As many of you know, I've been "Reading the Bible in 90 Days" this summer. For the most part, I've managed to read a portion of the Bible every day (ok, I confess, I've gotten beyond once or twice). But for the past several days, I've been reading the prophets, and lately, I've been spending time with that cheery guy, Jeremiah.
In my head, I know about Jeremiah. I know that he preaches almost unremitting (and truthful) warnings to the people of Judah, to the point that he was regarded as a traitor by many. But the snippets I mostly hear in church from Jeremiah, are the few haunting, hopeful passages, like this one from Jeremiah 31: "No longer shall they teach one another, or say to each other, 'know the Lord,' for they shall all known me, from the least of them to the greatest, says the Lord; for I will forgive their iniquity and remember their sin no more."
That's what I know and remember from Jeremiah: the comfort, the forgiveness, the new covenant. But actually, most of Jeremiah is filled with God's anger at Israel's idolatry and selfishness. The two things I hear over and over and over are about the faithlessness of the people, how prone to wander and to serve other gods, and the lack of care for the poor, the widow and the orphan, the stranger.
Jeremiah and the prophets have never seemed more contemporary to me.
"Everybody does whatever they want." "Nobody pays any attention to God. and nobody pays attention to the poor."
I have never heard God angrier than in these passage. Joel Osteen is WRONG -- sometimes, God IS mad at us.
God is mad at us when we engage in class and race warfare, stereotyping whole groups of people when it's convenient. "Some of those people really aren't poor," they say. "The Bible says that no one should eat unless he's willing to work," they say.
(what is interesting to learn is that this particular verse probably referred to the 'idle rich' who didn't need to work.)
You know what I find incredible, though?
There are places in Jeremiah when God re-affirms God's love for Israel. "I have loved you with an everlasting love," he says.
I'll be in the prophets for awhile yet. It's not a comfortable place to be.
But, before I go, I leave you with a few thoughts:
I find there are not so many prophets around lately. Maybe there are, but no one is listening to them.
But there are plenty of false prophets.
They are all the people who say that you never have to change.
They are all the people who tell us exactly what we want to hear, what makes us comfortable.
They're the people who tell us, "you don't consume too much, you're not wrecking the environment, there aren't that many poor people, not really."
What does God say?
And, "I have loved you with an everlasting love."