O Lord, You have pleaded the case for my soul; You have redeemed my life. (Lamentations 3:58)
Jeremiah the Prophet – often referred to as the weeping prophet – was positioned by God in a very difficult timeframe to warn the people of the impending Babylonian captivity. It is interesting that Jewish rabbanic literature often mentions Jeremiah and Moses together and highlights various similarities and parallels in their lives and ministries. While these undoubtedly exist and provide a platform for very interesting study, one remarkable difference or opposite seems to tie them all together – rather like the exception that proves the rule. Moses was raised up to see God’s people emerge from captivity. Jeremiah, on the other hand, was raised up to see them go into captivity.
Both these two men represent a feature of Christ’s future ministry, albeit in different ways, and that is total commitment to the people. While Moses was called to lead and teach, he nevertheless devoted his entire life to the work God had called Him into. The entire event known as the Exodus – which ultimately led to the promised land – is a literal representation of Christ’s bringing God’s people out of captivity and into right relationship with God. That’s the simplistic rendition, of course, an overview of the greatest gift humanity will ever receive – salvation.
Jeremiah’s commitment to the people, because his ministry reflected the opposite of the Exodus, is a manifestation of Christ’s mourning for those who go into captivity. While Moses reflects salvation, Jeremiah represents judgment. In many ways, Jeremiah’s life is a symbol of the life of Christ on earth. His life after his calling by God is a seemingly endless stream of threats, persecutions, bodily harm, attempts to murder him, betrayal by those he trusted. It’s worth taking a look at his history to fully understand the level of commitment this man displayed.
Throughout all of this, Jeremiah had one message: Repent and turn back to God. In some respects, he embodies John the Baptist in that his entire ministry is devoted to revealing the condition of the people’s hearts in order to restore them to God. I don’t think any of us can full conceive what it must be like, knowing the utter devastation and disaster that awaited the Jews, and then having them ignore him at best or seek to get rid of him to silence him.
We can see this in Jeremiah 20:9. But if I say, “I will not mention his word or speak anymore in his name,” his word is in my heart like a fire, a fire shut up in my bones. I am weary of holding it in; indeed, I cannot.
Jeremiah’s obedience to God and his identification with God’s people is so absolute that it becomes, in essence, who he is. We see this in Jesus as He stands on a hill overlooking Jerusalem and weeps for those who will not hear and obey His message, who will continue to turn away from God towards the Babylon that follows self and sinfulness. We see this in Christ’s struggle in Gethsemane and through His torture and death on the cross.
The book of Lamentation is the book of tears. It paints a heartbreaking picture of the individual spiritual struggle of a man who has Christ’s heart for the lost. This is, perhaps, one of the reasons why many believers choose not to read it. It challenges us on the most basic spiritual level. Jeremiah is the man that each of us, in Christ, is intended to be. We are, day by day, being transformed into the likeness of Jesus. Part of the likeness – whether we like it or not – is to totally identify with the condition of the lost, even to the point where the ‘me’ in us is utterly submerged in heart of Christ.
Today’s verse is a poignant illustration of this, and it reminds us also that there is only one thing that can empower us to this level of commitment. Jeremiah is supremely conscious that God Himself has stepped in to plead his cause, and has redeemed him from what he was and where he was going. It is a verse that speaks surrender to the sovereign, saving grace of God. It is an acknowledgement of his total humanity, and that God alone is able to offer and enable what man needs in order to be restored.
I believe that our personal salvation does stir within each of us a compassion for the lost. Most of us pray for those who do not know Christ. It may be limited to those we know or love, and it may have a wider focus on missions and evangelical outreach. There are, sadly, those among us like the Pharisee whose prayers remained stuck in thanksgiving that they are not like the other sinners. But on the whole, most of us have a growing concern for those destined for Babylon.
Jeremiah, I believe, is a central reminder in today’s End Times world as it rapidly approaches final days. Babylon is a central motif in Revelation, and the Bible clearly reveals that God raises up prophets to speak His truth to the people before significant events. The world – which, in essence, is the entire human race who God created as His own – is facing Babylon the Great. It should not surprise us at all that He will raise up Jeremiahs in these last days, men and women utterly committed both to God and to the people facing destruction. Today’s Jeremiah faces Babylon the Great.
It is not at all a pretty portrait. It isn’t comfortable, successful, or powerful according to worldly measurement. It epitomises total conviction, total surrender, and total immersion in Christ and His purpose. It represents persecution, betrayal, suffering, trials and personal heartache. Yet this is the role each of us is called to fulfill. The challenge is this: As we pray for the lost, do we weep? Do we, like Jeremiah ask: Oh, that my head were waters, And my eyes a fountain of tears, That I might weep day and night…
Are we willing, like Jeremiah, to so identify with the lost that their punishment and captivity is our own personal pain and lamentation? Are we willing, like Jesus, to stand in their place and plead the case of their souls? Are we willing to be Christ’s representation on earth, His earthly body through which He speaks His final end time call to humanity to turn away from Babylon towards the new Jerusalem?
The world is rapidly running out of time. Each day brings us closer to the point of no return. Is the world perishing while we offer only cursory, obligatory prayers while holding on to the glorious benefits of salvation? We should never forget the totality of the truth that God so loved the world. When Jesus wept over Jerusalem, He wept over the whole world. Can we, if claim to be His disciples, if we claim the right to do ‘so much more,’ justify ignoring the call to stand as Jeremiah in these final days? Our call is to weep and to warn, to stand, no matter what, as the great heart of Jesus, and to manifest His love for a lost humanity as if it were our own desolation and lamentation.
Lord, help us to see, to hear, to know Your call in these perilous times. Draw us into unity with You. Give us courage to speak and strength to weep. Help us to be the humble vessels and surrendered lives that reveal You and Your love, mercy and grace to a lost world. Empower each of us to be the Jeremiah voice against the coming Babylon, to enter into place in You where Your heart is our heart and Your purpose alone is what what matters.