Jeremiah – the weeping prophet
Jeremiah is often called “the weeping prophet” because he shed tears over the sins of his people (Lamentations 2:11; 3:48). Life with the wickedness of men and the King of Judah had become so saddening that Jeremiah longed for a life of peace away from corruption (Psalms 55:6–8).
The prophet Jeremiah wrote, “Oh, that my head were waters, and my eyes a fountain of tears, that I might weep day and night for the slain of the daughter of my people!” And he added, “My soul will weep in secret for your pride; my eyes will weep bitterly and run down with tears, because the Lord’s flock has been taken captive” (Jeremiah 9:1; 13:17).
The hopeless condition of the kingdom of Judah grieved Jeremiah greatly, and he wept bitterly. The words in the above passages have been properly called the poetry of suffering. It is similar to the mourning words of the prophet Isaiah when he wrote, “Therefore I said, “Look away from me, I will weep bitterly; do not labor to comfort me because of the plundering of the daughter of my people” (Isaiah 22:4). These verses are without doubt the reason why Jeremiah was called the “weeping prophet.”
Historical background to the nation of Israel
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. And 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.
Israel’s rejection to God
Jeremiah was called in his youth to be a prophet to the nation of Judah and began to prophecy around the 13th year of the reign of King Josiah. And he accepted the prophetic call with all its hardship and heartbreak (Jeremiah 1:6). God instructed him: “I have put my words in your mouth. See, today I appoint you over nations and kingdoms to uproot and tear down, to destroy and overthrow, to build and to plant” (Jeremiah 1:9-10).
During Judah’s last days, God gave to Jeremiah a message of warning to His people and Jeremiah would invite his fellow brethren to repent of their sins to avoid the judgments of God. Sadly, Jeremiah preached and prophesied for 40 years but most of the people refused to change their hearts and minds and turn away from idolatry (see more on Jeremiah’s 70 year prophecy on What was Jeremiah’s prophecy concerning Israel’s exile and restoration?)
Jeremiah’s book of Lamentations is the climax of his prophecies. Even the name Lamentations means “weeping.” The book of Lamentations testify to the sure fulfillment of God’s promised judgments, yet its 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.
Despite all that Jeremiah was going through, he still held to his faith and trust in God, who he knew has never forsaken His children. One of the most beautiful passages can be found in the book of Jeremiah where he declared the words of the Lord that said:
“For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future” (Jeremiah 29:11).
So, the prophet wrote, “Sing to the Lord! Give praise to the Lord! He rescues the life of the needy from the hands of the wicked” (Jeremiah 20:13).
Jeremiah continued to call his people to yield to God’s way, which ultimately is always best (Romans 8:28). And he wrote, “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).
God’s call of Love
God never abandoned His people. In Jeremiah 31 we read: “I have loved you with an everlasting love; I have drawn you with unfailing kindness. I will build you up again, and you, Virgin Israel, will be rebuilt” (Jeremiah 31:4).
The depth of Jeremiah’s emotions and the genteelness of his words is a reminder of the love of Christ, who wept over the sins and the sad destiny of His doomed beloved chosen people, six centuries later.
Just before His crucifixion Luke wrote, “Now as He drew near, He saw the city and wept over it, saying, “If you had known, even you, especially in this your day, the things that make for your peace! But now they are hidden from your eyes. For days will come upon you when your enemies will build an embankment around you, surround you and close you in on every side, and level you, and your children within you, to the ground; and they will not leave in you one stone upon another, because you did not know the time of your visitation” (Luke 19:41–44).
Jesus wept audibly, for He could see what the His people could not see, that is, the dreadful end of Jerusalem at the hands of Roman armies, less than 40 years later. God agonizes over His children who choose to remain in their sins and He asks them, “Turn, turn from your evil ways! For why should you die” (Ezekiel 33:11). The Lord can’t force anyone against His will but only invites everyone to His fold, “Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears My voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and dine with him, and he with Me” (Revelation 3:20).
In His service,