Aug. 21 – 27
Jeremiah 1: 4 – 10
Today we hear about God’s commissioning of the boy Jeremiah, probably told by the prophet as a middle-aged man looking back. The story has a charm because a wide-eyed boy, completely lacking in confidence, is told by his God that in serving him, he will be what he can hardly imagine: he will be great and powerful. The passage is one of several in the Old Testament that justify what we say in our creed: “He has spoken through the prophets.” We don’t say, “The prophets wrote out god’s word.” In fact, some did write out the words, but not Jeremiah. What we have is a record of his sayings and doings that he dictated to his assistant, Baruch.
ALTERNATIVE FIRST READING
Isaiah 58: 9b – 14
This poem by Third Isaiah paints a delightful picture of how God will treat those who have returned from the Babylonian captivity who now show kindness to one another and who observe the Sabbath. There is a history behind this message. During Exile the ghettoized Jews in Babylon and Chaldea had no temple. The religious leadership fell to the rabbis who organized the synagogues. They taught that following the law and worshiping in the synagogue was far more important than cultic sacrifices at the Temple. Although the returned priests and their followers rebuilt the Temple after their release, they never fully regained their power. The future of Judaism lay with the rabbis.
Hebrews 12: 18 – 29
Coming to God, the author declares, is nothing like the terrifying approach to God at Mount Sinai. Rather coming to Christ is coming to the City of God, which he calls Zion. The actual Zion was the fortress David established on the promontory south of where the city of Jerusalem would grow. God’s announcement that he will again shake the earth is from Haggai 2: 6. Haggai tells of God’s covenant with the faithful remnant who have returned from the Babylonian Exile determined to rebuild the Temple. That covenant and the one at Sinai have both been shaken and destroyed; our covenant with Christ can never be shaken. Yet, after building this picture of God’s gentle reception of the faithful, the writer ends with a threat of violence. The image of the consuming fire of God is taken from Deuteronomy (4: 24), where God is said to be a jealous God who will destroy by fire those who disobey him.
©Arthur H. Cash