Both the Northern and Southern kingdoms were taken into exile, and Jerusalem destroyed, in our reading today. But even in the desolation, they had a promised hope. “I am with you to save you. Though I completely destroy all the nations among which I scatter you. I will not completely destroy you. I will discipline you, but with justice’ (Jer 30:11). This is repeated four times in Jeremiah alone.
Yes, promises of restoration are dotted throughout the prophetic writings. But the word “dotted” is used intentionally here. Ninety percent of the time, it seems (I did NOT calculate), the prophets warn of destruction and speak condemnation. In response, the Israelites can be so insolent. Imagine, they go to Jeremiah, imploring him to enquire of the Lord for them and promising to obey whatever God says, “whether favorable or unfavorable.” But then they blatantly refuse to obey. (Jer 42) What is that about?
Being a prophet was not a very attractive profession! Prophets were often hunted down, imprisoned, or sometimes even put to death. In Kenya, we have some kind of romantic idea about what it means to be a ‘prophetic voice’ to a nation. We imagine that a prophet is one who is honored or whose words are taken seriously. Really? That was certainly not the case for most of the Old Testament prophets. I noticed that the prophets who enjoyed favor with kings, Daniel, Ezra and Nehemiah for example, were those who served in the regimes of foreign rulers. Interesting. Most of those who brought a message to Israel’s kings were not ‘received well’ at all!
In interacting with God’s Word, I/we usually pick out the passages that are positive or promising, and ignore others. But when reading every single verse and every single page, it causes those positive parts to be even more precious – like a gem in the midst of rubble. I found the book of Hosea to be one of those beautiful jewels, strongly portraying the tender compassion God has for His children.
Finally, we notice that God’s dealings with us are highly dependent on our response to Him (Jer 18:3-10). How am I responding to God’s love?