What does it say?
Chapters 14 and 15 concern a severe drought. The people cry out to God, but it is too late. What they are experiencing is the consequence of listening to the lies of false prophets. Though Jeremiah continues to pray for them, God is past listening. In fact, the drought is merely a glimpse of destruction to come. From ancient times, sword, famine and pestilence have been considered as divine punishment. All three of these together point to complete destruction. From verse ten of chapter 15 begins a section of the book (15:10-20:18) that is very autobiographical. Jeremiah ponders his fate in all to come and is assured by God.
Chapter 16 reports God’s command to Jeremiah to remain single in a culture where this is almost unheard of. The message is that judgment is imminent and terrible and that this is no time to think of raising a family. Jeremiah’s entire life now becomes a living parable in this sense.
Israel’s rebellion is compared to their sin being chiseled indelibly upon their rock-hard hearts (Jer 17). Yet even now God sets out alternatives for them to avert the coming judgment. This is not a contradiction with God’s earlier refusal to listen. This is an appeal to individuals to side with those like Jeremiah that remain faithful. Judgment is inevitable, but the invitation it to participate in the inevitable blessing to follow. The nation’s complete disregard for God’s Sabbaths is presented as emblematic of their attitude toward the entire Law.
What does it mean?
Living for God’s mission is challenging indeed in the midst of those that refuse to listen to God’s words. Jeremiah is willing to suffer rebuke, humility and the rejection of his own people. He is even willing to live his life single for the purpose of the mission. More than being willing to give, go and obey, Jeremiah is willing to sacrifice and identify with the sufferings of the Christ to come.
Sin brings inevitable consequence, but like those in Jeremiah’s day, we can choose to stand apart from the current of contemporary society. Like Jeremiah, we are the witness of God’s presence. Not everyone will be called upon to remain single or to sacrifice to the degree that Jeremiah was willing to go. We all, however, should reflect on our willingness to be different, to be a living parable, to go beyond mere giving to sacrifice at times for the kingdom’s sake.
How will I respond?
Am I am a generous person? Can the use of my time, resources and giving record back up my answer? Am I a person willing to sacrifice for Christ’s sake? How?