This part of Jeremiah’s story occurs at a pivotal moment. Jeremiah has been speaking for God, condemning the practices of the king of Judah and the prophets of the king’s court. He has nearly been executed three times for treason, solely based on his opposition to them. Earlier in this chapter, God (through Jeremiah) has presented his vision for His people—that they should “… act with justice and righteousness,… do[ing] no wrong or violence to the alien, the orphan, and the widow…” (v. 3) Instead, “… their eyes are on your dishonest gain, for shedding innocent blood, and for practicing oppression and violence.” (v. 17) Speaking up against these acts brought Jeremiah nothing but grief. Very soon, the tide will change. Babylon is about to change their lives forever.
- Right away, you can sense the tone of this passage. God is angry with the king and his court prophets. God reminds them that he is both near and far; they can run, but they cannot hide. God sees everything. (vv. 23-24)
- God attacks the court prophets for leading His people astray. They have told His people lies; lies which support the king’s agenda, and not the Lord’s. (vv. 25-27)
- In the end, God says “let them tell their lies”. But let His prophet (Jeremiah) speak the truth as well. The wheat/straw sentence was puzzling to me. I take it to mean this: Both wheat and straw are from the same plant; but the wheat provides nourishment, while the straw is provides none. Jeremiah and the court prophets are all prophets, but only one provides wholesome prophecy. (v. 28)
- The Lord’s final statement is ominous—His word is like fire. It is like a hammer. This is no idle threat! (v. 29)
The more things seem to change, the more they remain the same. In today’s religious communities, there are two distinctly different “schools”. One strives to care for the disadvantaged—foreigners, the poor, widows, and the underprivileged. The other supports leadership that is more interested in programs for the wealthy than for the poor.
FOOD FOR THOUGHT
I wonder what God would say to us today? Could He be speaking now, and we’re just not listening?
I will continue to say this, because it is so important to understanding the book of Hebrews—this book was written to help the Christian Jews to understand Jesus’ place in the world of Jewish theology. They had a firm understanding of Yahweh through reading the Old Testament. The question before them was how Jesus fit into this picture. Before Jesus, one gained God’s favor by keeping The Law of Moses. With Jesus, it comes though faith. Is this something new? The author of Hebrews says no, and explains why.
- We are presented with a very long list of faithful Jews from Old Testament scripture. (vv. 29-32)
- We read of the suffering they endured for their faith. (vv. 33-38)
- He then states that all these faithful people did not, unfortunately, receive the promise (of the Messiah). The good news is that we do receive the promise! (vv. 39-40)
- The final paragraph tells us what we should do. I’ll summarize it in reverse order.
- Remember that Jesus endured the shame of the cross, and sits at God’s right hand.
- Remember that Jesus is our pioneer and perfecter of our faith.
- Let’s set aside our sinful ways, and run the race of faith that is set before us. Sometimes, we must persevere, especially when faced with difficulties such as those mentioned in verses 33-38.
Over the eons, many have suffered for their faith. This was certainly true for the early Christians. They were called upon to persevere in the face of adversity; to have suffering endurance. Even today, occasionally, we are called upon to stand up for Jesus. When this happens, it’s time to lace up our running shoes, and run the race of faith!
Jesus has “set his face on Jerusalem”. He continues on, knowing what lies ahead. He has taught his followers what all of this will mean, but many don’t get it or don’t want to get it. Last week’s reading hinted at the anxiety that Jesus must have felt. In this week’s reading, Jesus’ feelings are more evident.
- It is clear to me that Jesus is anxious about what he is about to endure, and would like to get it over with. By “baptism”, I believe he is referring to his crucifixion. (vv. 49-50)
- Our Prince of Peace is not talking peace here, but division. It was true for his followers, back at that time. To follow Jesus meant that they must step away from their former traditional Jewish lives, and become Christians. This would mean confrontation with family members and friends. Many would have to choose between Jesus or family & friends. These lines of separation still exist. But we’ll save that for the Takeaway. (vv. 51-53)
- The final paragraph might be understood to refer to the “end times”. But, I prefer to think instead that Jesus was talking about his immediate future. Everybody was happily following him down the road. Jesus knew exactly where that road would lead, but others apparently did not. I think this passage was meant for them. (vv. 54-56)
Many of us are fortunate to be able to live our lives in the same Christian community as our friends and family. Sometimes, there is a cost to following Jesus. Sometimes, family members will differ on issues of morality or faith. This is when it is important to return to holy scripture and review the life and teaching of Jesus.