As a curious university student I took an elective course on the Old Testament in my senior year. I discovered that much of God’s relationship with the Hebrew people was quite repetitive. It seemed that God gave the people laws for their own good, the people didn’t follow His laws and were punished, and then God forgave them. Then the cycle began again.

As a curious university student I took an elective course on the Old Testament in my senior year. I discovered that much of God’s relationship with the Hebrew people was quite repetitive. It seemed that God gave the people laws for their own good, the people didn’t follow His laws and were punished, and then God forgave them. Then the cycle began again.

I am now involved in raising money to help complete the building of a museum in Axum, Ethiopia, which is the city where the Ethiopian Orthodox Christian Church believes the ancient Ark of the Covenant rests. This has led me to again ponder ancient beliefs.

The biblical letter of Jeremiah, which most scholars say is neither a letter nor written by Jeremiah, warns the Hebrew people against idolatry. His counsel is that even though they may be forced to live in the midst of an idolatrous society, they should cling to their original faith. Nevertheless, Nebuchadnezzar in 586 BCE conquered Judah and destroyed Jerusalem and Solomon’s temple, which housed the Ark of the Covenant, the most holy item associated with the Jewish faith.

After 70 years in captivity the people returned to Jerusalem and rebuilt the Temple, but the Bible never gives a single word about the fate of the Ark. The Ethiopians offer a non-Biblical explanation.

My point is to ponder whether Jeremiah really was a failure. He evidently considered himself a failure because he wasn’t able to save Jerusalem from destruction, and his laments were so poignant that even today we accuse people who express excessive regrets of acting like Jeremiah.

I choose to believe that much of Jeremiah’s advice about seeking good and acting responsibly, even when surrounded by greed and violence, is as valid today as it was when it was first given. He reminds us that diversity is not a good excuse for giving up; we should not base our future on miracles and, regardless of what happens, it is within our power to do the right thing.

There was a time when the United States was thought to be the last great hope of mankind. Today there are many, both at home and abroad, who doubt our ability to ever again redeem that ideal. The words of Jeremiah assure us that we can.