The word of the Lord came to me: "You shall not take a wife nor shall you have sons or daughters in this place... Do not enter the house of mourning, or go to lament..." - Jeremiah 16:5
Many years ago it was these verses forbidding Jeremiah to share the ordinary social life of his people that first awakened my mind to the living reality of the men and women in the Bible. In effect, Jeremiah is being told to stand apart. When his neighbors will ask "Why?" he will tell them that Babylon is on the march. Unless they change their ways, God can no longer stand with them.
My little revelation was how much Jeremiah must have suffered to become a kind of living show and tell, a perpetual witness to the fact that his fellow citizens of Jerusalem have abandoned God and there will be consequences because they are a people in covenant with God. When an enemy invades, ordinary life ceases.
This is not to say that everything that happens negatively to us in life is God "getting even." By no means. It does say that actions have consequences. Israel has become lazy, thoughtless, and confident that it can do anything as the people of God and somehow they will be rescued. What a false hope.
Jeremiah is not heeded by his people. His heart breaks because their refusal ends in Babylon's marching them off to exile. However, Jeremiah never abandons them nor does he show up at the city gate to say "I told you so" on the day the deportation begins.
Instead he appears with a scroll in one hand and an earthenware jar in the other. He shows them that he has just purchased land in desolate Jerusalem. He will stow the deed in that jar to be kept safe for a future time when land will again be bought and houses will be rebuilt. His words of hope are the last they hear as exile begins.
What a large-hearted man Jeremiah was and how difficult was his lot in life. This might be the day to ask ourselves what words or deeds of hope we can share with another in the spirit of Jeremiah.