Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Called by God

Jeremiah 20: 7 - 13

This might be one of the most depressing passages in the entire Bible. Jeremiah has been flogged and put in stocks overnight in front of the temple by the orders of his own priest. His friends have nicknamed him ol' "Danger Everywhere" for his words of doom and destruction. They're reluctantly standing by, but are watching closely for the first opportunity that allows them to justify deserting him. He is overwhelmed by anguish and humiliation. He describes the feeling as being seduced and then raped by God. Jeremiah decides that he's had enough and that he'll just be silent, but his calling is like a "burning fire shut up in his bones." He can't keep going, and he can't quit. What's a prophet to do?

Being called by God is an interesting thing. Jeremiah had the lineage to be a priest, but God gave him another task, and a very unpleasant one at that. He spent 40 years telling his people of the devastation that was to come. It's not so much that they doubted the words; they just didn't want to hear it. Their eventual response was to kill the messenger.

One of my favorite heroes of the Christian faith is Dietrich Bonhoeffer. When other Christian churches and leaders either ignored the Nazis or actively associated with them, Rev. Bonhoeffer had the courage to speak the truth. Like Jeremiah, he paid with his life. Looking back, his was one of the only voices of reason, yet it wasn't what the churches wanted to hear so they were able to ignore the message and consequently bear some of the responsibility for the horrors that unfolded. How tragic.

Bonhoeffer described Christianity as a call to come and die. Judging by Jeremiah's experience, it worked that way in the Old Testament too. It's not something to take lightly.

1 comment:

  1. It is amazing to me after reading the words to the people that God gave Jeremiah to speak, that we hardly ever want to hear the truth about ourselves, and when we do listen and it is something we don't want to hear, we so quickly turn the tables on the deliverer and everything becomes their fault. We have become masters at shifting blame. You can see it in our politics, our jobs, especially these days in our churches, and sadly in our most intimate relationships. While we don't physically stone others for speaking the truth, we certainly have learned other ways to harm.