The Tears and Theology of Jeremiah
No writings in the Bible are so little read and understood, yet more moving and convicting, than the books of Jeremiah the prophet. The book that bears his name may be the longest prophetic book in the OT; however, as Charles Feinberg notes, “Jeremiah has suffered from neglect.” G. Campbell Morgan aptly calls us to study this prophet’s writings: “No prophet of the long and illustrious line had a more thankless task than he, and none was more magnificently and heroically true to his sacred ministry.” In this brief essay, I have included some of Jeremiah’s focal quotes (in italics) to encourage you to plunge into these fifty-seven chapters. I pray the passages will engage your spiritual appetite and make you thirsty for Jeremiah’s prophecies and tender lamentations. As you read and meditate on the works of this prophet, keep in mind two details: his tears (brokenness)—My eyes fail because of tears, my spirit is greatly troubled, my heart is poured out on the earth; and his theology (view of God)—The faithful love of the Lord never ends! His mercies never cease. Great is his faithfulness; his mercies begin afresh each morning. Let’s ponder these two noteworthy features for a moment to assist in your journey through Jeremiah’s writings.
First, consider Jeremiah’s tears: My soul will sob in secret for such pride, and my eyes will bitterly weep because the flock of the Lord has been taken captive. The venerable OT scholar, R. K. Harrison comments, “Jeremiah is unusual among the Hebrew prophets because of the extent to which he revealed his personal feelings.” At times he is so distraught he almost sounds like Job, Cursed be the day when I was born. Let the day not be blessed when my mother bore me! At the root of Jeremiah’s brokenness was his grief over the refusal of Judah to obey the words of God. In fact, Jeremiah writes, the Word of God has become a reproach to them; they have no delight in it. Such rejection caused Jeremiah to cry out, My pain is perpetual, my wound incurable.
Second, consider Jeremiah’s high view of God and his Word: Your words were found and I ate them, and Your words became to me a joy and the delight of my heart. Even though Jeremiah proclaims Judah a faithless daughter doomed to encounter the fierce anger of the Lord for their disobedience, he also prophesied, Behold the days are coming, declares the Lord, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah. The nation had broken the old covenant, although God was their husband; yet God’s word will come to pass in blessing as it came to pass in wrath. Jeremiah’s high view of God and his word can be summed up this way: Jeremiah was convinced that God would accomplish what he said! He acknowledged God’s great ability to do all that he says with this famous declaration: Ah Lord God! Behold, You have made the heavens and earth by Your great power and by Your outstretched arm! Nothing is too difficult for You!
What do these thoughts of Jeremiah mean to us today? This is a fair question. However, the more I contemplate the writings of Jeremiah, the more I see three wonderful truths. First, God uses and sustains people who have a broken heart for those around them living in disobedience and self-indulgence. Those who care are effective. Second, God’s word will accomplish its intended purpose. God said to Jeremiah, Let him who has My word speak My word in truth. The power is not in the messenger — it is in the message. Third, to fully understand Jeremiah’s tears and theology, you must read, reread, and reread his works. Are you now ready to do this? Why not begin today?
This article is from the "Truth from the Agora" section of the Exposition, VBTS's monthly e-bulletin authored by President Daniel Davey. Click HERE to sign-up to receive the Exposition each month.