Readings: Jeremiah 3 (again)

Every Sunday during the pandemic I have watched the virtual broadcast of my daughter’s church in Cincinnati. Is it possible to be a fan-girl of a church? Is that weird? I just love every one of their ministers. They have three men, one black, two white, and one woman, engaging diversity at its core. And their music is to die for. I cry every week during praise worship. My husband always asks, ‘”why are you crying?” I just give him that look. This week the senior pastor made three suggestions to help anyone living in a metaphorical desert, searching for the strength to stand. The first was to “turn off the noise”, find time with God in the calm and quiet. “Take off your shoes”. Treat your time with God as holy. And the third is my favorite, “take off on an adventure”. Treat the things in your life as an adventure. Struggling in your marriage? Think of it as an adventure getting back on track and finding ways to endear your spouse. Having trouble sleeping? Think of it as an adventure figuring out the best therapeutic methods to lull yourself asleep in a healthy way. I absolutely love this idea. And expect that God will equip you for your adventure. We can think of our lenten study with this same attitude. Sorting through the old testament can be sometimes dry and overwhelming, but if we treat it as an adventure, it makes the journey so much more enjoyable. (1) And oh how God has indeed equipped us.

Let’s take a look at the OT and turn back to Jeremiah and the reunification of the northern and southern tribes. I wanted to share one other thing before we move on. Let’s apply the second suggestion above on obtaining the strength to stand when in the desert: “take off your shoes”, and think of your time with God as holy.(1) One of the issues that the northern tribes struggled with was coming to terms with the fact that Jerusalem held the Ark of the Covenant in the temple, the place of worship. Jeremiah tries to tell the people of the north if they return to the south the “Ark of the Covenant will no longer be so important”. (2) Even since the time of David, having the Ark of the Covenant in the south, in Judah, became a symbol of the power and strength of the south, of David’s kingdom. The Ark had not been in the north since the days when the philistines had taken it. (2) 1Samuel 5-6. Let’s take a look at Jeremiah chapter 3:16-18.

In those days, when your numbers have increased greatly in the land,” declares the Lord, “people will no longer say, ‘The ark of the covenant of the Lord.’ It will never enter their minds or be remembered; it will not be missed, nor will another one be made. 17 At that time they will call Jerusalem The Throne of the Lord, and all nations will gather in Jerusalem to honor the name of the Lord. No longer will they follow the stubbornness of their evil hearts. 18 In those days the people of Judah will join the people of Israel, and together they will come from a northern land to the land I gave your ancestors as an inheritance.”

See how much fun this adventure can be? Without some of these historical clues, reading the OT feels so complicated. When I read this, I feel like Jeremiah is not only enticing the northerners to worship the one true God again but’s it’s an invitation for us too. “All nations will gather and worship at the throne of God.” We no longer need the temple or the ark of the covenant to draw us close to God, We can kick off our shoes, go on an adventure, and treat our one true God with the respect he deserves, Holy of Holies, and the one that we bow down to at his throne.

(1) Pastor Brian Tome, “The Strength to Stand” sermon series 3/21/21, Crossroads Church, Cincinnati, OH

(2) Laʼu, Binyamin. Jeremiah: the Fate of a Prophet. Maggid Books, 2013.