Jeremiah is often called “the weeping prophet” because he shed tears over the sins of his people (Jeremiah 9:1; 13:17). A brief historical review will help shed light on the reasons behind Jeremiah’s intense grief.
Jeremiah was born during a troubled time in history. The nation of Israel was divided in 975 B.C. when Jeroboam I led the ten northern tribes to rebel against King Rehoboam, the son of Solomon. The Northern Kingdom was called Israel. All of its kings were wicked men. Because of their disobedience, the Northern Kingdom lost God’s protection and they were conquered by Assyria in 721 B.C. Most of the inhabitants were taken into captivity. As a nation, what was originally all of Israel never again came into existence.
The Southern Kingdom, which was called Judah, consisted of the tribes of Judah and Benjamin with Jerusalem as its capital. Although most of its rulers were wicked, a few were obedient to God. But with time, even Judah became rebellious and lost its favor and the protection of God (Jeremiah 3:8). It too was conquered by Babylon in 606 B.C. Finally, in 586 B.C. Most of those that remained were also taken to Babylon.
During Judah’s last days, Jeremiah served as God’s prophet delivering His messages of warning. He called his people to repent of their sins to avoid the judgments of God. Sadly, Jeremiah preached and prophesied for 40 years but the people refused to change their hearts and minds and turn away from idolatry.
His book of Lamentations is the climax of these prophecies. Even the name Lamentations means “weeping.” The book of Lamentations testify to the sure fulfillment of God’s promised judgments, yet their message is not without hope. Through the picture of desolation runs a hope of expectation that the Lord will forgive and relieve the sufferings of His people. “The Lord is good unto them that wait for him, to the soul that seeketh him. It is good that a man should both hope and quietly wait for the salvation of the Lord” (Lamentations 3:25-26).
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