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  • Writer's picturePastor Elaine

March 17, 2024: On Jeremiah and the Book of Comfort

“May the words from my lips and the meditations of our hearts always be pleasing to you O God.”


Jeremiah was not a popular man - even by the standard of being a prophet he was not a popular man.  Jeremiah spent a lot of his time haranguing the people of Judah.  He was constantly telling them how awful they were  - how disobedient they were and how everything was their fault.


Jeremiah was not a popular man - not only for what he said but also for what he did.  He went around banging on pots all the time - you could see how he might get on one’s nerves!


So what was going on?  What was the situation that the people of Judah found themselves in - how did they get there and what were they going to do?


Things were in a bad way.  The Babylonians had swooped in, razed the temple in Jerusalem, carried off King Zedekiah in chains and sent many into exile in Babylonia.


The destruction of the temple and the decapitation of the kingly line of David were catastrophic.  The people of Judah faced a crisis, they had lost power and prestige and freedom and security.  But they also felt like they had lost God or at least the assurance of God’s faithfulness.  If the temple was gone,  was God gone, too?  If God lived in the temple did that mean that with the destruction of the temple God no longer had a home?  And what about being in Babylonia  - could God be with them there?  


These were difficult questions.


Jeremiah had been wailing and smashing pots trying to get the people of Judah to see that they had failed in their part of the covenant given at Sinai and how the worst had happened. Jeremiah could have said 'I told you so - I told you that God would punish us for your idolatrous ways!'


He could have.  After all, he had been prophesying for some time about the wrath of God and the punishment they were in for.


Jeremiah maintained that God was faithful, it was the people who were not. Even in the midst of destruction and disorder, God remained faithful to the covenant.


And so we turn to the reading from this morning. The Book of Jeremiah took shape after the prophet's death in 586 BCE.   It chronicles his message that God was ready to punish the people for their disobedience.  He stressed divine judgment and so he was persecuted and rejected.


But his message was not all doom and gloom.


The section that we read today is called the Book of Comfort.


Jeremiah also preached what we call the Gospel or Good News!


God will establish a new covenant with the people. 


This new covenant would not be carved into stone that the people could ignore or forget.  This new covenant would be written on people’s hearts. There would no longer be any need forteaching because now everyone would know God - not just know about God.


I will be their God and they will be my people.  Words of comfort indeed.


I will put my law within them and I will write it on their hearts.  This may be Jeremiah’s single most important teaching. God gives assurance.


God would be known in a new way, as the one constantly seeking reconciliation with us. God speaking directly to the heart.


Now that Judgment had come, the prophet Jeremiah turned and gave a message of hope.  A message of love.  God will bring newness out of destruction, God will bring hope where there is no hope.  God will bring life. God will make a way where there is no way.


The days are surely coming when the law will be engraved in the people’s hearts and displayed in their lives.


The days are surely coming when the people from the least to the greatest will know God.  This is an extraordinary promise. 


Jeremiah had gone from preaching and proclaiming utter destruction and blaming the people to offering hope and words of comfort.  


These words of Jeremiah were first written when Jeremiah was struggling with the consequences of Israel’s disobedience to the law of God. The consequences were the destruction of the temple,  the exile in Babylonia and  the loss of their King.


But then Jeremiah spoke of the hope that God offered to the people.  


Having the law of love engraved on one’s heart is an adventure in freedom.  Having the love of God written on one’s heart is the essence of freedom.

The freedom to be who one truly is, knowing that your true character is what is most pleasing to God.  Being who you are meant to be.  


How do we need the law of love to be written on our hearts?


Amen



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