Good morning! Today in Jeremiah 5-6 the prophet Jeremiah continues his denunciation of the people of God for their unfaithful ways. He also shares more details about the terror that is about to visit Judah. We read references to a people from the lands of the north throughout this section, and Assyria’s invasion is almost certainly what the prophet has in mind.
Jeremiah 5 begins with an echo of an earlier scene from Genesis, Lot’s challenge to God regarding the presence of any faithful people in Sodom. Whereas God promised to spare Sodom if there were even ten righteous people found, here Jeremiah contends that there isn’t even one person for whom God would save Jerusalem. All sectors of society have fallen away from faithfulness. The lie they believe about God is that the Almighty will be inert and silent in the face of this provocation. One wonders how many times Jeremiah heard just these words reported of the people: “The prophets are nothing but wind, for the word is not in them.” Such hostility incites fiery rhetoric from Jeremiah in response, designed to devour the people as a fire devours wood.
This has me wondering who are the unpopular modern-day prophets so determined to communicate God’s judgment and righteousness that they sound entirely impolitic? Jeremiah Wright (the former pastor of Trinity United Church of Christ in Chicago) comes to mind, along with Black Lives Matter activists. Though these are recent examples, such a tradition of righteous judgment extends all the way back to the biblical prophets we read through now. As Jeremiah sees it, one symptom of infidelity to God is the betrayal of divine care for those who suffer: “they do not judge with justice the cause of the orphan…and they do not defend the rights of the needy”.
As a consequence, Jeremiah 6 describes the wrath of God poured out on Jerusalem and the whole of Judah. Divine judgment comes for children and elderly, husbands and wives, neighbors and friends together. God has tried to be heard by calling at the crossroads for recommitment to “the ancient paths, where the good way lies”. I wonder if Jeremiah had Woman Wisdom from Proverbs in mind when he described the calling here. Whether or not he was thinking of Wisdom or more immediate prophets, the people do not respond favorably to the invitation. Hence, Jeremiah uses the metalsmithing metaphor to describe how the quality of these people has been tested, and they have been judged impure, “rejected silver”.
Possibly as the work of later writers who survived Assyria’s siege of Jerusalem, we find repeated promise even in the midst of Jeremiah’s judgment. “I will not make a full end” of the Hebrew people, God says. This is good news: divine faithfulness endures despite human infidelity. In the words of the communion liturgy I use in the United Church of Christ, “you remain faithful to your covenant even when we are faithless”. Happy reading!
Please join discussion of this passage at the Daily Bible Facebook group, or comment below. The passage for tomorrow is Jeremiah 7-9. Thanks for reading!