We know Jeremiah through his scribe Baruch, beginning in 626 BC, during the reign (640-609) of Judah’s King Josiah. Jeremiah was part of Josiah’s reform, launched after a scroll was found in 621 during a Temple renovation. Jeremiah engaged King Zedekiah as Judah fell to Babylon (586). When many were exiled to Babylon, Jeremiah’s friends took him against his will to Egypt, where he wrote a letter of encouragement to the Babylonian exiles. He died in Egypt sometime before the exile ended in 538 BC.
Jeremiah’s example is relevant today during this period of polarized news media and polarized political loyalties. Jeremiah’s loyalty was not to king or party, but to the Law of Moses. His support for a king depended on whether the king was faithful to that Law. His honest feedback to King Zedekiah landed him in jail. When Babylon’s conquest of Judah caused some to doubt God, Jeremiah said their defeat was the responsibility of the king, the priests and the people–not God. He was confident God would restore Judah.
In recent weeks I’ve heard, “I’ll never vote for a democrat. They’re socialists.” I’ve heard, “I’ll never vote for a republican. They’re fascists.” The biblical prophetic tradition warns against blind loyalty to a leader or to a party. As we enter the year 2020, Jeremiah has never been more timely–or more needed.