19 February 2016

“But this command I gave them, ‘Obey my voice, and I will be your God, and you shall be my people; and walk only in the way that I command you, so that it may be well with you.’” (v. 23)

Psalm: Psalm 38:1-9


The role of God's prophet was, of course, not to be a holy fortune-teller but to remind the people that God demanded total obedience: the covenant was a call to walk in complete commitment. All the burnt offerings and sacrifices could not atone for living out of kilter with a holy God.

Jeremiah's entire career put him on the edge of his community but here he claims that every prophet occupies that same space - God's voice on the edge.

Indeed, his argument is that the people's leaders of worship have got things so badly wrong that they have forgotten the origins of the covenant call: walk with me to a land I will show you (Genesis 12). That call to fellowship and companionship has been overtaken by increasingly corrupt sacrifices and ritual, says Jeremiah.

The rescue from slavery in Egypt; the lessons learned during 40 years of godly provision in the wilderness; God's continued miraculous support of a chosen people - none of these have prevented the people becoming stiff-necked.

Jeremiah recruits "all [God's] servants the prophets" (v. 25) as his companions in calling urgently to the people to abandon the corrupt cultic practices and return to the covenant relationship with God.

But in language that increasingly inflames his hearers - and of course the exiled people who later read the book of Jeremiah - Jeremiah tells the crowd that God knows they will not listen.

"You shall say to them: This is the nation that did not obey the voice of the Lord their God, and did not accept discipline; truth has perished; it is cut off from their lips." (v. 28)

What a terrible thing to say to your neighbours.

To Ponder

  • How might we speak out prophetically without being pushed to the fringes of society?
  • Someone once said: "If you're not living on the edge, you're taking up too much room." Is that right? And how might you respond?

Bible notes author: The Revd Gareth Hill 

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