We can miss the rawness of the scriptures. The Old Testament book of Jeremiah gets mentions for at least two verses; one of which 29:11 details God’s plans for us. This book tells the heartbreaking story of a misunderstood prophet, Jeremiah. The seemingly positive verses come out of the painful existence of a man, who experienced rejection and loneliness.
In the fall of 2007, I spent fifteen weeks in the book of Jeremiah. Dr. Malcolm Brubaker taught a night class on the 52 chapters of Jeremiah and five chapters of Lamentations. We journeyed with this prophet through his calling from God, conflicts with kings, getting thrown into a cistern, and the rather anti-storybook ending.
Why spend the time engaging this difficult book of the Old Testament? It speaks to the reality of our lives. Somewhere in the footsteps of Jeremiah we encounter a man who vents to God while also experiences His faithfulness. Not because his circumstances improve, rather because God remains present.
The first class Dr. Brubaker read from Kathleen Norris in The Cloister Walk chapter “Jeremiah as Writer: The Necessary Other.” The “Necessary Other” refers to how our calling from God separates us from others. He read this portion:
In the Book of Jeremiah we encounter a very human prophet, and a God who is alarmingly alive. Jeremiah makes it clear that no one chooses to fall into the hands of such a God. You are chosen, you resist, you resort to rage and bitterness and, finally, you succumb to the God who has given you your identity in the first place. (pg. 45)
The scriptures shockingly invite us to vent and contend with God. They do not hold back the reality of our often painful existence. We end up finding a God, who is there. Not an insecure God to dismiss our laments, but willing to listen to our doubts. The difficulty and encouragement of reading the prophet of Jeremiah has to do with us identifying with him and his relationship with God.
Reading Jeremiah gives us a glimpse of Jesus in the New Testament. Through this prophet, we can understand a Savior, who experiences loneliness, rejection, and pain. The book of Hebrews further explains how Jesus identifies with us so we can pray to Him. Part of the Gospel, the Good News, is Jesus has walked where we walked.
At times, we walk through the seasons of difficulty and doubt. The scriptures introduce us to friends like the prophet Jeremiah. A person we can identify with their pain. Even more so, these portions of scripture reveal the presence of a Savior walking with us in our season of struggle.
Let the reality and rawness of scripture speak to your circumstances, so that we might see the grace of God at work in us.
Photo Credit Ryan McGuire in Gratisography.