The book of Jeremiah is the longest book in the Bible. It is mostly a collection of long prophetic poems that
– denounce Judah’s sins,
– predict the downfall of Jerusalem, and
– declare judgment on surrounding nations.
Occasional breaks in this monotonous prophetic material tell bits of Jeremiah’s story.
He was a prophet who was unhappy with his jobIt was no fun telling the Jerusalem establishment that God was angry with them, and that their political system, their temple, and their city would soon be destroyed. While Jeremiah preached sin and destruction, other more optimistic prophets were saying to the people, “Don’t listen to Jeremiah. God is not against us. He is for us. He will bring us lasting peace.” Little wonder Jeremiah was often embroiled in conflicts with these prophets.
After many years of predicting the fall of Jerusalem, it finally happened. The Babylonians invaded and conquered. Jeremiah lived through the Babylonian siege, he witnessed the destruction of city and temple, and he watched the forced exile of many Israelites. For him, the only thing sadder than prophesying the disaster was living through it. That’s why Jeremiah is called the weeping prophet.
Let’s consider three of Jeremiah’s prayers. At one point he prays,
“You deceived me, Lord . . .
you overpowered me and prevailed.
I am ridiculed all day long;
everyone mocks me.
Whenever I speak, I cry out
proclaiming violence and destruction.
Your word has brought me
insult and reproach all day long.
But if I say, ‘I will not mention your word
or speak anymore in your name,’
your word is like fire in my heart,
a fire shut up in my bones.
I am weary of holding it in;
indeed, I cannot.” (Jeremiah 7:7-9, paraphrased)
That’s Jeremiah’s prayer. “God, you tricked me into this prophetic ministry. All I get from it is ridicule and insults. But if I try to shut up, your word burns like fire in my bones. You’ve made me a volcano, spewing fire and brimstone whenever your word erupts. I’m tired of it, God, what am I to do?”
In another prayer he says,
Although our sins testify against us,
do something, Lord, for the sake of your name.
For we have often rebelled;
we have sinned against you.
You who are the hope of Israel,
its Savior in times of distress,
why are you like a stranger in the land,
like a traveler who stays only a night?
Why are you like a man taken by surprise,
like a warrior powerless to save?
You are among us, Lord,
and we bear your name;
do not forsake us! (Jer. 14:7-9)
Jeremiah knew the pain of unanswered prayer, the feeling that God should show and do something, instead of letting the situation grew worse and worse.
And a third prayer:
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. (Jer. 10:23-24)
What a beautiful picture of life in God’s care. Our lives are not our own, we don’t direct our steps, we cannot control our fate. Discipline us, Lord. Teach us what we need to know, take us where we need to go. But do it gently, Lord, for we are fragile. If you are angry with us, you will destroy us.
Our father, like Jeremiah we often find your word embarrassing, out of touch with the thinking and values of our culture, and personally confusing. What is the right path for our present and future? Our lives our not our own, they are yours. Direct our steps Lord, discipline us gently. Do not destroy us, but save us.
I’m Daniel on the channel “Pray with Me”.