31 July 2010

Jeremiah 26:11-24

"It is the Lord who sent me to prophesy against this house and this city all the words you have heard." (v.12)


By preaching against the rituals and teachings of the Temple, the prophet Jeremiah has stirred up something of a hornets' nest. The priests demand the death penalty and the listening crowds have become a mob. But, as the officials of Judah arrive to bring order and resolution to the situation, it becomes clear that Jeremiah has stirred up memories also.

Jeremiah asserts the primacy of God's inspiration for all he has said, leading the jury of officials to recall the fates of earlier prophets critical of the establishment and of corporate deafness to God's guidance for holy living. They speak of Micah, who was spared (bequeathing to us a biblical book in his name), and Uriah of Kiriath-jearim, who was not.

On this occasion Jeremiah is fortunate. It would appear that he has friends in high places for he is released. His future, however, seems blighted. His message will be ignored by king and country, and eventually Jeremiah himself will be sent into exile.

But there is a twist in this tale. Now persona non grata at the Temple, Jeremiah remains concerned that the word of God should still be broadcast. At God's behest (chapter 36), he dictates to his friend Baruch a scroll, recording all his prophecies, and sends Baruch off to the Temple to read it out. This time, King Jehoiakim is outraged, as well as the priests, and the scroll is destroyed.

Undeterred, Jeremiah has Baruch re-write the whole document and it is this second scroll that we presume provided the core material for the book of Jeremiah that we still read. It has been added to, and embellished by the words of other prophets and teachers, but surely this is proof not only that God's word is irrepressible but that it is continually refreshed by each succeeding generation who find it to be as relevant in new contexts as it was in Jeremiah's.

To Ponder

Do you have rituals or traditions in your family that help you to pass on God's word from one generation to the next? How do they help?

When fewer people have a close connection with Christian life and faith, how do we ensure that God's word is made present for them in ways that are relevant to their everyday lives?

Bible notes author

Laurence Wareing

Laurence Wareing is a Methodist local preacher and works as a freelance writer and media producer. He was editor of the Methodist publication Momentum from 2005 until 2010 and currently edits the website Singing the Faith Plus.