Let us pray from Jeremiah (23:3-6)
You told us you would gather the remnant
of your flock from all the lands and
bring them back to the meadow,
where we will increase and multiply.
You said you would care for us
so we need no longer fear and tremble,
that we would never be lost to you.
We pray for your help to always be searching
for you, where we will find rest. AMEN
Jeremiah makes quite a prophecy in chapter 23: 5-6. After the opening prayer adapted from the verses right before, Jeremiah hints of a messianic king, who will represent everything that his predecessors failed to be. “A righteous shoot to David”: someone stemming from the line of David that will be a concrete manifestation of Yahweh’s own justice (sedaq). The word justice is used a lot in these few verses. This king will be named “The Lord our justice,” (Faley, R., Footprints on the Mountain, p. 489). What does this mean to you? Does this give you hope? Does God bring justice to your life?
“What has straw to do with the wheat?” (24:28) Jeremiah says this about the false prophets. He does not want the Israelites to have anything to do with them. Straw is hollow, where wheat is not. Consider this analogy: What is false and hollow in your life? Wheat is nourishing. What is nourishing and with good purpose in your life?
The yoke: “The people that submits its neck to the yoke of the king of Babylon to serve him I will leave in peace on its own land, says the Lord, to till it and dwell in it,” (27:11). The yoke could not be broken by human effort because the Babylonian king was the instrument of God’s purpose. And it was futile to fight against God! (Andersen, Understanding the Old Testament, p. 347). The yoke represents that which binds us to what is right and just. It may be a heavy weight at times but it has good purpose and moves us forward.
Christian readers pay close attention to 31:31-34, the promise of the new covenant. As Christians, we may understand this as the covenant God makes through Jesus Christ. The word covenant is translated as testament, like the New Testament. This piece of scripture is also referred to in Hebrews 8:8-12, and follows, “In speaking of ‘a new covenant,’ he has made the first one obsolete. And what is obsolete and growing old will soon disappear,” (13). This is a dismissive judgment, implying that Christianity supersedes Judaism and makes it obsolete. If reading the passage in Jeremiah closely, the new covenant is actually with the house of Israel and the house of Judah alone. Judaism is not to be displaced but rather renewed, (Brueggemann, An Introduction to the Old Testament, p. 189). We are ALL renewed when we turn to the Lord!
Closing Prayer by Jeremiah (29:11-14):
You know well the plans you have for us,
plans for our welfare, not for woe!
Plans to give us a future full of hope
When we call on you,
when we go to pray to you,
you will listen to us.
When we look for you, we will find you.
When we seek you with all our hearts,
we will find you with us. AMEN