This is the introduction to a discussion on the interpretation of the Biblical prophets in the church today.
“For thus says the LORD:
Your hurt is incurable,
and your wound is grievous.
There is none to uphold your cause,
no medicine for your wound,
no healing for you.
All your lovers have forgotten you;
they care nothing for you;
for I have dealt you the blow of an enemy,
the punishment of a merciless foe,
because your guilt is great,
because your sins are flagrant.
Why do you cry out over your hurt?
Your pain is incurable.
Because your guilt is great,
because your sins are flagrant,
I have done these things to you.
Therefore all who devour you shall be devoured,
and all your foes, every one of them, shall go into captivity;
those who plunder you shall be plundered,
and all who prey on you I will make a prey.
For I will restore health to you,
and your wounds I will heal,
declares the LORD,
because they have called you an outcast:
‘It is Zion, for whom no one cares!’
Jeremiah wrote somewhere around 2630 years ago, often conversant with the ruling caste of Israel and Judah (Jeremiah 34:2) including the religious authorities of the day (Jeremiah 20:1-2). He is known as the weeping prophet for the grief his ministry brought to himself and the messages of diaster he espoused in his day.
It was his conviction that God was planning to discipline his people for their sins, that time had run out and God would make good on his covenant with them and deliver them over to judgement (Deuteronomy 28:36). Yet he was insistent that God would not abandon his people forever (Jeremiah 29:11), and that God’s hand of discipline would pass from them.
The passage above is from a larger exposition of the nature of the judgement upon the people of God, written around the time the nation was being overrun by the Babylonians. Jeremiah was prophesying, telling the people precisely what God was doing in this tragic, humiliating defeat and shameful exile.
In this oracle, the prophet explains that Israel is utterly alone, abandoned to the hand of the Lord. He has explained to them the depths of their rebellion and idolatry and here is clear that the only way out is to endure God’s anger.
Sin is the cause of their defeat and exile and their salvation will not be found in their armies or their allies.
Yet God will not allow the people to believe God was finished with Israel. The common belief of the age was that deities were largely localised to one place or sphere of influence. Jeremiah declares that all the nations who had taken the people of God would be defeated and that he would heal the wounds of his people one day.
God claims total responsibility for their pain and for their healing.
It is easy for the Christian today to disregard these tedious historic texts as ‘Old Covenant’ or ‘manipulative’–an attempt to explain away national events whilst promoting a specific religious system.
I believe these words are from God and are for the Church today just as much as Israel those many generations ago.
The question I shall explore this week is how the Church can interpret these prophesies in our day and age and how they can bring illumination to our contemporary situations.