Jeremiah 12: 5 “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?
It was through Jeremiah that God sends words of warning to the Israelites, to change their ways and right themselves with God. And if they did not heed those cautionary words, they would face God’s punishment. In Jeremiah 2 we read about Israel forsaking God and in verse 13 we read “My people have committed two sins: They have forsaken me, the spring of living water, and have dug their own cisterns (idols), broken cisterns that cannot hold water.”
The Israelites continue sinning and Jeremiah endures hardship at their hands as a result of speaking God’s words. In Jeremiah chapter 12 we read Jeremiah share his frustration of how the wicked seem not only to be spared but also flourishing (grow and bear fruit, verse 2), while he seems to be going through various challenges as he stays obedient to God, doing what He asks of him.
And Jeremiah airs his complaint to God.
Jeremiah 12:1 “Why do the wicked prosper? And why do the faithless live at ease?
As we read on in chapter 12, we understand that Jeremiah seems to want God to hasten up His judgement. He could not understand why God would allow them to prosper while he suffered at their hands.
Have we ever felt similarly? And poured our hearts out to God and wondered why He allows for those who seem to be doing wrong to live at ease.
Scripture reminds us that those who sin and go against God will be held accountable for their actions. Romans 2:6 says “God will give to each person according to what he has done.” Verse 8 says “For those who are self-seeking and who reject the truth and follow evil, there will be wrath and anger.”
God’s justice, love and mercy are all perfectly balanced. His justice is imminent but His love and mercy and the desire for people to turn to Him is also prominent and only God can perfectly execute all these in His timing.
God’s delay in judgement was frustrating for Jeremiah, but that delay, was a glimpse into the heart of a merciful God, when He gives time and opportunity for people to repent and turn to Him. And remember that although Jeremiah had challenges, we read in Jeremiah 1:18 about God’s protection over him when He calls Jeremiah to be His prophet “Today I have made you a fortified city, an iron pillar and a bronze wall- against the kings of Judah, the officials, the priests and the people. They will fight against you but will not overcome for I am with you and will rescue you.”
Take a moment and think about God’s patience with us. If God was not patient with us and was quick to mete out justice for our wrongs, where would we be. He does not give up on us, and extends that same grace to those who are yet to give their heart to Him. We will not comprehend all aspects of why God does something or His timing, after all, the ways of God are beyond what we can fathom but He allows us to understand more of Him as we pore over scripture.
How does God respond to Jeremiah?
His answer is very interesting, He says “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?”
God uses two metaphors to help Jeremiah understand. With these metaphors God clarifies to Jeremiah that things would get tougher and God was ensuring that Jeremiah would be made stronger through this process. We never want to go through our tough desert moments but God allows those moments to build us up spiritually, if there is a will and desire in us to surrender and be shaped by Him during those times.
We know that times are not going to get easier for followers of Christ. The contention the world will have with us is not unexpected. If we stumble when things are easier, how would we know to trust and lean on God when times are difficult. How would we have the firmness in our faith to cling to God through it all. Like how Jeremiah needed to learn how to trust God in these smaller challenges and be dependent on Him so that he was more rooted in God to face more trying times, may we too remember that and allow God to strengthen, shape and prepare us in the now.
Competing with a horse in a race seems like a sure loss. And yet God talks about it. The impossibility of winning against a horse feels apparent to us. But what God is reminding Jeremiah and us is that challenges that come our way may seem impossible for us to overcome on our own but when He is with us, that impossibility becomes a possibility. And through Him we are overcomers and victorious.
As followers of Christ, if we truly walk in the path of the Lord, we will encounter moments where we will feel like Jeremiah did, lonely at times, wronged and persecuted by others and look to God with those ‘why’ questions in our heart.
We might not have the answer to the ‘why’ for many questions, but we know with certainty that God is in control, that He is merciful, He desires for all to know Him, He wants us to persevere, endure, grow in His strength and run our race with faithfulness and obedience to the very end. And through it all, He is right there with us building us up and incorporating us in His plans and purposes.
May God grant us the strength to stay rooted in Him, to run our race with perseverance and endurance. May He equip and carry us through the tests of today and the challenges of tomorrow so that we continue to shine His light in this world.