I have been following the Bible Project’s Read Scripture plan this year and have enjoyed it. I probably would enjoy a little more of an Old Testament / New Testament mix, but overall it’s been good to journey from cover to cover (with a repeat trip through the Psalms along the way).
I started in Jeremiah a couple of days ago and cannot for the life of me think of why I haven’t come back to this historical/prophetic record on a regular basis.
Jeremiah is given a pretty gritty ministry by the Lord. He does what the Lord says, and each time gets abused for it, more or less.
We shouldn’t be surprised considering the nature of prophetic ministry laid out for him. More than predicting the future (prophecy), prophetic ministry is about holding people to account in the present, that is, holding up the standard of God as a measuring line for all else.
What’s that look like for Jeremiah?
It’s not about health and wealth.
Jeremiah 1.10 See, I have appointed you today over nations and kingdoms to uproot and tear down, to destroy and demolish, to build and plant.
- Uproot and tear down
- Destroy and demolish
- Build and plant
This prophetic calling is not a recipe for winning friends. Numbers 1 and 2 have to happen before 3. Which means upsetting, offending, and angering a lot of folks.
It means, for instance, telling people they have abandoned the fountain of living water and instead dug cracked cisterns for themselves that are incapable of holding water, let alone the bitter waters of flaccid saviors and fleeting satisfactions (the Nile and Euphrates).
We dig leaky wells, too. Our Nile and Euphrates tend to be consumable, wearable, edible, or achievable, but oh do we dig…
The prophet calls this futile effort what it is and lays out a vision of the God-shaped alternative.
Reading the first chapters of Jeremiah calls to mind the ministry of Jesus. Like him or not, Jesus was bold. Jesus didn’t play favorites or pull punches.
In true prophetic fashion, Jesus uprooted and tore down established religious practices, destroyed and demolished entrenched religious beliefs.
He did so in view of building up something new. If all you do is demolish, you aren’t prophetic. You’re just a jerk.
Jesus demolished the religious soil of his day and planted the seed of a new people. But, for the seed to grow, it first had to die.
Writing about persecution of Christians throughout the Roman Empire, the ancient theologian Tertullian penned an indelible depiction of this death to life phenomenon: “The blood of the martyrs is the seed of the Church.”
How did a movement catalyzed by a criminalized Jewish mystic and carried on by a ragtag band of misfits from the margins ever make it out of the first century? Not by political force or entrepreneurial prowess.
No. It was by faithful devotion to the way of Jesus, the way he modeled.
It is not sexy. But it is beautiful.
If you are in Christ, you have prophetic blood flowing through your veins. You, too, are seed.
What could it look like for you to give your life’s blood for something that will outlast your carbon footprint?