6.67 Jeremiah -- the Significance of Jeremiah
Old Testament prophets are never simply messengers -- it is enough to think of Hosea, reenacting in his own marriage the Lord’s unrequited love for Israel. A prophet is something of a battleground, a meeting place of the Lord’s emotions, the people’s hopes and fears, and the prophet’s own loyalties and desires. But nowhere is this so evident as in the words of Jeremiah:
"Oh, that my head were a spring of water and my eyes a fountain of tears! I would weep day and night for the slain of my people" (Jer 9:1).
"Why is my pain unending and my wound grievous and incurable? Will you be to me like a deceptive brook, like a spring that fails?" (Jer 15:18)
"Cursed be the day I was born! May the day my mother bore me not be blessed! ....Why did I ever come out of the womb to see trouble and sorrow and to end my days in shame?" (Jer 20:14-18)
Such passages helped win Jeremiah the title "the weeping prophet," and they seem to make plausible the theory that he is the author of the Book of Lamentations. Sometimes Jeremiah dares to speak in protest:
"O 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?" (Jer 14:8-9)
There are depths of pain, doubt, frustration, and rage here that perhaps can be matched only in Job, David, Paul, and the largely unvoiced sufferings of Jesus Himself. Jeremiah’s faith is the light that shines in dark times. Yet the Lord's response to his complaints is not sympathetic:
"If you have raced with men on foot and they have worn you out, how can you compete with horses? If you stumble in safe country, how will you manage in the thickets by the Jordan?" (Jer 12:5)
"I will make you a wall to this people, a fortified wall of bronze; they will fight against you but will not overcome you, for I am with you to rescue and save you" (Jer 15:20).
Jeremiah lives at a time of universal judgment, when even "those who do not deserve to drink the cup must drink it" (Jer 49:12), when simply to be rescued and preserved alive is a great mark of grace. He is the opposite of Jonah: his ministry has no success; he warns for decades and no one heeds him.
"One who reads the Book of Jeremiah for the first time, reviews the prophet’s life and ponders his message, is likely to come away somewhat depressed....He was, let it be admitted, as the world evaluates such things, a failure -- a heroic failure, to be sure, but a failure nevertheless. His words were never at any time heeded; he could not, for all his efforts, deter his people from the suicidal course that he knew they were following. Nor was he a man who was able to achieve serenity, some triumphant inner peace, in the midst of the frustration that beset him" (Bright, Jeremiah, cxi-cxii).