The Book of Jeremiah (from which most of the recent Old Testament lessons in the Daily Office have come) is not an easy book. The LORD called this prophet to declare a challenging word of judgment, and Jeremiah was faithful to his calling. Through one oracle after another, God pronounces doom over his people – a doom that they have brought upon themselves through their stubbornness, their idolatry, and their sin.
Of course, as hard as those texts are to hear (and as reluctant as we are to find ourselves in them), these messages, too, are God’s Word for us. There is in all of us a tendency to pursue stubbornly our own agendas and to make idols of “that-which-is-less-than-God” and to fall short of the Christ-like character and kingdom-life that God desires for us. [And perhaps the greater problem is that we are so much better at seeing those tendencies in others than we are in ourselves.]
But one of the things that I appreciate about Jeremiah are his occasional words of hope, which offer the assurance – that in spite of all the things we’ve done to make a mess of things – God is still in the salvation, redemption and renewal business.
We find one such word of hope among today’s readings. Jeremiah has declared to the people an imminent exile – the natural outcome of their own evil inclinations. But in the midst of the gloom, there is a shining promise that the LORD is still prepared to do a work of such power and glory that it will make His former acts of redemption look like the warm-up to the main event:
“The days are coming,” declares the LORD, “when it will no longer be said, ‘As surely as the LORD lives, who brought the Israelites up out of Egypt,’ but it will be said, ‘As surely as the LORD lives, who brought the Israelites up out of the land of the north and out of all the countries where he had banished them.’ For I will restore them to the land I gave their ancestors.” (Jeremiah 16:14-15)
What would it look like today for God to perform such a mighty act of renewal among us that it makes His former deeds fade into distant memory? Are we prepared to turn from the sin and un-Christlike attitudes that make such an act redemption necessary? And are we prepared to trust – that even in the midst of our brokenness and dysfunction – God is still in the salvation, redemption and renewal business?
Another Old Testament prophet declared: LORD, I have heard of your fame; I stand in awe of your deeds, LORD. Repeat them in our day, in our time make them known…” (Habakkuk 3:2) May this be our prayer as we submit to God’s will…as we trust in His promise…and as we wait for “a Greater Exodus” to put His glory on display.