Shooting the messenger does not kill the message – Saturday, 4th Week in Lent – Jeremiah 11:18-20/John7:40-52

Shooting the messenger does not kill the message – Saturday, 4th Week in Lent – Jeremiah 11:18-20/John7:40-52

Reading the prophets of the Old Testament in our New Testament times can often be hard, especially when we apply our understanding of life to this text. When we read texts such as the first reading from the prophet Jeremiah, we may conclude that the prophets often sound petty, harsh, vengeful and wrathful. But dig deeper, go beyond the surface of a text, read more and discern the context and your mind opens up entirely.

For six centuries before Jeremiah, God kept his covenant with his people. They had a clear understanding in place, one that God repeated several times to them and one that is repeated in this very chapter of Jeremiah, ‘You shall be my people and I will be your God.’ (11:4) But we know that they chose Ba’al (vs 17) the lord of dung or the god of flies. (humans seem to have a brilliant sense of choice even when what they choose is the lord of dung)

It is in this context that Jeremiah is sent by God. He is plucked against his will from a non-descript town of Anathoth to prophecy to a people who, as we know from this text, plot to kill him. The text of today pops at you even if you don’t want it to; the comparisons to the life of Jesus are in your face.

Both Jeremiah and Jesus are sent by God with a message. The message does not begin with destruction it begins with a call to come back, to make restitution for a broken covenant; at its heart, it was a message of love. Was the message harsh to hear? All messages of warning are harsh to the ones who have broken that law. Both Jeremiah and Jesus were rejected by their own; Jeremiah’s people from Anathoth wanted to kill him (verse 21) Jesus came to his own and his own did not accept him, they rejected him and finally killed him.

Shoot the messenger all you want, the truth of the message stays. This is a lesson we ought to learn because wishing God’s message away and pretending we got rid of the messenger does not stay the hand of God in executing his anger.

Is God’s wrathful response justified? Is wrath becoming of a loving God? Would you not be if your love was spurned for six centuries? Would you not be if all you did over six centuries was to send messengers hoping for a reconciliation? Would you not be if all you got in return was the plotting of your innocent prophets and the death of your son? Don’t arrive too quickly at a shallow accusation that God is vengeful at heart; it speaks poorly of your shallow approach to the divine.

Interestingly we also hear in our closing verse the lament of Jeremiah. This text, by the way, is the first of six such laments of Jeremiah. In this lament which is identified by the words, “for to you I have committed my cause” (yes it sounds familiar..into your hands I commend my spirit). In this lament of verse 20, we hear Jeremiah ask for retribution (verse 20) against those who conspired against him (verse 9). Does that make a prophet, a holy man of God sound petty?

What I take away from this text is not that which sounds petty (attempted murder is not petty) but his approach to those who wanted to kill him. Jeremiah did not become judge, jury and executioner. He did not execute his brand of justice on them, he rather left it to God. There are several people whom you understandably have murderous thoughts against. Take your case to God and leave it there. Vengeance is mine says the Lord (Romans 12:19).

When you read this text, don’t get caught up with our understanding of it but look at it from God’s eyes.

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