Woe is me, my mother, that you bore me, a man of strife and contention to the whole land! I have not lent, nor have I borrowed, yet all of them curse me. The Lord said, “Have I not set you free for their good? Have I not pleaded for you before the enemy in the time of trouble and in the time of distress? Can one break iron, iron from the north, and bronze?
“Your wealth and your treasures I will give as spoil, without price, for all your sins, throughout all your territory. I will make you serve your enemies in a land that you do not know, for in my anger a fire is kindled that shall burn forever.”
O Lord, you know;
remember me and visit me,
and take vengeance for me on my persecutors.
In your forbearance take me not away;
know that for your sake I bear reproach.
Your words were found, and I ate them,
and your words became to me a joy
and the delight of my heart,
for I am called by your name,
O Lord, God of hosts.
I did not sit in the company of revelers,
nor did I rejoice;
I sat alone, because your hand was upon me,
for you had filled me with indignation.
Why is my pain unceasing,
my wound incurable,
refusing to be healed?
Will you be to me like a deceitful brook,
like waters that fail?
Therefore thus says the Lord:
“If you return, I will restore you,
and you shall stand before me.
If you utter what is precious, and not what is worthless,
you shall be as my mouth.
They shall turn to you,
but you shall not turn to them.
And I will make you to this people
a fortified wall of bronze;
they will fight against you,
but they shall not prevail over you,
for I am with you
to save you and deliver you,
declares the Lord.
I will deliver you out of the hand of the wicked,
and redeem you from the grasp of the ruthless.” – Jeremiah 15:10-21 ESV
Jeremiah was fed up and burned out. He had come to an end of his rope and was ready to throw in the towel. His ministry had been anything but successful. The people were not responding to his message. And in spite of his intercession for them, pleading with God to spare them, God had completely rejected that idea. Their destruction was unavoidable and inevitable. So, it’s no wonder that Jeremiah felt like an abject failure. He even cursed the day he was born. After all, what had he accomplished in life? He was despised, rejected and an apparent failure at the one calling God had given him. And his frustration was aggravated by his knowledge that he had done nothing to deserve such treatment. He had just followed the commands of God. It wasn’t like he had cheated somebody out of their money or was about to kick someone out of their home for not being able to pay their mortgage.
“I am neither a lender who threatens to foreclose
nor a borrower who refuses to pay—
yet they all curse me.” – Jeremiah 15:10 NLT
All Jeremiah had done was faithfully proclaim the word of God. And he had absolutely nothing to show for it, except pain, rejection and failure.
But God had another perspective. He told Jeremiah, “I will take care of you, Jeremiah. Your enemies will ask you to plead on their behalf in times of trouble and distress” (Jeremiah 15:11 NLT). Little did Jeremiah know that God had plans for him. He would care for him, in spite of how bad things appeared. All Jeremiah could think about was the coming destruction and devastation of the land. He had a hard time seeing how any good could come out of that. He had forgotten the words of God, spoken to him when he had received his initial calling.
“For see, today I have made you strong
like a fortified city that cannot be captured,
like an iron pillar or a bronze wall.
You will stand against the whole land—
the kings, officials, priests, and people of Judah.
They will fight you, but they will fail.
For I am with you, and I will take care of you.
I, the Lord, have spoken!” – Jeremiah 1:18-19 NLT
Nothing had changed, except that the date of Judah’s destruction had come closer. But God’s commitment to be with Jeremiah remained the same. While Judah and its fortified cities would fall to the Babylonians, Jeremiah would stand firm. He would come out of this stronger than ever. But it was difficult for Jeremiah to understand how any of this was going to be beneficial to anyone, himself included. And when God confirmed yet again that the destruction of Judah was eminent, that failed to help Jeremiah feel any better about his circumstances.
“At no cost to them,
I will hand over your wealth and treasures
as plunder to your enemies,
for sin runs rampant in your land.
I will tell your enemies to take you
as captives to a foreign land.
For my anger blazes like a fire
that will burn forever.” – Jeremiah 15:13-14 NLT
How was Jeremiah to accept that as good news? Why should that news give him any sense of peace or assurance that everything was going to be okay? It was because God was faithful to keep His word. What He promises to do, He does. And that not only applied to the fate of Judah, but to His promise to take care of Jeremiah. He wanted Jeremiah to know that He would fulfill His commitment to provide for and protect Jeremiah, in spite of all that was going to happen. But Jeremiah was having a hard time seeing things from God’s perspective. All he could see was doom and disaster. He was stuck feeling like a failure and as if his days were numbered.
“Lord, you know what’s happening to me.
Please step in and help me. Punish my persecutors!
Please give me time; don’t let me die young.
It’s for your sake that I am suffering.” – Jeremiah 15:15 NLT
What Jeremiah feared most was death at the hands of his own people. He wasn’t sure he would live long enough to even see the coming of the Babylonians and the fall of Judah. He reminded God of his faithfulness and his refusal to take part in the sins of the people. And he couldn’t help but question God’s apparent unconcern and wonder about His seeming unreliability.
“Why then does my suffering continue?
Why is my wound so incurable?
Your help seems as uncertain as a seasonal brook,
like a spring that has gone dry.” – Jeremiah 15:18 NLT
And God responds to Jeremiah, but in a somewhat surprising way. Rather than tenderly answer Jeremiah’s questions, God demands that Jeremiah repent. His self-pitying was exposing his lack of faith in God. He was whining about his lot in life and refusing to trust the God who had given him life. When God had called Jeremiah, He had told him:
“I knew you before I formed you in your mother’s womb.
Before you were born I set you apart
and appointed you as my prophet to the nations.” – Jeremiah 1:5 NLT
God had made Jeremiah for a purpose. He had commissioned Jeremiah for a job, to act as His prophet and to convey His message to the people of Judah. But Jeremiah had lost focus. He was more consumed with being liked than being faithful. He was spending more time questioning God’s faithfulness than relying upon it. So, God demands that Jeremiah have a change of heart.
“If you return to me, I will restore you
so you can continue to serve me.
If you speak good words rather than worthless ones,
you will be my spokesman.
You must influence them;
do not let them influence you!” – Jeremiah 15:19 NLT
It is when we get our eyes off of God that we begin to lose sight of His goodness and grace. We begin to question His reliability and wonder about His power to save. One of the most powerful things God said to Jeremiah was “you just influence them; do not let them influence you!” The negativity of the people was rubbing off on Jeremiah. Their rejection of God was having an influence of the prophet of God. He began to doubt God’s goodness. He began to question God’s power. But God simply said, “Return to me.” And, if Jeremiah would do so, God recommitted Himself to taking care of Jeremiah.
“I will make you as secure as a fortified wall of bronze.
They will not conquer you,
for I am with you to protect and rescue you.
I, the Lord, have spoken!” – Jeremiah 15:20 NLT
God had spoken, and that is all the reassurance that Jeremiah should have needed. God would do His part. But it was essential that Jeremiah remain committed to God and faithful to fulfill His God-given responsibility – in spite of the dire nature of the circumstances. Everything that had happened was according to God’s plan. God had told Jeremiah that he would be despised and rejected. He had warned him that the people would refuse to listen to his message. But He had also assured Jeremiah that He would be with him.
“Don’t say, ‘I’m too young,’ for you must go wherever I send you and say whatever I tell you. And don’t be afraid of the people, for I will be with you and will protect you. I, the Lord, have spoken!” – Jeremiah 1:7-8 NLT
God has spoken. That should be all the assurance we need. He is good for His word. He is faithful to fulfill what He has promised. He is not a liar. He never fails to come through. So, there is no reason we should ever doubt what He is doing or question His integrity for doing it.
God is not a man, so he does not lie.
He is not human, so he does not change his mind.
Has he ever spoken and failed to act?
Has he ever promised and not carried it through? – Numbers 23:19 NLT
God can be trusted. Even in the midst of what appears to be devastating circumstances, we can trust that God loves us and has not forsaken us. We may not always understand His ways, but we can always trust them. He is the faithful one, at all times. But we must keep our eyes focused on Him. We must rest in who He is and trust that all He does flows from His all-knowing, all-loving, all-powerful nature.
English Standard Version (ESV)
The Holy Bible, English Standard Version. ESV® Permanent Text Edition® (2016). Copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers.
New Living Translation (NLT)
Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright © 1996, 2004, 2015 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.