By David Faust
We know Abraham for his faith, Joshua for his leadership, Esther for her courage, and Job for his patience.
We know Jeremiah for his tears. I don’t think I would want to be nicknamed “the weeping prophet.” Is there any worse insult than being called a crybaby? But Jeremiah had good reason to be upset. He said, “Since my people are crushed, I am crushed” (Jeremiah 8:21). He exclaimed, “Oh, that my head were a spring of water and my eyes a fountain of tears! I would weep day and night” (9:1).
Why Did Jeremiah Cry?
Perhaps Jeremiah was moved to tears by his own inadequacy. When called to serve as a prophet, Jeremiah objected because he considered himself too young and inexperienced (Jeremiah 1:4-8), but God reassured him and sent him anyway.
Jeremiah wept because of the spiritual emptiness of his people. They had forsaken God, “the spring of living water,” and “dug their own cisterns, broken cisterns that cannot hold water” (2:13). Manmade religions can never satisfy spiritual thirst.
Jeremiah was upset because integrity was in short supply. It was hard to find even “one person who deals honestly and seeks the truth” (5:1). Immorality infested the land. The men were “well-fed, lusty stallions, each neighing for another man’s wife” (v. 8). Sexual sin was so commonplace that people had forgotten how to blush (6:15).
To make matters worse, the religious and political leaders who should have changed things for the better were part of the problem. “Prophets and priests alike, all practice deceit” (6:13).
Jeremiah cried because he recognized the Lord wasn’t going to put up with all this corruption much longer. Soon the Babylonians would destroy the holy city of Jerusalem.
What Did Jeremiah Do? (Besides Cry)
Jeremiah paid a high price to serve God. He was thrown into a dungeon, threatened with slavery and deportation, branded a liar and traitor, and accused of treason. He didn’t marry and avoided parties and other social events. He survived a death plot. He wrote a book, but the king seized it, cut it into pieces, and burned it. God sent Jeremiah to preach at the city dump.
He spoke the truth even when it was unpopular. He felt compelled to speak God’s word, which was like a fire in his bones (20:8, 9).
Through it all, he was a messenger of hope. Jeremiah reminded the people that God still planned to give them “hope and a future” (29:11). Jeremiah didn’t just sit around. He turned his negative emotions into positive actions.
I joined a group of civic leaders for a program held at a downtown judicial center. We listened to lawyers, social workers, judges, and police officers talk about the problems of our city. Over the course of a very long day, no one mentioned the church even once. No one acknowledged how the gospel of Christ can rescue young people, restore marriages, educate children, encourage the hopeless, change criminal hearts, and comfort the mentally ill.
I felt like crying! It made me angry to realize that when it comes to solving society’s ills, in many people’s minds the church doesn’t even make the list of potential remedies. What will we do about this? Will we just become frustrated and whine about how bad things have become? Or like Jeremiah, will we realize God put us here not merely to feel bad and point out what’s wrong with our culture, but to take action and make things better?
David Faust serves as the Associate Minister at East 91st Street Christian Church in Indianapolis, Indiana.
The Lookout’s Bible Reading Plan for October 4, 2015
Use this guide to read through the Bible in 12 months. Follow David Faust’s comments on the highlighted text in every issue of The Lookout.
Jeremiah 1, 2
Jeremiah 3, 4
Jeremiah 5, 6
Jeremiah 10, 11
Jeremiah 12, 13
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