So, you want to be a prophet?
Jeremiah uses almost every conceivable artistic means to convey his message – street drama, costumes, civil disobedience, nonviolent protests, poems, dirges, songs, fiction, and straight from the heart preaching. He’s hated, rejected, persecuted, beaten, incarcerated, laughed at, and mocked. He wears his emotions for all to see – tears, sobs, cries, angry shouts, pleadings, prayers. He suffers with the sinners. He’s captured, bound, and carried into exile. One tradition says they stuffed him in a hollow log and sawed it and him asunder.
Not that we should go looking for persecution; not that there’s anything wrong with seeking to reach as many people as one can; but compare Jeremiah to some of the narcissist entrepreneurial CEO pastors of today. The former is wheat; the latter, chaff. Dreams and schemes are not necessarily bad, but God has called us to be faithful, not ineludibly successful.
Jeremiah 23:25 “I have heard what the prophets say who prophesy lies in my name. They say, ‘I had a dream! I had a dream!’ 26 How long will this continue in the hearts of these lying prophets, who prophesy the delusions of their own minds? 27 They think the dreams they tell one another will make my people forget my name, just as their ancestors forgot my name through Baal worship. 28 Let the prophet who has a dream recount the dream, but let the one who has my word speak it faithfully. For what has straw to do with grain?” declares the Lord. 29 “Is not my word like fire,” declares the Lord, “and like a hammer that breaks a rock in pieces?”(NIV)
Street drama. At one point, Jeremiah planted himself in such a way as to block the entrance to the Temple. (Chapter 7) That didn’t go over well. Religious people who practiced injustice daily felt pious after saying their prayers and offering their offerings in Temple. They had a saying: “The Temple of the Lord! The Temple of the Lord!” A holy place, a religious place, a place where all malfeasance was justified. You went to worship on Shabbat. It’s ok that you evicted three widows last week. It’s only business – nothing personal.
The Temple was destroyed. Fast forward to Jesus’ day. The Temple has been rebuilt, initially long ago under the guidance of Ezra, Nehemiah, and Zerubbabel, then, much more recently, upgraded with Herod’s money.
Street drama. Jesus disrupts the Temple worship. Tables overturned; coins scattered; chaos as newly liberated animals run amok. Religious people had made the heavenly Father’s house a den of thieves. You went to worship on Shabbat. It’s ok that you partnered with an empire empowered by the devil. It’s only business – nothing personal.
Thieves don’t rob in their den. They rob in the streets, then hide and regroup and count their loot in the den. Many of the religious people were bigots. They despised gentiles; they were misogynists; they cozied up to Roman occupiers in order to gain power; they exploited the poor and manipulated the law; they were rich. On Shabbat and holy days, they made sure to offer sacrifices in the Temple. Like their predecessors in Jeremiah’s day, they hid their wickedness behind religion.
Jesus told a parable in Luke 18. Two men praying in the Temple. One, deeply religious and highly respected – a Pharisee; the other despised as a traitor and a cheat – a tax collector working for the Romans. The first walked right up front and prayed boldly. The other crouched in the back and smote his chest in remorse. They were both broken men, but only one knew it. He went away validated, vindicated, and accepted. The Pharisee just went away.
Sadly, much of the church in the United States currently looks more like the Pharisee than the tax collector. Religious people – white evangelicals, conservative Catholics – like their predecessors in the days of Jeremiah and Jesus, trade moral integrity for political power, wall out refugees, defend police brutality, deny scientific reality, and champion the causes of nationalism, racism, consumerism, and militarism. They are appalled when a high-end store is looted; they shrug when the police gun down another young black man. They applaud efforts to disenfranchise “the least of these my siblings.” With enthusiasm they support the most corrupt president in history. A yard sign near me reads, “God, Guns, Trump!” Having despised and abandoned the poor, oppressed, victimized, and marginalized, they defy the advice of healthcare science, gather in churches, and celebrate their religiosity. Their churches are dens hiding thieves.
God does not want our pious prayers, songs, and sermons. God wants justice. God wants us to wash feet, care for the poor, love one another, forgive and love our enemies, and join with him in making a more just, peaceful, and honorable world. But, if you do so, you might get sawed in half.
Posted on August 16, 2020, in anabaptist, apologetics, Bible, Bible Teaching, Christianity, creation, Jesus, Justice, Kingdom Life, kingdom of God, parables, Peace Shalom Hesed, Prophecy, Spirituality, The Cross, Worship. Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.