Archive for November, 2017

Each chapter contains a self-contained poem of lament – a dirge. In these two chapters the form of an acrostic in triplets with the 22 consonants of the Hebrew language controls its length. It is as if Jeremiah cannot quite believe his eyes at the extent of the destruction and loss around him, even though he prophesied the outcome of Judah’s rejection of Yahweh’s sovereignty. It’s even worse than he feared. More than this he does not rejoice at ‘being right’. It gives him no joy for his lifetime’s message to be vindicated. He is moved with compassion upon all that he sees and for a time, at least, the pain and grief of others seem to separate him from God.

It is as if he absorbs the corporate suffering of the people into himself and speaks with one voice on their behalf. Of course this is his personal suffering too but above all for Jeremiah their suffering is his. He takes their sin, their separation, their brokenness, their pain, their loss, their grief, their shame upon himself. This is not a Jonah-like figure speaking into lives at an emotional distance – Jeremiah is full-on.

There are clear echoes of Isaiah 53. He feels driven away by God, in darkness rather than light, walled in, weighed down and barred from God’s presence. His heart is pierced with grief, his hopes destroyed, his peace forfeited and anything that was to his own glory had turned to dust. V.17b could be presented: You have deprived me of health. I have forgotten all about happiness.

It’s an extreme form of lament but there are times for all of us when we feel that we are the target for the ‘slings and arrows of outrageous fortune’. How do we respond? These chapters encourage us to be brutally honest about how we feel. The fact that the words are written down suggest that they were known at the time, so Jeremiah not only speaks for the community but he tells those around him exactly how it feels.

Jeremiah makes the connection between sin and consequences. He encourages a self-examination before the Lord – to allow sin to be revealed, confessed and forgiven.  He holds onto his understanding of the character of God. The tide turns in chapter 3 when he boldly proclaims: ‘Because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed’. He waits in silence upon the Lord – gives Him space to speak and act. He holds on to a future intervention of God that will bring relief and comfort, and in the end foresees the justice of God executed on those who have been the direct cause of their suffering. His, and the people’s, punishment will end and the exile will not be prolonged beyond that which Yahweh requires to accomplish his purpose in his people.

When life is rubbish and we feel separated from God – Jeremiah helps us to remember to lament and hold on to hope.

 

 

 

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Is there anything in your life that causes you to feel angry, dismayed or aggrieved with God?  Bring your grievances to your Father in heaven and then read 3:22-24 again.

November 2017
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