Moan like Jeremiah (@TheAlethiophile)


“Do everything without grumbling or complaining” we are told by Paul in his letter to the church in Philippi. What might Jeremiah have made of that instruction?

Sometimes we speak of God having righteous anger, but here we see another attribute often thought of as wrong or at least unhelpful: complaining. But this is Jeremiah’s righteous complaining. We’ll come across a fair bit of this in the next few months as prophet after prophet speaks words of warning and judgement against God’s people.

One of the warnings he has is against “those who despise the word of the Lord” in chapter 23. They are mocked when Jeremiah seems to put words in their mouths: “‘It shall be well with you’; and to all who stubbornly follow their own stubborn hearts, they say, ‘No calamity shall come upon you.'”

How bad we are at heeding this advice! Even though the so-called prosperity gospel has been a relatively recent phenomenon, it seems that something resembling it may have been around some 2,500 years ago. The great irony is that just 6 chapters later, Jeremiah includes a phrase that is commonly torn from it’s context and abused as a pretext for this false doctrine. Who hasn’t heard at some point “For surely I know the plans I have for you, says the Lord, plans for your welfare and not for harm, to give you a future with hope” used, by itself, as a encouragingly meant platitude?

As ever, context is crucial, and this is a specific encouragement given to those who were in exile in Babylon. As such, the anachronistic attempt by some to make it a promise that was written for us today puts those who use at such at the sharp end of the warnings made just a few pages earlier.

Prophecy is a gift that is still imparted today. With that, there also comes the charlatanry of false prophets. In his day, Jeremiah was ignored by many of those he prophesied to. The number of doom-mongers around today can make us immune to heeding their warnings. Others might just be plain bonkers. How are we to discern?

To take a recent example, Stephen Hawking has warned of the dangers of Artificial Intelligence. What is it about his pronouncement that makes it different from those that we used to get regularly from Harold Camping? Or is it different?

About TheAlethiophile

The Alethiophile is a blogger, bibliophile and accountant. Constantly looking for truth, he is quite often wrong. Having grown up in an evangelical baptist church in Bedfordshire, he is currently part of an Ichthus church in London. He is also fond of wearing stripey socks.