August 31, 2012

From the Editor Emeritus / John F. Fink

Biblical readings: From the Book of Jeremiah

John F. FinkThe biblical readings in the Office of Readings next week are selected from the Book of Jeremiah. They don’t try to cover the whole book. Last week, I wrote about Jeremiah’s background so this week I’ll pick up with the readings.

They begin on Sunday with Chapter 12. Jeremiah says in verse one that he has a case that he had to discuss with God: “Why does the way of the godless prosper, why live all the treacherous in contentment?” He goes on to say that God knows that Jeremiah is with him, and he has suffered because of it.

God doesn’t answer Jeremiah’s question, but tells him that he must persevere even if things get worse, as they would.

Monday’s reading is Chapter 19 and the first six verses of Chapter 20. God tells Jeremiah to buy a potter’s earthen flask and then, in the presence of the elders and priests, break the flask while telling them that the Lord would smash Jerusalem as Jeremiah broke the flask.

After Jeremiah did that, the priest Pashhur had him scourged and placed in stocks overnight. When he got out, Jeremiah predicted that Pashhur and his family would be exiled to Babylon, where he would die.

In Tuesday’s reading, from Chapter 20, Jeremiah complains that God duped him, and that God’s word brought nothing but derision and denunciations. Deception, sorrow and terror have brought him almost to despair. He says, “Cursed be the day on which I was born!” (Jer 20:14).

And things didn’t improve. Wednesday’s reading, the first 15 verses of Chapter 26, finds Jeremiah still warning the people that if they don’t listen to the prophets the Lord sent that God would destroy Jerusalem. Their response is to threaten Jeremiah with death as a traitor because he prophesied against the city.

Jeremiah answered that it was the Lord who sent him to prophesy against the city.

“If you put me to death,” he said, “it is innocent blood you bring on yourselves, on this city and its citizens” (Jer 26:15).

Fortunately for Jeremiah, the princes and the people decided that he didn’t deserve death.

Babylon conquered Jerusalem twice, first in 597 B.C. and then in 587 B.C. After the first time, the Babylonians allowed Jeremiah to remain in Jerusalem. The reading for Thursday, the first 14 verses of Chapter 29, is a letter that Jeremiah sent from there to those who were exiled in Babylon.

He encouraged them to become good citizens of Babylon, to build houses and plant gardens, to marry and have children, to increase in numbers, not decrease, because it was God’s plan to let 70 years elapse before he would fulfill his promise to bring them back to Jerusalem.

Friday’s and Saturday’s readings, from Chapters 30 and 31, are about God’s promise to restore Israel. However, they were written much earlier in Jeremiah’s life, uttered after the northern kingdom of Israel was conquered by Assyria. They were extended to Judah after it began to share the same fate at the hands of the Babylonians. †

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