The Prophet's Lament, the Penitence of a King
It might seem trite, or redundant, to say that being rejected by God (or anyone, really) tends to leave us feeling low, bad, sad and "down." Whether we are responsible for that rejection, as David was when he pursued Bathsheba and had Uriah killed, or if we are an isolated bystander, as was the prophet when God declared judgment against all Israel and Judah and tasked Jeremiah alone with its proclamation, being drawn out and apart from the crowd in that manner is something we would all prefer to avoid. In fact, most all of us would seek to know how to avoid that sort of calling out at all costs. The down side is that by the time we realize things have gotten to that point with God, as scripture illustrates, it is pretty much too late to correct our trajectory. By this time, we have committed ourselves to the actions that break covenant with God, or we are witnessing the people do so, and God's judgment has been released and is on its way. Like a comet plunging through space toward us, we can observe its advance and its inevitable arrival and expect little else.
Not a particularly great way to start the morning, eh? Jeremiah is wrestling with his call. At this point, he is the only prophet who is proclaiming God's coming judgment on the people. The rest don't agree with his denouncements. Instead, they forecast sunny skies in the coming days. God has singled Jeremiah out and this burden chafes his back and rubs blisters onto his soul. It is as if he is the one shouldering the anger of God on behalf of the people. As he proclaims the judgment, he is feeling it in advance. God's mercy is there, but it is a faint solace that right now is eclipsed by the wrath to come. And, it is coming.
That's what rejection looks like on a macro-level. Let's take a moment to see it on the personal: David has sinned. How is a king going to be called to account for his actions and choices? How are any of us able to see that when we choose our ways over God's that there is a profound cost assessed that will affect not only our personal walk with our creator, but also the lives and well-being of others around us? The answer is through prophets like Nathan. Those who are willing to speak truth to power. By God's grace in this instance, power listens. David hears and repents, and offers to us a model of prayerful repentance whose effect is still being felt to this day. Psalm 51 is the great song of repentance. It is THE psalm we use in our liturgies when the whole body of the faithful is praying for forgiveness on holy days. It is the go-to song we know to offer up when everything else is going to pot around us. It consoles, even as it leads us into contrition.
In the midst of that lament and this illustration of deep sorrow, there is some small note of hope sounding. Hebrews offers up an image of God's presence alongside humanity in the person of the king/priest, Melchizedek. You may remember that he was the king of the city-state of Salem, to whom Abraham rendered tribute after a victory against his foes. His blessing of Abraham serves as a model, with a little quote from psalm 110, to remind us that God's desire for us (and for our restoration) is an eternal expression on God's part of a desire to see us restored. God does judge, and castigate, but God also always restores. By God's grace as well, that restoration is for ever...
Our only task? Remember that gift, and live up to and into it with our whole being.