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Daily Devotions from Fourth Presbyterian Church

Wednesday, August 10, 2022  

Today’s Scripture Reading  |  Jeremiah 23:23–29

Am I a God near by, says the Lord, and not a God far off? Who can hide in secret places so that I cannot see them? says the Lord. Do I not fill heaven and earth? says the Lord. I have heard what the prophets have said who prophesy lies in my name, saying, “I have dreamed! I have dreamed!” How long? Will the hearts of the prophets ever turn back—those who prophesy lies and who prophesy the deceit of their own heart? They plan to make my people forget my name by their dreams that they tell one another, just as their ancestors forgot my name for Baal. Let the prophet who has a dream tell the dream, but let the one who has my word speak my word faithfully. What has straw in common with wheat? says the Lord. Is not my word like fire, says the Lord, and like a hammer that breaks a rock in pieces? (NRSV)

In order to come to grips with this passage in Jeremiah, let’s take a look at the bigger picture: what leads up to this message and what is its context?

The early chapters of the book of Jeremiah foretell the military takeover of Judah from the north by Babylon, led by King Nebuchadnezzar around 600 B.C. In 587 B.C., Jerusalem fell to the invaders, and both the temple and the Davidic line of kings met their ends. Much of the early part of the book deals with prophecy by Jeremiah about the cause of this collapse. According to Jeremiah’s prophecy, the ruin of the land, cities, and towns was caused by the behavior and unfaithfulness of the people, rather than by God’s choice—although God is presented as an angry and judgmental God who rains destruction on the people because they have broken their covenant with God.

In the passage before us today, we see God ranting against the people for their worship of other gods, including Baal, and for listening to and believing the words of false prophets: “I have heard the prophets prophesying lies in my name.” As a result of the unfaithfulness of the people to the Lord God, they will suffer the destruction of their land and—as we know from other passages—be carried into exile in Babylon for generations.

And yet, there are passages of hope within the book—passages that foretell hope for the return of the people from the diaspora: “So the time is coming, declares the Lord, when no one will say, ‘As the Lord lives who brought up the Israelites from the land of Egypt.’ Instead they will say, ‘As the Lord lives who brought up the descendants of the people of Israel from the land of the north and from all the lands where [God] has banished them so that they can live in their own land.’”

Reflecting on the words of hope in Jeremiah, I am reminded of a verse from Psalm 103:9: “God won’t always play the judge; God won’t be angry forever.” May it be so in our time.

Gracious and loving God, guide us in our efforts to keep covenant with you day by day. Amen.

Written by Marsha Heizer, Member of Fourth Presbyterian Church

Reflection and prayer © Fourth Presbyterian Church

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