love;
Therefore I have drawn you with lovingkindness.


Finally Jeremiah gets to proclaim that God will bring back God's people out of exile! God will draw them back with everlasting love and lovingkindness. The beloved of God's soul will survive and thrive and forever remain within God's lovingkindness. 


This is part of the whole story of God.


Hebrews 12 talks of God's discipline as an act of love as a father disciplines his children because he loves them and desires to build their character. To cleanse his children of the ways of their youth and guide them to maturity because the father knows it is good and best and he loves his children deeply.


Poor Jeremiah announces not destruction upon God's people, but God's discipline upon God's children. God leads God's people to greater maturity, greater holiness through the cleansing of exile and the return of a stronger remnant. 


Jeremiah, as we see through the reading of his revelation, matures in his understanding of God and his calling as a prophet, through the discipline of remaining true to the message God gives him regardless of the culture into which he must proclaim. I empathize with Jeremiah, yet I also envy him. He is not Poor Jeremiah. He becomes rich in his understanding of God and God's ways. He becomes more holy because he walks so closely with his God who is holy. 


May we all be like Poor Jeremiah. 




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