November 9, 2016
Jeremiah warned the citizens of ancient Jerusalem that their authority figures “had healed the hurt of the daughter of my people slightly, saying, Peace, peace; when there is no peace” (Jer 6:14). He urged the people to build up their own faith in God to protect and inspire them, instead of relying on physical organizations, such as the monarchy or the Temple. If you are striving for true peace, especially after this unsettling election, you may find comfort in the inspired Word of the Bible, and especially in the story of Jeremiah who would not permit a spiritual death in his people although he saw destruction all around him.
We all know the story about how Jesus overthrew the moneychangers in Herod’s Temple because it had become “a den of thieves” (Mark 11:17). Did you know that Jeremiah spoke those same words about Solomon’s temple (Jer. 7:11)? In his book about Jeremiah, the translator Eugene Peterson wrote,
This sermon by Jeremiah is so important to us. It is especially important in times of success, when everything is going well, when the church is admired and church attendance swells. We think everything is fine because the appearances are fine and the statistics are impressive. The church is never in so much danger as when it is popular and millions of people are saying, “I’m born again, born again, born again.” (Run with the Horses, p. 67)
But what if your church has the opposite situation and appears empty? Jeremiah asks that question as well:
Who is wise enough to take all this in? Who has heard the Eternal speak and can explain His ways to others? Can anyone say why this land has been ruined and left a wasteland, a desert where no one dares to travel? (Jer. 9:12, The Voice)
My tent is destroyed,
and all my cords are broken;
my children have gone from me,
and they are no more;
there is no one to spread my tent again,
and to set up my curtains. ((Jer.10:20, New Revised Standard Version)
I have been studying Jeremiah for his insights into the direction of our church, locally and globally, and one term Jeremiah uses that I find helpful is “defenced city.” (From King James; other translations use “fortified city” or “fortress.”) For example, “Why do we sit still? assemble yourselves, and let us enter into the defenced cities, and let us be silent there:” (Jer. 8:14). In our Church Manual, there is a provision which states: “The prayers in Christian Science churches shall be offered for the congregations collectively and exclusively” (Manual, 42:1-3).
Jeremiah always had his defense system because God told him,”I have made thee this day a defenced city, and an iron pillar, and brasen walls against the whole land. . .” (Jer. 1:18). In Miscellaneous Writings, Mary Baker Eddy wrote about her method of prayer:
Three times a day, I retire to seek the divine blessing on the sick and sorrowing, with my face toward the Jerusalem of Love and Truth, in silent prayer to the Father which “seeth in secret,” and with childlike confidence that He will reward “openly.” In the midst of depressing care and labor I turn constantly to divine Love for guidance, and find rest. It affords me great joy to be able to attest to the truth of Jesus’ words. Love makes all burdens light, it giveth a peace that passeth understanding, and with “signs following.” (Mis. 133:22-31)
So, there’s our reminder about the peace-giving power of prayer — in our churches collectively and exclusively, and as individuals in our own prayer-closets!
Here are some Bible notes from The New Oxford Annotated Bible, Fourth Edition:
Jeremiah 7:4 – The Temple was regarded as a place of sanctuary where one might seek refuge from reprisal. . . .The people believe that their mere presence in the Temple renders them safe. . . .Although liturgical tradition expressed God’s protection of Jerusalem and the Temple, it is deceptive to think that this necessarily assures God’s protection. The threefold repetition implies that the phrase had become a cliche. (p. 1072)
Jeremiah 7:12 – Shiloh was destroyed during the early Philistine wars. . . .The memory of Shiloh was important for Jeremiah’s own family, descended from the priests of Shiloh through Abiathar, David’s priest who was exiled to Anathoth by Solomon. (p. 1072)
Jeremiah 7:31 – The valley skirting Jerusalem to the south and west was likely the site of many fire-pits for garbage, but also the site for sacrificing children in fire for divine favor. The custom was practiced even by Israel’s kings, but was proscribed in the reform of King Josiah. (p. 1073)
Jeremiah 9:10 – Lamentation is the technical term for the funeral dirge. (p. 1076)
Jeremiah 9:15 – Wormwood, an extremely bitter and poisonous herbal extract (p. 1076)