The Siren Call: Jeremiah 4: 5-10

F4 Wedge Type Tornado, nearly a mile wide that hit Binger, Oklahoma

F4 Wedge Type Tornado, nearly a mile wide that hit Binger, Oklahoma

Jeremiah 4: 5-10

5 Declare in Judah, and proclaim in Jerusalem, and say:
Blow the trumpet through the land; shout aloud and say,
 “Gather together, and let us go into the fortified cities!”
 6 Raise a standard toward Zion, flee for safety, do not delay,
for I am bringing evil from the north, and a great destruction.
 7 A lion has gone up from its thicket, a destroyer of nations has set out;
 he has gone out from his place to make your land a waste;
 your cities will be ruins without inhabitant.
 8 Because of this put on sackcloth, lament and wail:
“The fierce anger of the LORD has not turned away from us.”

 9 On that day, says the LORD, courage shall fail the king and the officials; the priests shall be appalled and the prophets astounded. 10 Then I said, “Ah, Lord GOD, how utterly you have deceived this people and Jerusalem, saying, ‘It shall be well with you,’ even while the sword is at the throat!”

 When I lived in Oklahoma, tornado sirens were a way of life. When spring came you knew that if the siren was blaring its dissonant tones that you needed to check the TV to see where the storm might be and how dangerous the storm was. Some storms were storms that you could weather in place, going to the safe room in your house. But some storms, if you were in their path you didn’t want to stay in place and wait out, you needed to flee to designated areas that were better able to withstand the winds.  And yet sometimes even fleeing to a strong place is not enough, as was the case of the F5 tornado that struck Oklahoma City in 1999 destroying or badly damaging over 8,000 homes.

Jeremiah has the unfortunate role of being the siren, alerting the people to a disaster they do not expect nor do they want to see. War is approaching, an unspecified invading  army is coming to lay waste to the land. Destroying cities, burning crops, killing and enslaving and the Lord has withdrawn the protection they have relied upon in the past. The prophet goes even farther, to place the Lord behind the movement of the predicted enemy. The Lord has made a choice, a dreadful choice, a choice against his former people. It is a choice the prophet has allowed us to see the Lord agonizing over, and yet the pieces are in motion, the storm is in motion and yet the prophet continues to hope for a turn. The prophet desires for the people to put on sackcloth, to lament and wail, and perhaps the Lord will turn once more.

The very people who should be keeping the people in the relationship with God, the king-priest-prophet have become the very people who have dulled the people to the siren’s call. There is a Davidic king and the temple which the people have begun to place their trust in, yet the prophets are always pointing to God’s vision of justice and shalom (harmony/peace) and the ways that the people have betrayed this vision.

Jeremiah makes a bold statement, in essence placing the blame at God’s feet, for the people have heard and received the message that it is well (most likely from the king and his officials, the priests and the prophets) while terror approaches. One of the roles of the prophet is to stand between the people and God, challenging both. The prophet will love both God and the people and weep with and for both of them, and in standing between the two his heart and body will be broken. Yet Jeremiah, among the prophets, seems to stand alone-for the other prophets of his time seem to be singing in unison with the kings and priests. Jeremiah speaks dangerous words, but they are the words of the faithful willing to enter into the struggle with God, to challenge God, to even go so far as calling God a traitor while still remaining in the relationship. As Moses in the Exodus, Jeremiah intercedes for the people he loves and yet even Jeremiah will have his limits as we will find.

purple rose 01 by

2 thoughts on “The Siren Call: Jeremiah 4: 5-10

    1. chargerneil Post author

      The challenge of responding to a blanket comment is I don’t want to sound pompous, like I am the expert, but spending time with not only Jeremiah but with the breadth of scripture as well as my own journey with God here are my thoughts:
      1. It is not my sense that this is the way God is planning to act at this point in history. I could be wrong, I don’t claim to be a prophet and even prophets are not fortune tellers–don’t misunderstand me I do believe that God is working in some powerful ways but I don’t sense that we are looking towards the desolation of the United States.
      2. If someone did sense that was the way in which God was moving the faithful response would be to both struggle with their own people and to struggle with God, like Abraham did with God before Sodom and Gomorrah, like Moses did during the Exodus, and like Jeremiah will do throughout Jeremiah (and Isaiah and many of the other pre-exilic prophets as well).
      3. Often people who believe that things have ‘gone to hell in a handbasket’point to the wrong things. Although the image of sexual infidelity is frequently used as a metaphor in the prophets-it often is pointing to the ways in which society ordered itself to promote the interests of the wealthy and abuse the poor or the way a society becomes ordered around violence and power rather than justice and peace. I have no idea what your belief is for the reason of a coming judgment, I can only speak from my conversations with others who call for judgment.
      4. Sometimes it is easy to read the picture of God in Jeremiah as a vengeful and wrathful God, but that is not the picture Jeremiah paints at all-it is very much a wounded God who is dealing with the broken dreams of a people who have substituted religious practice and national identity for covenant faithfulness, living out of the vision God intended for them.
      OK, I’ve probably sounded like a pompous ass and for that I apologize. I have always tried to include comments as freely as I can, but I also want to give people all the tools I can to approach not only Jeremiah but their relationship with God and others which should be based on the two central commands to love the Lord your God with all your heart and soul and mind and strength and to love one’s neighbor as oneself.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.