Searching for the Righteous One: Jeremiah 5: 1-6

Icon of Jeremiah

Icon of Jeremiah

Jeremiah 5: 1-6

Run to and fro through the streets of Jerusalem, look around and take note!
 Search its squares and see if you can find one person who acts justly and seeks truth—
so that I may pardon Jerusalem.
 2 Although they say, “As the LORD lives,” yet they swear falsely.
 3 O LORD, do your eyes not look for truth?
 You have struck them, but they felt no anguish;
 you have consumed them, but they refused to take correction.
 They have made their faces harder than rock; they have refused to turn back.
 4 Then I said, “These are only the poor, they have no sense;
for they do not know the way of the LORD, the law of their God.
 5 Let me go to the rich and speak to them; surely they know the way of the LORD, the law of their God.
” But they all alike had broken the yoke, they had burst the bonds.
 6 Therefore a lion from the forest shall kill them,
 a wolf from the desert shall destroy them.
 A leopard is watching against their cities;
 everyone who goes out of them shall be torn in pieces—
 because their transgressions are many, their apostasies are great.

Where is the righteous person, show me the person who I can look at and say all this pain it really is worth it. Yet the vision, the hope seems dashed. God is so deeply wounded that God that God’s pain seems to be overwhelming God’s love. Such is the risk of caring deeply. You can say many things about the picture of God we see in Jeremiah, but you can never make the claim that this God does not care and is uninvolved. In an intentional echo of Genesis 18 when Abraham intercedes before God for the people of Sodom and Gomorrah and bargains with God down to ten righteous people, now God tells Jeremiah ‘just find one.’ Things have become so bad that the people are living in a lie and the lie has become their reality. It is as if they have told themselves over and over again a falsehood until they believe it is true. Beyond that they have begun to believe that the lie has divine sanction. Something is so horribly wrong in the relationship of the people with God that it appears irreconcilable.

Jeremiah seems to say back to God, do you not want to see the truth. You have sought and believed the best possible in these people. God seems to have, in Jeremiah’s mind, done everything to interpret the peoples actions in the best possible light and the divine trust has been met with increased recalcitrance.  Yet, Jeremiah too seems reluctant to give up hope. These are his people, his family as well and so he goes first among the poor, and then assuming it is ignorance (remember this is a pre-literate society where the poor would have been unable to read and this is a time where most people would have made it to the temple primarily for festivals if they were able) Jeremiah goes to the elite. Those who have no excuse, who can read and would have been taught the law of God which contains the vision of peace and justice God desired for them to live in, and they too have refused to live within it.

In a relationship we see a God who doesn’t want to believe that things have reached this point, but has seen the hopes and dreams of the relationship dashed by the people and we hear the wounded words go forth. The very animals of nature begin to represent the destruction that is coming, the people have become like sheep without a shepherd and their fence has been taken away. It is almost as if the shepherd walks away with tears in his eyes, exhausted from trying to lead and protect them surrendering them to the natural consequences of the world they live in.

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