17 March 2018

Jeremiah 28:1-17

“In that same year, at the beginning of the reign of King Zedekiah of Judah, in the fifth month of the fourth year, the prophet Hananiah son of Azzur, from Gibeon, spoke to me in the house of the LORD, in the presence of the priests and all the people, saying, ‘Thus says the LORD of hosts, the God of Israel: I have broken the yoke of the king of Babylon.’” (vv. 1-2)

Psalm: Psalm 119:49-64


Hananiah sounds like a cheery fellow! We all like good news. When storm clouds are brewing, a single shaft of light breaking through can lift our spirits. But I hear the meteorologists whispering, ‘still take your brolly!’

Time and again in history, the gloom and despondency of individuals and nations have been lifted by light words. And we are not immune to this in the Church. I always shudder just a little when the steward in the church where I’m preaching prays that we might leave all our concerns and troubles outside the church and ‘turn our eyes upon Jesus’. I watch the television news, I look around me as I walk in the town. Even in the chapel, I have some sense of the burdens borne by those sitting in front of me as I preach. ‘Forget your troubles, c’mon get happy’, just doesn’t cut it when you’re waiting for the prognosis of a diagnosed cancer. And that’s true even if the lyric has a Christian twist.

Sometimes I think we need to ‘get real’ and face the world as it really is. I don’t want to be an ‘Eeyore’ or a stereotypical Jeremiah all the time, but the reality is important.

And that’s where our passage leads us. The people have been oppressed and that oppression is not going to waft away on a breeze of cheery singing. Hananiah sounded welcoming and refreshing. The trouble was that this might lift your spirits so high that when the truth punctured them it would be like falling from a jetliner. Better to be prepared and have your parachute packed and strapped on. So Jeremiah counters the frothy expectation of his rival. And, as so often, makes use of a vivid illustration. The broken wooden yoke is replaced with one of iron. For us, today, the message might be slightly different. When we ‘turn our eyes upon Jesus’ he is not standing reading at a gilded eagle lectern, but I guess, more likely, snuggled up in a doorway with his friends.

To Ponder

  • If you ‘turn your eyes upon Jesus’ where do you think you are most likely to find him?
  • Do you ever need to hear an uplifting message that runs counter to your current experience? When, and why?

Bible notes author

The Revd Andrew Pratt

Andrew is a Methodist supernumerary presbyter, Honorary Research Fellow at Luther King House, Manchester, and author. He has written over 1,300 hymns.