Day 19: Jeremiah 6:9-15
Thus says the Lord of hosts: Glean thoroughly as a vine the remnant of Israel; like a grape-gatherer, pass your hand again over its branches.
To whom shall I speak and give warning, that they may hear?
See, their ears are closed, they cannot listen.
The word of the Lord is to them an object of scorn; they take no pleasure in it.
But I am full of the wrath of the Lord; I am weary of holding it in.
Pour it out on the children in the street, and on the gatherings of young men as well;
both husband and wife shall be taken, the old folk and the very aged.
Their houses shall be turned over to others, their fields and wives together;
for I will stretch out my hand against the inhabitants of the land, says the Lord.
For from the least to the greatest of them, everyone is greedy for unjust gain; and from prophet to priest, everyone deals falsely.
They have treated the wound of my people carelessly, saying, “Peace, peace,” when there is no peace.
They acted shamefully, they committed abomination; yet they were not ashamed, they did not know how to blush.
Therefore they shall fall among those who fall; at the time that I punish them, they shall be overthrown, says the Lord.
Jeremiah 6:9-15 (NRSV)
When living near Chicago, I had a Jewish friend with whom I would often discuss the Bible and theology. In one of our conversations, we began talking about salvation. I asked her how she understood salvation and the need for conversion.
She said to me, “You Evangelicals have a completely different understanding of salvation than the Hebrew Bible (Old Testament) understanding. We Jews don’t talk about salvation like something that you perform, do, or ask for. God is ours and we are His. Salvation is not in question. We do, however, talk about teshuvah. Teshuvah is a word that means return. We recognize that we have turned from our Creator, and we must turn back to Him. It’s not about salvation when we die; it is about walking with God now.”
The plea in today’s passage from the prophet Jeremiah was written to religious people like you and me. It was written to people who had grown accustomed to a particular way of life that was not pleasing to God. This is a harsh reading. But, it is a text that makes us consider how seriously God takes the quality of our lives. This passage is a call for teshuvah. It is a call to return to God. How rarely are we ashamed of our shameful ways? Are we so different than those pre-modern Israelites who were too proud to “blush”? We don’t often consider that we could be walking away from God. The call of the prophets is constantly a call to humility, repentance, and return. Maybe we should stop worrying so much about whether or not we are “saved,” and we should ask ourselves the question, “Am I returning to God?”
I pray that it would not be said about us, “their ears are closed, they cannot listen.” May God grant us the ability to hear, the ability to see the error in our ways. And might we have the humility and courage to return to Him.
Jonathan Burkey, Pastor of Worship Arts