For the next little while, I plan to be reading Jeremiah. I’m doing it for my own study. My plan with this blog is simply to post simple reflections based on my reading. At this point, I don’t plan this to be an in depth academic study, but more impressions and reflections. At times, I may input commentary information or wonder off in a long thought about something. But, overall I simply hope to jot down the passages, themes, metaphors, and impressions that come to the surface. I hope, for someone, the reading is worthwhile.
The first chapter covers Jeremiah’s call and commission as prophet. Thinking about it from an experiential point of view, verses 4-5 and 17 stick out.
vs 4-5: Now the word of the Lord came to me saying, “Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, and before you were born I consecrated you; I appointed you a prophet to the nations.”
vs 17: But you, gird up your loins; stand up and tell them everything that I command you. Do not break down before them, or I will break you before them.
Feel the contrast. At first, we read of God’s providence and Jeremiah’s call. There is a sense of fate in Jeremiah’s calling. “I’ve consecrated you”; “Before I formed you in the womb, I knew you.” These sentences parallel lines of Psalm 139. Read the comforting verses of Psalm 139:13-14
13For it was you who formed my inward parts; you knit me together in my mother’s womb. 14I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made. Wonderful are your works; that I know very well.
These passages early in Jeremiah easily leave me with a feeling that Jeremiah was destined to be God’s prophet and mouthpiece. He will successfully speak for God to the nations. God’s intentions give a sense of security and assurance. But, by the way: “Don’t break down before them, or I will break you before them.”
Like a gut punch.
Most of us, today, probably want to run to the gentle Santa Claus God we often don’t intend, but inadvertently create with our expectations. We don’t want to feel uncomfortable when we think of God, or fear God’s presence. We don’t know what to do with a God who threatens.
This mix of promise and warning, of assurance and terror, seems to characterize all of the prophets. It’s, as if, a life with God is a life at stake. Things matter with God, especially when involving the lives of people. Maybe there’s good reason for God to feel a bit a pressure. Maybe God’s hearing cries of anguish and suffering, the way Exodus describes. Maybe God sees injustices that would anger anyone. Maybe God needs Jeremiah for a reason.
All awhile, we take the line out of context – “Don’t break down before them, or I will break you before them.” Like relentless movie critics, we turn our attention on God’s personal character and judge with our middle-class social expectations.
Instead, I remember my own reactions to what I think are injustice. I remember what I think when I feel indignation, and feel the pressure to make a difference. Perhaps, circumstances dictate that God needs Jeremiah. Or, the writer of Jeremiah needs God to make a difference, so s/he invests God with power. I’m not sure we can know.
But, the mix of warning and promise is familiar. It’s reminds me of taking life seriously. When I watch the news today, my own thoughts move from anger to hope. Maybe, that’s what Jeremiah is dealing with.