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Rex Maxon's Jeremiah Commentary 37-47

Rex Maxon's Jeremiah Commentary 37-47

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34
JEREMIAH14:19-15:9 GODREJECTS
an
IMPENITENTPEOPLE
One
rn.o
r
e
chanceofturning
Verses
19-22,
likeverses
7-9,
offeranotherprayer,lamentingthe community'spresentsufferings,acknowledgingagaintheirsinand confessingthatGodistheironlyhope.Theyappealtothatestab- lishedgroundofallGod'sgraciousdealingswiththem,forthesake ofhis'name'(v.
21),
bywhichismeantthatheactsingraceand mercyinordertoshowhistruenature(Exodus9:
16).
Theyacknowl- edgehissupremepower,hewhositsonhis'gloriousthrone'(v
21),
a'throne'symbolizedinthejerusalemtemplewhere'Godsitsen- throneduponthecherubim'(Psalms
80:1;
99:1).Onlyhecansend 'rain',thatsymbolofalltheblessingsofhiscreationandsalvation (Psalm
68:7-10).
Andtheytakeagainuponthemselvestheobliga- tionoftheircovenantstatuswiththiscreatingandsavingGod;they acknowledgehimaloneamongallothergods(v.
22;
compareExodus
20:3).
Sadly,suchanexpressionofarealreturntotheircovenantGod remainsthewordsoftheprophetalone.Thenationasawholedoes nottaketheopportunitytheprophetdarestoprovideinspiteof God'swordtohiminverses
11-12.
Asadreversalofsalvation
jeremiahhadalreadybeentoldnottoprayforthenation(7:
16;l4:11-12).
Perhapshisdeepattachmenttoandlongingforhis peopleledhimtoperseverenevertheless.NowGod'srejectionof intercessionisevenmoresharplyexpressed.MosesandSamuelwere notonlyregardedasthefoundersofthepropheticmovementassuch (Deuteronomy
18:15;
Psalm
99:6),
buttraditionrecordedtheireffec- tiveintercessionforthepeopleonseveraloccasionsofcrisis(Exodus
32:11-14;1
Samuel
12:19-25).
Thingshavenowreachedastate, however,whereeventheirprayerswouldnolongermoveGod
(15:
1).Indeed,theroleMosesplayedwhenGoddeliveredhispeoplefrom bondageinEgyptisrecalledinatragicandironicreversalofsuchan
84
actofsalvationnow.AsCarrollpointsoutinhiscommentary(p.
20),
God'swordsnowabouthisownpeople,'Sendthemoutofmy Sightandletthemgo'recallhiswordstoPharaohinExodus5:1,'Let mypeoplego'.Thekindofdisastersthenvisitedontheirenemies, theEgyptians,arenowtobevisiteduponthem
(15:2-3).
ThegreatsalvationactofGodinredeeminghispeoplefromslaveryinEgypt wasoftenspokenofasanactofGod's'mightyhandandoutstretched arm'(Deuteronomy
4:34).
Nowhehas'stretchedout[sameHebrew verb]hishand'againsthisownpeople(v.6).Verses
7-9
spelloutin piteouspoeticimageswhatthismeans,intermsofwomenputina powerlesspositioninsocietywhenbereftoftheprotectionofhus- bandsandsons. Astrangenoteisheardinverse4,whereallthisissaidtobe becauseofthesinsofKingManasseh.Thismayreflecttheconviction oflaterDeuteronomisticeditors(see
2
Kings
23:26-27).
Forjere- miahtohavetoldhiscontemporariesthatallthattheywereaboutto undergowasbecauseofthesinsofsomeonewhohadlivedand reignednearlyhalfacenturybeforewouldappeartobluntthesharp- nessofhischallengetohishearers.WhateverhethoughtofMan- asseh,wehaveseenthatjeremiahlefthishearersinnodoubtoftheir ownfullresponsibility. Perhapstwopointsthereforeariseforustoday.Oneisthatwhen peopleinjeremiah'stime,orinanytime,deliberatelychoosetoturn theirbacksonallthatGodoffersinlove,theystrikeaverypoor bargainindeed.Theotheristhatwhileweareallinfluencedtosome extentbythosewhohavegonebeforeusandweallsufferfromthe harmfuleffectsofthesinsofothers,intheendeachofusisrespon- sibleforourownchoicesandourowndecisions.
APRAYER
Lord,todaymay
I
eopentoallthatyouwishtooffermeinlove. Amen
85
 
35
JEREMIAH
15:10-21
The
LONELINESS
ofthe
LONG-DISTANCEPROPHET
Theprophet'sdistress
Thewholepassagebeforeusisoneofthemostmovinginthebook, depictingasitdoestherealinnercostofbeingtruetoGodwhenthat loyaltysetsusoveragainstallthat,ashumanbeings,weholdmost dear.Unfortunatelyitisbesetbyproblemsofinterpretation,especi- allyinverses
11-12.
TheHebrewtextisdifficult,andthedifferent Bibleversionsoffersuchdiversevariationsthattheyonlymake mattersmoreconfused.Asaresult,wecannotevenbesurewhether thespeakerinverses
11-12
isGod(NRSV)ortheprophet(RSV),nor whetherwhatissaidofferspromiseorthreat,oramixtureofboth. Verses
13-14
alsooccurat
17:3-4
andseemtohavebeenaddedat thispointbyaneditorwhosawthewords'fromthenorth'inverse
12
asathreattothenation.Perhapsitisbesttoseethepassagethere- foreasconsistingoftwo'complaints'bytheprophet(compare
1l:18-23;12:1-6)
inverses
10
and
15-18,
andtworesponsesfrom Godinverses
11-12
and
19-21.
Theisolationof
rema
i
nf.rrg
loyaltoGod
InbothpassagesjeremiahtellsGodofthepriceheispayingforhis obediencetothecalltobeaprophetandforbeingfaithfultoa messagewhichwassowidelyunpopular.Hehasnottriedtoexploit hisneighboursinanyway,yettheyallrevilehim(v
10).
Heaccepted God'smessageandmadeitswordspartofhimselfbecausethey pointedthewaytolifeandthejoysofsalvation(v.
16;
compare Ezekiel
3:1-3).
Yetthisveryscaleofvaluesshuthimofffromthe warmthofhumanfellowshiphesocraved,forothersfoundtheir pleasuresfromverydifferentsources(v.
17).
Inhisdistressheeven wisheshehadneverbeenborn,alongingheexpressesingraphic language(v
10;
comparejob
3:3-26).
Theworstthingofallishis senseofisolationfromGod,whoseemstolethimdownjustwhen heneedshimmost.Theearlierjeremiahhadconfidentlyproclaimed thatGodwasa'fountainoflivingwater'
(2:13).
Now,inanalmost
86
shockingcomplainttoGod,hesaysthatGodislikeadeceptivewadi, oneofthosestreambedswhichinwinterareragingtorrents,butin summer,whenmostneeded,arearidandempty(v
18).
Deliverance,butnotescape
Verses
11-12
aredifficulttointerpret.SomehowGodseemsto promisebothgoodandyetconstanthostility,withtheultimate promisethatthoseweakenedbymixedmotivesandaims(bronzeand iron)willnotbeabletoprevailovertheonewhoiswhollyfirmfor God(iron).Thatiscertainlythenatureofthestempromiseofverses
19-21.
Therewillbenolet-upintheconstantstrugglewiththose whorejectGod'swordsandGod'sways,buttheonewhohas'eaten' themandfoundthematrustysourceofjoywillprevailoverthose whoshiftanddriftaboutfromonegoaltoanother.Again,however, these'confessions'ofjeremiahshowthedeepestdimensionsof prayer.HecomestoGodjustasheis,andpoursouttohimallhis inneragoniesanddoubtsinawaythatwemightalmosttermblas- phemous.Hecomesaswellwithhisreallimitations,seeninanout- burstofhatredagainsthispersecutorsanddesireforrevengeonthem (v.
15).
Perhapswe,forourpart,oftentrytohidethissideofour- selvesfromGodwithourrathermoreconventionalandpioustypeof devotions.Godmetjeremiahatthedeepestpointofhisneed.Itis veryhardtoacceptthatwedonothavetomakebelieve,evenjusta little,inGod'spresence.
FORPRAYER
Lord,helpmetobelievethatyourlove
is
deepenoughtomeetme, acceptmeandhelpmeexactlywhereandas
I
amnow.Amen
87
 
36
JEREMIAH16:1-9SHARING
the
PEOPLE'SLONELINESS
J
erem.iahforbiddentom.arry
WehaveseenenoughofJeremiahtoknowjusthowdeeplyinvolved withhiscompatriotshefelthimselftobe.Envisagingtheircoming sufferingisinnertortureforhim.Hehasalreadyspokenofhissense ofisolationfromallthatgivesthemjoybecauseofwhatheseeslies aheadofthem(15:17-18).Now,thislonelinessisintensifiedasGod forbidshimtomarry(vv.1-2).Ostensiblythisisbecauseofthe dreadfulfatethatawaitsallthefamiliesoftheland
(w.
3-4).Butthis ismorethanjustthekindofpessimismaboutthenationalorinter- nationalsituationwhichleadssome,evennow,tobelieveitwouldbe unfairtobringafamilyintosuchaworld.Itisapersonalidentifica- tionwithhispeople,asharingatthedeepestleveloftheanguishand losstheyaredestinedtoexperience.justasEzekielwastoldnotto indulgeinanykindofpublicdisplayofmourningwhenhiswifedied, becausehisprivategriefwasnothingcomparedwiththenational sufferingthatwastofollow(Ezekiel24:15-24),sojeremiahisfor- biddentoshareanyofthejoysofmarriageandfamilylifewhichare tobesoshort-lived. Verse4makesitclearthatallthatistocomeistheresultofGod's judgment,since,fortheHebrews,whohadnorealideaatthistime oflifeafterdeath,forbodiestolieunburiedwasthefinalignominy forcommoner(7:33)androyal(1Kings16:4)alike.
Mourningandcelebrationaremeaningless
Therewillbenotimeforthenormalmourningrituals,somanywill bethedead(vv.5-7;compareAmos8:3).Itisstrangethatthose mourningritualsmentionedherewereactuallyforbiddenbythelaw (Leviticus21:5;Deuteronomy14:1).Eitherthissuggeststhatitwas alaterlaw,oronenotgenerallyknowninjeremiah'stime,orthatthe widespreaduseofsuchpracticeswasyetanotherinstanceofthe people'sneglectofGodandtheircallingas'apeopleholytothe Lord'(Deuteronomy14:2).Equallypointlessareoccasionsofhuman joyandcelebrationsuchasweddings
(w.
8-9)sincealljoyisabout tobeovertakenbydisaster(asinAmos8:10).
88
Indeed,theendofthecelebrationofsuch'covenant'ceremonies asweddings,alreadyforeshadowedbythecommandtojeremiahnot tomarry,isonlysymptomaticoftheendofthedeeper'covenant' relationshipbetweenGodandhispeople.Alltheaccompanying blessingspromisedinthatcovenantrelationshiparetobetakenaway (v.5)-'peace',or'salvation'astheHebrewword
shalom
isbetter rendered;'steadfastlove'(Hebrew
hesed);
and'mercy'(asinthegreat covenantpromiseofExodus34:6).Theonlypeopletogoonholding outpromisesofsuchblessingstothisrebelliouspeoplenowarethe falseprophets(6:14).Indeed,thereisironyinthestatementthatno onewillbeoffering'thecupofconsolation'tothosewhomourn(v 7),fortheonly'cup'Godisgoingtoholdouttohispeopleisthecup ofjudgment,tobemetedouttothematthehandsoftheBabylonians (25:15). Isthereanythingbutgloomanddisasterinthispassage?Perhaps thefactthatthereisaprophetwhocaresenoughtobebrutally honestandtoavoidallfalsecomfortandsuperficialcure,andenough toinvolvehimselfinalltheirsuffering,isasignofhope.Inthedarkest timesGod,itseems,doesnotleavehimselfentirelywithouthuman witness.
FORMEDITATION
Wearestill/eftwithonlythenarrowwcry,awcryoftenhardlytobe found,oflivingeverydayas
if
itwereourlast,yetinfaithand responsibilitylivingasthoughasplendidfuturestilllaybeforeus. 'Housesandfieldsandvineyardsshallagainbeboughtinthisland,' criesJeremiahastheHolyCity
is
abouttobedestroyed...It
is
adivinesignandpledgeofbetterthingstocome,justwhenallseems blackest.Thinkingandac