Sometimes certain lenses are helpful to interpret one’s own times through, both locally and globally. I think our times can best be seen through the lens of Jeremiah’s time. There are different stories which leap out of scriptures as lenses of interpretation for particular moments in history. Jeremiah’s is one for now!
We are living in days very similar to the prophet Jeremiah’s. Just as in his times, we see weak leadership and false alliances happening out of confusion and not hearing God’s clear Voice. Some of us like Jeremiah, but not as cool, are being asked to bear witness to it (each in our own ways and domains), to fellowship with His Suffering, and to buy new land in Anathoth-to symbolize what is to come, even while what was is falling apart. Even as the city burns and new leadership is installed. To build while everything is falling apart. To invest in her future—that’s what Jeremiah did. He never got to see the full rebuilding of Jerusalem, instead dying in Egypt, but it did eventually happen.
Every part of Jeremiah’s story was symbolic, as his life became a teaching about God’s ongoing orientation to people, even in times of great judgement. We are in similar days. And certain people are asked to symbolize it.
We hope to one day get to a Nehemiah time of rebuilding and unity in construction. But now we are in a sign of hope time while the world is in tumult, while leadership is frail and false alliances are causing suffering. And while even the church is not yet unified or yet working together smoothly to be salt and light. This story of Jeremiah is a guidepost for our times.
My wife and I are re-building our house here in Austin, as a sign of hope for the future-not just ours but the city’s, and as a sign of how to grow, spiritually and physically into your next chapter, as a person or city. Rather than just abandon this city and nation, to build a sign of hope for its true identity to be recovered and redeemed one day. This is our house in Anathoth, it is our home on the priestly symbolic land which God has chosen to symbolize Himself through. Every part of this rebuilding process has been symbolic, even learning the zoning rules, and the many interactions with the city systems. Jeremiah lived as a sign, and we are trying to let this building process itself, similarly to become a teaching, a symbol.
The entire story of Jeremiah’s times are being acted out globally as well. We see not just shaking and restructuring of leadership, but panic and fear as in the last king Jeremiah served. Jeremiah’s role was to stay true to God and voice what God was saying. He warned, he consoled, he did symbolic action like buy land when the city was going down, and his people taken away. God has not abandoned the planet. Never does. He asks Jeremiah to buy land in the midst. He bought priestly land—i.e. hope for a restoration of the priestly way—which happened later when the people returned.
The priestly comes first—the ark crosses the river first, then the larger masses of people can cross. Symbol precedes fuller incarnation. It’s a pattern throughout history. The artists move into a neighborhood, it gets seen, and many others move in etc.. Prayer and a recovery of the word precedes revival, in both christian and Jewish history. The restoration of the Jewish priesthood brings interpretation and reading of the word, and as the levites helped the people to understand the words-to interpret them, so the restoration of His Priesthood allows us to hear and interpret His Voice in each age.
Still, an odd time for Jeremiah to buy land, but not if someone is called to symbolize God’s orientation towards a place or a city. He interpreted the times for the kings or leaders (discernment), he comforted those who needed it, and he carried God’s heart for the whole (fellowship with God’s suffering). To instruct, warn and encourage have always been the way of the prophetic. Jeremiah lived that out for his long 40 year career, at a time of international upheaval.
Here in Austin this past year, as I said, my wife and I have been allowed to re-build a house symbolically, starting from foundations up, the entire house remodel-each part, each person, each piece of wood- has been a teaching for us of how God is orienting towards our city, and how to build not just smartly but wisely-honoring what came before, but adding to it a new level of solidity and creative craftsmanship, and vision. And planting hope for the future!
Each person who has worked with us has been hand picked and relational—that’s very true Austin. Honoring her core identity, while taking her forwards. We were asked to not abandon this city (or America in her hour of great confusion, which she is in) in her time of rapid maturation, but to stay with and help birth new chapters. This was what Jeremiah did. Even when given the opportunity to go to babylon and have nice stuff, he stayed with the remnant. That’s an example of how to live in these times, how to embody the Body as one dear friend put it to me recently.
In our own story, we have been given the resources and spaciousness to do so, coming from the faithful among the previous generation. We have done so with little help on the ground, but lots of angelic aid!Even this seeming lack of on the ground support is like Jeremiah, who after being thrown in the pit, finally had one advocate who came to his aid, and had the king lift him out of the pit and feed him. Nehemiah’s days were different, where you truly had incarnate unity. Jeremiah was alone, accused often of even coming against the national spirit. People went out of their way to condemn him. In this, he was moving in the way of Jesus.
But we, this year, have been given the privilege in our small way, of acting out something into the future, co-creating a “sign” for our city. We have also learned how God wants to grow our particular city through this process. Authentic relationships with creative builders etc. Her (our city’s) true identity, has shone through this process. We have also honored what she was, and mid-wifed what she is becoming in a way which honors her growth and core identity. We have been able to do so outside of the usual pressures of urban growth, the tendencies, for financial reasons, for unwise growth—materialism coupled with manipulation to make it happen fast and make money–this is something all of America struggles with. So, it makes sense, her fastest growing city would also!
The role of the prophetic is to symbolize God’s orientation towards the whole. We are moving in Jeremiah’s way, as are many others in our times. To symbolize what God is saying is in this way of Jeremiah. Jesus got upset with the religious leaders of His day, for not being able to read the times. We are not those who cannot read. To us He does not come as a thief in the night; we, like the wise men who found Him at His birth are to follow His Star, and be excited when it guides us to Him. Jeremiah knew His times and God’s orientation towards them.
As Jesus told His friends, but for you, it’s given to actually understand the parables of the times! We are meant to be able to read and interpret our times. Jeremiah’s times are a great lens through which to do so.