The word of the Lord came to Jeremiah a second time, while he was still confined in the court of the guard. Thus says the Lord: In this place of which you say, “It is a waste without human beings or animals,” in the towns of Judah and the streets of Jerusalem, there shall once more be heard the voice of mirth and the voice of gladness. – Jeremiah 33:1, 10-11a (NRSV, excerpts)
Turn on any cable news network or talk radio station and you’ll hear the same stories told in the same way over and over. Politicians and pundits, journalists and broadcasters all seem to be reading from an identical script. Because they are.
They’re sticking to the talking points, those sound-bite-sized focus-group-tested narratives that give one group’s spin on the events of the day. And the more they’re repeated, the more they are accepted as truth.
Until a prophet shows up.
Jeremiah is confined because he dared to speak against the talking points of Judah’s king. He predicted the nation’s downfall at the hands of the Babylonians, and that wasn’t the official narrative.
But by the time we get to chapter 33, everyone agrees with the prophet. Judah is a waste. Its towns and streets are desolate. The polling has come back, and Jeremiah’s grim vision of the future is testing well with all the right demographics.
Then the word of God comes again, and Jeremiah cuts through that conventional wisdom of destruction with a word of hope.
If you want to find a prophet, it’s easy. Look for the one speaking repentance to the self-satisfied, the one speaking hope to the doomed. The one whose words ring true even though she’s off-script.
Clear-Speaking One, cut through the chatter, and tell me the truth.
Vince Amlin is co-pastor of Bethany UCC, Chicago, and co-planter of Gilead Church Chicago, forming now.