If you know anything about Jeremiah, you might've heard that his nickname is “The Weeping Prophet.” It’s pretty ironic, don’t you think, that the prophet most well-known for the harshest pronouncements of doom would also be well-known for crying over the targets of his rebukes? I’d like to spend a little time on that concept.
Please keep in mind how Jeremiah was treated by his compatriots. The popularity of the prophets never was very high. But as you might expect, Jeremiah’s popularity was inversely proportional to the negativity of his message. The man who strokes the ego of his audience is going to attract a crowd. How do you think they react to the man who tells them that God is really angry at them and that judgment is imminent? They jeered him, they ostracized him, they slandered him, they arrested him and there was worse to come.
And what was his reaction? Tears. He knew very well what the future held for them, and he shed tears for them.
And why? Well, I suppose a huge part of it was because he identified with them. They were his people, his relatives, his own flesh and blood. Do you have a relative who drives you crazy, but you put up with it because of blood relations?
But I think there’s more to this. Remember who inspired the prophets? Peter tells us that they “spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit.” They had a special intimate relationship with the Holy Spirit which most people never had and never will have. He spoke through them. You ever hear the phrase “From your mouth to God’s ear”? This was literally the reverse: From God’s mouth to their ear. Literally a prophet is a “mouth,” remember? He revealed things to them which he didn’t reveal to anyone else, and they spoke what they heard.
I really believe that there was more than human compassion at work here. In that intimacy with the Holy Spirit, Jeremiah was weeping God’s tears. I’ve mentioned these passages plenty of times, but they bear repeating: He’s not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance. He wants all people to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth. As surely as he lives, God takes no pleasure in the death of the wicked but that he turn from his ways and live. As we discussed before, we need to keep this in mind—Behind the sternest warnings lie a Father’s heart who’s reaching out to lost sinners.
So here come the tough questions: Are we in tune with his heart? Does it bother us that people are lost and are heading into an eternity without Christ? Do we weep over peoples’ rebellion, or do we smugly watch with a judgmental attitude?
My friend, if I believed in salvation by works, then I could understand a judgmental attitude. I could understand looking at sinners and being prideful. But I don’t. I believe that I’m saved by grace through faith in Christ alone. I believe that it took the blood of Jesus to purchase my forgiveness. I believe that I deserve nothing from God except judgment, and he's shown me nothing but grace and mercy and forgiveness.
So how can I be so callous?
Father God, please tune my heart to yours. As you’ve shown me mercy and grace and forgiveness, may that overflow into a burning desire to share the wealth. And a contempt for pride. And tears.