2383) Jeremiah, the Weeping Prophet (part one of two)

Tight Lines | A fisherman's blessing becomes a prayer for good ...

The Prophet Jeremiah, 1630, Rembrandt  (1606-1669)


     Mindy was a good kid, but could be “quite contrary,” just like Mary in the old nursery rhyme.  She was always ready to argue the point, anxious to question and challenge everything said to her, and slow to back down or agree to anything.  One evening when she was in the fourth grade she showed her father a report she had done for school.  “What do you think of it, Dad?,” she asked.  A quick look told him that it was not very well done.  It had been done in a hurry, the handwriting was poor, and it contained some incomplete sentences.  Her father knew she was able to do much better, so he said to her, “Mindy, I don’t think this is a very good job at all. You are capable of better work, and I am disappointed that you would be satisfied to hand this in.” 

     Well, it wasn’t in Mindy’s nature to accept criticism without a fight, so she immediately took the offensive and shot back at her dad, “You are my father.  You are supposed to encourage me; not make me feel bad.”  Her father replied, “Mindy, you are right.  It is my job to encourage you; but it is also my job to tell you the truth, and the truth is, this assignment is not done very well at all.  You can do better, and you are going to have to do the whole thing over.” 

     Mindy wanted to hear some good news from her dad– that the homework was fine and she could be done with it and watch some TV.  But what she received from her father was the truth, and to her, the truth was the bad news that she had to do it all over, and she would have no time for TV that night.

     Jeremiah was a prophet to whom God gave the unpleasant task of bringing a message of bad news to a disobedient and rebellious people.  But the people were like Mindy and they didn’t want bad news.  Who does?  They wanted good news, so they had a problem with Jeremiah.  He was therefore one of the most despised and persecuted prophets in the entire Old Testament.

     The book of Jeremiah is one of the longest in the Bible, and his words are still read and studied and proclaimed 26 centuries after he first spoke them.  But in his own day, Jeremiah was just one of many prophets, and he was by no means the most popular.

     His mission was to a nation in its last days.  They had in almost every way forgotten about the God who had created and sustained them.  They had abandoned any true worship of that God.  Jeremiah called on them to change their ways and return to the Lord, or else bad times would most certainly come upon them.  And Jeremiah had some very specific things to say about who God was and what he expected from His people. 

     Almost all other preachers, including one of the most popular ones, Hananiah, were saying that things weren’t so bad.  Hananiah’s message was that God is not angry and judgmental like Jeremiah says he is; and even though things were a little rough, peace and prosperity for everyone were just around the corner.  No one should worry about God or anything else, because all would be fine for many years to come.  Hananiah proclaimed a very different kind of God, one that who was little more than a guarantee of the nation’s security. 

     But Jeremiah said, “This is what the Lord says: ‘The prophets and priests all practice deceit, dressing the wound of my people as though it were not serious, and saying ‘Peace, Peace,’ when there is no peace.'”

     Jeremiah was right and Hananiah and all of his type were wrong.  Peace and prosperity were not just around the corner, but war, defeat, and poverty came upon them.  The people did not want God, so God left them to themselves, to their false gods, and to their own self-destruction.  In just a few years Jerusalem and the whole nation was destroyed, and for the next 70 years there was no king in Jerusalem; and no temple, no palace, no nation at all.

     Jeremiah’s message was a sad and disturbing one, but it was the truth.   Hananiah’s message was happy and hopeful, but it did not turn the people to God, and it was not true.  So it is that Jeremiah’s words are remembered thousands of years later and not Hananiah’s.  In fact, we know about Hananiah only because Jeremiah happens to mention him a few times.  The unpopular Jeremiah once said to the popular Hananiah: “The prophet who prophesies peace will be recognized as one truly sent by the Lord only if his prediction comes true.”  

     There’s a lesson there for modern folks, among whom there is an increasing tendency towards the belief that it doesn’t matter what you believe about religion, as long as you are sincere, and as long as whatever you believe makes you feel good.  That seems to me to be a very strange position to take, but it is the position of many today.  For some, in fact, the strongest conviction they have in the area of religion is that it doesn’t matter what you believe.  Or in other words, the only thing that really matters is that you firmly believe that beliefs do not matter.  This is an odd understanding of faith, but it is a fair summary of the ‘belief’ of many people today.

     The story of Jeremiah has a far different message.  There, we find out that believing the right things does matter.  Jeremiah was right.  Almost everyone else was wrong.  It did matter what they did and did not believe.  They chose not to believe Jeremiah, and the destruction he told them God was threatening did come.  (continued…)


Jeremiah 5:30-31  — (This is what the Lord, the Almighty says), “A horrible and shocking thing has happened in the land:  The prophets prophesy lies, the priests rule by their own authority, and my people love it this way.  But what will you do in the end?

Jeremiah 14:13-14  — (Jeremiah said to the Lord), “Alas, Sovereign Lord!  The prophets keep telling them, ‘You will not see the sword or suffer famine.  Indeed, I will give you lasting peace in this place.’”  Then the Lord said to me, “The prophets are prophesying lies in my name.  I have not sent them or appointed them or spoken to them.  They are prophesying to you false visions, divinations, idolatries, and the delusions of their own minds.”