This year, I am reading through the book of Jeremiah. I’ve always had a sense that it was an important influence on Jesus as, hearing it being read, he began to understand the nature of his own ministry. There are many inspiring and well-known passages in Jeremiah but, when reading a biblical book through, you notice some of its less talked about messages. Of course, having 52 chapters, Jeremiah is the ideal book for reading a chapter a week!
I have arrived at chapter 34, and Nebuchadnezzar with his Babylonian army are just beginning their siege of Jerusalem. The people begin to be afraid that they will become slaves. “OK”, says Jeremiah, “but remember that you also own slaves, and that after six years’ service, God’s Law tells you to set them free. But you haven’t.” This had been God’s way of reminding them that they had been slaves before- in Egypt- and had been set free [Deuteronomy 15]. This was part of God’s wise plan for ensuring fairness and equality among his people. So, terrified at the consequences of not doing so, they do free them. Then, sneakily, they take them back! Jeremiah’s grim response was clear: “Fine. If you won’t set them free, God will do the setting free. He will set free the enemy’s swords” [verse 17]. And he did.
This goes right to the heart of the way God made our world, to the meaning of sin, and the message of Jesus. God created a world in which there is balance. God will set you free, and you will set others free. You can’t love mercy and freedom in some areas and not others. If you want a world of slaves you can have it; but it’s also a world of unfree swords and pestilence. This is true in nature, in families and in our own individual minds. Isn’t this the message of Jesus’ parable of the unjust steward, that was read to us last week? Jesus’ attacks on hypocrisy make up a huge proportion of his ministry, and this is what it really means.
God is trying to restore his wonderful world where there is balance- in our lives, in our community, and in nature itself.
Lord Jesus Christ, who came among us to share your life, eternally existing with the Father and the Holy Spirit in love and harmony;
May we share in this life, and in everything we do reflect the balance of love that you seek for all your creation.
That we, in every part of our lives, and the whole creation shine with your love.
by Dave Pitcher