There’s an old saying that goes, “You catch more flies with honey.” People tend to respond better to positivity than they do to negativity. If you approach someone in a positive light and win them over, they are more likely to hear what you have to say.
Someone should tell God this. He didn’t get the memo.
Jeremiah’s a rough book to get through. God uses Jeremiah to remind Judah and Israel of the covenant they made and the degree to which they broke it. If you’re reading the NRSV, like I am, you’ll notice that Jeremiah most likely holds the title for whore-per-chapter ratio of any other book of the Bible. (Hosea and Revelation make solid contenders for the title, if you were wondering).
There is a reason it is used so frequently and that is because it is the only word that strikes at the heart of the matter. God is laying out this covenant He has made with Israel in the same terms as a marriage. The language is harsh because it needs to be. I’d be heart broken if my girlfriend cheated on me, I can’t imagine the pain that would be caused from that if I was married. Much less to find out not only that she’s been cheating on me, but that she’s been a prostitute all along. It’s the opposite of the plot to Pretty Woman. Oh, and not to mention that God is omnipresent and omniscient.
He’s watching all of it as it happens. *Shudder*
God is completely justified in His tone and actions. Jeremiah relays the message by mouth and then has Baruch write down the prophecies and take them on tour. He reads them in the temple, he reads them a couple times in the palace, and they finally reach the desk of Jehoiakim. The king has them read and essentially stops Jehudi as he’s reading it and starts cutting it up and burning it, piece by piece. Presumably, he’s burning the parts he doesn’t like. This, of course, ends up being the entire thing. There’s something that scares me about this…
We are all Jehoiakim.
All of us. Each and every one. We’ve done this in one way or another.
We do it with the Bible. Thomas Jefferson thought Jesus was a stand-up dude. That his ethical system was second to none. Jefferson wasn’t a fan of all this religious and supernatural business that got in the way of the morals, however, so he cut them out and threw them away, creating the Jefferson Bible. You may be familiar with it, you may not be, but it most likely is not something you would approve of. Problem is, we do the same thing every day. We rip verses from their context (Jeremiah 29:11 is a fantastic example), we personalize passages never meant to be about us, and we remove the parts of the Bible that are hard for us to swallow. We just do it in our minds and not on paper. Jesus couldn’t have actually meant all that “Love your neighbor as yourself” talk, right?
We also do it with the things God is speaking to us. God is confronting the people with their sin. All of these warnings sound like they are coming from a place of care. You can hear “this is going to hurt me a lot more than it hurts you” coming across tonally as he runs down the list of sins of his people. All he’s looking for is Israel to repent, grieve and turn back to him. Jehoiakim won’t hear it. He doesn’t think he’s doing anything wrong. Surely, none of us have ever been confronted with our sin and rejected that person or encounter as disingenuous because it hurt to hear it or our pride stopped us from listening. That’s a problem that existed only in the Old Testament, none of us have to worry about that happening to us. We’re good…
Sometimes God has difficult things to communicate to us. He has said things in the text that are very difficult to swallow. And he will say very difficult things at times that we need to hear and not brush off. Anyone who tells you different clearly isn’t reading Jeremiah.