Written by Courtney McHill, United Methodist Pastor
Unlike Isaiah, Jeremiah is called into the career of prophecy at a young age (around 626 B.C.E). Also unlike Isaiah, Jeremiah is not excited to be a prophet. More like Moses, Jeremiah protests the call because of what he doesn’t have. He says that because he is just a boy he really doesn’t have what it takes. God bypasses the protest and gives Jeremiah the words to speak.
We enter the story forty years later when Jeremiah is much more into his lifelong career. During the forty years before, Jeremiah warned over and over again that if the people of God didn’t get their act together they would be punished by exile. The people didn’t listen. Many scholars call Jeremiah “the weeping prophet” because of his continued cries out to these people and the warnings that come. The people do not listen and now they have been pushed out in exile to a foreign land. Solomon’s temple has been destroyed and those with any kind of influence are pushed out. Somehow Jeremiah gets to stay but still has contact to his people.
Jeremiah writes a letter. The people want to know a few things. They want to know who the true prophets really are. They want to know how long they have to be away from home. And they want to know how to preserve their identities while away. Jeremiah’s answers from God are shocking.
First of all, Jeremiah reassures them that he is God’s true prophet. The others are fakes. Then Jeremiah maps out what they should do which gives them clues as to how long they will be in exile and how their identities will morph. Jeremiah tells them to set up their homes and gardens. He tells them to make themselves at home. But will they be there that long? Yes, go ahead and have families and marry. Not only will they be there a while but their identities are shifting (who do you think they will marry and have kids with?) The people of God are changing and it is expected of them.
Not only that but they are supposed to pray for the city they now dwell in! As immigrants, they will add to the city in shalom (or wholeness) and in production. Get ready because the immigrant just became essential to the place they dwell. And after seventy years, God will return and pull them out of exile. At least a generation will pass, the people will have changed and God will come back to them. What will they do with who they become? Jeremiah has a big job ahead of him. How will you make this story relevant? How have you changed in the distance between you and God?
Quotes of the Week
“There comes a time in your life when you have to choose to turn the page, write another book or simply close it.” ― Shannon L. Alder
“Remember, remember always, that all of us, and you and I especially, are descended from immigrants and revolutionists.” ― Franklin D. Roosevelt
“Before you criticize a man, walk a mile in his shoes. That way, when you do criticize him, you’ll be a mile away and have his shoes.” ― Steve Martin
Jeremiah 29:1, 4-14 (NRSV) These are the words of the letter that the prophet Jeremiah sent from Jerusalem to the remaining elders among the exiles, and to the priests, the prophets, and all the people, whom Nebuchadnezzar had taken into exile from Jerusalem to Babylon.
Thus says the Lord of hosts, the God of Israel, to all the exiles whom I have sent into exile from Jerusalem to Babylon: Build houses and live in them; plant gardens and eat what they produce. Take wives and have sons and daughters; take wives for your sons, and give your daughters in marriage, that they may bear sons and daughters; multiply there, and do not decrease. But seek the welfare of the city where I have sent you into exile, and pray to the Lord on its behalf, for in its welfare you will find your welfare. For thus says the Lord of hosts, the God of Israel: Do not let the prophets and the diviners who are among you deceive you, and do not listen to the dreams that they dream, for it is a lie that they are prophesying to you in my name; I did not send them, says the Lord.
For thus says the Lord: Only when Babylon’s seventy years are completed will I visit you, and I will fulfill to you my promise and bring you back to this place. For surely I know the plans I have for you, says the Lord, plans for your welfare and not for harm, to give you a future with hope. Then when you call upon me and come and pray to me, I will hear you. When you search for me, you will find me; if you seek me with all your heart, I will let you find me, says the Lord, and I will restore your fortunes and gather you from all the nations and all the places where I have driven you, says the Lord, and I will bring you back to the place from which I sent you into exile.
Questions for the Week
When have you felt in exile?
Did you also feel far away from God?
How do you cope with feeling distanced from God? How have you changed in those moments?