The rain falls on Illinois, spring shuffling in quietly with a few muffled whispers under the cutting wind. The green peaks peek out from the dead grass remaining, telling the robins that lunch will be served shortly and alerting us that soon the dark viscous oil will need to be switched for the caramel, soothing juice that makes our mowers run like their creator intended. The lighting drew my eyes, even though they were closed, and I looked into the expiring darkness to see daylight slicing through the torrents.
New things were coming. A new day, fresh green grass and a fresh spirit for the work of living as Christ-with-flesh in the place where I've been planted.
Then I read the words to Jeremiah, acknowledging that he's the kind of guy who would understand spring rain. He's the one God promised would have the task "...to build and to plant." (1:10b, NRSV). A man who builds and plants knows the value of rain, especially if he has the tougher duty "...to pluck up and pull down, to destroy and overthrow..." (1:10a, NRSV). That's the problem with being a prophet - with calling out God's intended and possible future - you have to be willing to break the egg and make the omelet, but it's never the omelet you'd make on your own.
Then I happened upon a strange phrase, and Jeremiah's rain-longing switched gears. God asked Him to speak to Israel and say:
What wrong did your ancestors find in me that they went far from me, and went after worthless things, and became worthless themselves?" (2:5, NRSV)
The priests did not say, 'Where is the Lord?' Those who handle the law did not know me; the rulers transgressed against me; the prophets prophesied by Baal, and went after things that do not profit." (2:8, NRSV)
The prophet of new rain and seed had to force the people to think in terms of a new economy - the God of the Exodus, the God of the new rain and rich ground, who gave them a "plentiful land" (2:7), had become worthless to Israel by their chasing after worthless things. Jeremiah tears up, pulls down, and generally messes with their program in bringing God's full and strangely good statement -
I'm the only one worth your effort, your attention, your life-blood running hot through arteries and veins. I'm the only one who can bring Exodus, who can bring the rain to grow life after the journey through the valley of the shadow of death. Will you go with me?
Jeremiah helps us see that rain comes and floods, moistens, and muddies the world. It comes from the hand of God because without the ability to live through the rain and remain close to Him of Highest Worth, we'll never see a new harvest.
Unless the marriage can walk through the shadow of rebuilding trust, the crops of new life will mold.
Unless the addiction can be buried through recovery and accountability, it will never sprout into the profitable plant of testimony - of witness to goodness and grace.
Unless the pride can be tilled under, the pride that leads us to choose the worthless, our lives will vomit back the seeds of goodness that are blatantly laid on our rock hard lives every day.
Jeremiah, remind us - as God's ripper-down and builder-up - to learn the new economy. To give up the worthless for the profit of the World's Only Good, the God who raised Jesus like a perennial through the blackest soil. Father, you are the good and the worth that our lives so desperately need.