23 July 2010

Jeremiah 3:14-17

"At that time Jerusalem shall be called the throne of the LORD, and all nations shall gather to it, to the presence of the LORD in Jerusalem, and they shall no longer follow their own evil will." (v.17)


We know more about Jeremiah than we do any other Old Testament prophet. The book that bears his name includes descriptions of his call (1:4-10), his mission (1:11-19), his sympathies (eg 4:9), his sense of God's power (4:23-26), his sorrows (15:10-21), and how he was compelled to proclaim God's message despite hostility and doubt (20:7-18).

Jeremiah's message to the people of Judah had two parts: judgement and hope. First, he told them they had to repent and return to God. This they needed to do because they had forgotten God's love and were worshipping idols. When Jeremiah's warnings were ignored, disaster came in the form of the Babylonian empire. In 587 BC this mighty power destroyed Jerusalem and its Temple and the people were taken as captives into exile. Jeremiah chose to stay with those that remained rather than accepting a position at the Babylonian court. Later, he was taken against his will to Egypt. He continued to speak God's message to his people, only now his words were more hopeful. He told the people that God wouldn't abandon them. After the exile they would return to their homeland.

In this passage Jeremiah invites the people to turn to God so that they may return to their homeland and be led by worthy kings ('shepherds'). The ark of the covenant, as a symbol of God's presence, will no longer be needed as the teachings given to Moses and written on tablets of stone will be internalised by every person. Their worship of God will be genuine and heartfelt and not merely ritual. Each and every one of them is to have a real relationship with God (see Jeremiah 31:31-34).

To Ponder

Jeremiah's message was unpopular with his people and they chose to ignore it and persecute him. How have you responded to someone who spoke challenging words to you? What have you learned from that experience?

Why do you think some people prefer religious observance to a living relationship with God?

Bible notes author

The Revd Caroline Ainger

Caroline Ainger is a Methodist minister based in Liverpool. She has a passion for creative worship, social justice issues and international development.