By the streams of Egypt weeps a woebegone pariah;
outcast of the outcasts, exile from a shattered country.
No one ever heeds ‘antagonistic’ Jeremiah;
therefore, I to these papyrus pages share my story.
Lost within Tahpanes’ hostile streets and foreign culture
it is hard to keep the plague of hopelessness at bay;
memories of that precious kingdom circle like a vulture,
land that once was home for me, and was a throne for Yahweh.
Though my tired eyes are failing, I can still remember
how the morning glow eased down to fill the Kidron Valley…
On the fertile hills of Benjamin, in North Judea,
lay the town of Anathoth, an ancient Levite city.
There once lived the family of the village priest, Hilkiah;
I, his son, there with my cousin, Hanamel, would play.
Later I would study under priest and scribal scholar,
learning how indelible we were secured by Yahweh.
Many times I heard the legend of King Hezekiah;
how he prayed to save us from Assyria’s great army.
Few, however, chose to share the warnings of Isaiah,
neither heeding Israel’s ruin nor our dismal history.
Then a seeking son of David, good young King Josiah,
started purging from our towns what leads the heart astray,
neither idols nor their priests escaped that great reformer
as he tried to turn my faithless nation back to Yahweh.
But his work could not undo the sins committed prior,
nor repair the many generations of decay.
So while caught between the Northern beasts and Southern monster,
few could concentrate on keeping old demands of Yahweh.
hrough that ordinary childhood I had no idea
Sovereign Power was then arranging empires vile and hungry,
while composing bones and nerves within this tender creature,
so that in His chosen timing we would all be ready.
That elected moment came for me when King Josiah
had commenced his thirteenth year in walking David’s way;
God had formed me as a prophet to the world arena,
known and set apart, appointed by the word of Yahweh.
But like Moses at the burning thorn-bush, or Isaiah
taken to the throne room of the Holy, Holy, Holy,
hearing from Almighty filled my timid heart with terror,
since for this high call I was deficient and unworthy.
So I cried out, “Ah, Lord, I am not a gifted speaker!”
in the presence of great men I knew not what to say,
“I am but a child,” and no one listens to the younger;
could not there be found a better instrument for Yahweh?
To my frightened cries the Sovereign gave commanding answer,
fearlessly I was to go and voice His word completely;
trusting in the guarantee that He would be my Saviour,
and in war with kinsmen or with kings be always with me.
Then with outstretched hand He filled my mouth and heart with wonder,
verifying through odd visions all I would convey;
vowing over His own word to be a constant watcher,
this sweet message of despair would be fulfilled by Yahweh.
That is how I was appointed over realms a preacher,
to uproot, tear down, destroy, and overthrow; so they,
and my people, after Northern tribes had brought disaster,
would all know the power to build and plant belongs to Yahweh.
Though I knew the prophet’s life meant I would greatly suffer,
shocking still it was to learn God’s pain I would embody;
this poor mortal heart torn by the raw immortal trauma
of One steadfast in His love, but now rejection-weary.
Spurned by my own nation, village, family, friend and neighbour,
I could only then begin to grasp His deep dismay,
anger for the faithless king and prophet, priest and scoffer,
who relentlessly had turned their stony hearts from Yahweh.
Yet, this heavy burden was but part of my life’s torture,
for the flipside of this call was to exhibit clearly
how the torment caused by this vast covenantal fracture
also would affect and wound my precious people deeply.
Therefore, I would be a mocked, abused, imprisoned loner,
living as a mourner and prediction-on-display,
screaming that their lives and social fabric soon would rupture
as their comfort, peace and joy is ripped apart by Yahweh.
They would call me ‘Terror-is-on-every-side’ and snigger,
scowl and shake their heads about my pessimistic ‘theory’;
but when came the dark eleventh year of Zedekiah,
when they realised far too late that I had spoken truly.
Now my nights are haunted through by nightmares of the horror,
and by day my memories swirl in grief and disarray,
after witnessing the bloody deaths and brutal capture
of my most beloved ones, those judged by holy Yahweh.
But my sorest private pain is that I’m thought a traitor,
as if I, just as before, my nation still betray;
for the dreadful words within my aching bones still smoulder,
caught between hearts hardened and the crushing rock of Yahweh.
Many days I needed to release the endless pressure,
so I cried out to the only One I knew would hear me;
venting through authentic tear-soaked prayers the hurts so bitter
and bold accusations that His promises seemed faulty.
When I wished I never had survived my mother’s labour,
seasons when His shielding presence felt so far away,
moments when I wondered if my God could be a liar,
all these grievances I threw before the throne of Yahweh.
There were times I pleaded, “Do not be to me a terror,”
knowing all too well I neither could earn peace nor pity;
so I often begged that in the dark day of disaster
God Almighty would fulfil his vow to be my safety.
Prayer was my one recourse before every persecutor,
for the righteous Judge alone all vengeance must repay;
therefore, when I felt just like a sheep led to the slaughter,
I would kneel and trust the tables would be turned by Yahweh.
That I could approach in such direct combative manner,
and our conversations be so personal and stormy,
likely would appal the priests and my old scribal teacher,
who thought they could hide from God what‘s not all sweet and shiny.
But I know there are no secrets from the great Beholder,
and should in His worthy keeping all my worries lay;
so my passions most profound I found no grounds to smother,
but instead cast all myself into the hands of Yahweh.
Honoured with an equally abrasive honest answer,
either to restate commands or to my fears allay,
time and time again through every bitterness and danger
I knew that I always had the listening ear of Yahweh.
After years of ministry my twilight hours linger,
I have served for longer than five kings, but now I’m empty.
Never shall I see restored my nation torn asunder,
nor my worn out feet embark the lengthy homeward journey.
How I wish I’d not been dragged across my country’s border,
that the fools had listened to the firm command to stay.
Now, because they chose to trust instead the old oppressor,
they shall learn again that Egypt falls before great Yahweh.
My one solace is foreseeing God’s astounding future,
knowing righteous judgement will give way to stunning mercy;
through the might of His own word, the gracious Liberator
will replant and will rebuild my nation for His glory.
My own patch of holy land I never will recover,
but I know that after seven decades kept away
a new exodus will leave the bondage of Chaldea,
and will come from every land to be at home with Yahweh.
While imagining the flock back in its proper pasture
is enough to even cheer a heart this grey and heavy,
still more captivating is the rescue so much deeper,
a renewal that I cannot comprehend now fully.
For the Lord’s new covenant shall soon replace the former:
God will forge a union from which Israel will not stray,
since their stony hearts, engraved with sin, are gone forever,
and replaced with hearts inscribed by perfect law of Yahweh.
Therefore, when my burning heart and bones in ashes slumber,
when my closing breath and final tears have slipped away,
God’s true word I told Baruch to write will be in Scripture,
and believed at last, by all those called and changed by Yahweh.