The prophet Jeremiah had been speaking the word of God to the people, confronting them about their sin, warning them about God’s judgement that would come upon them unless they repent and turn from their ways. The people did not listen and also mocked, scorned and persecuted Jeremiah. When we come to Jeremiah chapter 15, we read discouragement pour out from the prophet throughout the chapter and his cries to God emphasising that even with no wrong that he has done to the people, they treat him so.
The prayer of a discouraged servant
In verse 15 we see him praying and pleading for himself – “You understand O lord, remember me and care for me. Avenge me on my persecutors. You are long-suffering -do not take me away, think of how I suffer reproach for your sake.”
Jeremiah is burdened and overwhelmed, what does he do? He takes his heavy heart to God in prayer. And he says “You understand O lord.” Yes, the Lord does understand, we can go to God in prayer with all that is in our hearts and know that He can truly understand our pain and our plight.
We also see Jeremiah pleading with God to avenge those who persecute him – how often do we long for God to put into place those that make life difficult for us? Although we often wish to see some sort of retribution to those who do no good to us, God’s focus is beyond the temporary to the eternal. Jeremiah calls God as long-suffering here, Jeremiah knows that God is one who is patient with the people giving them time to change their ways, because He is a God who loves and desires for all to turn to Him , so we see His mercy and patience shine through in the midst of the people’s disobedience.
We read in verse 16 “When your words came to me, I ate them; they were my joy and my heart’s delight, for I bear your name, O lord God Almighty.”
Jeremiah trusted in God and delighted in His word, but that did not mean the path he had to take was easy or his troubles automatically disappeared. There were times when the pain was all too much for Jeremiah.
In verse 18 we read “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?
This verse is filled with the heaviness of Jeremiah’s discouragement and despair. And he questions God in the process. In Jeremiah 2:13, God told Jeremiah that one of the sins of the people was that they have forsaken HIM- the spring of living water. God calls himself the spring of living water. And although Jeremiah believed him to be the spring of living water, in the trenches of discouragement we see Jeremiah question that very same truth and He pours out his ‘why’ questions.
Jeremiah reproaches God and questions if God is instead a spring that fails him. Why is God like a deceitful brook, appearing to have water but turning out to be dry. Why is God silent in the midst of Jeremiah’s pain and suffering?
For us: When we get discouraged, it is easy to go down the route of frustration and eventually find ourselves questioning God – ‘why me’, ‘why now’ or ‘why this Lord’?
The Response of a gracious God
God answers Jeremiah. We read in verse 19-21
“Therefore, this is what the Lord says; If you repent, I will restore you, that you may serve me; if you utter worthy, not worthless words, you will be my spokesman. Let this people turn to you, but you must not turn to them. 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 you and save you declares the Lord. I will save you from the hands of the wicked and redeem you from the grasp of the cruel.”
God is not angry with him for being discouraged, He reassures Jeremiah that he will strengthen him, be with him and rescue him but what did Jeremiah have to do first. He had to set his heart, his mind and his words right with God. God calls him to repent. Jeremiah had to purge those doubtful thoughts of God from his heart and mind. Faith and doubt cannot co-reside. Mathew 12:34 says “Out of the overflow of the heart pour out words from your mouth. What is in our heart will be the utterance of our tongue.
For us: We cannot fight off feelings of discouragement on our own but we can surely take them to God and trust that He will strengthen and restore the faith in us to keep walking in His path. All we can see is our immediate circumstances but God sees the big picture. We might not understand the why and we don’t have to because God comprehends the past, the present and the future.
We see Jeremiah’s prayer to God in the mist of his pain. Let’s just take a moment and look at Jesus prayer, when he was on the cross, at the height of his pain and persecution. After all that he went through and was going through – He prays “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.” (Luke 23: 34).
For us: When I read this, it convicts me, that all too often I do not respond in a Christ like manner to those that make life difficult for me. How do we pray and show grace to those who make our ministry or our faith walk challenging, do we lose sight of the grace God has extended towards us?
With God’s response to Jeremiah from verse 19, “If you repent, I will restore you, that you may serve me; if you utter worthy, not worthless words, you will be my spokesman. Let this people turn to you, but you must not turn to them.“
We are reminded of a promise of restoration when we repent. Following Jesus is not a call for perfection but an honest relationship with Him, which includes taking our doubts and struggles to Him and asking Him to change our perspective with a repentant heart.
It reminds us of our purpose – to serve and glorify Him. We can so often be singularly focused on our circumstances that we forget all that Christ did and continues doing for us – may we look at people and situations through the kingdom lens and extend grace to others.
We are reminded that unless our words edify, purify, uplift and glorify we cannot truly be representatives for Christ. We cannot claim to know God and love Him if our words and actions do not testify to that truth.
We are reminded that we should not conform to this world, God is not interested in us becoming more like the world but more like Christ.
Fill us with your Spirit Lord, so we can carry on with what you have called us to do.