2 March 2016

Jeremiah 26:1-9

“… I will make this house like Shiloh, and I will make this city a curse for all the nations of the earth.” (v. 6)

Psalm: Psalm 47


Some of the books and films that confuse me the most are those that don't follow a linear progression through a story, but rather flash back and jump forward. The book of Jeremiah is one such book -it doesn't just start at the beginning and journey along to the end. It is a mixture of styles with oracles (messages or preaching) and narrative. Today's passage happened earlier in the story of Jeremiah than yesterday's.

Firstly, it happened towards the beginning of the reign of Jehoiakim who was king earlier than Zedekiah (their exact relationship is unclear). What is more, the reference to Shiloh points to Jeremiah's message to the people of Jerusalem that we have in chapter 7 (see particularly Jeremiah 7:1-15). Earlier we only had the sermon, but now we read the narrative about its delivery and reception.

In 1 Samuel 1-4 we see the fate of Shiloh. When the people of God had conquered the land we now call Israel, Shiloh (to the north of Jerusalem) became the place where the Tabernacle (the mobile forerunner to the temple) was erected and the Ark of the Covenant (the sacred box containing the original Ten Commandments) kept. It was therefore the focal point for the worshipping life of the people of God.

The Ark of the Covenant was presumed to always assure people of God's protection, but during one episode of rebellion the Israelites were routed, and it was taken by the Philistines, and, we can interpret, Shiloh destroyed. The people of God were not as infallible as once thought.

In the days of Jeremiah, Jerusalem and the temple were held in similar regard. Despite Assyria invading the northern kingdom of Israel just over a hundred years previously, the people of Judah believed the same couldn't happen to them because of the temple. To suggest otherwise was not only unpatriotic but also blasphemous - doubting the ability of God to save God's own people. So it is unsurprising Jeremiah's message caused such controversy.

To Ponder

  • For what reasons may we be called to proclaim a message that runs contrary to society's, or even the religious establishment's perceptions?
  • Are there better ways today to challenge society without standing outside and denouncing? What might they be?

Bible notes author

The Revd Will Fletcher

Will is a presbyter stationed in the Sheffield Circuit. He has oversight of one multisite church (The Beacon Methodist Church) which is spread over three locations in western Sheffield.