June 18, 2015

Jeremiah’s life and his book are a single piece.  He wrote what he lived, he lived what he wrote...Jeremiah’s writing and living were the same Jeremiah.  This is important to know because Jeremiah is the prophet of choice for many when we find ourselves having to live through difficult times and want some trustworthy help in knowing what we think, how to pray, how to carry on...

Jeremiah’s troubled life spanned one to the most troublesome periods in Hebrew history... Everything that could go wrong did go wrong.  And Jeremiah was in the middle of it all, sticking it out, praying and preaching, suffering and striving, writing and believing.  He lived through crushing storms of hostility and furies of bitter doubt.  Every muscle in his body was stretched to the limit by fatigue; every thought in his mind was subjected to questioning; every feeling in his heart was put through fires of ridicule.  He experienced it all agonizingly and wrote it all magnificently.

What happens when everything you believe in and live by is smashed to bits by circumstances?  Sometimes the reversals of what we expect from God come to us as individuals, other times as entire communities.  When it happens, does catastrophe work to re-form our lives to conform to who God actually is and not the way we imagine or wish him to be? Does it lead to an abandonment of God?  Or worse, does it trigger a stubborn grasping to the old collapsed system of belief, holding on for dear life to an illusion?

Anyone who lives in disruptive times looks for companions who have been through them earlier, wanting to know how they went through it, how they made it, what was it like.

In looking for a companion who has lived through the catastrophic disruption and survived with grace, Biblical people more often than not come upon Jeremiah and receive him as a true, honest, and God-revealing companion in the worst of times.

Jeremiah 1-2
The Message of Jeremiah son of Hilkiah of the family of priests who lived in Anathoth in the country of Benjamin. God’s Message began to come to him during the thirteenth year that Josiah son of Amos reigned over Judah. It continued to come to him during the time Jehoiakim son of Josiah reigned over Judah. And it continued to come to him clear down to the fifth month of the eleventh year of the reign of Zedekiah son of Josiah over Judah, the year that Jerusalem was taken into exile. 

This is what God said:
“Before I shaped you in the womb, I knew all about you.  Before you saw the light of day, I had holy plans for you:  A prophet to the nations—that’s what I had in mind for you. ”But I said, “Hold it, Master God! Look at me.  I don’t know anything. I’m only a boy!”  God told me, “Don’t say, ‘I’m only a boy.‘  I’ll tell you where to go and you’ll go there. I’ll tell you what to say and you’ll say it.  Don’t be afraid of a soul.  I’ll be right there, looking after you.”

God reached out, touched my mouth, and said, “Look! I’ve just put my words in your mouth—hand-delivered! See what I’ve done? I’ve given you a job to do among nations and governments—a red-letter day!  Your job is to pull up and tear down, take apart and demolish, and then start over, building and planting.”

God’s Message came to me: “What do you see, Jeremiah?” I said, “A walking stick—that’s all.”  And God said, “Good eyes! I’m sticking with you. I’ll make every word I give you come true.” God’s Message came again: “So what do you see now?” I said, “I see a boiling pot, tipped down toward us.” Then God told me, “Disaster will pour out of the north on everyone living in this land....I’ll pronounce my judgment on the people of Judah for walking out on me—what a terrible thing to do!—

“But you—up on your feet and get dressed for work!  Stand up and say your piece. Say exactly what I tell you to say. Don’t pull your punches or I’ll pull you out of the lineup.  “Stand at attention while I prepare you for your work. I’m making you as impregnable as a castle, immovable as a steel post, solid as a concrete block wall.  You’re a one-man defense system against this culture, against Judah’s kings and princes,against the priests and local leaders.  They’ll fight you, but they won’t even scratch you.  I’ll back you up every inch of the way.”  

God’s Message came to me. It went like this: “Get out in the streets and call to Jerusalem, ‘God’s Message! I remember your youthful loyalty, our love as newlyweds. You stayed with me through the wilderness years, stuck with me through all the hard places.  Israel was God’s holy choice, the pick of the crop. Anyone who laid a hand on her would soon wish he hadn’t!’”

Hear God’s Message, House of Jacob! Yes, you—House of Israel! God’s Message: “What did your ancestors find fault with in me that they drifted so far from me, took up with Sir Windbag and turned into windbags themselves?

It never occurred to them to say, ‘Where’s God, the God who got us out of Egypt,...But you barged in and polluted my land, trashed and defiled my dear land. The priests never thought to ask, ‘Where’s God?‘ The religion experts knew nothing of me.The rulers defied me. The prophets preached god Baal... “Because of all this, I’m bringing charges against you”—God’s Decree— “charging you and your children and your grandchildren....But my people have traded my Glory for empty god-dreams and silly god-schemes....

“My people have committed a compound sin: they’ve walked out on me,... “Isn’t Israel a valued servant, born into a family with place and position?... And why do you think all this has happened?  Isn’t it because you walked out on your God  just as he was beginning to lead you in the right way?... Your evil ways will get you a sound thrashing, that’s what you’ll get. You’ll pay dearly for your disloyal ways. Take a long, hard look at what you’ve done and its bitter results. Was it worth it to have walked out on your God?”

“A long time ago you broke out of the harness. You shook off all restraints.You said, ‘I will not serve!‘ and off you went,... You were a select vine when I planted you from completely reliable stock. And look how you’ve turned out— a tangle of rancid growth, a poor excuse for a vine....

“How dare you tell me, ‘I’m not stained by sin....Well, look at the tracks you’ve left behind in the valley.  How do you account for what is written in the desert dust— Sniffing the wind for the slightest scent of sex. Who could possibly corral her! On the hunt for sex, sex, and more sex--- insatiable, indiscriminate, promiscuous.

“Slow down. Take a deep breath. What’s the hurry? Why wear yourself out? Just what are you after anyway? But you say, ‘I can’t help it. I’m addicted to alien gods. I can’t quit.’... All I ever see of them is their backsides. They never look me in the face.  But when things go badly, they don’t hesitate to come running,calling out, ‘Get a move on! Save us!’...

“What do you have against me, running off to assert your ‘independence’?” “I’ve wasted my time trying to train your children.  They’ve paid no attention to me, ignored my discipline.  And you’ve gotten rid of your God-messengers, treating them like dirt and sweeping them away....

Have I let you down, Israel? Am I nothing but a dead-end street?  Why do my people say, ‘Good riddance!  From now on we’re on our own’?  Young women don’t forget their jewelry, do they?  Brides don’t show up without their veils, do they? But my people forget me.  Day after day after day they never give me a thought...

You cut and hurt a lot of people to get where you are. And yet you have the gall to say, ‘I’ve done nothing wrong. God doesn’t mind. He hasn’t punished me, has he?’  Don’t look now, but judgment’s on the way, aimed at you who say, ‘I’ve done nothing wrong.’  “You think it’s just a small thing, don’t you, to try out another sin-project when the first one fails?...

I, God, have blacklisted those you trusted.You’ll get not a lick of help from them.”

Luke 22:1-22:38 -

The Feast of the Unleavened Bread  (Passover) drew near.  The high priests and religious scholars were looking for a way to do away with Jesus, but fearful of the people, they were also looking for a way to cover their tracks.  That’s when Satan entered Judas, the one called Iscariot.  He was one of the 12.  Leaving the others, he conferred with the high priests and the Temple guards about how he might betray Jesus to them.  They couldn’t believe their good luck and agreed to pay him well.  He gave them his word and started looking for a way to betray Jesus, but out of sight of the crowd.  

The day the Passover lamb be butchered came.  Jesus sent Peter and John off saying, “Go, prepare the Passover  for us so we can eat it together....Keep your eyes open as you enter the city.  A man carrying a water jug will meet you, follow him home.  Then speak with the owner of the house.  The Teacher wants to know , Where is the guest room where I can eat the Passover meal with my disciples?”  They left, found everything just as he told them and prepared the Passover meal.  

When it was time ,Jesus sat down, all the disciples with him and said, “You have no idea how much I have looked forward to eating this Passover meal with you before I enter my time of suffering.  It’s ithe last one I’ll eat until we all eat it together in the kingdom of God.”  Taking the cup, he blessed it, then said, “Take this and pass it among you.  As for me, I’ll not drink again until the kingdom of God arrives.”  Taking the bread, he broke it.....He did the same with the cup after supper saying, “This cup is a new covenant......

Do you realize that the hand of the one who is betraying me is at this moment on this table?  It’s true that the Son of Man is going down a path already marked out---no surprise there.  But for the one who turns him in, turns traitor to the Son of Man, this is doomsday.”  They immediately became suspicious of each other and began quizzing one another, wondering who might be about to do this.  

Within minutes they were bickering over who of them would end up the greatest.  But Jesus intervened, “Kings like to throw their weight around and people in authority like to give themselves fancy titles.  It is not going to be that way with you.  Let the senior among you become like the junior, let the leader act the part of the servant.  Who would you rather be;  the one who eats the dinner or the one who serves the dinner?  You’d rather eat and be served right?   But I’ve taken my place among you as the one who serves.  And you’ve stuck with me through thick and thin.  Now I have conferred on you the royal authority my Father conferred on me so you can eat and drink at my table in my kingdom and be strengthened as you take up responsibilities among the congregations of God’s people. “

Simon stay on your toes.  Satan has tried his best to separate all of you from me, like chaff from wheat.  Simon, I’ve prayed for you in particular that you not give in or give out.  When you have come through the time of testing, turn to your companions and give them a fresh start.”  Peter informs Christ that he is ready for anything though Jesus informs him that Peter will deny him 3 times before the rooster crows.

Then Jesus said, “When I sent you out and told you to travel light, to take only the bare necessities, did you get along all right?”  “Certainly”, they said, we got along just fine.”  Jesus said, “This is different.  Get ready for trouble.  Look to what you need, there are difficult times ahead.  Pawn your coat and get a sword”....They said, “Look Master, two swords!”  But he said, “Enough of that, no more sword talk!”