Haftarah Reflections 41
Torah portion Numbers 25 : 10 to 29 : 40
Haftarah portion Jeremiah 1 : 1 to 2 : 3
Listen to the Prophets
The timeframe of the prophecies of Jeremiah are precisely noted in the life of the Israelites. It was a most turbulent time for them, spanning a period of about forty years up to the actual conquest of Jerusalem by king Nebuchadnezzar.
Jeremiah spoke prophetic warnings against Judah for about twenty years before the Lord instructed him to write on a scroll the words which He had given Jeremiah, so that they could be read out to the people in the Temple on a special day of fasting that had been set aside for the people. It is an interesting story, and you can read about it in Jeremiah 36. The end result of this was that king Jehoiakim burned the scroll which Jeremiah had written! (actually he dictated it to Baruch, his scribe) So God had Jeremiah write another scroll, to which he added some similar words of condemnation.
If you wonder, as I do, why Jeremiah was so bold in his behaviour to the king of the Land, the answer is to be found in our parashah today.
Jeremiah was a quite young man when God called him to his prophetic ministry. So young in fact, that Jeremiah at first objected on the grounds that he didn’t have enough experience to do the job God wanted done. But God knew His man. He spoke clearly to Jeremiah in assurance of support.
“Do not say ‘I am a youth’ for you shall go to all to whom I send you, and whatever I command you, you shall speak. Do not be afraid of their faces, for I am with you to deliver you”, says the Lord.
Then we are told that the Lord put forth His hand and touched Jeremiah’s mouth, and said further, in part:-“See I have this day set you over the nations and over the kingdoms”. And that is why Jeremiah was able to carry out his almost thankless task of bearing many dire warning messages to his fellow Judeans, including the king.
But the Lord wanted to show Jeremiah some detail of events about to unfold, in order to cement the picture in his mind, as he set about his appointed task. So Jeremiah was given two visions. The first that of an almond tree, and the second that of a ‘boiling’ pot. The almond tree is the first to blossom in the spring in Israel, so this vision spoke of a time very close at hand. The second, the boiling pot, spoke of confusion and turmoil, and it was noteworthy that in the vision this pot was facing ‘away from the north’. That is, that it was trying to get away from the source of the turmoil, which would come from the north.
There is no question that this vision was for the time in which Jeremiah lived, (the siege, and capture, of Jerusalem by the Babylonians is the event foretold) but it also has an application, borne out by other scriptures, of a time still future to us.
In our parashah today, Jeremiah was being prepared to speak to his fellow Judeans about impending calamity, as a direct result of their forsaking the covenant which had been made by their fathers, and verified many times in their history whenever they had called on God to get them out of a scrape with their neighbours. The main failing seemed to be their descent into idolatrous worship.
Now here is a valuable lesson for us today.
God had already promised Jeremiah that He would be with him in all his encounters with the people. But now God goes a step further, and tells Jeremiah that when he takes the message of warning to the people, not only will they not listen to him, but they will ‘fight against him’.
One would have to be VERY sure of one’s relationship with the Lord to proceed with such a message wouldn’t one? Evidently, Jeremiah was super confident in his calling.
God assured Jeremiah that he would be absolutely “fireproof” in the face of the people. Look at the words God uses to describe the absolute imperviousness of Jeremiah to the attacks of those who come against him and why he should go with great confidence.
“Do not be dismayed before their faces (be bold and resolute) … For behold I have made you this day a fortified city and an iron pillar, and bronze walls against the whole land- against the kings of Judah, against its princes, against its priests, and against the people of the land”.
When we are called upon to speak in God’s Name, to ‘give a reason for the hope that is within us’, we should take example from the words God used to Jeremiah. We should speak boldly and with resolution, being assured that we are messengers of the King. In the face of concerted attacks on our heritage and lifestyle, our message in today’s world is both timely and necessary.
Most importantly, we should all be asking God, through the agency of His precious Holy Spirit, to guard us, keep us, fill us, and use us, according to His perfect will and purpose.