2384) Jeremiah, the Weeping Prophet (part two of two)

Jeremiah: Prophet of Doom, or Prophet of Hope?

Jeremiah, on the ceiling of the Sistine chapel, Michelangelo (1465-1564)


     (…continued)  Jeremiah is one of the Bible’s tragic figures.  He was a good and godly man, but was given an unpleasant and even dangerous task.  He was called on to give a word of repentance and judgment to a people who were in no mood to listen.  The people’s reaction to Jeremiah was somewhat divided, but the division was not between those who liked and agreed with him, and those who disagreed with him and did not like him.  No, everyone hated him, and no one agreed with him.  It was everyone against Jeremiah on every issue.  So the division was not between those who supported him and those who did not.  The only division among the people was between those that thought Jeremiah should be killed outright, and those who did not want his blood on their hands, even though they probably also would have liked to see him gone.

     There is a clear indication of how much he was hated in chapter 20 where it says, “All my friends are waiting for me to slip, saying, ‘perhaps he will be deceived, and then we will prevail over him and take our revenge on him.”  As the old saying goes, “With friends like that, who needs enemies?”  Even his friends looked for ways to double-cross him, and his enemies wanted to do worse.  Several times Jeremiah’s life was threatened by an angry mob, but each time he was released.  He would escape with his life, but little else.  He had no friends, no respect, no security, and even no satisfaction that all his troubles were doing anyone any good.  It is no wonder he has become known as ‘the weeping prophet.”

     Sometimes Jeremiah got sick of it and lashed out, even at God. “You deceived me,” Jeremiah said to God in that same chapter, “I am ridiculed all day long and everyone mocks me … the word of the Lord brings me nothing but insults and reproach all day long.”  Notice, however, he is still speaking to God.  He still brings it all to God in prayer.  As in many other places in the Bible, even the most angry and rebellious thoughts are not only permitted, but even recorded for posterity.  God does not seem to mind such anger directed at Him, just so long as the person keeps talking to Him.  God certainly kept talking to Jeremiah.  God kept sustaining him and giving him strength; and of course, giving Jeremiah more to preach.

     And Jeremiah kept on obeying God by continuing to speak that word.  Jeremiah at one point admits to wanting to throw in the towel and quit, but then says, “If! say I will not mention him or speak any more in his name, his Word becomes like a fire in my heart, a fire shut up in my bones.  I get weary of holding it in, indeed, I cannot.”  God had given Jeremiah a job to do, and it became such a part of Jeremiah’s heart and soul that he could not hold it in even if he tried.

     Almost all of that chapter 20 is a prayer by Jeremiah.  Even though it starts out with anger and rebellion, it ends with hope and courage.  “Sing to the Lord,” says the last verse, “give praise to the Lord.  He rescues the life of the needy from the hands of the wicked.”  Jeremiah continues to trust in God, saying in verse eleven, “The Lord is with me like a mighty warrior.”

     Jeremiah’s ministry consisted mostly of angry denunciations and prophecies of doom.  But despite all outward appearances, Jeremiah had a deep love for his homeland and its people.  His anger was the anger of God at the way they were destroying themselves, but he did not hate them.  His words were not hateful words, but words that brought a needed warning.  When the warnings were not heeded and destruction did come upon his people, Jeremiah was heartbroken.  The thoughts he had at that time are recorded in the Biblical book of Lamentations, which comes right after the book of Jeremiah.  There, the weeping prophet grieves over Jerusalem, lamenting the destruction that his words could not prevent.

     Christians are also called on to love and forgive others, but that does not mean what we should neglect the hard and difficult words of God, or neglect to give the stern warning when it is needed.  Jeremiah did his thankless task and was hated for it, but he kept a faithful heart toward God and a spirit of good will toward his neighbors.  His example is needed today.

     One more thing about Jeremiah.  Behind Jeremiah’s love and concern for his people was an even deeper love– the love of God for his people.  God was, of course, behind all of Jeremiah’s words, and God was waiting for some kind sign of faithful response from his people.  In chapter 31 Jeremiah spoke these words from God to the people:  “With an everlasting love I have loved you, therefore I will continue my faithfulness.”  The angry words of God were only given in hopes of bringing the people back to their senses.  The people did not respond, and the nation was destroyed, along with all the false hopes. 

     Eventually the people did return to God, and a few decades later, they were allowed to go back and rebuild their nation.  Jeremiah had also predicted this in the same chapter 31, where he said:

Behold, the days are coming, says the Lord, when I will make a new covenant with my people.  I will write my law on their hearts and I will be their God and they will be my people.  And all will know me, from the least of them to the greatest, says the Lord, for I will forgive their iniquity, and I will remember their sins no more.

   The days are coming, God said, when I will make “a new covenant.”  Jesus used those very words on the night before his death when he took the cup of wine and said, “This is the new covenant in my blood, shed for you and for all people for the forgiveness of sins.”

     Jeremiah’s hopes and the promises he proclaimed were fulfilled in Jesus Christ.


Right is right, even if everyone is against it, and wrong is wrong, even if everyone is for it.

–William Penn  (1644-1718)


I know, Lord God, that the road on which I am walking does not belong to me, and that I cannot be my own guide.  Keep me on track, Lord.  But be gentle.  Your anger would destroy me.

— Paraphrase of Jeremiah 10: 23-24.  NIV translation printed below:

Lord, I know that people’s lives are not their own;
    it is not for them to direct their steps.
Discipline me, Lord, but only in due measure—
    not in your anger,
    or you will reduce me to nothing.