When I think of Jeremiah my mind instantly goes to Jeremiah 29:11 but beyond that, I have realized that I don’t know who Jeremiah is or who he was talking to when he said these famous God-breathed words. Many of you probably have heard the verse Jeremiah 29:11 “I know what I’m doing. I have it all planned out—plans to take care of you, not abandon you, plans to give you the future you hope for.” MSG
I love this verse and have used it many times to bring comfort to those I love, but I want to point out its actual meaning. Jeremiah is talking to a group of people, a specific group of people. He is talking to the Israelites that were exiled from Jerusalem, giving them hope in a future even after the chaos. With that being said let’s find out who Jeremiah really was. He was the “Weeping Prophet”!
I love this verse and have used it many times to bring comfort to those I love, but I want to point out its actual meaning. Jeremiah is talking to a group of people, a specific group of people. He is talking to the Israelites that were exiled from Jerusalem, giving them hope in a future even after the chaos.
He was the “Weeping Prophet”!
Jeremiah was a chosen prophet from the beginning. We know this because God spoke to Jeremiah and this is what he said,
“Before I shaped you in the womb,
I knew all about you.
Before you saw the light of day,
I had holy plans for you:
A prophet to the nations—
that’s what I had in mind for you.” Jeremiah 1:5 MSG
God didn’t stop at that. He proceeded to inform Jeremiah that he was going to be God’s words. Jeremiah tells us that God reached out, touched his mouth and said,
“Look! I’ve just put my words in your mouth–hand delivered! See what I’ve done? I’ve given you a job to do among nations and governments- a red letter day!” Jeremiah 1:9 MSG
17 years old
Can you imagine? Jeremiah is about the age of 17 and he is now being told that he will be the voice of God to the nations and governments. Jeremiah is told that he is going to “pull up, tear down, take apart and demolish, and then start over building and planting.” Jeremiah 1:10 MSG God starts to send Jeremiah metaphoric messages showing that he will never leave his side. He sees a stick and God assures him that it is because he is sticking to his side. He sees boiling water coming from pot tipped towards their people, God reveals that disaster will pour out on them. God is making Jeremiah’s job and signs of the future very clear. At the end of chapter 1, God says these words to Jeremiah,
“Stand at attention while I prepare you for your work.
I’m making you as impregnable as a castle,
Immovable as a steel post,
solid as a concrete block wall.
You’re a one-man defense system
against this culture,
Against Judah’s kings and princes,
against the priests and local leaders.
They’ll fight you, but they won’t
even scratch you.
I’ll back you up every inch of the way.”
God’s Decree. Jeremiah 1:18-19 MSG
So as we start with chapter and move forward we start to see the words and work of Jeremiah. We aren’t going to go through chapter by chapter because this would then be the longest blog post ever but we are going to discover who Jeremiah was and why he is known for his weeping.
His warning to the Israelites
Jeremiah was called by God to go and tell God’s message to Jerusalem. He talked to the Israelites about their early days with God when they were young and loyal. He talked about how they stuck with God through the wilderness and all the hard times. Israel was God’s chosen, the pick of the litter. God had stuck to his promises of rescue and restoration.
After reminding them of their faithfulness he began to ask them what they were doing now. How could they have turned from God so many times and in so many drastic ways? How could you have ruined the land and started chasing empty gods? Because of all of this, charges are being brought against them. They were told that everyone would be charged, you, your children, and grandchildren. Take a look around at the destruction that has been caused. No one is going to take you back and help you. Not Egypt or Assyria.
“I God have blacklisted those you trusted. You’ll get not a lick of help from them.” Jeremiah 2:37 MSG
He continues to speak
Jeremiah continued to speak on God’s behalf about the sexual habits and the religious obsessions. He compared the way the people treated God to that of a cheating spouse who had defiled every bit of land the people walked on and the practice of false gods, and idol worship. For many chapters, Jeremiah speaks God’s word to Judah and Jerusalem about their wicked behaviors and what is to come of them if they don’t change.They just don’t seem to care at all. They continue to live these lives that represent NO part of God yet they enter the Temple and pretend to worship his very faithfulness. No matter what Jeremiah says to them, they will not listen. He weeps for the people. He weeps for what they are doing, for what he has to say to them and for what he knows will be their future.
Alone, except for God
I want to stop for a moment and have you think about this young man. God has chosen Jeremiah to be his words and his warning to the people of Israel. He has no friends. The friends he did have are now against him. People are plotting to murder him. He is ridiculed, mocked and anything else you can never wish upon someone. Not only does Jeremiah have no friends, but God tells him not to take a wife or to have children because there is going to be pain, death, and destruction.
“Jeremiah, don’t get married. Don’t raise a family here. I have signed the death warrant on all the children born in this country, the mothers who bear them and the fathers who beget them—an epidemic of death. Death unlamented, the dead unburied, dead bodies decomposing and stinking like dung, all the killed and starved corpses served up as meals for carrion crows and mongrel dogs!” Jeremiah 16:2-4
So now we have a picture of this young man who is trying to save his people but they are too stubborn to listen. He has no friends because people don’t want him telling them what they are doing wrong and now he has been told to stay single and childless! Oh man! For all of these reasons, Jeremiah continues to weep. He weeps for his people, he weeps for himself and he weeps for the God that he loves.
Jeremiah continues to warn the Israelites of the justice they will endure if they don’t turn their ways back to God but as we have seen so many times before…they don’t listen. So I want to talk about how God’s justice plays out. God allows Babylon to gain control over the Israelites, they are then scattered among nations and dispersed throughout the lands. All of this was a part of God’s plan all along. In the beginning of the book of Jeremiah God had said to him,
“Your job is to pull up and tear down,
take apart and demolish,
And then start over,
building and planting.”
God’s plan plays out
Babylon ruled over Jerusalem for 70 years and then a new king named Cyrus started to allow the people to go back to Jerusalem where the city and God’s temple would be re-established. God’s plan played out just as planned because Jeremiah was a faithful and obedient servant.
I wanted to try and explain the importance of Jeremiah in a way that could be understood but I just can’t find the words so here it is from someone else.
“What an awesome matter it was to be the Lord’s Prophet! Jeremiah had a ministry of words, and yet those words meant the plucking up and dislocation of people, the breaking down of culture and society, the destruction of cities, the overthrow of kings, the building of new communities, and the planting of new hope. His ministry was to speak the Word of the Lord, and in speaking, release Spiritual activity that moved events along a God-directed course. The Lord God could not bring about His judgment without His messenger explaining what was to happen and why. To do otherwise would be unjust.” -Bible.org
What does Jeremiah mean for me?
So as I have sat here learning about Jeremiah, I have been pondering what this all means for me, or for us. As I look back I think that it is comforting to know that even Jeremiah, a prophet chosen before birth became discouraged and doubted.
“You know where I am, God! Remember what I’m doing here!
Take my side against my detractors.
Don’t stand back while they ruin me.
Just look at the abuse I’m taking!
When your words showed up, I ate them—
swallowed them whole. What a feast!
What delight I took in being yours,
O God, God-of-the-Angel-Armies!
I never joined the party crowd
in their laughter and their fun.
Led by you, I went off by myself.
You’d filled me with indignation. Their sin had me seething.
But why, why this chronic pain,
this ever worsening wound and no healing in sight?
You’re nothing, God, but a mirage,
a lovely oasis in the distance—and then nothing!”
We are not alone
It may seem silly to find relief in someone else pain, but it helps me to see that I am not the only one who struggles or has times of doubt. Jeremiah was a great prophet and felt alone at the time, but he kept going. He gave up his whole life to be a servant of the Lord. He knew that his purpose was great but that doesn’t mean that it was easy. Jeremiah lived a life being alone and then when he was with people he was hated. His only joy had to be that which was found in the Lord. He kept being obedient and faithful.
This is what I want to see and to do in my own life. I have so many joys, day in and day out. There are people that bring me great joy, experiences, and circumstances that all bring a smile to my face. I have hard times, sure, we all do. But I haven’t experienced anything compared to the solitude and pain that Jeremiah must have constantly experienced.
If Jeremiah can live this life as a servant and find joy in his meaning and purpose for God then who am I to ever doubt and wonder? I want to know that in all things God is the conquerer. God is the keeper of who I am, of who you are and he is always working for our good! When you are walking in times of darkness or feeling alone rest in the peace that God is not only our creator but he is also our guide. We too have to be the recipients of God’s justice in order to be reminded that HE is greater than I.