I’ve always felt bad for the prophet Jeremiah. First, he had a terrible nickname. Many theologians call him “the weeping prophet.” Terrible for a grown man. It’s like saying, “Jeremiah the Crybaby.” Ugh.
Second, I get why he was so weepy and sad. He faithfully preached, but few listened — and definitely not the ones who had the power to change the course of the nation. He preached God’s message of judgment and repentance, but was ignored (at best) and persecuted (at worst).
God sent him to call the people back to Himself, and the ruling authorities sent him to a dungeon or a deep cistern. His faithfulness to God was met with ungratefulness from the people.
Unfortunately, his prophecies came true. Judah did not repent before God, nor surrender to Babylon. So God kept his promise to destroy Jerusalem and to send the people of Judah into exile (Chapter 39). Jeremiah’s ministry was to help the people return to the Lord and to His ways. And from my perspective, he was an utter failure.
That’s why I feel bad for him. If I was him, I would be frustrated and worn out. I’d probably weep, too.
But Jeremiah had a greater faith, and a bigger vision. And he looked beyond his tasks and saw God’s purpose for him.
The Choice Was His
In chapter 40, we see that Jeremiah was given a choice of where he would spend his final days. He could continue to Babylon, and be “well-taken care of” (verse 4), or he could stay in Judah. He chose the latter.
He chose God’s land and ministry there, over comfort in Babylon. He could have easily said, “Well, I did my part. Now I’m done. I’m checking out. It’s retirement for me.” That’s what I would have done, at least.
For years, Jeremiah did all that he could to warn the people. They didn’t listen, and things went badly. Very badly.
But he didn’t give up. He kept ministering, especially among a small and poor remnant (verse 7).
At one point, Jeremiah had a large public ministry to kings. And now, he chose to have a small and quiet ministry to the nobodies. And he was fine with that. In fact, I think he was great with that, because it shows that his heart was close to God’s. God’s heart was with the Promised Land, and so was Jeremiah’s.
God Was With Them
Of course, God was with His people when they were in exile. We see that through the ministry of Daniel and Ezra and Nehemiah (and more). But there was a reason that God had commanded his people to surrender to Nebuchadnezzar. God wanted His people to remain in His special land.
The area that God gave the Hebrews was simply called ha’aretz – “The Land.” No other descriptors were need. It was THE land. The Land was a special place to God, and therefore Jeremiah treated it as just as special. He chose to labor in the desolate land that God loved, instead of the wealth and comfort of a land that was far away.
As I read these chapters in Jeremiah’s book, I prayed:
“Lord, I want my heart to be near Yours. What you consider special, let me do so as well. And I know that You have a special consideration for the vulnerable in our community, our nation, and our world. Show me how You want me to minister. I don’t need a big and powerful ministry to important people. I just need to go to people who need You.”
What about you? What choice do you need to make, in order to serve God and the people who He dearly loves?
- Lamentation for Allendale
- Suffering Like a Prophet
- I Am Suffering from a Depraved Indifference
- What the Psalms Say About Helping the Poor and the Oppressed
- James 1: Grace, Truth, Action
- Why You Should Work Hard, Even When It Seems Fruitless