There are very few “kind” passages from the book of Jeremiah which is full of the words attributed to that prophet. He was only a “boy” when God called him to be a prophet, around the year 626 BCE (BC). This was a very chaotic time for the kingdom of Judah. War was everywhere. Political powers such as Egypt, Assyria, and Babylon battled for supremacy, installing puppet kings in Judah and throughout the area. By the year 605, Babylon defeated Egypt and Assyria in battle. Babylon was left as the supreme military and political authority in the Near East. In 597 BC, the first exile of leaders from Jerusalem took place. That was followed by a much larger exile 10 years later after Jerusalem rebelled against Babylonian authority. Jeremiah died the following year.
In such a violent and vicious time, it would be surprising to find may words of comfort from God’s prophet. However, even in the first chapter, the ground for hope is laid. God comes to a little boy, appointing him as a prophet for Jerusalem and all the nations of the world. We tend to romanticize our view of children, viewing them as special, precious, and innocent. And they are. But in Jeremiah’s time, childhood wasn’t romanticized. Children had few legal rights, many died before the age of five, and they worked in the field as soon as they were able. Children were powerless and it’s a child that God calls to bring God’s word to kings. God promises to give Jeremiah the words he needs. Jeremiah will preach a word to all those in power and authority, showing them their shortcomings and bringing God’s call for justice. God’s word will pull injustice down and, in the same instant, plant the seeds for reconciliation, love, and hope.
By the end of Jeremiah’s life, his messages of doom were matched by his messages of hope. He would never live to see the restoration of Jerusalem but he would proclaim that God does not give up on God’s people. God will come to all of us, in many different ways, to form us into the people God wants us to be. God’s desire is for the end of fear, injustice, and hopelessness. That what’s God begins in us through our relationship with Jesus Christ. And what God begins in us, we are called to do in all that we say and do.
Each week, I write a reflection on one of our scripture readings for the week. This is from Christ Lutheran Church’s Worship Bulletin for 8/14/2016.