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
"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.
What a terrible thing to say to your
- 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
Bible notes author: The Revd Gareth Hill