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Well, isn’t this ironic? I am writing this meditation of the evening of the first Presidential Candidate’s Debates in the 2016 electoral campaign in the United States. Sentences in today’s passage are not unlike the brash declarations being heard in this most bizarre of campaigns. “Run for you lives”, “Light a signal fire”, “Destroy the fortresses” “build a wall” and “victims are everywhere, wounded and dying”. Such is the language of political hyperbole in our day. Whether thrown as barbs at the opponent, used to incite vehement reaction among one’s followers or to vilify foreigners, these are what we used to call “fightin’ words”.
But there is a huge difference with that rhetoric and today’s reading: This is God’s word to a rebellious and disobedient people. If there was a sound track to this passage, it would be a shrieking siren. “Danger – Danger – Danger. You have unleashed my wrath. I must punish you … I will abandon you … I will tell your enemies to leave your nation bare. I, the Lord All Powerful, have spoken.”
Jeremiah is frankly upset – or better yet dumbfounded. “Lord”, he states, “I have told the people that you will punish them but they just laugh and refuse to listen.”
What do you do when your audience refuses to heed your advice or warning? Turn around and walk away? Speak louder? Find a few people whom you might persuade? Jeremiah, we will learn in the coming chapters, remains faithful to God in the midst of the decimation that God imposes on Israel and Judah. He just kept preaching, kept talking, kept telling the people what they didn’t want to hear.
In our local churches, we probably have tried a bit too hard to just be nice. People cringe in the pews if there is any mention of hell. They don’t like it when words like ‘repent’ and ‘allow yourselves to be broken’ are pronounced. They like the mercy, not the justice. Where are the Jeremiahs in our churches?
Lord, when people don’t want to hear your word, embolden us to keep sharing it. When people fail to turn away from their wrong doing, give us the courage to remain faithful to our call. Help us to be your witnesses in the world today. Amen.