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Rev. Dr. George Hancock-Stefan

In the Old Testament, there were four major prophets: Isaiah, Daniel, Ezekiel, and Jeremiah. Even though they were all great prophets, they lived very different lives. Isaiah lived in Judah and, according to some sources, he was killed by King Manasseh. Daniel and Ezekiel were young captives of war who lived in Babylonian captivity, and Jeremiah prophesied during the conquering of Jerusalem by Nebuchadnezzar and wrote the book of Lamentations.

One of the clearest lines through the Old and New Testaments is the idea that our choices have consequences. Adam and Eve disobeyed God and there were consequences. The Lord promised the land of Canaan to the Jewish nation but told them that if they disobeyed, they would be thrown out of the land that belonged to God. In his gospel, John told us that Jesus came to His own and his own received him not, but to those who did receive Him, he gave the right to become the children of God and have life everlasting. When King David sinned against God, the Lord gave him three choices for punishment. David wisely said that he would let God choose because even in his punishment, God is filled with mercy.

Jeremiah lived in a time where there are no options for punishment. Israel had sinned and God’s punishment descended on the land of Judah. Jerusalem was destroyed, people were killed, and thousands were taken into captivity. No one alive at that time, including Jeremiah, had anything to compare to such a catastrophe. No one had ever witnessed such atrocities. Lamentations is one of the saddest books in the Bible.

But Jeremiah did some things in the midst of this despair, disaster, and darkness. He accepted that this happened to the nation of Judah because they sinned against God. He still believed that God was merciful and just and his mercy was demonstrated with the sunrise every morning and the newness of every day. Then he surprised everyone by buying land. He did not know if he would be killed, or taken as a prisoner to Egypt or Babylon. He purchased the land to proclaim that just as the Lord was right in bringing punishment over the land of Judah, God will be merciful, and the Israelites will be returned to their land. He invested in the land because he believed in a future that was in the hands of the Lord.

However, the biggest shocker for the Israelites was the letter that Jeremiah sent to the Israelites in Babylon. He wrote to them that they should build houses, plant vineyards, and let their children marry, for their well-being (or happiness) would depend on the well-being of the city. (Jeremiah 29:5) Which city was he referring to? The city of Babylon! How could their well-being depend on their enemies, the idolatrous infidels who had captured them and taken them to a strange land?

We are living in the midst of a pandemic. The easiest way to respond to this crisis is to say that Jesus is coming soon, but what happens if He tarries? The Lord Jesus tells us that until he comes again, we should keep busy. We know that the word of God brings life to us and if we obey the Lord, he will “open the floodgates of heaven and pour out so much blessing that there will not be room enough to store it.” (Malachi 3:10) The welfare of the community depends on the welfare of the children of God. God shall bless the work of the church and the work of the community. If you want to live a long life here (and in eternity), God has the prescription for us, and He will gladly give it to us. It is the same prescription given by his son, Jesus Christ, “My father worketh and so do I!” (John 5:17)

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