A few notes after reading Jeremiah 21-22
Jeremiah, the weeping prophet, speaks with a humble confidence that YHWH has communicated directly with him. He delivers prophetic utterances challenging the courts of the King of Judah, messages fresh from the heavenly court of the Great King. His discourse does not foretell and predict future events, but speaks forth into the social, cultural, religious, and military issues of the day.
Nebuchadnezzar, the Babylonian King, advances in war against Judah, the covenant community tasked with bringing light and blessing to the world.
Jeremiah offers no hollow promises of deliverance; instead, he issues a stark rebuke, a warning, and words of judgment.
Judah will reap the consequences of its actions, as YHWH decrees, "I will punish you according to the fruit of [your] deeds" (Jeremiah 21:14). "Wrath will now go forth like fire and burn with none to quench it because of your evil deeds" (Jeremiah 21:12). Though judgment, destruction, and exile loom large, a sliver of hope remains. Despite the impending crisis, leadership has the option to embrace justice and righteousness, to heed the word of God (Jeremiah 22:3-4).
What, then, constitutes justice and righteousness—mishpat and tzedek? It entails a fresh ethical orientation, recalibrating society with a preference for the weak, the vulnerable, the oppressed, and the outsider. Concrete action is imperative, policies and systems enacted from the kingly court to ensure deliverance for the oppressed, protection for resident aliens, and safeguarding for the widow and fatherless from exploitation.
This call to realignment targets the leadership, who prioritise personal comfort and luxury at the expense of others (Jeremiah 22:14), exploiting the labor and resources of the powerless and underprivileged (Jeremiah 22:14). They profit at the expense of the marginalised (Jeremiah 22:17). Yet, even at this eleventh hour, they can avert the impending storm by executing justice and favouring the poor and needy (Jeremiah 21:11, 22:16).
Turning to our present age, we discern unsettling parallels. A meta-crisis of greed, domination, militarism, and consumerism portends disaster at the gates of contemporary civilisation—an acceleration of climate breakdown and ecological collapse, disproportionately affecting the poor. We reap what we sow.
The root of the problem lies not in rising temperatures or seas, but in our contemporary ethics and morality as evidenced within the political and economic elite whose moral compass has, forthe vast majority become distorted. Whether through deliberate distraction or wilful blindness, they oppress and dominate the most vulnerable to accumulate and hoard wealth.
The prophetic voice still resounds: "Repent, recalibrate, execute justice," lest the fire burn unquenched.