Jeremiah’s Words in the 21st Century

text: Jeremiah 33:14-16 (see below)“The days are surely coming” conveys the sense of anticipation and preparation that is the Advent Season. Yet, what are we anticipating and preparing for?

In general, Advent is a double-edged, paradoxical sword.

On the one edge, Christians are commemorating the original coming of the Messiah. This original coming of the Christ child that would deliver humanity from sin through death and resurrection.

On the other edge, Advent is eschatological. Eschatology is the theology concerned with the “final” events in the history of the world and/or humanity. These final events have more commonly been referred to as the “Second Coming”, the “Last Judgment”, and the “End Times”.

In every generation, people have anticipated,  predicted, and prepared for the eschaton that is at hand. How? Imagine the person on the street corner or at the colleges and universities shouting “Repent, the End is Near”. Perhaps, that is an extreme comparable to John the Baptist in the wilderness.

But seriously, who remembers Y2K? 9/11? These invoked tremendous amounts of eschatological fear in the hearts of people.
Who has heard the following as evidence of the impending eschaton: the war in Iraq? the active war in Afghanistan? the wild fires? the natural disasters? These have and continue to invoke tremendous amounts of eschatological fear in the hearts of people.
Who has heard of the “fiscal cliff”? the Mayan Calendar? These are currently invoking tremendous amounts of eschatological fear in the hearts of people.
And this evening, we are reminded that Jeremiah was such a voice during the 7th and 6th centuries BC. Jeremiah, a Judean, prophesized that “Judah would be saved and Jerusalem will live in safety”.These prophetic words of Jeremiah are intriguing, providing several opportunities for theological reflection. However, I was most intrigued with the difference of “saved” and “safety”, especially since Jerusalem was the capital of Judah, the southern kingdom.
The passage occurs in Jeremiah twice and is modeled from Jeremiah’s book of consolation (31.31-37). This particular passage though precedes an assurance in God’s faithfulness to God’s promises, especially that the royalty of David shall secure the throne of Judah.
These tidbits of information became profoundly significant as I explored the Hebrew text. The Hebrew term, yasha (yaw-shah) was translated as “saved”. However, yasha literally is to be open, wide, or free. Yet, the  implication is often deliverance and salvation. Therefore, Jeremiah offered the Judeans consolation in their deliverance and salvation, while assuring that the throne of David would be open for the coming of the Messiah.
Meanwhile, the Hebrew term batach (baw-takh) was translated as “safety”. However, batach literally is to hurry for refuge but figuratively implies trust, confidence, and hope. Therefore, Jeremiah offered the Judeans their capital of Jerusalem as a place of physical and spiritual refuge rooted in the trust, confidence, and hope in the coming of the promised Messiah.
Perhaps in the midst of the 21st century fears of the eschaton with December 21 lingering as a dark cloud, Christians can hear the words of Jeremiah. Our salvation has come and is coming again, perhaps we can trust in the promises of God with confidence, hope, and a sprinkle of faith. Amen.
The Interliner Bible
The Strong’s Concordance Hebrew and Greek Lexicon
The New Revised Standard Verison Bible
Jeremiah 33: 14-16 (NRSV)
The days are surely coming, says the LORD, when I will fulfill the promis I made to the house of Israel and the house of Judah. In those days and at that time I will cause a righteous Branch to spring up for David; and he shall execute justice and righetousness in the land. In those days Judah will be saved and Jerusalem will live in safety. And this is the name by which it will be called: “The LORD is our righteousness.”

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