we give thanks; your name is near.
People tell of your wondrous deeds.
As we read through the book of Jeremiah, we will find themes of trauma, of disaster, of hope, and of survival. (Kathleen O'Connor, Women's Bible Commentary). Jeremiah is speaking to a particular people at a particular time. The New Interpreter's Study Bible describes the setting:
The book tries to come to terms with and move beyond destruction wrought by Babylon's three invasions of Judah and its chief city...The exilic period was a time of immense theological disruption for Judah. Not only was the fabric of daily life in the community destroyed, but the symbolic world that supported life collapsed as well. Serious questions emerged from this turmoil. Did the nation's political and military collapse mean that God had forgotten the chosen people?
And Jeremiah is speaking to us, too. We may not have the Babylon army at our borders, but we do have our fears about our security in the future and our regrets about our failures in the past.
The book begins with the prophet Jeremiah telling of his call by the Lord. Jeremiah didn't think he was qualified, but the Lord informed him who could and would take care of that, and added "But you, gird up you loins; stand up and tell them everything that I command you." However, the Lord did not pretend that Jeremiah's task was going to be easy to accomplish, "They will fight against you," but reminded him "but they shall not prevail against you, for I am with you to deliver you."
In chapter 2, we are presented with the Lord's word to Israel, "Why did your ancestors turn away from me? Why did they forget all that I had done for them?" We can hear the questions posed by the Lord to those people and hear them asked of us, as well.
Through the voice of Jeremiah, the Lord accuses them of a shocking substitute--they willingly gave up allegiance to the real God for a false substitute, "Why have my people forsaken me and turned to other gods? How smart is this? It would be like giving up a spring that of flowing fresh water in exchange for a cracked cistern that would leak stale water."
Apparently Euodia and Syntyce were not getting along even though each of them was a loyal, hard-working church worker. Paul is asking them to get along and for the church to help them.
Then he gives directions to that congregation that are helpful to us all these centuries later.
I'm used to making a to-do list. Paul is asking us to make a to-think list. Look at verse 8. Think about these things: whatever is honorable, just, pure, pleasing, commendable. Think about any excellence you witness, anything worthy of praise.
If our minds are full of such thoughts, how hard can the rest be? Couldn't a church that is thinking about the items on this list be able to keep of doing the things that we have learned to do, the things that we have seen in people like Paul?
Couldn't a church that is thinking about these things be able to rejoice in the Lord?
Always rejoice. Never worry. Tell God what you want.
Are Paul's instructions realistic for you? That is, can you imagine yourself rejoicing at all times? Or, showing your gentleness to everyone? Or, perhaps, even having gentleness whether you show it or not?
Have you experienced the peace of God during a tough time in your life?
What portion of your prayers typically are expressions of joy? or even of moderate gratitude?
How does your congregation live out this passage?
Do not rejoice when your enemies fall
and do not let your heart be glad when they stumble,
or else the Lord will see it and be displeased,
and turn his anger from them.
Do not fret because of evildoers.
Do not envy the wicked;
for the evil have no future;
the lamp of the wicked will go out.
Prayer for Today: Sing Psalm 75.