“Jeremiah: Anguished Prophet of Disaster
It was the harsh duty of the prophet Jeremiah to predict misfortunes, and his unhappy fate to witness and lament their fulfillment: the destruction of Solomon’s temple, the end of the kingdom of Judah and the Babylonian captivity. A sensitive man whose ministry spanned half a century, from about 627 to about 580 B.C., Jeremiah was rejected and maligned by those he tried to save. His life was lonely and full of sorrow, but his legacy, preserved in moving and beautiful poetry, is of faith in God even in times of extreme affliction” (Great People of the Bible and How They Lived, New York: Reader’s Digest Association, 1974, p. 70. Check out this book with a chapter about Jeremiah and filled with many interesting pictures and illustrations).
Reading the Scripture
Here are some ways you might read the scripture or tell the story:
• Prayerful Reading: The Formations Teaching Guide (p. 41) suggests a prayerful reading of the passage which is a from of Lectio Divina.
o The Bible Experience: The Complete Bible (“presented by a stellar ensemble of today’s top-name actors, musicians, clergy, directors, and award-winning producers.” Available from Keith).
o This passage from Jeremiah (31:31-34) has been put to music in video. It’s not outstanding, but it would be a different way of reading the scripture. The video is posted on the webpage.
• The Formations Study Guide (pp. 48-49) and the Formations Teaching Guide (p. 40) refers to John Wesley’s heart-warming experience. If you would like to show a video dramatization of this event in Wesley’s life, I have placed a video clip on the webpage.
• Jeremiah: Frederick Buechner’s story about Jeremiah, in Peculiar Treasures: A Biblical Who’s Who (New York: Harper and Row, 1979, pp. 59-61), is available in my office. The story begins:
“The word jeremiad means doleful and thunderous denunciations, and it derivation is no mystery. There was nothing in need of denunciation that Jeremiah didn’t denounce. He denounced the king and the clergy. He denounced recreational sex and extramarital jamborees. He denounced the rich for exploiting the poor, and he denounced the poor for deserving no better. . . .”
• In Jeremiah 31:34 God says, “I will forgive their iniquity, and remember their sin no more.” The Formations Study Guide (p. 52) asks some key questions about this part of the verse. Encourage class members to remember these words from Jeremiah as they pray the Lord’s Prayer today, “Forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us.” Suggest that the words of Jeremiah may be heard as God’s answer to our Lord’s Prayer.
LABC: “Forgive us. . .”
God: “I will forgive. . . and remember your sin no more.”
• In Jeremiah 31:34 God also says, “and they shall all know me, from the least of them to the greatest.” The Formation Study Guide (p. 53) asks some key questions about this part of the verse as it relates to God’s equality. Questions for reflection:
o How does our church promote God’s equality, moving away from the idea “the least and the greatest”?
o How does our church perpetuate the “notion of a hierarchy of relationships” rather than God’s equality?
o For example consider: Wednesday night supper, worship, sermons, teaching, Sunday School classes, the social life of our church members, etc.
• The inspiring trailer for the movie Amazing Grace, touches on the themes of equality and God’s forgiveness found in Jeremiah 31:34. I have posted the video clip on the webpage.
I have set aside a shelf in the library with resources for Sunday School teachers. I will place there resources of general interest and some specifically applicable to current lessons.
• Great People of the Bible and How They Lived, New York: Reader’s Digest Association, 1974, p. 70. Check out this book with a chapter about Jeremiah and filled with many interesting pictures and illustrations.
• Frederick Buechner’s, Peculiar Treasures: A Biblical Who’s Who (New York: Harper and Row, 1979).
• For additional commentary on the text see these commentaries in our library:
o Mercer Commentary on the Bible (Mercer University Press, 1995)
o Harper’s Bible Commentary (Harper & Row, 1988)