Home > Jeremiah Was a Dragon-Man > Ooh Jeremiah: And For Us?

Ooh Jeremiah: And For Us?

In Jeremiah 22, the young man speaks a prophecy that is at this point quite familiar to readers of the book. It’s a simple call for those with power over others to be just toward others.
Woe to him who builds his house by unrighteousness,
    and his upper rooms by injustice,
who makes his neighbor serve him for nothing,
   and does not give him his wages,
who says, ‘I will build myself a great house
  with spacious upper rooms,’
who cuts out windows for it,
  paneling it with cedar
  and painting it with vermilion.
Do you think you are a king
  because you compete in cedar?
Did not your father eat and drink
  and do justice and righteousness?
  Then it was well with him.
He judged the cause of the poor and needy;
  then it was well.
Is not this to know me?
  declares the Lord.
But you have eyes and heart
  only for your dishonest gain,
for shedding innocent blood,
  and for practicing oppression and violence.”
– Jeremiah 22:13-17
The subject matter of this prophecy is characteristic of much of Jeremiah. A brief summary of the sin issues Jeremiah is speaking into in this passage: 1. People are acquiring and gaining wealth by using their power to force weaker people to work without compensation. They are growing wealth through injustice. 2. People are building opulent shit because they think they are big shit. They are taking pride in their own wealth and power. To make it worse, it is wealth and power acquired through coercion. 3. Because of their wealth and power, they have a responsibility to be justice bringers to the poor and needy. Instead of bringing justice, they are guilty of violent oppression.
When Jeremiah was speaking out against oppressors, he did so in a very specific context. He was living amongst the people of YHWH, who together formed the nation of God, who had a king whose function was to keep the people of God following the Law of YHWH and worshipping Him only. Jeremiah’s prophecy was primarily designed to get the people of God to turn from their ways of arrogance, idolatry, and oppressive use of power. As the people of YHWH, Israel is charged with representing YHWH to the world and so is held more responsible than other nations for their distortions and destructions of His image.
Because Jeremiah is speaking into such a specific context, I wonder how much of his prophetic ministry should be replicated by followers of Jesus. Certainly there are prophets in our Jesus communities. Certainly there are people being oppressed by those with power and people simply using their power to take wealth from others in order to increase their own wealth and power. Our world contains tremendous conspicuous consumption and many with hubris regarding their power and possessions. What does a prophet do about it?
Who are those oppressing others? Who are the oppressed? Should the prophet call only those who claim Jesus to repent or also speak against the pagan world? Does this include speaking against the pagan political world where coercion against weaker people is the rule? What would being a prophetic voice calling for things to be set right and proclaiming that things will be set right look like? What would be the most effective way to do this? Any other thoughts on being a prophetic voice for our present world?

  1. March 28, 2013 at 4:08 pm

    Tough question. Jonah was called as a prophet to Ninevah, a pagan town, so there is precedent of God sending prophets to non-covenantal peoples. Also, Moses to Egypt. I think I would answer a Godly, prophet voice calls for both Christians and non-Christians to repent and turn to God. Ideally, culture would follow the call to repent and turn to God.

  2. March 30, 2013 at 6:43 pm

    I’m with you Joel. Great points. Most of the major and minor prophets also contain prophesies against foreign rulers and nations. It just feels kind of weird to me because for the Jesus follower, every nation is a foreign nation. I still have the nagging question: How should a prophet go about speaking against non-covenantal(love this) national oppresssors? Maybe the answer is as simple as waiting for YHWH’s call and instruction.

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