As we complete the speed read of the Bible in 2014 via The Story, what most impressed you?
Responses certainly will vary. Where I learned most concerns Jeremiah, God's Biggest Loser.
If you had asked me about Jeremiah a year ago, I would have mumbled that he mainly warned his leaders of their stupid plans, and suffered for speaking truth to power.
In his vocal confrontations, Jeremiah did not invoke ten plagues or call down fire from the sky. He just spoke for God. When the Babylonian army was smashing Jerusalem's powerful ally Egypt, Jeremiah predicted that the Babylonians would conquer also Jerusalem. Big deal. Vegas oddsmakers would have called at least 5 to 1 favoring the Babylonians.
Jeremiah predicted the death of one of the recalcitrant Jewish leaders. Big deal. Given the siege and looming invasion, all the Jewish leaders were in jeopardy.
When God called Jeremiah to sacrifice a nice job as priest at probably around age seventeen, what did God promise? Did God say, Jeremiah, you will be able to turn your stick into a snake? No. Did God say, Jeremiah, you will lead my people to victory? No. God said, Jeremiah you will have a spiritual gift for landing in jail, being tortured, and experiencing a generation of disease, starvation, cannibalism, and violence. As the excruciatingly long story unfolds, Jeremiah didn't escape troubles. No parting the sea, no being fed by birds. Jeremiah simply survived troubles.
Did God give Jeremiah a robe of many colors? No, God told Jeremiah to make an unforgettable point about sin by wearing stinky underwear (Jeremiah 13). To accessorize—and underline a warning about impending slavery—God directed Jeremiah to wear an ox yoke (Jeremiah 27). Early on, God told Jeremiah, "You must not marry and have sons or daughters in this place. For... they would perish by sword and famine." (Jeremiah 16). God, that's not the way to recruit a young man.
Most appalling to me, for all Jeremiah's sacrifices, God did not give Jeremiah success. The leaders to whom Jeremiah shouted God's directives at best ignored Jeremiah and more often threw him in jail or down a well. Once (Jeremiah 36) when Jeremiah sent his warnings in writing, the king showed his contempt by burning each page as it was read.
No miracles. No respect. No girl. No success. What did God give Jeremiah for his troubles?
"Fire in my bones." Jeremiah received a calling to speak God's word. Indeed, God talked to Jeremiah and through Jeremiah. The presence of God in one's life is a terrible and wonderful thing.
God gave Jeremiah a few friends and supporters such as the scribe Baruch.
Though not without Jeremiah's frequent protest, Jeremiah's state of mind and words tracked God's point of view. In the end, the predicted devastation came. And came again. The city was leveled. Bodies lay unburied from violence, disease, and starvation. Friends were led as conquered slaves off to Babylon 500 miles away. Jeremiah himself was about to go into exile. But instead of getting to say, "told you so", at this dark moment God gave Jeremiah a message of hope. To convey that hope, instead of a PowerPoint presentation, Jeremiah bought Jerusalem real estate (Jeremiah 32:13). Against a stark landscape, Jeremiah claimed, We'll be back. God will help us rebuild.
Jeremiah's message of hope encouraged another fellow who spoke for God.
"During Darius’ first year as king, I, Daniel, was reading the Scriptures. I saw that the Lord told Jeremiah that Jerusalem would be empty ruins for seventy years.... While I was saying these things in my prayer to the Lord, my God, confessing my sins and the sins of the people of Israel and praying for God’s holy hill, Gabriel came to me ... and said to me, 'Daniel, I have come to give you wisdom and to help you understand.... A command will come to rebuild Jerusalem.'" (Daniel 9)
Without Jeremiah, would Daniel and his friends have had courage to stand up to peer pressure? Without Jeremiah, would Daniel have been a happy meal for lions? Without Jeremiah, would Daniel have had boldness to stand up to four world kings?
The faithfulness of Daniel and his friends likewise encouraged Ezra and Nehemiah to finally effect the rebuilding of Jerusalem, perhaps with some assistance from--gasp--Queen Esther (Nehemiah 2:6).
Reading through The Story at jet speed misses many details, but reveals many intriguing connections.
Jeremiah had faithfulness. On observing faithfulness people tend to dismiss it if it doesn't get prompt results. "Nice guy, but what a schmuck. What a loser." Yet faithfulness is a light all the more needed in darkness. Even if not immediately rewarded, later faithfulness can encourage and guide others who need hope.
At The Surge we love doing things together... that includes writing a blog! Here are a few of our main contributing authors:
Our fearless leader, Dwaine is the lead pastor at The Surge. His experience in counter terrorism with the CIA prepared him for ministry and he likes dogs and babies even more than E does.
E (short for Eric Reiss) is the Wingman at The Surge and likes dogs, music, Mexican food, his wife Karen and his little girl Evangeline... not necessarily in that order.