Reprimanded, but Not Rejected.

“You shall say to them this word:
‘Let my eyes run down with tears night and day,
    and let them not cease,
for the virgin daughter of my people is shattered with a great wound,
    with a very grievous blow.
If I go out into the field,
    behold, those pierced by the sword!
And if I enter the city,
    behold, the diseases of famine!
For both prophet and priest ply their trade through the land
    and have no knowledge.’”

Have you utterly rejected Judah?
    Does your soul loathe Zion?
Why have you struck us down
    so that there is no healing for us?
We looked for peace, but no good came;
    for a time of healing, but behold, terror.
We acknowledge our wickedness, O Lord,
    and the iniquity of our fathers,
    for we have sinned against you.
Do not spurn us, for your name’s sake;
    do not dishonor your glorious throne;
    remember and do not break your covenant with us.
Are there any among the false gods of the nations that can bring rain?
    Or can the heavens give showers?
Are you not he, O Lord our God?
    We set our hope on you,
    for you do all these things. – Jeremiah 14:17-22 ESV

Transparency is a difficult thing to pull off. It is not easy being vulnerable and allowing others to see the real you, sharing your true feelings and opening yourself up to possible rejection or misunderstanding. And yet, that is exactly what God commanded Jeremiah to do – and with the very people who had refused to listen to his message. Jeremiah was going to have to reveal his most intimate feelings to those who hated and despised him.

“You shall say to them this word:
‘Let my eyes run down with tears night and day,
    and let them not cease,
for the virgin daughter of my people is shattered with a great wound,
    with a very grievous blow. – Jeremiah 14:17 ESV

God is not putting words in Jeremiah’s mouth. He is simple having the prophet share what his true feelings will be when he sees the devastation to come. The blow to Judah will be “grevious”. The Hebrew word, chalah refers to a state of sickness, weakness and weariness. The blow Judah will receive and the wound it causes will be deadly in nature. And God reveals the devastating nature of its impact through the eyes and emotions of Jeremiah.

If I go out into the fields,
    I see the bodies of people slaughtered by the enemy.
If I walk the city streets,
    I see people who have died of starvation.” – Jeremiah 14:18 NLT

Jeremiah was to share with the people the very real nature of the coming destruction that will be perpetrated on them by the Babylonians. There will be bodies strewn everywhere outside the walls of Jerusalem, the victims of the swords of the enemy. And within the safety of Jerusalem’s walls, there will be the bodies of those who have died of starvation as a result of the siege. And these scenes of devastation and death will take their toll on Jeremiah. Even the prophets and priests will attempt to act as if nothing is happening, going about their daily duties, but totally ignorant as to what to do.

And Jeremiah, ever wrestling with his duty as a prophet of God and his extreme love and loyalty for his people, can’t resist the urge to ask God some very pointed questions.

Lord, have you completely rejected Judah?
    Do you really hate Jerusalem?
Why have you wounded us past all hope of healing? – Jeremiah 14:19 NLT

The imagery God has given Jeremiah of complete devastation and destruction is hard for him to comprehend. It appears as if God is going to abandon Judah and Jerusalem altogether. Speaking in the plural personal pronoun “we”, Jeremiah includes himself as one of the people of Judah and expresses hope that God would spare them.

We hoped for peace, but no peace came.
    We hoped for a time of healing, but found only terror. – Jeremiah 14:19 NLT

He even confesses on behalf of the people of Judah, something they had yet to do.

Lord, we confess our wickedness
    and that of our ancestors, too.
    We all have sinned against you. – Jeremiah 14:20 NLT

Although he had been faithful to God, Jeremiah includes himself as guilty, willingly placing himself under the wrath of God and totally dependent upon His mercy. He begs God to spare them for His name’s sake . It would be a terrible blow to God’s reputation if He failed to spare the people He had called by His name. Or so Jeremiah thought. He even begged God not to break His covenant with them, something God is incapable of doing because of His nature. The coming destruction was not a sign of God breaking His covenant, but of Him keeping it. He had warned the people of Judah that all these things would happen to them if they disobeyed Him. The covenant had been conditional. They are the ones who had broken their end of the agreement, which meant He had to bring the curses upon them just as He had promised He would.

Jeremiah makes one last desperate attempt to change God’s mind. He butters Him up, attempting to appeal to His ego, by ridiculing the absurd nature of lifeless idols and their inability to provide any kind of help. But God could.

Can any of the worthless foreign gods send us rain?
    Does it fall from the sky by itself?
No, you are the one, O Lord our God!
    Only you can do such things.
    So we will wait for you to help us. – Jeremiah 14:22 NLT

Jeremiah was holding out hope that God would change His mind. He was still waiting on God to send rain and break the drought. He was also hoping that God would have second thoughts about sending the Babylonians. Jeremiah longed for God to spare the people of Judah. He had a hard time seeing how any good could come out of their destruction. What would the pagan nations think about a God who abandoned His own people? Why would the future generations of Hebrew children, forced to grow up in exile, worship a God who destroyed their homeland? But Jeremiah did not have the whole picture. He wasn’t aware of God’s full plan for His people. Like the rest of us, Jeremiah was human, and limited in his perspective. He trusted God, but was unable to fully understand what God was doing. And the only thing that made sense to Him was God relenting of His plan to punish Judah and restoring them to a right relationship with Him. But for that to happen, their sins had to be dealt with. God could not and would not overlook their rebellion against Him. Their hearts were wicked and their idolatry was proof.

God would punish them for their sins, but would also one day restore them. Jeremiah didn’t have the full picture. The people of Judah had to suffer for their sins and experience the humiliation that comes with willing rebellion against a holy God. But God, in His mercy and grace, would one day restore them, not because of them, but in spite of them. He would bring them out of captivity and place them back in the land of promise. He would allow them to rebuild the gates and walls of Jerusalem, and restore the temple and the sacrificial system. Not because they deserved it, but because He is a loving and faithful God who always keeps His covenant promises.

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.

The Message (MSG)Copyright © 1993, 1994, 1995, 1996, 2000, 2001, 2002 by Eugene H. Peterson