For the next few weeks, the Old Testament lesson from the lectionary comes from the book of the prophet Jeremiah. One of the things I really love about this book is Jeremiah’s brutal honesty about his calling and ministry. He bitterly hates the message that God has given him. It would take someone who is vicious and insane to enjoy telling people what he feels he must: the Babylonians are on the way, and you need to accept it. And also, let’s cut out the idolatry and injustice which are rampant.
Saying “yes” to God has meant dealing with name-calling and far worse: slander, beating, imprisonment. After the Babylonians invade, he’s labeled a traitor when he warns against fighting back.
There are several poems in the book that are often called the Confessions of Jeremiah. They sound a lot like the stuff that Job says. More than with any other prophet, we see in Jeremiah a picture of his inner being. At times, he verges on the depths of despair.
He feels that God has betrayed him, and he lets God know about it! More than once, he decides that he’s done; he is not going to do this anymore. But he finds it impossible to stop. Chapter 20 has the perfect example of this. “If I say, ‘I will not mention him, or speak any more in his name,’ then within me there is something like a burning fire shut up in my bones; I am weary with holding it in, and I cannot” (v. 9). The Contemporary English Version puts it this way: “Sometimes I tell myself not to think about you, Lord, or even mention your name. But your message burns in my heart and bones, and I cannot keep silent.”
That’s a confession that only someone who is in love can make.
(The image is from dgroove.deviantart.com/art/Jeremiah-The-Prophet-1630662)