The World Turned Upside Down: Jeremiah 6: 1-8

Jeremiah Lamenting the Destruction of Jerusalem by Rembrandt van Rijn 1630

Jeremiah Lamenting the Destruction of Jerusalem by Rembrandt van Rijn 1630

Flee for safety, O children of Benjamin, from the midst of Jerusalem!
Blow the trumpet in Tekoa, and raise a signal on Beth-haccherem;
for evil looms out of the north, and great destruction.
2 I have likened daughter Zion to the loveliest pasture.
3 Shepherds with their flocks shall come against her.
They shall pitch their tents around her; they shall pasture, all in their places.
4 “Prepare war against her; up, and let us attack at noon!”
“Woe to us, for the day declines, the shadows of evening lengthen!”
5 “Up, and let us attack by night, and destroy her palaces!”
6 For thus says the LORD of hosts:
Cut down her trees; cast up a siege ramp against Jerusalem.
This is the city that must be punished; there is nothing but oppression within her.
7 As a well keeps its water fresh, so she keeps fresh her wickedness;
violence and destruction are heard within her; sickness and wounds are ever before me.
8 Take warning, O Jerusalem, or I shall turn from you in disgust,
and make you a desolation, an uninhabited land.

Things have gone so wrong in the relationship between God and God’s people, and the poetry of pain continues. Things are so bad that a city will become a field again, the urban elite will give way to the poorest of shepherds. There is an undertone of severe economic injustice that it finally coming to its head, and in the coming crisis the poor rather than standing with the leadership will set up their tent against them. Things are so dire that the daytime is not enough for the building of siege works and prosecuting the attack. For unlike the modern U.S. military which does a great deal of its fighting at night, throughout history the setting of the sun meant an end to the day’s hostility. Not so here, “up and let us attack by night and destroy her” says the enemy from the north. Their world has been turned upside down.  The Lord is no longer the strength and shield for people of Judah, in fact Psalm 46 is turned on its head for the Lord of hosts is no longer on their side and the God of Jacob is no longer their refuge. God no longer can dwell in the midst of the betrayal of the city.The prophet sounds the alarm in the hope that the people will turn, and yet God still seems to want to avoid this path, this still seems to be a warning, “take warning, O Jerusalem, or I shall turn from you in disgust, and make you a desolation, an uninhabited land.”

There are many who may not know what to do with the picture of the wounded God that Jeremiah presents us with, a God who doesn’t want to turn his people over to the desolation that is coming but can no longer abide with the way things are. God is in the midst of God’s own process of grief, and in one way it seems trivial to anthropomorphize (assign human characteristics) to God-yet the picture of God in the Bible displays a wide range of emotions and has little to do with the Greek philosophical God who is the unmoved mover who is purely rational, nor does the Hebrew mindset trivialize emotions the way modern society does.

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