Jeremiah 7: 16-26
16 As for you, do not pray for this people, do not raise a cry or prayer on their behalf, and do not intercede with me, for I will not hear you. 17 Do you not see what they are doing in the towns of Judah and in the streets of Jerusalem? 18 The children gather wood, the fathers kindle fire, and the women knead dough, to make cakes for the queen of heaven; and they pour out drink offerings to other gods, to provoke me to anger. 19 Is it I whom they provoke? says the LORD. Is it not themselves, to their own hurt? 20 Therefore thus says the Lord GOD: My anger and my wrath shall be poured out on this place, on human beings and animals, on the trees of the field and the fruit of the ground; it will burn and not be quenched.
21 Thus says the LORD of hosts, the God of Israel: Add your burnt offerings to your sacrifices, and eat the flesh. 22 For in the day that I brought your ancestors out of the land of Egypt, I did not speak to them or command them concerning burnt offerings and sacrifices. 23 But this command I gave them, “Obey my voice, and I will be your God, and you shall be my people; and walk only in the way that I command you, so that it may be well with you.” 24 Yet they did not obey or incline their ear, but, in the stubbornness of their evil will, they walked in their own counsels, and looked backward rather than forward. 25 From the day that your ancestors came out of the land of Egypt until this day, I have persistently sent all my servants the prophets to them, day after day; 26 yet they did not listen to me, or pay attention, but they stiffened their necks. They did worse than their ancestors did.
Now the audience shifts from Jeremiah speaking to those who listen at the temple gate to God speaking to Jeremiah. Jeremiah seems to have become the one who God can speak to when everyone else has stopped listening and now God tells Jeremiah not to intercede for the people anymore. God is tired of listening, God is at the point of giving up. God is tired of being patient, of waiting for the people to return. On the one hand we see a religious practice within the families that are putting a lot of effort into worshiping other gods as a household, on the other hand the cultic practice of the temple is lifted up as something that replaced obedience. Sacrifices and religious practice have replaced the central command to hear and listen.
The prophetic and the priestly voice are in direct contest to determine who will speak for God. Often this is the case, the priestly voice is the voice of the settled people where the prophetic is calling people back to obedience. The priestly voice is focused on maintaining an institution, while the prophetic is concerned with faithfulness to their calling. There is always the temptation within a priestly role to tell people what they want to hear, while prophets tend to say the things nobody wants to hear. Ideally an individual would be able to fulfill both callings, but the reality is that both find themselves in tension with one another.
Prophets are rarely appreciated in their own time and in their own lifetime, and sometimes even when they are recognized they are also de-fanged. For example, with Martin Luther King, Jr. we have all become familiar with his ‘I have a dream speech’ but much of his criticism of the war in Vietnam or economic injustices have been muted under the remembrance of him purely as a person who advocated for greater inclusivity of people of all races. I think something similar has happened with Jeremiah, select portions of Jeremiah have made it into the various lectionary systems and Jeremiah doesn’t have the memorable stories of Daniel or Jonah and so his protest is included, he is honored and his protest is forgotten.