This past Sunday marked our entrance into the Prophets of the Exile: Jeremiah and Ezekiel. Given that the defeat of Israel and Judah by the empires of the Assyrians and Babylonians was a devastating, horrific, and tortuous series of events, you would rightly expect that these are weighty, dark, somber, and serious writings. And they are, which is just part of the challenge in understanding them and gleaning current implications for our lives from them.
But as is true of each and every book found in the Whole Story of the Bible, they are worth the investment of our time and effort. And so we begin with Jeremiah.
Jeremiah is the longest in the Bible. And I will admit it can seem daunting and overwhelming, partly because of its length, and I think partly because of its narrative form, which is filled with a great deal of poetic language. But once you get inside of it for a little while, you come to find it is a very compelling story. It reads like a novel, because it has vivid characters and a powerful, highly contrastive, fast-paced storyline.
So here’s what we need to do, we need to get inside this book. I want you to imagine the four main characters of our story — Yahweh, Jerusalem-Judah (God’s people), Babylon (God’s hammer of justice), and Jeremiah (God’s messenger of judgment and grace)—as they move through the major scenes of this movie playing out in the theatre of your mind.
We will see Yahweh accusing, and warning, and judging both Israel, and then all nations, for the grave sins that they have committed. And friends, I mean grave. It will be hard to convey to you if you have not read this book, for the list of wickedness and darkness and ugliness and YUCK! is piled up, chapter after chapter, for over 30 chapters of material. And no one is getting out of this unscathed—priests, leaders, rulers, officials, prophets, parents, children, everyone—and it is a terrible and weighty and sobering scene set over decades.
Then, we will see Yahweh call a man, a priest, apparently the sole good man within all of Jerusalem-Judah, to be his messenger. To be his prophet, to proclaim to his own people, and to all people. We will see how this humbles him, tears at him, and in the end, exiles him.
And all of that will lead us to this climactic denouement and question—if people, even God’s people, can get this bad, can be this evil, if it be true that there is no one righteous, not even one, that every person like a wandering sheep has gone astray from the shepherd who loves them, if we are all still sinning sinners—what hope is there?
To find the answer to that question, and to explore the characters and scenes of this story, I invite you to watch or listen to my sermon on Jeremiah, which you can listen to here. And if you’d like to study it further, I commend the Jeremiah page over at the Bible Project.
And if you’d like to prepare for this coming Sunday at Calvary, please read the book of Lamentations, where we will explore how Jeremiah’s emotional response and plea in the midst of exile is a model for our own struggle in the midst of affliction and suffering.
Samuel Johnson was born on September 18, 1709, and was an English writer who made lasting contributions to English literature as a poet, essayist, moralist, literary critic, biographer, editor and lexicographer.
How Can We Pursue A Long Repentance In The Same Direction?
This last Sunday, in Calvary’s morning gathering, we studied the book of Haggai together as part of God’s Whole Story. Together we heard God speak through his prophet to his people after the exile, challenging them to remain faithful and to rebuild the temple.
The book of Haggai is the second shortest book in the Old Testament. It has 4 oracles (think: sermons), 2 chapters, and about 1,100 words.
In the book of Jeremiah we read of God’s intention for Daniel and all of those with him who have been exiled from the land of promise.
We are in a sermon series called The Whole Story, so named because we started off with the assumption, and belief really, that the whole Bible is a unified story that leads to Jesus. Each and every book is a bit like a chapter that contributes to the overall story that God is telling.
We Are Calvary
To say that we live in times of rapid change may be the very height of understatement. Our culture, and its norms, is changing at an unprecedented rate, making it increasingly challenging for the church to remain relevant—and faithful—in proclaiming the good news of the kingdom of God, in a way that will bring about the expansion of that kingdom.
This past Sunday we (finally) made it out of the weighty, dark, somber, and serious writings of the Prophets of the Exile, and stepped into the Return from Exile of the people of God. Our first look into this aspect of the redemptive drama comes via three courageous servants of Yahweh—Zerrubabel, Ezra, and Nehemiah. There story is found in the book of Ezra-Nehemiah (although our English Bibles separate them, through the centuries the Jewish people have always treated them as one book; so we will too.)
Especially When You Don't Feel Like It
Sunday is just about my favorite day of the week (“just about”…because my day off each week, our family’s Sabbath Saturday, is a tie or really close second). I love getting up that morning, making my smoothie, sitting in my favorite chair in our fireplace room, and pulling my Bible onto my lap. I relish the time spent listening to my Father speak, and I delight in those moments spent talking with him about the morning’s ministry, the people in our gathering that I hope he will transform, as well as the eleven other pastors (and their congregations) on whom I pray his blessing every Sunday.