Friday, January 26, 2007

Playing Favorites

Posting my two favorite verses on a whim the other day got me thinking. Surely it seems impious to speak about a “favorite verse” of the Bible, when the entire Book is meant to be treasured. The reason certain verses are favorites, however, is simply that they made an early impression on me in my walk with God. The two I cited – Isaiah 26:3 and Jeremiah 9:23-24 – both concern the privilege of knowing God.

When I gave further thought to my favorite chapters of the Bible, I found that this also led me to the prophets. Two that jump immediately to mind are Jeremiah 23 and 1 Kings 13, which both concern true and false prophecy: one a divine indictment, the other a curious (and even humorous) story. Growing up spiritually in a California megachurch provoked much thought concerning the authentic word of God, for the word written was sometimes neglected in favor of the word felt or imagined. These were formative passages indeed.

I have read the prophets, such as Isaiah and Jeremiah, less frequently in the past several years. My focus has been the gospels: the life, words, actions of Jesus Christ (to whom both Isaiah and Jeremiah direct us). Incidentally, next to Jeremiah, my favorite book of the Bible is probably the Gospel of Matthew. Yet this thought process reminds me to turn to the Old Testament prophets more often. Their words are both penetrating and poetic, lending themselves well to contemplation and re-reading.

Now then, next to Jesus Christ, who would be my favorite Bible character? Well, it turns out that would also be Jeremiah too! He beats out the Apostle Peter by a hair. If you peek into Jeremiah 1 and Jeremiah 15 you will see a young man called by God, who was promised great difficulty and disappointment. He needed God’s encouragement, and it was given; but God never allowed him to be released from his difficult task. He lived a long and difficult life. When his tragic prophecies were fulfilled and Jerusalem was destroyed by its enemies, he did not gloat – he wept. Yet even then, he expressed some of the greatest words of faith ever written.

Now the word of the Lord came to me, saying,
“Before I formed you in the womb I knew you,
and before you were born I consecrated you;
I appointed you a prophet to the nations.” (Jeremiah 1:4)

“O Lord, you know;
remember me and visit me,
and take vengeance for me on my persecutors.
In your forbearance take me not away;
know that for your sake I bear reproach.
Your words were found, and I ate them,
and your words became to me a joy
and the delight of my heart,
for I am called by your name,
O Lord, God of hosts.”
(Jeremiah 15:15-16)

“The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases;
his mercies never come to an end;
they are new every morning;
great is your faithfulness.
‘The Lord is my portion,’ says my soul,
‘therefore I will hope in him.’
The Lord is good to those who wait for him,
to the soul who seeks him.
It is good that one should wait quietly
for the salvation of the Lord.
It is good for a man that he bear the yoke in his youth.”
(Lamentations 3:22-27,
written by Jeremiah)


njcopperhead said...

I understand your mild distaste for touting something just because you happen to like it. Our generation values the preference of the individual above all, even to determining morality (both the liberals and the libertarians).

Ken Shomo said...


I can tell you miss my more political posts. I better throw you a bone more often so you don't have to gnaw on this more devotional stuff with those sharp teeth of yours.