Jeremiah I – “to root out and to pull down”

November 2, 2016

In the gospel of Matthew, Jesus asks his disciples, “Whom do men say that I am?”, and they replied, “Some say that thou art John the Baptist; some Elias; and others Jeremias, or one of the prophets.” (Matthew 16:13, 14) What was special about Jeremiah (Jeremias) that men remembered him when they spoke of Jesus? How can Jeremiah’s story help us with our lives today and with our viewpoints about the health of today’s government or today’s church? In Jeremiah 1:10, this major Old Testament prophet was given the mission “to destroy, and to throw down, to build, and to plant,” but what do we learn when we’ve been thrown down?

My interest in Jeremiah began a few years ago when I read a book by Eugene Peterson, translator of The Message, entitled Run with the Horses: the Quest for Life at its Best. This title is from Jeremiah 12:5 in which Peterson translated God’s words as:

“So, Jeremiah, if you’re worn out in this footrace with men,

what makes you think you can race against horses?

And if you can’t keep your wits during times of calm,

what’s going to happen when troubles break loose

like the Jordan in flood? (The Message, Jeremiah 12:5)

It is inspiring to think of Jeremiah as a religious maverick, as was Mrs. Eddy.  Both saw a spiritual and universal dimension to worship that was rejected by their contemporaries.

Here are some Bible Notes on Jeremiah from The New Oxford Annotated Bible:

Jeremiah lived during the critical years spanning the “golden age” of the Judean king Josiah (640-609 BCE) and the subsequent fall and destruction of Jerusalem and the deportations of the Judean population into captivity (597-586 BCE), all at the hand of Nebuchadnezzar II of Babylon. . . .The traditional assumption. . .is that Jeremiah began his ministry in 627 BCE (Jer. 25:3) and prophesied until well after the deportation of 586 BCE. . . .Jeremiah, along with his friend and scribal colleague Baruch, was forcibly taken as a hostage to Egypt, where he is last heard speaking judgment oracles against the community in the years following 586 BCE. (p. 1057)

Jeremiah 1:11 – Almond tree, a very early blooming tree

Jeremiah 1:13, 14 – The pot was boiling over as first Assyria and then Babylon exercise expansionist imperial policies against Judah and its neighbors. (p. 1059)

Jeremiah 3:16 – Ark of the covenant, Judah’s central religious symbol had likely been removed in military attack and was no longer present in the Temple by Jeremiah’s time. Later tradition ascribed to Jeremiah the securing of the final secret resting place for the Ark of the Covenant, where he hid it following the destruction of the Temple (2 Macc 2:4-5) on Mount Nebo, the same mountain near which Moses’ secret burial site was located. (p. 1064)

The above Bible Note on Jeremiah 3:16 references 2 Maccabees 2 which reads:

It was also in the same document that the prophet, having received an oracle, ordered that the tent and the ark should follow with him, and that he went out to the mountain where Moses had gone up and had seen the inheritance of God. Jeremiah came and found a cave-dwelling, and he brought there the tent and the ark and the altar of incense; then he sealed up the entrance. Some of those who followed him came up intending to mark the way, but could not find it. When Jeremiah learned of it, he rebuked them and declared: “The place shall remain unknown until God gathers his people together again and shows his mercy. Then the Lord will disclose these things. . . . (2 Maccabees 2:4-8 New Revised Standard Version)

I love this traditional view of Jeremiah burying these religious symbols in a sepulchre so that their immortality could be brought to light (Science and Health, p. 582:23); or as we sing in our hymn, “And as we rise, the symbols disappear” (Hymn #108).