Saturday, July 5, 2014

Historical Continuity (part 2)

Jeremiah, who is not even close to finished with his scathing indictment of Israel, would go on to say “But just look at you!  Your are putting your confidence in a false belief that will not deliver you.  You steal.  You murder.  You commit adultery.  You lie when you swear on oath.  You sacrifice to the God Baal.  You pay allegiance to other gods whom you  have not previously known.  Then you come in and stand in My presence in this Temple I have claimed as My own and say, ‘We are safe!’  You think you are so safe that you can go on doing all those hateful sins!” (Jeremiah 7:8-10) 

Though many of these things were most likely being carried out by the acting priesthood, it is safe to presume that the people, who also stood under Jeremiah’s gaze, are doing the same while also being complicit in the activity of their leaders.  Jeremiah continues to deliver the words of the Lord, saying “So I will destroy this Temple which I have claimed as My own, this Temple that you are trusting to protect you.  I will destroy this place that I gave to you and your ancestors, just like I destroyed Shiloh” (7:14).  These are harsh words indeed.  Jesus’ words, as they are directed at the Temple authorities and call Jeremiah to mind, were no less harsh.

So it is plain to see that Jesus is using Jeremiah and the historical situation there recorded as His model.  However, is it appropriate to consider if Jeremiah had a model upon which he drew in some way?  If Jesus is relying upon something within Israel’s history to trigger the thoughts that He desired the people to have and to provoke the response and hopefully transformation that He desired to see, it would be reasonable to suggest that there was something within Israel’s history prior to Jeremiah’s day upon which he was relying as well. 

Surely, if Jesus is not limited to only bringing new teaching founded upon an entirely new basis, then it would not be right to foist this type of responsibility upon one of the prophets.  Therefore, beyond the assertion that Jeremiah obviously had to base his understanding of the delivery of the covenant God’s judgment on Israel’s covenant failures, one could assert that Jeremiah’s words and ministry had to be rooted within the history and covenant by which Israel was defined in order for it to have any conceivable impact and permanence (which, as has been said, would have been true for Jesus as well).     

If this premise is accepted, then to what historical situation might one look in order to gain insight into Jeremiah’s understanding?  Is it possible to find something similar to the people’s reliance upon the Temple itself to protect and preserve them from the judgment that was owed to them?  The first book of Samuel records a story that may provide an answer to those questions.  The fourth chapter records in a story in which it is reported that “the Israelites went out to fight against the Philistines… The Philistines arranged their forces to fight Israel.  As the battle spread out, Israel was defeated by the Philistines, who killed about four thousand men in the battle line in the field” (4:1b-2). 

When considering the way in which the Creator God deals with His people, raising up foes such as the Babylonians and the Romans in order to exercise His judgments, as referenced by Jeremiah and Jesus, then the Philistines, clearly, demand to be understood as an instrument of the Creator God’s judgment against His covenant people, exercised in accordance with His covenant promises as the covenant people failed to live up to their covenant obligations. 

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