Jeremiah 50:17 Israel is a hunted sheep driven away by lions. First the king of Assyria devoured it, and now at the end King Nebuchadrezzar of Babylon has gnawed its bones. 18 Therefore, thus says the Lord of hosts, the God of Israel: I am going to punish the king of Babylon and his land, as I punished the king of Assyria. 19 I will restore Israel to its pasture, and it shall feed on Carmel and in Bashan, and on the hills of Ephraim and in Gilead its hunger shall be satisfied. 20 In those days and at that time, says the Lord, the iniquity of Israel shall be sought, and there shall be none; and the sins of Judah, and none shall be found; for I will pardon the remnant that I have spared.
To me, Jeremiah can be a bit of a slog since most of it speaks of judgment – judgment against Israel for her infidelity (worship of other gods), judgment against Assyria which conquered the northern kingdom of Israel, judgment against Egypt which started as an ally of Judah then turned traitor, judgment against Moab and other surrounding nations which attacked Israel in her vulnerability, and finally judgment against Babylon which finished off the southern kingdom of Judah (where the city of Jerusalem was located). V.18-20 above are words of promise for Israel, but such verses are few and far between in Jeremiah. There are two more chapters left in this book and then comes the book of Lamentations. You know it’s bad when I’m looking forward to a book called “Lamentations”.
So one of the characteristics of Jeremiah that makes it a tough read is the prevalent theme of judgment. Another is God’s role in all of this. We are told that God sent Assyria, Babylon, and other nations against Israel as instruments of discipline for Israel’s infidelity. Then we are told God used Israel as an instrument of revenge for these nations who dared attack God’s people Israel – at God’s own command. Really?
We are told that God’s ways are not our ways and that God’s thoughts are above our thoughts (Isaiah 55:8) – which I am certain is true. That said, from a 21st century theological perspective, God does not come off as “just” in the book of Jeremiah as much as jealous and vindictive. True, God is God and I am not. Also, please know I respect all of scripture as the word of God filtered through the lives of real people. But there are some parts of scripture I like more than others. Right or wrong, it’s true.
Nevertheless it is books like Jeremiah that make me all the more grateful for the ways in which Jesus radically altered God’s relationship with people – from righteous judge and disciplinarian to “Abba” which means “Daddy”. It’s a term of endearment that speaks of a new intimacy made possible through Jesus as an act of grace and mercy from God the Father.
Thank you Jesus! Amen.