So we are about all done with Jeremiah. And not a moment too soon. I had forgotten how long Jeremiah is. Isaiah has more chapters, but Jeremiah just seems longer. Maybe that’s because he had such a difficult message. Both Isaiah and Jeremiah speak to the impending judgment of Israel, and both have a word of hope for restoration.
The problem with Jeremiah is that even the hopeful stuff sounds pretty discouraging. The hope for Judah is that they aren’t the only ones who are going to be punished. All their neighboring nations will be as well. Of all the verses that get quoted out of Jeremiah, 48:25-26 are a couple that don’t get much press…
“Moab’s horn is cut off,
her arm is broken,” declares the Lord.
“Make her drunk,
for she has defied the Lord.
Let Moab wallow in her vomit;
let her be an object of ridicule.”
In fact, there are only two or three verses from the latter half of Jeremiah that really ever get mentioned.
Jeremiah 29:11 is one of them, “For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and future.” All well and good, except for a couple problems. One, it is directed at an entire covenant community, not individuals. And two, what we understand prosper to mean and what it might have meant for a nation to prosper are two different things entirely. Any attempts to claim this verse as a promise that we are never going to suffer hardship or trail are problematic to say the least. This isn’t some magic-verse to guarantee that we will never fail… even miserably so. It is simply a promise to his covenant people that they (as a community) will flourish… eventually.
If we spent as much time focusing on the couple verses that follow, then we might even discover the means by which we (as the new covenant community) will “prosper.”
“Then you will call upon me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you. You will seek me and find me when you seek me with your whole heart. I will be found by you,” declares the Lord, “and will bring you back from captivity.”
In fact, one could even say that the “calling and listening” and the “seeking and finding” is the very prospering Jeremiah (and God) has in mind. Food for thought.
The other verses that get some play are 31:33-34…
“This is the covenant I will make with the house of Israel
after that time,” declares the LORD.
“I will put my law in their minds
and write it on their hearts.
I will be their God,
and they will be my people.
No longer will a man teach his neighbor,
or a man his brother, saying, ‘Know the LORD,’
because they will all know me,
from the least of them to the greatest,”
declares the LORD.
“For I will forgive their wickedness
and will remember their sins no more.”
Again, strong promises for God’s community of faith. This is one of those verses that I have to believe is being fulfilled progressively. It may have been intended and received by Jeremiah’s original hearers to a certain degree. With the coming of the Christ and the Spirit which followed, it was realized to an even greater degree. And one day, it will be fulfilled completely. God speed the day.