The Prophet Jeremiah preached before and during the Exile. During this time of turmoil, Jeremiah cast down the hierarchies in Judah, decrying them to allow Babylon to take over. In spite of Jeremiah, King Zedekiah had other plans and started to build up the army to ward off the Babylonians. Yet, an unexpected problem occurred: Egypt, Judah’s ally, no longer wanted to aid Judah by pushing back the massive Empire. Needless to say, after a while the Judean forces could no longer handle the immensity of the Babylonians. And in 587/6 BCE, the Babylonians pushed their way into the city of Jerusalem, destroyed it, and took many of its citizens.
Jeremiah sided with the Babylonian Empire. Of course, pragmatically speaking, Jeremiah was right in claiming that Judah should abandon all of its forces to Babylon so that they may live in peace, at least the kind that Empire’s grant: peace through force, and loyal obedience. Yet this is the opposite of when I think of the prophetic tradition, logic and pragmatics does not come to mind. Immediately, I think of something that God/She hopes for in the world, like Second Isaiah or Amos, etc. Yet, Jeremiah speaks the language of the Empire.
In contrast, the kind of logic that Jesus taught was the logic of the kin-dom. God/She cares about humanity and the world, rather than a type of political gain, ultimately his was topsy turvy. Jesus claimed that “the last shall be first and the first shall be last.” Those who think that they are first in the God/She’s kin-dom will be last. Certainly not the way of the world, especially during election season.
In the centre of his book, Jeremiah created a dichotomy between bad figs/good figs. The good figs are those in the Exiled community. In Second Kings 25:12 it read “But the captain of the guard left some of the poorest people of the land to be vine-dressers and tillers of the soil.” The people who were exiled were the wealthy, those who had power, and influence in their communities. The homeless, the downtrodden, the impure were left. Jeremiah suggests that God left the bad figs to be no more (Jeremiah 24:10). This hints that the land was barren.
Thankfully, because of historical-criticism, we now know that the land was not barren during the time of the Exile. This raises many questions: Why did the author write that the land was barren? Was it because s/he was embarrassed of who was left? Did these Exiles only believe that they were the Chosen Ones of God? Those who wrote and stored the Hebrew Scriptures were those situated in the Exile. The people left in the land had to fend for themselves, they were forgotten people. The book of Lamentations probably written during the Exile in the land of Judah gives a perspective of what was happening after they were left.
Lamentation 5:1-10; 20-22 (NRSV)
Remember, O Lord, what has befallen us;
look, and see our disgrace!
Our inheritance has been turned over to strangers,
our homes to aliens.
We have become orphans, fatherless;
our mothers are like widows.
We must pay for the water we drink;
the wood we get must be bought.
With a yoke on our necks we are hard driven;
we are weary, we are given no rest.
We have made a pact with Egypt and Assyria,
to get enough bread.
Our ancestors sinned; they are no more,
and we bear their iniquities.
Slaves rule over us;
there is no one to deliver us from their hand.
We get our bread at the peril of our lives,
because of the sword in the wilderness.
Our skin is black as an oven
from the scorching heat of famine.
Why have you forgotten us completely?
Why have you forsaken us these many days?
Restore us to yourself, O Lord, that we may be restored;
renew our days as of old—
unless you have utterly rejected us,
and are angry with us beyond measure.
The lamenter believed that God gave up on them, that God utterly rejected them. They had no hope of one to come and redeem them from their plight. Today we are faced with the same challenge. Our myth in the US is that the only people who matter are the upper and middle class. Those who are poor and marginalized are left to fend for themselves. Thus political platforms are only for those with money. In the recent political conventions, the word God was infused in their lexicon, but homeless, poor, marginalized, were not granted such a measure.
The kin-dom of God/She contradicts the ways of the world. Any section of the ancient Scriptures, God’s love for the people on the margins can be found. The good news about Jeremiah is that he never left Judah, he stayed with the marginalized. If those in power do not care about the poor and their voice is silenced because our politicians ears are stuffed with money, how can we not, but help? We must give up the myths taught to us, and practice the truth of God/She’s love. This truth is beyond charity, this is about solidarity and compassion (to suffer with). We must seek to change the system, the metanarratives, and our habits to create a better world. While doing this, we must pray, pray for the impossible, pray with our feet, and pray with our hands.
Al Jazeera wrote and recorded a wonderful piece called the US ignoring the poor.
Killer Mike composed a song called Reagan that speaks of the 1980’s, drugs, and how people treat others specifically African American males. (profanity used)