More On the Always-Relevant Jeremiah
Back on March 28th (you could look it up), I posted on poet Gerard Manley Hopkins’ poem commenting on the passage in the Book of Jeremiah in which the prophet politely complains to God about the fact that, well, “sinners ways prosper.” (Hopkins begins by writing, “Thou are indeed just, Lord\ If I contend with thee.\ But Sir, my cause is just.”)
Oddly, I woke up this morning thinking about that posting, that Scripture passage, and that poem. More oddly still, I came back home a little while ago and picked up my Bible to continue reading (3 chapters a day and 4 on Sunday takes a person through the whole Scripture in a year — it’s an ancient spiritual practice).
And guess which chapter came up today in my reading?. Right, the chapter I referred to above, Jeremiah 12; which begins, in the New American Bible version I’m using,
You would be in the right, O Lord,
if I should dispute with you;
even so, I must discuss the case with you.
Why does the way of the godless prosper,
why live all the treacherous in contentment?
The first 12 chapters in Jeremiah, and the chapters immediately following the quote above,are basically about how all Israel itself has abandoned the worship of the true God, their covenant, and they’re doing ANYTHING BUT prospering — there’s drought, there’s sterility, there are external threats from warlike nations, and so forth.
But what the prophet is referring to in his complaint to God is a local, personal situation — Jeremiah feels besieged by just about everybody, because just about nobody seems to be happy with him pointing out their wrongdoing and threatening them with dire results if they don’t repent. Jeremiah is worse than a gadfly; he’s a true thorn in the side of everyone, and he expresses fears for his life repeatedly throughout the book named after him. In short, he feels as if he’s not getting anywhere and that the “godless” and “treacherous” are doing better than just fine.
So he complains to God; but briefly, and then goes back to discussing Israel’s problems rather than his own.