A text I have read

Ever read Scripture and then come across a text that you have not read before. Maybe I was reading it in the NIV and so it read differently (I am not competent to comment on the Hebrew translation). Here it is:

We were with child, we writhed in labor,
but we gave birth to wind.
We have not brought salvation to the earth,
and the people of the world have not come to life (Is. 26:18).

I know some translations push toward the idea that Israel had not been victorious in the world, maybe indicating a lack of military prowess. However, I thought what if something is creeping through in this verse as the purpose of Israel, not one of being ‘saved’ and others damned, but of being the means through which salvation was to be made available to the non-covenant nations? So that those within the nations who in turn truly find God could be the means of salvation expanding? In Acts we read of the amazing gift of God to the non-Jewish nations: the gift of repentance (thinking) to LIFE.

OK the text might not be clear but I do like Jeremiah, I think way ahead of his contemporaries. There is a big ‘pray for the peace of Jerusalem’ theme that is present in the OT. Classically expressed (and loved to be quoted by the ‘come let us pray’ people):

Pray for the peace of Jerusalem:
“May those who love you be secure.
May there be peace within your walls
and security within your citadels.”
For the sake of my family and friends,
I will say, “Peace be within you.”
For the sake of the house of the Lord our God,
I will seek your prosperity (Ps. 122).


Also, seek the peace and prosperity of the city to which I have carried you into exile. Pray to the Lord for it, because if it prospers, you too will prosper (Jer. 29:7, emphases added).

The similarity is amazing… and the context delivers us a marked contrast! I do wonder if Jeremiah was light years ahead of his contemporaries, or maybe more in touch with Israel’s call. I wonder if he even thought the idea of a promised land was a compromise, and like Paul much later, understood that the promise to Abraham was not a piece of real estate but the whole world? After all it was promised that as far as he could walk and see would set the boundaries, and given that promise included his descendants, I wonder if Jeremiah sneakingly thought now that we are in Babylon (even though it is cos we have not been very good!) we might be able to really get hold of this vision that any prayer for Jerusalem is small-minded. I kinda think that his critique of the prophets who came prophesying what the people wanted to hear, was a critique of them saying ‘we are being persecuted, we can’t sing our songs in a strange land, but God will restore us to safety, we will once again be mighty and rule…’

Of course I read Exod. 19:5,6 as so key. Israel as a priesthood for the world, the means of salvation, the means of blessing coming. Maybe it was understandable that Israel fell into ‘we are the people, the others are the outsiders’… but the people who follow Jesus?

I will respond to the book I am reading of the ‘strange death of Europe’… A vision from the past for Israel in Exile would be, we got to repent, God will restore us, and back to Jerusalem we will go… A vision from the future I think begins with, the past is gone, it was never sufficient to get us into the future, our sin has got us to this point, let’s repent that a deeper sin was going on of exclusion. Babylon is our home.

2 thoughts on “A text I have read

  1. Yes Jeremiah so interesting. Have been reading a little by coincidence or maybe not. He was certainly somewhat reluctant as a prophet maybe his humility is what attracted God to him and why he chose him. I think there is a similar danger in particularly hyper-charismatic prophetic ministries at the moment of being attracted to the idea of being a ‘remnant’ and being ‘set apart’ as Israel ended up engaging in. Problematic because there seems to be a fear of pollution and ‘mixture’ by really getting involved with the ‘sinful world’. That is not how they would explicitly teach in fact they would claim otherwise but some of the rhetoric is not going to bring any disaffected groups particularly thinking of LGBTQ people into the kingdom at least I can’t see how? I however do not have the answer as to how such a problem can be addressed by the church so I have to careful casting aspersions there. Thing is if we do what Israel did then we are little use to God and he will find someone else to do his work even if it’s the rocks crying out! Jeremiah certainly the profoundest wisdom and revelation although a lot of it sounds pretty grim and there is a great deal of lament and sorrow there too. We are perhaps in a season that can also identify with those sentiments though?

    1. Thanks Joanna… All the content in your comment but the final sentence with the ‘?’ really stands out. I sometimes ‘fear’ for us as ‘church’ that we simply revert back to we are saved, the world is lost and evil… So much to discover of God in the world!

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