Jeremiah Prophetic Critiquing and Energising
The International Scene • The Assyrian Empire fell to the Babylonians • Time of independence and prosperity for Judah • Rise of the Babylonian Empire (605-539) • Judah tries to form alliances with Egypt against Babylon • Defeated and ultimately destroyed
Historical Background to Jeremiah The words of Jeremiah son of Hilkiah, of the priests who were in Anathoth in the land of Benjamin, to whom the word of the Lord came in the days of King Josiah son of Amon of Judah, in the thirteenth year of his reign. It came also in the days of King Jehoiakim son of Josiah of Judah, and until the end of the eleventh year of King Zedekiah son of Josiah of Judah, until the captivity of Jerusalem in the fifth month. (Jer 1:1-3) • Priest of Anathoth – not part of the Jerusalem elite. On the margins of power • King Josiah • Brief period of prosperity between the Assyrian and Babylonian crises • Good king, who conducted reforms – return to covenant faithfulness • Rise of Babylonian power • King Jehoiakim • Tried to form an alliance against Babylon • Defeated and carried into exile • Jerusalem and Temple still spared • Babylonians put a different member of Davidic house on the throne • King Zedekiah • Also tries to rebel against Babylon • Temple destroyed • Davidic kingship destroyed • EXILE = “captivity” / “destruction”
The Prophetic Call – Jeremiah 1 Typical elements of a prophetic call: (compare Moses) • God speaks: “The word of the Lord came to me, saying ...” (1:4) • Commission: “ I appointed you a prophet ...” (1:5) • Objection: “I don’t know how to speak, for I am only a boy” (1:6) • Reassurance: “Do not be afraid (1:8) • Equipping: “Now I have put my words in your mouth” • Signs: almond tree / pot bubbling over • Almond tree (shaqad) sounds like “watching” (shoqed) • Boiling pot from North = Babylonians Now the word of the Lord came to me saying, ‘Before I formed you in the womb I knew you,and before you were born I consecrated you;I appointed you a prophet to the nations.’ Then I said, ‘Ah, Lord God! Truly I do not know how to speak, for I am only a boy.’ 7 But the Lord said to me, ‘Do not say, “I am only a boy”;for you shall go to all to whom I send you,and you shall speak whatever I command you.Do not be afraid of them,for I am with you to deliver you,says the Lord.’ Then the Lord put out his hand and touched my mouth; and the Lord said to me, ‘Now I have put my words in your mouth.
Critiquing and Energising • Jeremiah’s mission: “See, today I appoint you over nations and over kingdoms, to pluck up and to pull down, to destroy and to overthrow, to build and to plant.” (Jer 1:10)
Jeremiah 1:1-15: The Temple Sermon The word that came to Jeremiah from the Lord: Stand in the gate of the Lord’s house, and proclaim there this word, and say, Hear the word of the Lord, all you people of Judah, you that enter these gates to worship the Lord. Thus says the Lord of hosts, the God of Israel: Amend your ways and your doings, and let me dwell with you in this place. Do not trust in these deceptive words: ‘This is the temple of the Lord, the temple of the Lord, the temple of the Lord.’ For if you truly amend your ways and your doings, if you truly act justly one with another, if you do not oppress the alien, the orphan, and the widow, or shed innocent blood in this place, and if you do not go after other gods to your own hurt, then I will dwell with you in this place, in the land that I gave of old to your ancestors for ever and ever. Here you are, trusting in deceptive words to no avail. Will you steal, murder, commit adultery, swear falsely, make offerings to Baal, and go after other gods that you have not known, and then come and stand before me in this house, which is called by my name, and say, ‘We are safe!’—only to go on doing all these abominations? Has this house, which is called by my name, become a den of robbers in your sight? You know, I too am watching, says the Lord. Go now to my place that was in Shiloh, where I made my name dwell at first, and see what I did to it for the wickedness of my people Israel. And now, because you have done all these things, says the Lord, and when I spoke to you persistently, you did not listen, and when I called you, you did not answer, therefore I will do to the house that is called by my name, in which you trust, and to the place that I gave to you and to your ancestors, just what I did to Shiloh. And I will cast you out of my sight, just as I cast out all your kinsfolk, all the offspring of Ephraim.
Critiquing: The Temple Sermon • Story of this prophecy is told in chapter 26 • Challenges their trust in the Temple (against complacent “Zion theology”) • Sins: idolatry, complacent theology, social injustice • Notice the “I am watching” – from the almond tree sign • Shiloh = the place where the tabernacle was in the days of Samuel’s childhood. Destroyed by the Philistines. • Lesson from history
Jeremiah 31:27-34 The days are surely coming, says the Lord, when I will sow the house of Israel and the house of Judah with the seed of humans and the seed of animals. And just as I have watched over them to pluck up and break down, to overthrow, destroy, and bring evil, so I will watch over them to build and to plant, says the Lord. In those days they shall no longer say: ‘The parents have eaten sour grapes, and the children’s teeth are set on edge.’ But all shall die for their own sins; the teeth of everyone who eats sour grapes shall be set on edge. The days are surely coming, says the Lord, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and the house of Judah.It will not be like the covenant that I made with their ancestors when I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt—a covenant that they broke, though I was their husband,says the Lord. But this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, says the Lord: I will put my law within them, and I will write it on their hearts; and I will be their God, and they shall be my people. No longer shall they teach one another, or say to each other, ‘Know the Lord’, for they shall all know me, from the least of them to the greatest, says the Lord; for I will forgive their iniquity, and remember their sin no more.
Energizing: The New Covenant • Note the echoes from the call narrative • Pluck up .. break down .. overthrow .. destroy .. build .. plant • watching • Exodus • Renewal of Covenant • Covenant motto: “I will be their God and they will be my people” • Transformation – linked to forgiveness • New Testament?
Prophetic Actions • Critique: • Jeremiah and the clay pot – Jer 18:1-18 &ch 19 • “that I will pluck up and break down and destroy it .... That I will build and plant it ...” (18:7, 9) • Energising: • Jeremiah buys a field – Jer 32 • Putting his money where his mouth is • Confidence; inspiring hope that they will return