Jeremiah 8:4–13, 18–9:1comment (0)
August 9, 2012
By Kenneth B.E. Roxburgh
Related Scripture: Jeremiah 8:4–13, 18–9:1
Bible Studies for Life
Chair and Armstrong Professor of Religion, Samford University
Let Your Heart be Broken
Jeremiah 8:4–13, 18–9:1
William Booth, the founder of The Salvation Army, received a letter from one of his officers indicating the difficulties they were facing in sharing the good news of the gospel in a particularly difficult area. They wrote about all the methods they had used to reach people — preaching on street corners, beating drums, passing out tracts — and said nothing worked.
Booth sent them a telegram that said simply, “Try Tears.”
Jeremiah often felt the burden of sharing God’s message of repentance with a recalcitrant people.
He expresses his pain in this passage when he declares, “O that my head were a spring of water, and my eyes a fountain of tears, so that I might weep day and night for the slain of my people!”
See the Problem (8:4–7)
In these verses Jeremiah states very clearly the problem of a people who were entrenched in their sinful ways and refused to hear the message he proclaimed with such diligence.
He reminds the nation that when people fall down, they automatically want to get up on their feet again. If they take the wrong turn on a journey, they will retrace their steps and get back on the right path. Yet the people of Israel were perpetually backsliding and refused to return to the Lord. Their stubbornness would lead to their downfall. Jeremiah knew that the heart of the problem of life is the problem of the human heart being estranged from God.
Avoid Superficial Responses (8:8–13)
Jeremiah took this problem seriously and never tried to minimize the issues that he was facing. He could assume, in this context of a nation that had received God’s word over and over again, that the people knew their spiritual heritage.
But throughout Jeremiah’s culture, “from the least to the greatest everyone is greedy for unjust gain; from prophet to priest everyone deals falsely.”
Their spiritual state had led them to neglect the issues of social justice within society. The priests and false prophets cried, “Peace, peace,” trying to tell the people that everything would work out well and they need not listen to prophets of doom like Jeremiah. But Jeremiah knew that “there is NO peace!” The people had become so calloused in their attitude toward sin that “they were not at all ashamed, they did not know how to blush.”
The book of Exodus reminds us that when people harden their hearts against God they risk the threat of God “hardening their hearts” to the extent that they will never be able to turn back to Him. If the people continue to ignore God’s laws, focusing on personal acquisition without thinking about the needs of others and turning their back on God’s love, they will enter on a pathway that is wrongheaded and disastrous.
Reflect God’s Brokenheartedness (8:18–9:1)
When Jeremiah tells us, “My joy is gone, grief is upon me, my heart is sick,” he is entering into the heart of a God who weeps over the lost, the God who declares that He is “not willing that any should perish.”
He knew the words of an earlier prophet, Hosea, who declared, “How can I give you up, Ephraim? How can I hand you over, O Israel? My heart recoils within me; my compassion grows warm and tender.”
Jeremiah knew that there was a balm in Gilead, a physician who could cure the people’s sinful condition and bring health to a nation that had experienced so much of the generosity of God’s love through the centuries.
If only they would listen. And Jeremiah was determined that he would not give up on his people and would “weep day and night” until the people would themselves be broken by a sense of their sin and cry to the Lord for mercy!