July with Jeremiah: Chapters 11-20


Let us pray from Jeremiah (13:15-16):

Give ear, listen humbly,

for the Lord speaks.

Give glory to the Lord, your God,

before it grows dark;

Before your feet stumble

on darkening mountains;

Before the light you look for turns to darkness,

changes into black clouds.  AMEN

We begin to hear more and more the toll of being a prophet is having on Jeremiah…”Woe to me, mother, that you gave me birth!”  (15:10), “You duped me, O Lord, and I let myself be duped;” (20:7).  He is suffering with the weight of his calling.  And yet, he goes on to say, “But the Lord is with me, like a mighty champion:” (20:11).  Like most of the prophets, Jeremiah always moved from anger and reproach to hope.  Never the other way, (Guentert, US Catholic, p. 21).  Have you ever been through a trial where you felt such despair?  Did you cry out to God like this?  Jeremiah shows us what it is like to have a personal relationship with God, a relationship where he isn’t afraid to get mad and seriously complain to God about his predicament.  He knows that God will always be there for him anyway.

For all the sins and problems the people were causing, these were only outward symptoms of a condition rooted in the heart, the seat of man’s loyalties and devotion.  Jeremiah points out that the heart can cover up and justify (“rationalize”) its motives:  “The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately corrupt; who can understand it?”  (17:9).  Yet, no man can hide himself in a secret place from God, for YHWH is “at hand” and not “afar off” (23:23-24).  He who “searches the mind and tries the heart” knows men’s deepest motives far better than they understand themselves (17:10).  In the awful exposure of God’s revelation, man’s real condition comes to light.  YHWH’s eyes look for truth (5:3), for the inner integrity that comes from a true relationship to God and fellowman in the covenant, (Andersen, Understanding the Old Testament, p. 333).

“Why does the way of the godless prosper?”  (12:1)  This is the mystery in doing what is right.  There is a sometimes a feeling of unfairness.  Why should I do right when there are people that don’t and seem better off?  There is no clear answer, except that we are called to do so.  Because “it is right and just”.  Because it makes us feel better.  Because it brings us closer to God and what is good.

On the potter’s vessel in Chapter 18:

Life is not as fate designs, nor is history a realm to be tyrannized by man.  Events are not like rocks on the shore shaped by windand water.  Choice, design, is what determines the shape of events.  God is at work on man, intent to fashion history in accord with Himself…Ultimately there is only one will by which history is shaped:  the will of God; and there is only one factor upon which the shape of history depends:  the moral conduct of the nations.  The history of mankind moves between these two poles,”  (Heschel, The Prophets, p. 174).  What do you think?

Closing Prayer by Jeremiah (17:7-8):

Blessed is the man who trusts in the Lord,

whose hope is the Lord.

He is like a tree planted beside the waters

that stretches out its roots to the stream:

It fears not the heat when it comes,

its leaves stay green;

In the year of drought it shows no distress,

but still bears fruit.  AMEN

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