Brueggemann closes the Introduction of his commentary on the first half of Jeremiah (Jeremiah 1-25: To Pluck Up, To Tear Down) by writing,
The text does not need to be applied
to our situation. Rather, our situation needs to be submitted
to the text for a fresh discernment (17, emphasis his).
What it "meant" has incredible power to "mean" now. It meant then that Yahweh would work a powerful, savage, pathos-filled purpose with that people, and it still means that that purpose is at work among us. It meant that Yahweh could grieve a terrible ending, and it still means we face terrible endings over which Yahweh grieves. It meant that Yahweh had the resilient power to work a newness among the displaced, and it still means that Yahweh's resilient power is at work in such displacements. It meant and means that the prideful empire, the pitiful royal leadership, the self-serving religionists, the cynical forces in society, cannot have their way, for history with Yahweh is about another intention. To be sure, the meaning we receive from the text is nuanced very differently from its early "meant." Our meaning is transmitted through our Enlightenment modes of scientific and rational autonomy. We cannot so easily ascribe the shape of the historical process to a single agent. . . . Nonetheless, this textual tradition in its anguish and in its buoyancy witness to an inescapable hovering of God that is oddly sovereign in ways that outdistance our desperate modernity. Poetic anguish, lyrical expectation, metaphorical openness, and imaginative ambiguity are ways in which sovereign hurt and fidelity are mediated to us. This powerful mediating shocks our intellectual self-confidence and invites us to reengage life with courage, awe, and submissiveness (18-19).