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The Hebrew Prophets
The Hebrew Prophets

Bragging about Love and Justice

Friday, February 17, 2023

Scholar Mary Ellen Chase (1887–1973) introduces the prophet Jeremiah in all his human complexities:  

Jeremiah is the least reserved of any of the prophets. With the utmost candour he lets us into his heart….  

Jeremiah had countless faults and shortcomings. He was guilty of irritation, impatience, petulance, hopelessness, doubt, complaint, fear, fury, and even of self-pity…. When he cried out that the heart of man “is deceitful above all things and desperately wicked” [Jeremiah 17:9], he referred to his own stubborn heart as well as those of his tormentors…. Nevertheless, with all his human frailties, he was patient, long-suffering, hopeful, bold, even heroic. He endured more than did any other prophet; he was mocked, humiliated, rejected, scorned, persecuted, even tortured. He was surely one of the loneliest of men, sacrificing marriage, children, and friends for the sake of his calling; yet, though he dares to accuse God of lying and to compare [God] to a deceitful brook with no water in it [15:18], he says that without God he burns as with fire and that, although he has sworn to have nothing more to do with [God], he cannot live without speaking God’s message to those who despise both God and him [20:8–9]. [1]  

Scripture scholar Walter Brueggemann reflects on Jeremiah 9:22–23 about what matters to God and is worth “boasting” of:  

Three things, said Jeremiah, not to brag on:

Do not let the wise boast of their wisdom.  
Do not let the mighty boast of their might.  
Do not let the wealthy boast of their wealth.  

They are three items but really all one—one by convergence to have autonomy and the world on our own terms….  

Brueggemann offers God’s message through Jeremiah to those bragging: 

Let those who boast boast in this, that they understand and know me,  
that I am the Lord; I act with steadfast love, justice, and righteousness  
in the earth, for in these things I delight, says the Lord…. 

Brag about steadfast love, about staying power and keeping vows and promises, about long-term fidelity whereby haves and have-nots, rich and poor, and black and white stay with each other in a common destiny because there are no private deals, no gated communities that can be safe, no private schools that can opt out, no protected oases because all are bound to all, even as God is bound to Israel.  

Brag about justice, about the practice of economic viability in which the great money revenues of the most fabulous wealth in the world is put to use for all the neighbors in terms of health care, adequate housing, childcare, good schools—all readily doable when the Body Politic comes to know that we are all in it together…. 

Brag about righteousness, a vision of a society in viable, sustainable equilibrium, a harmony of neighbors in which none need to be gouging and threatening others and none need be fearful, because common joy and common hope are rooted in common shalom. [2] 


[1] Mary Ellen Chase, The Prophets for the Common Reader (New York: W. W. Norton, 1963), 103, 104. 

[2] Walter Brueggemann, “Bragging about the Right Stuff,” October 19, 2002, in The Collected Sermons of Walter Brueggemann (Louisville, KY: Westminster John Knox Press, 2011), 229, 230. 

Image credit: A path from one week to the next—Jenna Keiper, Bisti Badlands. Benjamin Yazza, Untitled 6. Jenna Keiper, Taos Snow. Used with permission. Click here to enlarge image

Like this bird, the Hebrew prophets sing truth from new vantage points. 

Story from Our Community:

As a university chaplain, I often began my days by savoring the wisdom of the CAC Daily Meditations. In the words, I found the courage and compassion required for the arduous work of pastoring, mentoring, and reconciling clashing of world views. Now retired, I continue to read the Daily Meditations. At this stage of my life, I feel encouraged to “let go” of ego attachments that dissolve as my professional identity becomes less relevant. I seek to greet each day as an empty vessel, with what Buddhists call a “Beginner’s Mind.” That way, I can ensure that these words become seeds that take root and grow within me as I continue to grow. —Mark F. 

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