The Day of Pentecost

Num 11:24-30

bulletIn vv. 10-15 Moses complained to God that he could no longer carry the burden of the people by himself.  God promised to take some of the spirit from Moses and put it on the seventy elders so that they could help Moses carry the people.   Because of the people's complaining God threatened to give them quails for a whole month until the meat would come out of their nostrils.
bulletYahweh in fact did take the spirit from Moses and put it on the elders, who prophesied--exhibited ecstatic behavior--but only one time.
bulletTwo others named Eldad and Medad remained in the camp.  They also received the spirit and they too exhibited ecstatic behavior.  When a young man told on them, Joshua demanded that Moses put a stop to them.  Moses refused and instead expressed the wish that all Yahweh's people were prophets and that Yahweh would put his spirit on them.
bulletThis message offers sharp critique against all tendencies toward hierarchy or agaomst amu who would declare that some in the church, such as clergy, have special privileges.

The Psalm for the day is Psalm 104:25-35, 37

The Holy Trinity

Gen 1:1-2:4a

bulletThis reading is the creation account ascribed to the priestly writer and is to be contrasted with the creation account of the Yahwist in the rest of chapter 2.
bulletThe picture of God in Genesis 1 is of a transcendent being, who creates by his word.  The creation takes place in six days, with God resting on the seventh day or sabbath.
bulletThe Old Testament does not contain the doctrine of the Trinity, but earlier generations saw adumbrations of this doctrine in 1:2 "the Spirit of God was moving over the face of the waters" and 1:26 "Let us make humankind."  Most modern scholars would understand the first reference as a description of a wind from God that was howling over the wasteland, while the "us" is now understood as a royal or deliberative plural or even a reference to the divine council (though the divine council does not occur elsewhere in P).
bulletGenesis 1 is a hymn of praise for the creator--an altogether appropriate theme for Trinity Sunday.
bulletThe Decalogue forbids the making of images of the deity.  The only permitted image is humankind itself, which exercises God's governance over the world in God's apparent absence.  One might naturally apply this imagery to ecological concerns today.

The psalm for the day is Psalm 8.

Second Sunday after Pentecost 

Jeremiah 28:5-9

bulletIn Jer 27:1-7 Yahweh instructed Jeremiah to wear a yoke around his neck and to tell all the surrounding nations that have come to Jerusalem to join a coalition against Babylon that they are to submit to the yoke of Nebuchadnezzar.  This seems to have taken place in 594 or 593 BCE.  Interestingly, Ezekiel was called in the very same year, in Babylon, to announce that there was no way around the fated end of Jerusalem.  Jeremiah repeated these instructions to King Zedekiah in Jer 27:12-15.
bulletIn Jer 28:1-4 the false prophet Hananiah contests this message and contradicts the word of Jeremiah.  He quotes Yahweh as saying that within two years all the vessels which have been taken from the temple to Babylon will be returned to Jerusalem.  Yahweh will also supposedly restore the exiled King Jehoiachin to the throne.  Note that Hananiah's name means "Yahweh is gracious" and that he claims to have a direct oracle from Yahweh:  "Thus says Yahweh of the heavenly armies."  To the observer it was prophet versus prophet, both claiming that they were speaking for Yahweh, both with names professing that status as followers of Yahweh.
bulletIn v. 6 Jeremiah says that he wishes Hananiah's word were true:  "May Yahweh fulfill the word you have prophesied."  But in v. 7 he reminds the audience that prophets characteristically  announce bad news. 
bulletTherefore, if a prophet says that everything is going to be ok (here called a "prophet of peace"), one knows that prophet to be true only when his word comes true.  An American audience is not likely to understand that a "prophet of peace" is a false prophet in this case unless the lector explains it to them.
bulletThe limits of the Old Testament lesson leave the hearer in the lurch in any case.  In vv. 10-11, Hananiah performs a symbolic act by breaking the yoke that Jeremiah wore.  Jeremiah himself seems puzzled at first and "goes his way."
bulletIn vv. 12-16, we are told that Jeremiah received a second word from Yahweh that indicates that Yahweh will now make an unbreakable yoke of iron.  All the nations earlier referred to, including Judah, and including even the wild animals, will serve Nebuchadnezzar.  Jeremiah  then directly makes the charge against Hananiah that Yahweh has not sent him and that he is trying to make the people trust in a lie.  A direct oracle of Yahweh puts Hananiah under a death sentence.  In v. 17 Hananiah dies, proving that the word of Jeremiah is in fact the true one.
bulletSeveral preaching strategies might be used with this text.  One could discuss how the believer sometimes has to deliver a hard word against society, not all its plans will turn out ok.  Hananiah seems to have been playing to the grandstand, trying to gain popularity.  He promised deliverance with no repentance.  The other strategy would be to discuss how we know today whether the word of a prophet--or any religious teacher or teaching--is true.  The answer suggested by this text is that that word or teaching is true that conforms to God's overall message.  In the case of Jeremiah, no deliverance is possible without repentance.  Christians often must decide on the appropriateness of current theological proposals on whether they are supported by, or give articulation to, the saving gift of salvation by grace for Christ's sake through faith.

The psalm for the day is Psalm 89:1-4, 15-18

Genesis 22:1-14 (semi-continuous)

Third Sunday after Pentecost

Zechariah 9:9-12

bulletZechariah 9-14 is thought to be later than Zechariah 1-8 and probably should be dated somewhere in the 5th century B.C.E. or even later
bulletThe messianic prediction of a king arriving on a donkey is seen by Christians as fulfilled in Jesus' entry into Jerusalem on Palm Sunday.
bulletThe exhortations to daughter Zion/Jerusalem in v. 9 are terms of endearment.  Older translations usually rendered these "daughter of Zion" or "daughter of Jerusalem." 
bulletThe most characteristic feature of Hebrew poetry is parallelism, well exemplified in v. 9 which speaks of the king's animal as a donkey, aye, as a colt the foal of a donkey.
bulletThis king comes in peace, on a donkey, and not on a war horse.  While exercising a broad dominion--from sea to sea--this king comes in peace and destroys military armaments.
bulletThe blood of the covenant in v. 11 harks back to the covenant sealed by a blood ceremony in Exod 24:8.  Christians will naturally refer it to the "blood of the new covenant" and the Eucharist.
bulletVerse 12 enunciates a beautiful metaphor:  "prisoners of hope."  One naturally thinks of prisoners as despondent.  The double restoration of the people of God signals them as God's firstborn and echoes Isa 40:2.

The psalm for the day is Psalm 145:8-14.

Genesis 24:34-38, 42-49, 58-67 (semi-continuous)

Fourth Sunday after Pentecost

Isaiah 55:10-13

bulletThese verses close off Second Isaiah (chaps. 40-55), a prophetic writing completed between 547 and 540 BCE.  At the end of his writing Second Isaiah hails the sureness of the Word of Yahweh, which had also been his theme at the beginning of his work in 40:1-8.
bulletThe prophet compares the sureness of Yahweh's word of promise to the regularity and effectiveness of rain and snow, which do not just bounce back to the sky, but soak into the ground and bring forth abundant crops.
bulletGod's word too does not return to God empty-handed, but carries out the tasks God has assigned to it.
bulletVerse 12 returns to the theme of a new Exodus, which has emerged often in the previous sixteen chapters.  The deliverance of Israel will lead to a new creation, a re-creation, of nature.  The mountains and hills will hail this day with singing, and all the trees will give liberated Israel a standing ovation.  Instead of weeds and other noxious plants there will be cypress and myrtle.
bulletThese events will lead to Yahweh's honor; they will be an everlasting sign which will never lose its effectiveness. 
bulletThe Gospel for the day, Matthew 13:1-9 and 18-23, also deals with the effectiveness of the word of God although that effectiveness varies with the different responses of those who hear it.

The psalm for the day is Psalm 65:[1-8] 9-13.

Genesis 25:19-34 (semi-continuous)

bulletThe stories of Israel's ancestors are replete with difficulties in bearing children. In this text Isaac's prayer to Yahweh for Rebekah is answered by the gift of twins via Rebekah.
bulletRebekah becomes upset by the struggles of the twins in utero, a struggle that will continue in the following chapters! Her prayer is answered by a divine oracle in v. 23.
bulletYahweh's word: The elder (Esau) shall serve the younger (Jacob). This is a repeated theme in Genesis: Isaac prevails over his older brother Ishmael; Jacob prevails over Esau; Joseph prevails over his brothers; Judah, the fourth born assumes the first position. Later David, the 7th or 8th son of Jesse will be anointed by Samuel. This theme emphasizes that divine choice does not necessarily follow birth order.
bulletEsau the firstborn is red (rhymes with Edom in Hebrew) and hairy (rhymes with Seir, a region in Edom). Jacob is born second and grabs the heel of Esau (he tripped him or was trying to pull him back so that he could be born first.). Jacob in Hebrew rhymes with the word for heel.
bulletEsau grew up to be a hunter while Jacob was a quiet person, living in tents. The parents of the twins played favorites: Isaac favored Esau (because he liked the game that the hunter Esau brought in) and Rebekah favored Jacob.
bulletVerses 29-34 describe a hard bargain Jacob enacted.  When Esau came from the field he wanted some of the lentils that Jacob was cooking. Jacob sold them to Esau, but the price was a steep one: Jacob gained the birthright!
bulletThe lentils were "red stuff"; another pun on the name Edom. Esau is criticized for despising his birthright.

Fifth Sunday after Pentecost

Isaiah 44:6-8

bullet Second Isaiah (ca. 547-540 BCE) makes some of the clearest monotheistic statements in the Old Testament.  The pericope for this Sunday is usually classified as a trial speech against the gods.
bullet "Redeemer" is a favorite epithet of God in Second Isaiah.  It expresses strong feelings of kinship.  We might paraphrase by saying that God is the best father or mother we ever had.
bullet Note the many statements dealing with Yahweh's uniqueness or incomparability:  I am the first and the last; besides me there is no God; Is there any god besides me?  There is no other (divine) rock. 
bullet Yahweh claims that he has been able to announce things before they happened while the so-called gods of Babylon have utterly failed at that project.  He challenges them:  let them tell us what is yet to be.
bullet In urging the people of God not to fear, Yahweh also challenges them to be witnesses of his power to save.
bullet the following verses 9-20 mock idol worshipers.

The psalm for the day is Psalm 86:11-17

Genesis 28:10-19a (semi-continuous)

bulletThe story of Jacob's ladder/staircase (scala in Latin could be translated either way. Hence the Vulgate is responsible for the double tradition) follows directly on the story of Jacob cheating Esau out of his father's blessing in ch. 27. Hence Jacob is quite a wicked fellow when he is blessed by Yahweh--pure grace.
bulletGod is at a distance from Jacob, and angels are going up and down the ladder/staircase between God and Jacob. This view of God is attributed to the E source. But in the very next verse, Yahweh is right beside Jacob--hence that verse is attributed to J.
bulletYahweh promises Jacob the land and many descendants. The cheat Jacob surely does not "deserve" this blessing. He is also to extend Yahweh's blessing to all the families of the earth. That's the assignment for those who are chosen. See Genesis 12:1-3.
bulletYahweh promises to be with Jacob when he is away, and to bring him back to the land.
bulletOn waking up, Jacob confesses that Yahweh was in this place and he did not know it. How often we are surprised by God's presence in our lives.
bulletJacob sets up a pillar and pours oil on it.  Later in Israel such pillars were forbidden.
bulletJacob called this place Bethel = house of God in v. 19. See what he had said about this place in v. 17
bulletJacob (in the verses after this pericope) makes three promises. If Yahweh brings him back safely, Yahweh will be his God, the pillar will become God's house, and Jacob will become a tither.
bulletJacob returns to Bethel in Genesis 35:1-7.

Celebrating and Sharing the Gift:  Reflections on Jacob Israel's Ancestor (Genesis 28, 32, 33)

 

Sixth Sunday after Pentecost

1 Kings 3:5-12

bulletThis pericope describes a dream of Solomon in which he asks God for wisdom, which God readily grants, but then adds a promise of riches and honor (vv. 13-14).  Strangely, the lectionary reading does not contain these last two verses.
bulletThe two verses preceding this pericope report that while Solomon loved the Lord, he also sacrificed at the "high places."  In fact his dream takes place at Gibeon, the principal high place at that time where Solomon offered a thousand burnt offerings.  In retelling the history of Israel, the later book of Chronicles claims that the tabernacle was actually located at Gibeon at this time.
bulletWhen God appears to Solomon and offers to give him whatever he wants, Solomon recounts the faithfulness of his father David and the reciprocal fidelity of Yahweh in maintaining loyalty to David and putting his son Solomon on the throne.  While Solomon seems unmoved by David's adultery with Bathsheba and murder of her husband Uriah, his reference to David's fidelity may refer primarily to David's monotheism and his loyalty to Jerusalem.
bulletSolomon confesses his feelings of inadequacy in view of the great number of people whom he must govern.  He requests an understanding mind to facilitate his rule.
bulletGod congratulates Solomon for not asking for riches or military victory and grants him a wise and discerning mind, without parallel.  But he also grants him riches and honor.  Solomon's wisdom is shown in the next verses as he adjudicates between two prostitutes, one of whose children has died  (vv. 16-28).  Solomon's wealth is also attested in many of the following chapters (e.g. 1 Kgs 10:26-29).
bulletVerse 14 is a conditional promise:  if Solomon is obedient, he will live a long life.

The psalm for the day is Psalm 119:129-136.

Genesis 29:15-28 (semi-continuous)

bulletWhen Jacob arrives in his mother's homeland, he meets the lovely Rachel, Laban's daughter by a well (men and women often meet today at "watering holes"). Isaac met Rebekah at a well in ch. 24, and Moses met Zipporah by a well (Exod 2:15-21). Since Laban was Rebekah's brother, Jacob and Rachel were first cousins.
bulletThe earlier stories describing the struggles between Jacob and Esau, were struggles between a shepherd and a hunter (or between Israel and Edom). In Haran, the contest is between Jacob the young shepherd and Laban the older shepherd (or between Israel and Aram/Syria).
bulletJacob agrees to work seven years for Rachel, but wakes up in the bridal bed chamber with Leah! The old shepherd bested the young shepherd. Laban also gave Leah Zilpah as a handmaid. She will play a role in the baby making contest, becoming the mother of Gad and Asher (Gen 30:9-13; 35:26; 46:18).
bulletLaban forced Jacob to work another seven years to get the hand of Rachel.  Laban gives Rachel Bilhah as a handmaid. She will give birth to Dan and Naphtali She also has sexual relations with Reuben, disqualifying him from the right of the firstborn (Gen 35:22; 49:4).

 

Seventh Sunday after Pentecost

Isaiah 55:1-5

bulletThe opening two verses of this pericope are an invitation by Yahweh to a free divine banquet.  As divine king, Yahweh imitates earthly kings at their inaugurations.
bulletThe passage is filled with irony.  Those who are hungry and thirsty are invited to "buy" without money and without price.  People spend money and work hard for that which does not benefit them.  Christian preachers may wish to refer to the free banquet offered in the Eucharist.
bulletVerses 3-5 ring the changes on the old promises to David (cf. 2 Samuel 7).  God promises to make with "you," that is, the whole community an everlasting covenant, the sure promises to David.  Hence the covenant is democratized.  What had formerly been promised to David and his dynasty is now promised to everyone.  This is a good example of a hermeneutical application, where the prophet takes "what was once meant" and shows what it might mean in his time.  Strictly speaking, there is no messianic hope in Second Isaiah, and the only messiah mentioned is Cyrus the Persian (Isa 45:1).
bulletJust as David ruled nations, so the people are promised that the nations will acknowledge them.  The guarantor of this promise is Yahweh your God, the Holy One of Israel.
bulletThe gospel for the day is Matthew 14:13-21, the (free) feeding of the 5,000.

The psalm for the day is Psalm 145:8-9, 14-21

Gen 32:22-31 (semi-continuous). See Celebrating and Sharing the Gift: Reflections on Jacob, Israel's Ancestor. By Ralph W. Klein

Eighth Sunday after Pentecost

1 Kings 19:9-18

bulletThis pericope tells of Elijah's pilgrimage to Sinai where he hears the "still small voice."
bulletWhen God asks him what he is doing there, Elijah expresses his despair.  He feels that the Israelites have forsaken the covenant and killed the prophets.  Elijah feels like the last believer on earth--and folks would like to kill him!
bulletElijah experiences a divine theophany, but Yahweh was not really present in the wind, earthquake, or fire.  After all that came "sheer silence" or "the still small voice" in older translations.  Yahweh seems to be rejecting the usual signs of theophany associated with Baal.
bulletAfterwards, Elijah is again questioned by Yahweh and he again complains about the faithlessness of the Israelites and his own peril. 
bulletYahweh gives him three assignments:  a.  to anoint Hazael as king over Aram/Syria; b. to anoint Jehu as king over Israel; c. to anoint Elisha as his own successor.  The first two--Hazael and Jehu--achieved their offices violently.  Judgment will come to Israel through them, and those not punished by them will run into the deadly words of Elisha.  It is actually Elisha who anoints Hazael and Jehu.
bulletStill God promises that he will leave 7,000 in Israel who have not succumbed to Baal worship.  Elijah is not the last believer after all.  Kissing the image of Baal was apparently a common act of worship (cf. Hos 13:2).

The psalm for the day is Psalm 85:8-13

Gen 37:1-4, 12-28 (semi-continuous)

bulletThe story of Joseph has been called a Little Novella. All the parts of the story between here and Genesis 50 are interconnected.
bulletUnfortunately, the Lectionary omits Joseph's first two dreams (note that his dreams always appear in pairs--butler and baker, and the two dreams of Pharaoh). It's quite understandable that his brothers were not happy with his dreams--having to bow down to one's sibling is pushing sibling rivalry to the limit.
bulletOne cannot justify the brothers' actions toward Joseph. Reuben, however, is the first to push for leniency, and he is followed by Judah who urges the brothers not to engage in violence. Judah is an important figure throughout the story. His speech to the disguised Joseph in ch. 44 brings Joseph and all subsequent readers to tears. In Jacob's blessing of his sons in ch. 49, Judah is given a great blessing, right up there with Joseph. In ch. 38, the Bible tells us what Judah was doing while Joseph was taken to Egypt. He admits that Tamar is more righteous than he is.
bulletThe Lectionary also omits vv. 29-36 where the brothers cruelly suggest to Jacob that Joseph has been killed by wild animals.
bulletWhat can we make of the Joseph story? The bad consequences of a parent playing favorites? The dangers of divisiveness within a family? God's hidden causality? (In this respect the Joseph story has a very modern feel). A story of how Israel wound up in Egypt? The last words in Genesis are "in Egypt." The story has often been romanticized, with "the coat of many colors." It was probably only a long-sleeved coat.
bulletHow will you use this occasion to preach the Gospel?

 

 Ninth Sunday after Pentecost

Isa 56:1, 6-8

bulletIsaiah 56-66 (Third Isaiah) is generally dated to the early post-exilic period, when the soaring hopes of Second Isaiah met the diminished reality of life in the land.
bulletThe first verse is a command to practice justice and righteousness.  In Hebrew the words "what is right" and "my deliverance" are identical.  That is, our "righteousness" echoes the righteousness/deliverance of Yahweh and is enabled by it.  In the OT "righteousness" means basically faithfulness to a relationship.
bulletVerse 6 offers an inclusive view of the community.  Foreigners who keep the Sabbath are full members of the community.  Verse 7 adds that the temple will be considered a house of prayer for all peoples.  This verse is known also from the words of Jesus where he contrasts this large view of the temple with those who have made it a den of thieves. 
bulletIncidentally, the second part of that quotation is changed from its original context in Jer 7:11.  The prophet had criticized Israel for sinning and then running to the temple for cheap grace as if it were a place were crooks could hang out.
bulletVerse 8 repeats the inclusive message of the passage. 
bulletThe omitted verses, 2-5, include eunuchs in the vision of the new people of God.  They are no longer to say "I am a dry tree."  They will be given "a monument and a name" that is better than the sons and daughters they could have engendered if they had not been castrated.  "Monument and a name" is Yad Wa Shem in Hebrew, the name of the famous Holocaust Museum in Jerusalem.  It provides a monument and name for those Jews martyred during the second World War.

The psalm for the day is Psalm 67.

Gen 45:1-15 (semi-continuous)

bulletI am Joseph. Is my father still alive? To understand the drama of this moment, you have to read Judah's speech in 44:18-34.  Judah puts himself on the line, taking Benjamin's place and offering to become Joseph's slave.
bulletSo it was not you who sent me here, but God. Joseph saw  the hand of God even in the dirty tricks of his brothers. In his administrative position he is going to save many from starvation. Thank about the many "secular" events in your life and the lives of your parishioners, and now we, looking back, can see God's hands in their collective whole.
bulletJoseph is like a worred parent: Do not quarrel along the ways (45:24).
bulletJacob the noble (after he had earlier cheated Esau out of his inheritance): My son Joseph is still alive. I must go and see him before I die.

Tenth Sunday after Pentecost

Isaiah 51:1-6

bulletIsaiah 40-55 was written by an anonymous prophet during Israel's exile in Babylon.  The two paragraphs in this pericope, vv. 1-3 and 4-6, both begin with the word "Listen" and are followed by warm promises of God.  The faithful audience is characterized as those who pursue righteousness and who seek Yahweh.
bulletIsrael's ancestors Abraham and Sarah are compared to a rock or a quarry, something solid in a time of great uncertainty.  The gospel for the date, Matt 16:13-20 has the famous saying about Peter, You are the rock and on this rock I will build my church."  Though they were originally one (or two if you want to be picky about it), they became under God's blessing a numerous people.  Similarly the exiles, few in number, could look forward to a God-blessed population increase.
bullet"Comfort" is a theme word in Second Isaiah, beginning with 40:1.  Comfort means much more than sympathy; it means God-worked transformation.  Zion's waste places and wilderness will become luxuriant like the Garden of Eden.  The transformation will be marked by appropriate human rejoicing:  joy, gladness, thanksgiving, and singing (v. 3).
bulletThe second paragraph, vv. 4-6, is written in the first person as the words of Yahweh.  God's teaching that goes forth and God's justice recall the eschatological promise of Isa 2:2-5. 
bulletVerse 5 promises God's speedy intervention as a military liberator.  Note the military images in Yahweh's arms/arm.  The nations too will rejoice in this deliverance.  Heaven and earth as we know them will vanish and wear out, while Yahweh's salvation and deliverance will last forever (cf.  Isa 40:8, which states that grass withers and flowers fade, but that Yahweh's word or promise will stand forever).

Exodus 1:8-2:10

bulletThis pericope deals with the oppression of the Israelites in Egypt by the Pharaoh who did not remember Joseph. The midwives, Shiphrah and Puah, were instructed to kill all male Israelite babies and let the female babies live. Shiphrah and Puar feared God (vv. 17 and 22) and therefore disobeyed Pharaoh. When called to account by the Pharaoh, they claimed that the Israelite women were too vigorous and gave birth before they could get to them (understandable if they were serving a population of 2 million!). Abraham had also feared God and therefore was willing to sacrifice his son Isaac, but because he feared God, Isaac was spared. When the Israelites crossed the Reed Sea, they also feared Yahweh (Exod 14:31). Fear is a synonym for "have faith in."
bulletThe Geneva Bible (1560) praised the midwives for disobeying a wicked king, but chided them for dissembling (in their story about the vigorous Israelite women). Because of this and similar, anti-monarchical comments, King James I permitted no marginal comments in the KJV (celebrating its 400th anniversary in 2011).  God rewarded the midwives by giving them their own families. Pharaoh then ordered that all boy babies should be thrown into the Nile.
bulletThe second half of this pericope (2:1-10) deals with the birth and rescue of Moses. Three anonymous women play a role here: the mother of Moses (elsewhere called Jochebed); the sister of Moses (elsewhere called Miriam), and Pharaoh's daughter, who becomes the foster mother of Moses. Hence five important women are part of this long pericope and give the preacher a chance to move beyond the Bible's patriarchy.
bulletWhen his mother could no longer hide Moses after three months, she put him in a basket in the Nile and posted his sister to see what would happen. Pharaoh's daughter takes pity on the infant, and his sister offers to supply a wet nurse, namely, the real mother of Moses. When the boy was grown (weaning was done at three years) he was given to Pharaoh's daughter who raised him as her son and named him.
bulletThe name Moses is given a Hebrew etymology in this passage, but is generally thought to be an Egyptian word for "child." Note that various Pharaohs have this word as part of their names: e.g. Thutmosis. The finding of Moses is striking similar to the story about Sargon I, the great Akkadian ruler, of nearly 1000 years earlier. 
bulletMoses is the hero of the Exodus story, but in today's pericope there are five heroic women.

The psalm for the day is Psalm 138

 

Eleventh Sunday after Pentecost

Jeremiah 15:15-21

bulletJeremiah's "confessions" are laments in which he struggles with Yahweh over the burden of his prophetic ministry.  Like other laments, they share honestly with God, but they are also rich in articulating the reasons why the lamenter, in this case Jeremiah, should still trust in Yahweh. 
bulletIn v. 15 Jeremiah utters an imprecation, that is, a request for Yahweh to take vengeance on the prophet's enemies.  He asks for divine forbearance lest he himself be taken away.  The root of Jeremiah's problem is that he suffers on account of Yahweh's assignment for him to be a prophet.
bulletIn v. 16 he recalls the joy at hearing the divine message and his own divine approval.  Jeremiah metaphorically ate Yahweh's words; Ezekiel literally ate them (Ezek 2:1-3).  But the prophet complains in vv. 17 and 18 of the consequences of his call:  he had no fun because Yahweh's hand was upon him.  Jeremiah complains of his constant, incurable pain.  Yahweh was like a Palestinian brook--full of water in the rainy season, but dry as dust when you really were thirsty.  Yahweh has not been honest or fair or truthful to him!
bulletVerse 19 brings a delightful comeuppance.   If Jeremiah would repent of what he just said, Yahweh would let him keep on doing the ministry against which he has been protesting!
bulletJeremiah's is to be a hard and unyielding message.  God will set him up as a fortified wall.  People will fight against him but never prevail against him.  Why not?  Because of the simple and powerful promise:  I am with you, to save and deliver you.  This is further spelled out in v. 21 as deliverance from the wicked and redemption from the ruthless.
bulletSee also my sermon study in Preaching Helps 11 (1984):41-42.

The psalm for the day is Psalm 26

Exodus 3:1-15 (semi-continuous)

bulletYahweh meets Moses at the burning bush, which is the first part of his call narrative, 3:1-4:17.
bullet(Moses in the meantime has fully grown, killed an Egyptian who was beating a Hebrew, and fled to Midian. There Moses met his wife Zipporah at a well [compare Jacob and Rachel]. Her father is called Reuel here, but elsewhere he is known as Jethro and Hobab. When the Israelites suffered under Egyptian oppression, God remembered his covenant with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob and initiated the deliverance known as the Exodus).
bulletMoses was curious when he saw a bush that was burning but not being burned up. God called to him and Moses responded positively.
bulletGod tells Moses to remove his sandals since he is standing on holy ground. The exact reason for this requirement is not given, but perhaps it results from the fact that sandals are made of dead animal skin, which would be ritually unclean.
bulletYahweh identifies himself as the God of the ancestors Abraham and Sarah, Isaac and Rebekah, and Jacob and Rachel and Leah. Since the name Yahweh is first revealed in the following verses, technically the ancestors did not believe in Yahweh.
bulletYahweh is revealed as a God who sets people free. He also promises to bring Israel to the promised land, described here as a fertile land, currently inhabited by a list of nations. Similar lists occur at Gen 15:19-20 and elsewhere.
bulletMoses counters that he is unable to answer this call, the first of five objections. (Many of us, both lay and clergy, think up excuses why we cannot answer God's call). The other excuses are: I don't know your name; they won't believe me; I am not eloquent; send someone else!
bulletYahweh counters each of these objections. To Moses' feeling of inability, Yahweh responds "I will be with you." If Yahweh is with a person, Yahweh clearly accepts/forgives that person, and Yahweh empowers that person. Later prophets such as Jeremiah are given similar reassurances.
bulletThe second objection to his call is I don't know your name. The name Yahweh is then given in v. 15. This part of Exodus is usually attributed to the E document; the P document contains the revelation of the name Yahweh in Exod 6:2-3. The latter passage states explicitly that the name Yahweh was not revealed to Israel's ancestors.
bulletThe name Yahweh probably means something like "He creates (the heavenly armies)." An alternate explanation is given in Exod 3:14 "I am who I am." The words I am and Yahweh rhyme in Hebrew.
bulletI favor a third understanding of the name Yahweh. In the events of the Exodus Israel discovered what their God is really up to: he sets people free.  They learned his name or reputation. Similarly, Christians say that we understand what God is really up to when we see his Son hanging on a cross.  There we learn his name!