Thoughts on Isaiah 61 and Jeremiah 7, Day 25, Lent 2013

I finished up Isaiah this morning and read Jeremiah up to chapter 20. I managed to wake up after hitting the snooze bar only once and I had a good setup on a beanbag chair so I could read and pet the puppy at the same time. Two passages in each book stood out to me in today's mega-Lenten-reading. Jeremiah started his preaching around 627 B.C. about 120 years after Isaiah started and seventy years after he finished, see this timeline. They cover the same ground. God's people are screwing up big time, there will be consequences, but consequences do not mean His love for them has ended. God will restore his people.

Isaiah ends on this high note. In fact, Jesus opens to this passage when he makes an appearance at a synagogue, reads it aloud, up to the first half of v. 2, and says this passage is now fulfilled. Luke 4: 16-21. I'm reading a book called, Killing Enmity: Violence and the New Testament by Thomas Yoder Neufeld. Not unexpectedly, I'm thinking about violence in the Bible. So it's interesting to me that Jesus stops the quote in v. 2 at "favor." Isaiah ends with so much hope, but when Jeremiah resumes the same ministry, things are still awful, and God is upset.
Isaiah 61:1 The Spirit of the Sovereign Lord is on me, because the Lord has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim freedom for the captives and release from darkness for the prisoners, 2 to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor and the day of vengeance of our God, to comfort all who mourn, 3 and provide for those who grieve in Zion— to bestow on them a crown of beauty instead of ashes, the oil of joy instead of mourning, and a garment of praise instead of a spirit of despair. They will be called oaks of righteousness, a planting of the Lord for the display of his splendor.
Jeremiah is the medium for God's messgae and he's very unpopular, to the extent that his life is regularly at risk. The interesting thing to me is God's complaint that the rituals are meaningless to him, as their lives are completely out of synch with the symbols. The symbols have been important, and Jeremiah mentions the Sabbath in particular, just like Nehemiah and Ezra did. God's mad that they aren't keeping the Sabbath, but he's also mad that they do these other rituals, but their lifestyles are so out of line with his expectations. God wants them to know that he has destroyed a previous holy site, Shiloh, and he'll do it again with Jerusalem. Eventually that does happen near the end of Jeremiah's life. Although God rages and blusters, he also pleads and promises. So far, through ch. 20, he keeps asking them to simply repent, admit they are wrong and he is right. Repent and believe. That refrain continues into the New Testament.

When Jesus does get violent in the New Testament, when he cleanses the Temple of money changers, he quotes Jeremiah 7:11. His point to those in the Temple is that Jeremiah's threat, which was fulfilled, would also be fulfilled in Jesus' era. And it was fulfilled in A.D. 70. The issues are the same.

Jeremiah 7:1 This is the word that came to Jeremiah from the Lord: 2 “Stand at the gate of the Lord’s house and there proclaim this message: “‘Hear the word of the Lord, all you people of Judah who come through these gates to worship the Lord. 3 This is what the Lord Almighty, the God of Israel, says: Reform your ways and your actions, and I will let you live in this place. 4 Do not trust in deceptive words and say, “This is the temple of the Lord, the temple of the Lord, the temple of the Lord!” 5 If you really change your ways and your actions and deal with each other justly, 6 if you do not oppress the foreigner, the fatherless or the widow and do not shed innocent blood in this place, and if you do not follow other gods to your own harm, 7 then I will let you live in this place, in the land I gave your ancestors for ever and ever. 8 But look, you are trusting in deceptive words that are worthless. 9 “‘Will you steal and murder, commit adultery and perjury, burn incense to Baal and follow other gods you have not known, 10 and then come and stand before me in this house, which bears my Name, and say, “We are safe”—safe to do all these detestable things? 11 Has this house, which bears my Name, become a den of robbers to you? But I have been watching! declares the Lord. 12 “‘Go now to the place in Shiloh where I first made a dwelling for my Name, and see what I did to it because of the wickedness of my people Israel. 13 While you were doing all these things, declares the Lord, I spoke to you again and again, but you did not listen; I called you, but you did not answer. 14 Therefore, what I did to Shiloh I will now do to the house that bears my Name, the temple you trust in, the place I gave to you and your ancestors. 15 I will thrust you from my presence, just as I did all your fellow Israelites, the people of Ephraim.’
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