Sunni extremists sometimes called Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) made headlines in 2014 when they began torturing and beheading religious minorities, including Christians. They destroyed churches and dispersed Christian communities in Iraq that had worshiped for centuries. Where is the hope for the Christians in Iraq? Ara Badalian, pastor of Baghdad Baptist Church, says small signs of hope can be found—his congregation continues to share the gospel and build bridges with moderate Muslims. “We are afraid of the end of the Christian faith in Iraq . . . but we have hope.” As long as they are still there, God has work for them to do as His witnesses in a devastated region.
Pastor Badalian can relate to the story of the prophet Jeremiah. Called to be a witness for God at a time when no one wanted to hear the news about repentance and a restored relationship with God, the prophet found himself tortured and ostracized (see Jeremiah 38). He had to live through the destruction of his country and see God’s people carried into exile. The invasion, siege, and destruction chronicled in Jeremiah 52 inspired the prophet to write the book of Lamentations, an extended lament over the fate of Jerusalem and its people.
Our passage for today comes right in the middle of the book, in the midst of an outcry of sorrow and horror. In that context, how can Jeremiah declare that “the LORD is good” (v. 25)? It’s because Jeremiah also knew where to put his hope: God’s faithfulness to keep His promises. Hope provides perspective—the situation is dire, but they are not completely consumed (v. 22). God still has compassion. He still has a witness, a remnant, left in His beloved city. And ultimately He would deliver His people from captivity (v. 31).