The prophet Jeremiah is the model of the true patriot. Out of his passionate devotion to God, he sees all too clearly how his beloved Judah has forsaken God. He hears God speak: “Why have they provoked me to anger with their images, with their worthless foreign idols?” Jeremiah’s heart breaks because of Judah’s wickedness and his commitment to his country’s well-being. “Since my people are crushed, I am crushed,” he mourns.
Jeremiah bases his loyalty to Judah on his passion for God. God has given him clarity of vision to see the disaster that an arrogant nation is bringing upon itself. The prophet speaks out in the desperate hope that Judah will come to itself and return to God, thereby averting the impending calamity.
When a nation fails to distinguish between loyalty to the nation and obedience to God, it is toying with idolatry. Jeremiah’s outspokenness about Judah’s determination to have things on its own terms earns him the rage of the king who attempts to silence the prophet by putting him in jail. But this act only moves Jeremiah to speak out more boldly.The faithful context for national loyalty lies within the bounds of obedience to God first. Only within those bounds can we judge honestly the actions and commitments of our nation. The conflict of loyalties that we observe in ancient Judah continues to insinuate itself into the affairs of all nations today. As Abraham Lincoln wisely observed, “We pray, not that God will be on our side, but that we shall be on God’s side.”
God, grant us the vision to see you at work in the affairs of nations and the courage to hold our country and its leaders accountable to your dominion. Amen.