Some history … Earlier we read that Josiah, who became king at age 8 (July 23), began to seek God and clean up the nation in his 8th year as king (July 24) and then in his 18th year as king (Aug 2) began the most intensive reforms his nation had ever seen culminating in rebuilding the temple, destroying the key centres of idolatry, and finding the lost law of God. Today’s reading starts out with Jeremiah reminding the people that he has been bringing messages from God for the past 23 years but, in general, they have not listened. Interestingly, he points out that his work started in the 13th year of Josiah – right in the middle of Josiah’s reforms – and that means that 18 of Jeremiah’s 23 years to date have been during Josiah’s reign. It seems odd that Jeremiah’s hard-hitting messages have come in this very positive era of Judah’s history.
Jeremiah pointed to the Recabites, a clan that had followed their ancestor’s instructions for over 230 years, as a contrast to the Israelites who historically drifted away from God’s instructions within only a few short years.
Perhaps the problem comes to light in a phrase that is repeated twice in today’s reading: “Each of you must turn from your wicked ways and reform your actions”. Although Josiah was leading in the right direction, loyalty to God was far from established in individual Israelite hearts. The onus was on each of them to respond and only when the revival became rooted in individual lives would it be complete. It is the same today. God knows each of us and no one can hide behind the crowd. It doesn’t matter that some are doing right or others are doing wrong – God calls each of us to respond to him. What is God saying to you?