Archive for the ‘Jeremiah 19’ Tag

Sin and Punishment   Leave a comment

Above:  Icon of Jeremiah

Image in the Public Domain

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READING JEREMIAH, PART XII

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Jeremiah 17:1-20:18

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The Hebrew prophetic books are repetitive.  When one reads the genre methodically, one realizes this.  Pardon me, therefore, O reader, for not explaining every repeated theme in Jeremiah 17:1-20:18.

Jeremiah 17:1-4 uses powerful imagery to condemn illegitimate worship at cultic sites.  Proverbs 3:3 and 7:3 refer to the tablet of the heart, on which the divine commandments are inscribed.  Yet in Jeremiah 17:1, those tablets are inscribed with the guilt of Judah instead.  Such a heart symbolizes disobedience to God in Ezekiel 2:4 and 3:7.  Eventually, God will make a new covenant, one inscribed on the hearts of the people (Jeremiah 31:31-34).  For now, however, repentance is not an option.  The sins of Judah, not the reparation blood (Leviticus 4:1-7, 13-20), are on the stones of the altar.

2 Kings 22-23 tells of the religious reformation of King Josiah (r. 640-609 B.C.E.).  One may read Jeremiah 17:1-4 and surmise that 17:1-4 predates those reforms or that his four successors presided over a rollback of those reforms.  Either option is feasible.  The second option may be more likely.

God is faithful and forever.  Even the most pious and benevolent people, those who keep the covenant, are not forever.  The Book of Jeremiah focuses on God and on those who are neither pious nor benevolent, though.

Returning to the imagery of the human heart in 17:9-10, we read that the human heart is crooked and deceitful.  The germane Hebrew word, suggestive of deceit, means “crooked.”  The human heart is the most crooked thing, we read.  This is a spiritual and moral pathology.

Jeremiah 17:11 speaks for itself.

Jeremiah’s desire for vengeance (17:18) was predictable.  I have known the same desire under less severe circumstances.  Maybe you have, also, O reader.

The Deuteronomic perspective in the Book of Jeremiah and other Hebrew prophetic books teaches that the (northern) Kingdom of Israel and the (southern) Kingdom of Judah declined and fell because of persistent, unrepentant, collective disregard for the moral mandates of the Law of Moses.  This is the perspective written into much of the Old Testament, from the perspective of the editors after the Babylonian Exile.  Jeremiah 17:19-27 singles out violations of the Sabbath (Deuteronomy 5:14)–especially commercial transactions–as being emblematic of widespread, systemic disregard for the covenant.

Sabbath-keeping has long been a feature of Judaism and Christianity.  Keeping the Sabbath–a sign of freedom in the Law of Moses–has been a way of emulating God.  On the seventh day, in mythology, God created the Sabbath (Genesis 2:1-3).  Sabbath-keeping has always been challenging, in practical terms.  Stopping all work on that day (however one defines it) has always been impossible.  Certain work has always been crucial to perform on the Sabbath, and members of the clergy have had to take their Sabbath some other time in the week.  The Hasmoneans, zealous keepers of the Law of Moses, bowed to reality and engaged in defensive combat (1 Maccabees 2:31-48; 1 Maccabees 9:23-73; 2 Maccabees 15:1-19).  If they had done otherwise, they would have lost battles and lives needlessly.

Sabbath-keeping works to the benefit of people.  Everyone needs to take time off to live.  One should work to live, not live to work.  Structural economic factors may restrict one’s options in keeping the Sabbath as one would prefer to do.  Also, the common good requires, for example, that public health and safety continue on the Sabbath.  Time off is a mark of freedom.  Slavery assumes many forms; one can be a wage slave.

The prophecy of the potter (Jeremiah 18:1-12) is familiar, and popular with lectionary committees.  I have written about it while blogging through lectionaries.  I bring your attention, O reader, to a key point:  God, the Creator, is free to handle His creation as He sees fit.  I am a piece of pottery, not the potter.

People kept plotting against Jeremiah.  Had I been Jeremiah, I would have complained to God, too.  I would have prayed to God to show no mercy on the plotters, also.  I, too, may have rued the day of my birth.  Jeremiah was only human.  God knew that before calling Jeremiah to be a prophet.

Jeremiah made no allies by following God’s instructions in Chapter 19 and symbolically smashing a jug.  That act led to a flogging and a brief incarceration.  Jeremiah suffered intensely and briefly, but Passhur the priest was going to experience “terror all around.” Judah was failing; nobody could change that.

Many people in authority like to maintain their power.  Some of them peacefully resign themselves to the realities of age, health, constitutional term limits, and election results; others do not.  Many people in authority are servant leaders; others are tyrants or would-be despots.  I suppose that nobody in authority wants to hear that the institution, nation-state, kingdom, empire, et cetera, is doomed.  Yet how one handles that news is a test of character.  Besides, power reveals a person’s character.  And, as Heraclitus said,

A man’s character is his fate.

I wonder how Passhur the priest felt in 586 B.C.E., after the Fall of Jerusalem.  I wonder if he remembered the words of Jeremiah and wept bitterly.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JUNE 10, 2021 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT JAMES OF NISIBIS, BISHOP; AND SAINT EPHREM OF EDESSA, “THE HARP OF THE HOLY SPIRIT”

THE FEAST OF FREDERICK C. GRANT, EPISCOPAL PRIEST AND NEW TESTAMENT SCHOLAR; AND HIS SON, ROBERT M. GRANT, EPISCOPAL PRIEST AND PATRISTICS SCHOLAR

THE FEAST OF SAINTS OF GETULIUS, AMANTIUS, CAERAELIS, AND PRIMITIVUS, MARTYRS AT TIVOLI, 120; AND SAINT SYMPHROSA OF TIVOLI, MARTYR, 120

THE FEAST OF SAINT LANDERICUS OF PARIS, ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOP

THE FEAST OF THOR MARTIN JOHNSON, U.S. MORAVIAN CONDUCTOR AND MUSIC DIRECTOR

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Jeremiah’s Sermon in the Temple, With His Trial and Death Sentence   Leave a comment

Above:  Statue of Jeremiah, Salisbury Cathedral

Image in the Public Domain

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READING JEREMIAH, PART V

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Jeremiah 7:1-8:3

Jeremiah 26:1-24

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Jeremiah 7:1-20:18 consists of oracles primarily from the reign (608-598 B.C.E.) of Jehoiakim (born Eliakim) of Judah.  For more about Jehoiakim, read 2 Kings 23:36-24:7; 2 Chronicles 36:5-8; 1 Esdras 1:39-42.

The Assyrian Empire had consumed the (northern) Kingdom of Israel in 722 B.C.E. then the Kingdom of Aram in 720 B.C.E.  In 612 B.C.E., the Chaldean/Neo-Babylonian Empire had conquered the Assyrian Empire.  In 608 B.C.E., Judah was struck between two powerful neighbors–Egypt and Babylonia, themselves enemies.  After the death of King Josiah (r. 640-609 B.C.E.) in combat against Pharaoh Neco II of Egypt (r. 610-595 B.C.E.), Judah had become a vassal state of Egypt.  Neco II had appointed the next King of Judah, Jehoahaz, also known as Jeconiah and Shallum (2 Kings 23:31-35; 2 Chronicles 36:1-4; 1 Esdras 1:34-38).  Jehoahaz had reigned for about three months in 609 B.C.E. before Neco II had replaced him with another son of Josiah and taken him into captivity in Egypt.  Neco II had also appointed Eliakim and changed his name to Jehoiakim in 608 B.C.E.  He served as an Egyptian vassal until 605 B.C.E., when he became a Chaldean/Neo-Babylonian vassal.

Jeremiah spent most of his prophetic career speaking difficult truths to a nation under foreign domination.  This context was extremely politically dangerous.

This sermon is thematically consistent with Hosea 6:4-6; Micah 3:9-12; and Amos 2:4-6.  It is also thematically consistent with many other passages of Hebrew scripture.  The link between idolatry and social injustice (especially economic injustice) is clear.  Sacred rituals, even those the Law of Moses mandates, are not talismans.  The joining of lived collective piety and justice on one hand and sacred ritual on the other hand is imperative.  The combination of social injustice and sacred ritual makes a mockery of sacred ritual.

Mend your ways and your actions,

Jeremiah preached at the Temple.  Then he unpacked that statement:

…if you execute justice between one man and another; if you do not oppress the stranger, the orphan, and the widow; if you do not shed the blood of the innocent in this place; if you do not follow other gods, to your own hurt–then only will I [YHWH] let you dwell in this place, in the land that I gave to your fathers for all time.  See, you are relying on illusions that are of no avail….

–Jeremiah 7:5-8, TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures (1985)

Pay attention to 7:11, O reader:

Do you consider this House, which bears My name, to be a den of thieves?  As for Me, I have been watching–declares the LORD.

TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures (1985)

This is an allusion in Jesus’s mouth during the Temple Incident/the Cleansing of the Temple in Matthew 21:13; Mark 11:17; and Luke 19:46.  Notice that Jeremiah predicted the destruction of the First Temple.

Chronology is not the organizing principle in the Book of Jeremiah.  The Temple Sermon of Jeremiah is a case in point.  We return to it and read of its aftermath in Jeremiah 26:1-24.

Idols abound.  They may be tangible or intangible.  If an activity, idea, or object functions as an idol for someone, it is an idol for that person.  Money is one of the more common idols.  Greed contributes greatly to economic injustice, and corruption is one of the major causes of institutionalized poverty.  Obliviousness to participation in the violation of God’s moral commandments, including mutuality, will not shield us from the consequences of those sins any more than keeping sacred rituals will do so.

Circa 608 B.C.E. God was still holding out the possibility of repentance, prompting the cancellation of divine punishment, according to Jeremiah 26:3.  This contradicts other passages from the Book of Jeremiah and other Hebrew prophetic books composed or begun prior to the Book of Jeremiah.  Perhaps one reason for the contradiction is the addition of later material to the early Hebrew prophetic books, as late as the Babylonian Exile.  I suppose that maintaining the hard line of the time for repentance having passed was difficult to maintain after the Fall of Babylon (539 B.C.E.).

The priests and prophets said to all the people, “This man deserves the death penalty, for he has prophesied against this city, as you yourselves have heard.

–Jeremiah 26:11, TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures (1985)

Jeremiah prophesied against a government and a population under foreign domination.  There was no separation of religion and state either.  The prophet worked in a dangerous milieu.

Jeremiah had allies, though.  Some cited the example of Micah, who had issued a dire prophesy (Micah 3:12) and had not received a death sentence.  Fortunately for Jeremiah, the court’s sentence remained unfulfilled.  Ahikam, a high-ranking royal official (2 Kings 22:12), saved him.  Ahikam was also the father of Gedaliah, the assassinated governor of Judah after the Fall of Jerusalem (Jeremiah 40:1-41:18).

Uriah ben Shemiah, from Kiriath-jearim, was not as fortunate as Jeremiah was.  Uriah, also prophesying in the name of YHWH, said what Jeremiah proclaimed.  Uriah fled to Egypt for safety because King Jehoiakim wanted him dead.  Royal agents found Uriah in Egypt and returned him to Judah, to die.

One may legitimately wonder why God protected Jeremiah from threats to his life yet did not spare faithful Uriah ben Shemaiah.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JUNE 7, 2021 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT MATTHEW TALBOT, RECOVERING ALCOHOLIC IN DUBLIN, IRELAND

THE FEAST OF SAINT ANTHONY MARY GIANELLI, FOUNDER OF THE MISSIONARIES OF SAINT ALPHONSUS

THE FEAST OF FREDERICK LUCIAN HOSMER, U.S. UNITARIAN HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF HUBERT LAFAYETTE SONE AND HIS WIFE, KATIE HELEN JACKSON SONE, U.S. METHODIST MISSIONARIES AND HUMANITARIANS IN CHNA, SINGAPORE, AND MALAYSIA

THE FEAST OF SEATTLE, FIRST NATIONS CHIEF, WAR LEADER, AND DIPLOMAT

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The Individual and the Collective V   1 comment

Above:  Fresco of Samuel

Image in the Public Domain

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Blessed Lord, who caused all holy Scriptures to be written for our learning:

Grant us so to hear them, read, mark, learn, and inwardly digest them,

that we may embrace and ever hold fast the blessed hope of life,

which you have given us in our Savior Jesus Christ,  who lives and reigns

with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever.  Amen.

The Book of Common Prayer (1979), page 236

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1 Samuel 8:4-20; 11:14-15 or Jeremiah 19:1-6, 10-12a

Psalm 106:1-16, 19-23, 47-48

Romans 8:1-11

Luke 12:35-48

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These assigned readings pertain to collective matters–sins, punishment for sins, and life in the Holy Spirit.  The context is that of a group–a faith community, a kingdom, et cetera.  All of that is consistent with the Biblical theme of mutuality.  We are responsible to and for each other.

Collective guilt and responsibility may seem unfair, assuming a certain perspective.  For example, sometimes a court releases a wrongly-convicted person who has spent years in prison yet whom evidence has exonerated.  Perhaps an expert witness lied under oath.  Maybe DNA has proven the prisoner’s innocence.  Perhaps the prisoner pleaded guilty to a lesser charge to avoid a certain conviction on a more severe charge.  Maybe the testimony of eyewitnesses proved to be unreliable, as it frequently does.  Perhaps the prosecutor engaged in professional misconduct by withholding exculpatory evidence.  Either way, taxpayers have borne the financial costs of what went wrong, leading to the incarceration of an innocent person.  And taxpayers may bear the financial costs of paying reparations to the wrongly convicted.  We not begrudge giving a liberated, wrongly-convicted person a fresh start and the financial means to begin a new life, do we?  We know, after all, that the wrongly-convicted person has paid for the actions of others with time in prison.

Whatever one person does affects others, whether one behaves as a private citizen or in an official capacity.  Likewise, society is people.  What society does wrong and sinfully does affect even those members of it who vocally oppose those sinful actions.  Those activists for justice also suffer when their society incurs punishment for its sins.

On the other hand, given that society is people, individuals can change their society.  Individuals can improve their society or make it worse.

May all of us leave our societies better than we found them.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

APRIL 23, 2020 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF TOYOHIKO KAGAWA, RENEWER OF SOCIETY AND PROPHETIC WITNESS IN JAPAN

THE FEAST OF JAKOB BÖHME, GERMAN LUTHERAN MYSTIC

THE FEAST OF MARTIN RINCKART, GERMAN LUTHERAN MINISTER AND HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF SAINT TERESA MARIA OF THE CROSS, FOUNDRESS OF THE CARMELITE SISTERS OF SAINT TERESA OF FLORENCE

THE FEAST OF WALTER RUSSELL BOWIE, EPISCOPAL PRIEST, SEMINARY PROFESSOR, AND HYMN WRITER

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Adapted from this post:

https://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2020/04/23/devotion-for-proper-19-year-c-humes/

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Apocalyptic Warnings   1 comment

jeremiah-sistine-chapel

Above:  Jeremiah, from the Sistine Chapel, by Michelangelo Buonarroti

Image in the Public Domain

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The Collect:

Almighty God, by grace alone you call us and accept us in your service.

Strengthen us by your Spirit, and make us worthy of your call,

through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord.  Amen.

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 23

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The Assigned Readings:

Jeremiah 19:1-15 (Thursday)

Jeremiah 20:7-13 (Friday)

Jeremiah 20:14-18 (Saturday)

Psalm 65:5-12 (All Days)

Revelation 18:11-20 (Thursday)

2 Peter 3:1-7 (Friday)

Luke 10:13-16 (Saturday)

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Those who dwell at the ends of the earth tremble at your marvels;

the gates of the morning and evening sing your praise.

–Psalm 65:7, Common Worship (2000)

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The prophet Jeremiah would have been thrilled for that statement to have applied to Jerusalem.  Alas, some people there even sacrificed their children to pagan gods at the valley whose name became the source for the label “Gehenna,” a place of suffering in the afterlife.  Jeremiah condemned such idolatrous and violent practices and pronounced divine punishment.  For his trouble he faced flogging and imprisonment.  Yet those who mistreated him would, he said, die as exiles in Babylon.  That prediction came true.

A common expectation in New Testament times was that Jesus would return quite soon.  It was an age of apocalyptic hopes that God would end the violent and exploitative rule of the Roman Empire, set the world right, and that the divine order would govern the planet.  In that context a lack of repentance was especially bad, as in Luke 10:13-16.  In Revelation 18 the Roman Empire had fallen (within the Johannine Apocalypse only), but the imperium survived well beyond the first century of the Common Era.  Discouragement and scoffing had become evident by the 80s and 90s, the timeframe for the writing of 2 Peter.  Yet the calls to repentance remained applicable.

Divine time and human time work differently, but some things remain the same.  Fearful theocrats react badly to honest prophets.  The realization that God has not met a human schedule leads to bad spiritual results.  Violent, oppressive, and exploitative governments continue to exist.  And the promise that God will destroy the evil order then replace it with a holy and just one remains a future hope.  In the meantime we would do well to consider the moral lessons of Revelation 18.  For example, do we benefit from any violent, oppressive, and/or exploitative system?  If so, what is the “Babylon” or what are the “Babylons” to which we have attached ourselves, from which we benefit, and whose passing we would mourn?

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

NOVEMBER 23, 2014 COMMON ERA

PROPER 29–CHRIST THE KING SUNDAY–THE LAST SUNDAY AFTER THE EPIPHANY, YEAR A

THE FEAST OF JOHN KENNETH PFOHL, SR., U.S. MORAVIAN BISHOP; HIS WIFE, HARRIET ELIZABETH “BESSIE” WHITTINGTON PFOHL, U.S. MORAVIAN MUSICIAN; AND THEIR SON, JAMES CHRISTIAN PFOHL, SR., U.S. MORAVIAN MUSICIAN

THE FEAST OF SAINT CLEMENT I OF ROME, BISHOP

THE FEAST OF SAINT COLUMBAN, ROMAN CATHOLIC ABBOT

THE FEAST OF MIGUEL AUGUSTIN PRO, ROMAN CATHOLIC MARTYR

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Adapted from this post:

https://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2014/11/23/devotion-for-thursday-friday-and-saturday-before-the-third-sunday-after-the-epiphany-year-b-elca-daily-lectionary/

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