Jeremiah 51:50 – You who have escaped the sword, leave and do not linger! Remember the Lord in a distant land, and think on Jerusalem. (NIV)
His watchmaker's store was right beside my bus stop for going home. Whenever I travelled into Glasgow's city centre, I would get off the double-decker bus at this store. There were lots of second-hand watches in the window, and I could see the watchmaker busy working each day. He had a microscopic eyeglass to see the working of each watch, and he delicately held small instruments in his hand.
On rainy days, when I stood waiting for my bus home, I watched him studiously and was fascinated by his craftsmanship. Sometimes, I was so mesmerized by what he was doing that I almost missed my bus. I wanted to own a watch, so that if it ever needed repair, I could come into his shop and have the watchmaker fix it.
Years later, I got that opportunity. I had one of those old digital watches that blinked red lights to indicate the time. I needed to have the battery changed, so I entered the watchmaker's store for the first time. It was quiet and peaceful. On the wall behind the watchmaker was a faded photograph of him standing in Red Square with the Kremlin in the background. And when he asked me what I wanted, he spoke to me in broken English with a heavy Russian accent. I was completely surprised.
I showed him my digital watch. He just shook his head, took it from me, and quickly fixed it. I could sense his frustration, and as I handed over the money for the battery, we both realized that the world was changing. Within a couple of years, his store was gone. I guess people didn't need his services anymore.
I think he must have missed being back in Russia. I didn't know what brought him to Scotland, and sometimes I wonder if he was an ex-spy, on the run from the KGB and protected by British Intelligence. Whatever made him leave his native land, he still remembered it, and even though he was in a western land during the height of the Cold War, he must have kept that photograph proudly displayed in his store for years.
When Jeremiah preached to his people, they all knew that they were going into exile. The Jews of that time believed that God was tied to the land, so when they left the Holy Land, they thought that God wasn't coming with them. Jeremiah's prophecy was a clarion call to his people to keep the Lord and Jerusalem in their hearts, no matter what they experienced or wherever they ended. In other words, he was telling them to keep the faith.
In the midst of our own trials and troubles, sometimes remembering God and keeping the faith can be hard. But if the spiritual experiences of many millions of people over the centuries is anything to go by, those two precepts are extremely helpful, supportive, and encouraging.
Prayer: Lord God, You are the one holy constant throughout time. Across the history of the world, Your presence has strengthened and uplifted Your people. We pray that in our own trying times, we may also depend upon You to deliver and sustain us through our troubles. In Your holy name, we pray. Amen.