Truth has perished – Thursday, 3rd week of Lent – Jeremiah 7:23-28/ Luke 11:14-23
In school, the one day I dreaded was ‘open day.’ To those unfamiliar with Indian education systems, this was the Armageddon for students like me. I was never a bright student. To make matters worse, a traumatising math teacher had made it clear that ‘duffers’ like me would not succeed. Open day was the day when parents were called to school to meet the teacher and the report card was then presented. It was the day I always felt the smallest for my report card revealed many red lines under each grade; in short, I had not made the grade.
God is no traumatising math teacher. Quite the contrary, God was the merciful father to his errant children, Israel; he was the loving husband to an adulterous wife that prostituted herself to every nation and a shepherd to a wandering flock of sheep. Yet in the face of much love, Israel fared miserably. ‘Open day’ had dawned for the people of God and it could not have been worse for Israel. Her report card is spelt out in today’s first reading.
God is scathing in his remarks. He holds back no punches and lays every card on the table. Israel has failed miserably. She has fared ‘worse than her ancestors and is stiff knecked. She is disobedient, stubborn, evil, does not listen, follows her own counsel and had not progressed; she has moved backwards and not forwards.’ (7:24)
What has brought on all of this? Why have the people fared miserably? Chapter 7 to chapter 20 of the prophet Jeremiah takes place during the reign of King Jehoiakim (609-598) who reigned for eleven-years. Just 12 years after the death of King Jehoiakim the people of Judah will be taken into exile.
After the death of Josiah in 609 BC, his son Jehoahaz rules for three months before he is taken prisoner by Pharaoh Nico who defeated his father, Josiah in battle. Pharoah Nico now places his Jehoahaz’s brother on the throne and changes his name to Jehoiakim. While his father, Josiah, brought about great reforms in the religious life of Judah, these reforms seem to have been dependent on his own personal actions and beliefs and did not seem to have penetrated the people’s spirit who continued with their idolatrous worship.
The passage of today reflects the religious and moral state of Judah during the first five years of Jehoiakim’s eleven-year rule. The people have gone back to idol worship and disowned Yahweh. Yet there seems to be an apparent boast from the people, a false hope that has become part of their belief system; nothing could harm them as long as they had the temple.
God’s final word to the people through the prophet are words of great frustration. Jeremiah is told that while he is to speak, he will not be listened to. While he is to call, he will not be answered. Hence forever, this is a nation is to be called a disobedient nation, one that did not obey the voice of the Lord their God and did not accept discipline; truth has perished. (7:28)
May these words never be said of us when we stand before the throne of grace to be presented with our own report card.