Let us pray…
God of Justice,
Remove me from my comfort zones
so I can help the poor and vulnerable.
Open my eyes
to see the potential for change around me,
and give me the courage
to take the next step. AMEN
There is a shift in Jeremiah’s prophecy. For many years he had predicted pestilence, slaughter, famine and captivity. Now that Jerusalem is falling, he is here to instill hope: “I will bring upon them all the good I promise them,“ (32:42) and “Call to me, and I will answer you,” (33:3). And it is a LASTING hope, a complete transformation of Israel: “One heart and one way I will give them…I will make with them an eternal covenant,” (32:39-40). Note how the Lord says He will make the covenant WITH them, not at them. There is a partnership, with both sides giving. How does God partner with you?
By following God and being “in covenant” with God, we will remain connected to God and to each other. Our faithfulness is made evident by our choices, not only in what we avoid but also in what we choose to do. When am I most tempted to make my own rules and be “in covenant” elsewhere? How do the choices I make each day show my fidelity to God? (From 3 Minute Retreat by Loyola Press)
Baruch is a friend that is loyal and true to Jeremiah. He is there for him, even when it is hard. It seems that Baruch wrote much of what we find in these scripture passages, although there are hints that a man named Shaphan was connected with the scrolls too. Think of who your spiritual friends are…how do they help your faith?
Gedaliah is the son of this Shaphan, considered pro-Babylonian and “sell-outs” in order to receive power and prestige from the new Babylonian empire. He is assassinated. The government is falling apart as well as the city. Poor Jeremiah is amidst all of this turmoil, mostly in jail or a cistern. “Jeremiah was constantly exposed to the situation of God, and tirelessly attentive to the mood of the people, offering boldly the call, the challenge, and the warning, attempting to unravel the knots in the relationship between God and Israel,” (Heschel, A., The Prophets, p. 139).
Sin means, “missing the mark”. Jeremiah, using words from God, proclaims how the people of Israel and Judah have sinned which is why they are in this predicament. Even when we know we are sinning, we sometimes delay going to God and being reconciled. Think of St. Augustine before being baptized, saying “For there was nothing I could reply when you called me: Rise, thou that sleepest and arise from the dead: and Christ shall enlighten thee; wheras You showed me by every evidence that Your words were true, there was simply nothing I could answer save only laggard lazy words: ‘Soon,’ ‘Quite soon,’ ‘Give me just a little while,’ (Confessions, p. 165). These words from Jeremiah are meant to help us. Don’t delay! God wants to be in relationship (covenant, partnership) with us.
Spirit of Peace,
Stop the raging seas of violence
and hate that fill our lives
so I can witness your love
and compassion to a hurting world.
Bless me with the words
to proclaim your peace,
the strength to live out your justice
and the courage to take the next step. AMEN
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