For some reason, I’ve always been drawn to Jeremiah the prophet. I’ve often wondered why God chose to reveal so much about this man’s character compared to the other prophets in Scripture. In his book Run With The Horses, Eugene Peterson takes the portrait given to us in Scripture in Jeremiah and expands on it beautifully.
We get traces of personality in some of the prophets (Jonah for example stands out as well) but with the majority of them, it’s their message that we remember most. What do we know about Malachi the man? Peterson explains that in Jeremiah’s case, the full, 3D picture of him lends an extra dimension to his message – “There is not a trace of smugness or complacency or naivete in Jeremiah – every muscle in his body was stretched to the limits by fatigue, every thought in his mind subjected to rejection, every feeling in his heart put through the fires of ridicule. Goodness in Jeremiah was not ‘being nice.’ It was something more like prowess.”
Peterson argues that the Jeremiah did not see much in the way of results during his ministry; he grappled with God and wondered why he was chosen for his task (similar to Moses). But in the end, he was faithful to what God had called him to do. Peterson explained, “It is Jeremiah’s lifelong achievement that the soggy religious mush of the masses never dulled his perceptions nor muted his insistent witness.”
Peterson weaves some of his own life experiences into the book, which are well-placed and not overdone. I don’t think I would call this a ‘commentary’ on Jeremiah, or even a devotional. It’s more of an expanded reflection, and taking what Scripture has given us and expanding it into a complete picture of his life and ministry. I have to say that I’m not a fan of Peterson’s translation of the Bible – “The Message” – so I was a bit skeptical when I first picked this up at our library. But that was quickly outweighed when I started reading this book. The version of this book that I read is from 1983 and I understand there is an updated version from 2009. Either way, if you decide you want to spend some time getting to know Jeremiah the prophet, you would enjoy and benefit from this book. I’d say it’s the best book I’ve read so far this year.