I am blogging this Advent from #decolonizelutheranism’s Advent devotional, Shut Up. (That would be the sanitized version)
But the Lord said to me, “Do not say, ‘I am only a youth’; for to all to whom I send you, you shall go, and whatever I command you, you shall speak. (Jeremiah 1:7 ESV)
I am no longer a youth.
I haven’t been a youth in some time. I’m not sure quite when that came to end. It probably doesn’t matter.
I’m reminded of Jesus’ warning in the synoptic gospels here — Matthew 10, Mark 13, Luke 12 — “So when they arrest you and hand you over, don’t worry beforehand what you will say, but say whatever is given to you at that time, for it isn’t you speaking, but the Holy Spirit.” (Mark 13:11 CEV) Jeremiah has complained he is young, too young to speak well, so who would listen?
Interesting thing God promises here.
“I will send you, and you will go. I will command you, and you will speak.” And Jeremiah will be given a full itinerary. Called. Sent. Commanded. Soiled underpants, stalking the palace in Jerusalem while the city is under siege, being tossed in a cistern, eventual exile in Egypt.
But God doe not promise that anyone will receive him. God does not promise that anyone will actually listen. Which is an interesting omission, since Jeremiah is coming to proclaim judgment upon Israel — a harsh judgment, an unyielding judgment, a brutal judgment in which many will suffer and many will perish. Jeremiah has to argue with happy prophets who proclaim the exile will end quickly, and all will be as it was.
But that’s not what Jeremiah preaches. All will not be as it was. The plans God has, for wholeness and not evil, for a future and a hope, involve going through and living in exile, finding meaning and purpose in the place where Israel finds itself scattered. “The people who survived the sword found grace in the wilderness,” God speaks through Jeremiah.
And in this broken, ruined land, houses and fields and vineyards shall be worked and sown and harvested again.
But not today. Not yet. Not for a long time, maybe.
Someone listened to Jeremiah. The words he spoke were written down. His words of judgment and hope. And this is the most important thing to remember — judgment, harsh as it may be, is never God’s final word. Redemption is. Just as God’s final answer to sin is not death, but resurrection.
But whether anyone listens …
A CORRECTION: In my previous Advent musing, “Ruptured,” I said:
And it is not Babylonians telling Israel, “This is all your fault, if only you hadn’t worshiped Canaanite gods.” It is God who has pronounced judgement, saving the harshest for his very own people Israel.
The second half of that statement is true. The first half, well, I’d forgotten this little bit of Jeremiah:
My people have been lost sheep. Their shepherds have led them astray, turning them away on the mountains. From mountain to hill they have gone. They have forgotten their fold. All who found them have devoured them, and their enemies have said, ‘We are not guilty, for they have sinned against the Lord, their habitation of righteousness, the Lord, the hope of their fathers.’ (Jeremiah 50:6-7 ESV)
So, apparently, Israel’s neighbors — including probably Babylonians — did taunt Israel about its sin. And even our enemies know that our failure is a result of our faithlessness.