For the Love of God, Volume 2/July 10
From Gospel Translations
Joshua 12—13; Psalm 145; Jeremiah 6; Matthew 20
SOME REFLECTIONS ON the warnings of Jeremiah 6:
(1) Benjamin (6:1), which with Judah remained loyal to the Davidic dynasty and therefore had not been transported by Assyria along with the other ten tribes, lay to the north of Jerusalem. So when marauding hordes loomed “out of the north,” one might think that Jeremiah would advise them to flee south to Jerusalem, the best-defended city in the entire region. But Jeremiah tells Benjamin to flee away from Jerusalem—essentially a prediction that Jerusalem itself will be utterly destroyed and that no one should expect to find refuge there.
(2) The Hebrew of verse 4 literally reads, “Sanctify battle against her!” All war was “sacred” in the ancient Near East. The mighty pagan armies were accompanied by staff astrologers and fought under the patronage of various deities. The following lines depict a typical battle. Combatants began in the morning after both sides had made preparations, and then continued all day, with both sides normally retiring from the field about dusk. But here the enemy continues the attack at night (6:5)—suggesting a battle of uncharacteristic ruthlessness and ferocity.
(3) The heart of the charge against the citizens of Jerusalem and Judah is that they care nothing for the word of the Lord. When the prophet issues warnings, their ears are “closed”—literally, “uncircumcised” (6:10) “so that they cannot hear” (see yesterday’s meditation). Why? What is the problem? They are not literally deaf, but, “The word of the Lord is offensive to them; they find no pleasure in it” (6:10). Meanwhile the prophets and priests, according to the Lord, “dress the wound of my people as though it were not serious. ‘Peace, peace,’ they say, when there is no peace” (6:14). In other words, most of the religious leaders are not addressing the sins of the age and seeking to reform the people of God. Rather, they give soothing talks for busy people, above all avoiding themes like judgment and punishment. Their conduct is “loathsome” (6:15) because the people are being neither warned nor reformed, but the preachers, far from being ashamed, “do not even know how to blush” (6:15). Of course not: they are deluded into thinking they are doing the right thing. But the prophet of God is to “ask for the ancient paths” and “ask where the good way is, and walk in it” (6:16). This is not an appeal to boundless traditionalism, but to the inherited revelation of the covenant, of the Word of God, that is being jettisoned in favor of comforting illusion: the people said, “We will not listen” (6:17) and, God says, they “rejected my law” (6:19).