Week Thirty-Four Reading Assignment:
Jeremiah 15 - Jeremiah 37
“This is the supreme book. Begotten of God, it is daily employed by God. As we appropriate the truths of the Bible we begin to base our thinking on its standards, to breathe its air. We begin to live it.”
This Week's Teaching Video: The Theological Role of the Prophets
Character Profile: The Weeping Prophet
A few characters emerge from the pages of Scripture with nicknames. Doubting Thomas is one. Jeremiah is another. He has come to be know as “the weeping prophet.” His name has even turned into a word for a mournful complaint: we call it a jeremiad.
Jeremiah’s reputation comes from the passages in which he expressed tearful lament and grief over the condition and fate of his people. In one pained and poignant moment, for example, Jeremiah cries out, “O that my heard were a spring of water, and my eyes a foundation of tears, so that I might weep day and night for the slain of my poor people!” (9:1 NRSV).
To understand Jeremiah, we must recognize that the prophet is uniquely positioned between God and His people. The prophet knows both parties, and he has a heart for both. Beyond that, he even partakes of the experiences of both.
So it is that, if Jeremiah is a weeping prophet, it is partly because he lives among a weeping people. “A sound is heard in Ramah, the sound of bitter weeping," Jeremiah declares. "Rachel is crying for her children;’ they are gone, and she refuse to be comforted” (31:15 TEV).
Still more remarkable and profound, however, is this truth: if Jeremiah is a weeping prophet, it is because he serves a weeping God.
Even though the people have been unrelenting in their sin and rebellion, still the Lord says, “Israel, you are my dearest son, the child I love best. Whenever I mention your name, I think of you with love. My heart goes out to you; I will be merciful” (31:20 TEV).
God is heartsick over His lost and unfaithful children. Israel is broken and tortured. And in between the weeping people and their weeping God stands Jeremiah: the weeping prophet.
A Victim of Success
We noted in a column last week both some of the differences and some of the similarities between Isaiah and Jeremiah. Ironically, however, it may be that Isaiah made life harder on Jeremiah. Or at least the success of Isaiah's time made Jeremiah's ministry even more difficult.
Isaiah, you recall, was a prophet in Judah and Jerusalem during the 8th-century BC. The great threat on the world's stage at that time was the Assyrian Empire. And, during the reign of Hezekiah, the Assyrians moved south into Judah, decimating much of that southern kingdom. Eventually, the surrounded Jerusalem, and threatened to destroy it as they had every other target in their path to-date.
Miraculously, however, Assyria did not prevail. Against all odds, Jerusalem survived the Assyrian threat. As we read the story, of course, we recognize that Jerusalem's success was not magic: it was the happy product of the faithfulness of their king, Hezekiah.
Several generations later, when Jere-miah was a prophet in Judah and Jerusalem, the people faced another threat. This time, the Babylonians were the menacing enemy that was infiltrating Judah and threatening Jerusalem. Ironically, however, the improbable survival of that city in Isaiah's day inspired a false confidence within the people of Jeremiah's day. They lived complacently under the impression that Jerusalem was so uniquely the Lord's dwelling place that it was forever secure, invincible.
Accordingly, the Lord told Jeremiah to say to the people, "Do not trust in deceptive words, saying, 'This is the temple of the Lord, the temple of the Lord, the temple of the Lord.' ... But go now to My place which was in Shiloh, where I made My name dwell at the first, and see what I did to it because of the wickedness of My people Israel... Therefore I will do to the house which is called by My name, in which you trust, and to the place which I gave you and your fathers, as I did to Shiloh" (7:4, 12, 14 NASB).
It's a difficult thing to warn someone who thinks there is no danger, to scare someone who thinks he is invincible. Such was the plight of the prophet Jeremiah. And that, in part, because of the good that God had done during the time of the prophet Isaiah.