Reading Scripture with other Scripture is a beautiful thing. Maybe it’s just me, because I love making connections; but, I think there is something revealing about the consistency of God’s character when reading Scripture with other Scripture. It’s like learning how another person works, in an understanding that is improved by the more time you spend with them. So, when I read the Scripture for today, I was astounded at how different Psalm 26 and Jeremiah 14 are from each other.
In Jeremiah 14, a severe drought is happening. The people of God are dying, and Jeremiah is having a conversation with God about this situation. It becomes clear just how frustrated God is with his people. They are rebellious, sinful, defiant, and stubborn. God has been gracious and forgiving when the people had cried out before—but not this time. God is saying that enough is enough; let the drought run its course, because these people aren’t actually serious about being sorry.
In contrast, Psalm 26 seems to be written from the perspective of a righteous person. “Vindicate me, God” says the writer, “for I have lived a blameless life… and I’ve done exactly as you’ve said.” And, it made me wonder, in reading this Psalm—really?! Who would be able to write this Psalm or say such things to God? It seems a bit arrogant or even self-righteous at first.
In doing a bit of reading about these two parts of Scripture, I learned more about who the prophet Jeremiah was and how he was interceding on behalf of God’s people—begging for God’s forgiveness and relief from the drought. And all the time, God just asks Jeremiah to be faithful in preaching the message he was given from God. So, Jeremiah does just that—he stands on the corner shouting God’s message; he pleads with people over dinner; he talks to anyone who might listen—but no one listens. He’s being faithful to what God has called him to do. That’s why I think the prophet Jeremiah could have written Psalm 26.
Now, I know Jeremiah didn’t write this Psalm, but the author likely would have been feeling this way. You see, Psalm 26 is not written as an arrogant person trying to claim righteousness before God like they’ve “done it all” on their own. No, this is a Psalm written by someone who is trying to do what is right in the midst of much badness. It’s not a claim of perfection, but a way of asking God to bring about justice—true justice. “Look at me, God! I’ve been faithful to this call on my life, and all I have to show for it is how much people hate me.” Psalm 26 is written by someone who is frustrated by their situation, because their faithfulness in witnessing to God’s message seems to go nowhere. I think Jeremiah knew how that felt.
A frustrated Jeremiah meets to talk with God, who also happens to be frustrated. And, Jeremiah tries to make a case for God’s people saying that the other pastors and prophets of the day were preaching a “health and wealth” message, which is a lot easier for people to hear. God’s response is continued frustration, and promises that these false prophets and pastors will be victims of their own bad advice. Enough is enough, says God. And, Jeremiah continues in his faithful work, although it’s difficult and it’s not winning him any friends.
Later, in Jeremiah 15, this faithful prophet asks God to remember him and the way he kept up this work in the midst of persecution—which sounds a lot like Psalm 26. Jeremiah is calling out to God for true justice, knowing that God is sovereign, praying that things work out for life instead of death.
Reading through these two accounts made me wonder about who I am in this situation. Am I more like the stubborn, sinful people of God in Jeremiah 14? Or, am I pursuing God’s calling on my life even if it means I am unpopular? Admittedly, I’m not great at making the decision to be disliked. I’m often stubborn and sinful, like the people to whom Jeremiah was preaching.
In all of this, it makes me all the more grateful for Jesus—who endured persecution and death for his faithfulness. Jesus is the more perfect Jeremiah. Jesus is the one who pleads on our behalf and can actually claim righteousness. Jesus is the one who satisfies God’s justice, and he gives that satisfaction as a gift to us even though we can be stubborn and sinful at times. The grace of Jesus doesn’t give us license to go on sinning and being stubborn, but it does mean that when we cry out to God for forgiveness, we can be made right before God through the sacrifice of Jesus; in this righteousness, we are made more holy through the power of the Spirit.