Prophets Shape Faith
Reading the prophets of Israel is a daunting task. I have Jeremiah in his 31st chapter, which is a bit like his 7th mile in a half marathon a few years ago.
Prophets make us listen to metaphors that don’t land well. The people of Judah will beat each other. . . a bottle of wine? We hear about excessive and symbolic behavior. You can put on a loincloth and ruin it to show people how God feels… People who don’t cling to their waists anymore? For the most part, we suffer with prophets and people through long denunciations, judgment statements, and sufferings to come. The narrative snippets of the prophet visiting a potter or being thrown into a well feel like moments of relief in the midst of Jeremiah’s long… well, Jeremiah.
It’s hard work, but it’s the key to deep faith-building. What the prophets teach us is something that cannot be put into a doctrinal formula or simple statement. “Jeremiah is the last days before the expulsion of Judah” does not come close to defining the reader’s experience.would be like saying Lord of the Ring It’s about the war in Middle-earth during the Third Age of the world. Isn’t it true about Connie’s braces that Samwise roasts and the despair the Fellowship feels as they walk through the dark dwarven tunnels?
Jeremiah tests the network
Prophets teach that no despair is so complete as to exceed the limits of God’s mercy. And this can only be learned by walking with the Prophet and his people in despair. It’s like an old Verizon commercial. Step into the dead zone and say, “Can you hear me? How are you now?”
Why do we need this network test? Because we’re not just traveling with Jeremiah on these pages.We’re traveling with Jeremiah’s God. This is the God who chose to follow Adam and go out into the wilderness beyond Paradise. He is the God who walks with Israel in the wilderness. I wrote a bit about this in my first book. God is incarnated with those He loves. It is not just a New Testament image either. Jewish theologian Michael Wishogrod said that the incarnation is the correct way to explain God’s presence in the assembled people, land, and law.
So Jeremiah’s God seems to be doing something very ungodly. God is full of emotions. Sometimes God changes his mind. He becomes furious, cries, becomes jealous, and breaks his promises. Yet God can do all this without ceasing to remain the eternal, unchanging, and ever-faithful Creator of all things. This is the deep and mysterious path that the Bible leads us on. And it’s something we can only learn by walking.
Jeremiah’s Emotionally Unstable Companion
This means, as Abraham Heschel puts it, “Jeremiah must learn the grief of God.” And we will learn it with him. God is banished in exile in Israel and homeless in her exile. The Prophet gives us words of “dramatic tension in the inner life of God.” That’s the story of incarnation.
Thus, the prophets show that nothing counts as proof that God has forsaken His people. there is nothing. Including God appearing and saying, “I have forsaken you.” The chalice of wrath in chapter 25 is not enough to drown out the scriptures I read this morning.
I’ve loved you with my eternal love
Therefore, I have remained loyal to you.
The day will come when Judah’s miserable life will end.
like a watered garden,
And they no longer fade.
So we read the prophets and enter into the imagination of a God who is not afraid to join us in the hardest part of being human. unstable companion. God’s mercy is capricious. Sometimes we find ourselves lying unloved and forgotten among the weeds.
Still, I hear voices coming out of the weeds saying things that hardly seem to be true, but somehow, “I loved you with an eternal love.”