A Little Help for Linus

This is what the Lord says:
“A voice is heard in Ramah,
    mourning and great weeping,
Rachel weeping for her children
    and refusing to be comforted,
    because they are no more.”

  • Jeremiah 31:15

Then what was said through the prophet Jeremiah was fulfilled:
“A voice is heard in Ramah,
    weeping and great mourning,
Rachel weeping for her children
    and refusing to be comforted,
    because they are no more.”

  • Matthew 2:17-18

“LUCY: Here’s your piece for the Christmas Program.
“LINUS: ‘So the words spoken through Jeremiah the prophet were fulfilled.  A voice was heard in Rama, wailing and loud laments.  It was Rachel weeping for her children and refusing all consolation because they were no more.’  Good grief!”
“LUCY: Memorize it and be ready to recite it by next Sunday.”
“LINUS: I can’t memorize something like this in a WEEK!  This is going to take RESEARCH!  Who was Jeremiah?  Where was Rama?  Why was Rachel so upset?  You can’t recite something until you know the ‘who,’ the ‘where’ and the ‘why’!”
“LUCY [with clinched fists]: I’LL tell you the ‘who’, the ‘where’ and the ‘why’!  You start memorizing right now or you’ll know WHO is going to slug you, and you’ll know WHERE she’s going to slug you and you’ll know WHY she slugged you!!!”
“LINUS: Christmas is not only getting too commercial, it’s getting too dangerous!”

  • Charles M. Schulz, Peanuts Comic Strip – As quoted by Robert L. Short, The Parables of Peanuts

Okay, it’s not the Christmas season, but it doesn’t seem like it’s the Easter season either.  With the social distancing and going to church in my office while watching the service online, it doesn’t feel like much of anything this year.  Then again, I was with my wife and our younger son and his family for Christmas.  This is the first meaningful holiday since returning to Pittsburgh alone.  I love being alone as long as I can call people on the phone, but there isn’t that warm feeling of anticipation as in past years.

I have not bought a Hallmark card in a long time, because my wife makes homemade cards, rubber stamping or cutting and tearing of paper and then layering or embellishing.  Half the time we have difficulty mailing the cards – unable to run through the automated system, paying extra for handling by hand.  But that doesn’t mean that we don’t shop for ideas by looking through the cards in the store and not buying.  About 10-12 years ago, I picked up a card that said, “The true meaning of Easter”.  I unfolded, the multifold card.  Each fold had long green grass at the bottom of the card and blue sky above.  Finally, the inside of the card revealed an Easter Bunny, a couple of eggs, and the words, “Spring has Begun!”  I checked who made the card to ensure that I never give them my business again.  Easter has become too commercialized, and secularized.

I recently finished Robert Short’s book, The Parables of Peanuts, his follow up to his book, The Gospel According to Peanuts.  I cannot find the first book in the series, and this one seems to have been severely damaged over the years with a severely torn cover.  The contents are intact, and if you want a source of Bonhoeffer and Kierkegaard quotes without going to those gentlemen, I’d highly recommend the Robert Short books.  Oddly, my reading became total enjoyment as opposed to research, as Linus insisted upon.  I have one more quote in mind, but that’s about it.  But my enjoyment of the book was twofold, good theology (although none of the Peanuts characters are perfect) and a calming, soothing walk down memory lane where life was a lot simpler, or was that a fantasy created by a young boy who rejected a vastly changing world in favor of the comic strip world of Peanuts.  At one point, I would not go to Sunday school until I had read Dick Tracy and Peanuts, and if “Ha” was printed ten times.  I had to read all ten of them.

In the comic strip, the script quoted above, Linus has been conscripted by Lucy, as usual, in reciting Scripture for the Christmas program.  He needs to know the who, where, and why.  Ignoring Lucy’s usual who, where, and why, let’s help Linus.

WHO was Jeremiah?  Jeremiah 1:1 says that Jeremiah was a priest, the son of Hilkiah.  He was a priest at Anathoth.  Being from Anathoth is suggestive, as possibly descending from Abiathar (1Kings 2:26), priest during the time of King Solomon.  King Solomon banished Abiathar to Anathoth.  Jeremiah’s ministry as a prophet was from 626-586BC.  It is thought that he was killed by stoning while in Egypt (tradition, but a possible hint from Hebrews 11:37).  Jeremiah never married and had no children, since God gave him instruction not to (Jeremiah 16:1-4).  The next generation was to suffer greatly, thus Jeremiah spared his potential offspring of great suffering.  While Jeremiah wrote the book of Jeremiah, it is thought that he also wrote the book of Lamentations.

Where is Rama (Ramah)?  Ramah is about five miles north of Jerusalem, not southeast toward Bethlehem, but close enough for Matthew’s quote of Jeremiah’s prophecy to help people connect the dots.  Besides, King Herod told his guards to kill the male infants in Bethlehem and the vicinity, which could have included Ramah.  Ramah, at the time of the Jeremiah prophecy was along the road that the inhabitants of Jerusalem would take when being exiled to Babylon.  Were the children killed in the days of Jeremiah?  Were the children separated from their parents to be brainwashed into Babylonian ways?  The book of Daniel is proof to that happening, at least for some, but the mothers could have lamented that they had lost everything else and their children would not inherit the Promised Land.

Who was Rachel?  Rachel is a metaphor in this prophecy.  The northern tribes have already been exiled by this time.  Rachel bore two sons, Joseph and Benjamin.  Joseph married an Egyptian woman and she had two sons, Ephraim and Manasseh.  Both of Joseph’s sons were given the rights as sons of Israel and both tribes were the largest and most dominant of the northern tribes.  Rachel, as a metaphor since Rachel died when Benjamin was born in Bethlehem, mourned the loss of her grandchildren. This answers Linus’ last question, from the Jeremiah prophecy, of why Rachel was so upset.  As for why this verse is quoted in Matthew 2, King Herod has just killed all the children in the vicinity of Bethlehem to rid himself of the possible rivalry between his family line and that of the true King of kings, Jesus.  Only Herod was foiled when Joseph, Mary’s husband, received a message from an angel to escape to Egypt, just in time.

I learned from a good teacher that prophecies in Scripture usually had three meanings:  Then, Later, and Now.

Jeremiah mentioned that Rachel could not be consoled.  This was something that the people of Jerusalem would understand regarding the northern tribes of Israel being exiled, a warning that they might be next.  That’s the “Then” of the prophecy.  Mentioning Ramah was the “Later” but almost a “Then” as Jerusalem would fall and be exiled within the lifetime of those hearing Jeremiah’s prophecy and they would be marched to Babylon through Ramah.  Of course, the killing of the infant males is a distant “Later”.

So what of the “Now”?  That might vary from place to place and from person to person.  Have we ignored God?  Have we not done some of the things that Jerusalem and Judah were guilty of in the time of Jeremiah?

Whether we are held guilty as charged or shown mercy for our misdeeds, depends on us having a personal relationship with Jesus Christ, the one who died and rose again so that we could live, live with Him forever.  Accept the love of God by accepting Jesus into your heart, trusting and believing in Him.  There is no need to wail with loud laments any longer.  Our Savior has paid the price for us.

Soli Deo Gloria.  Only to God be the Glory.

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