Summary: Our resources have run out, and there is no healing balm for the malady of sin apart from the blood of Jesus.
THE GOD WHO WEEPS
We are accustomed to referring to Jeremiah as the ‘weeping prophet’ – and rightly so. However, Jeremiah’s tears do not just speak to us about the prophet, but also about the people – and mainly about God. In that sense, we might refer to the weeping of Jeremiah, real and personal as it is, as a prophetic symbolic action reflecting the grief of God.
At first this thought cut across my sense of the immutability of God. Surely God does not change, I reasoned, so how can He enter into the raw emotion of humankind? The answer lies in the incarnation and its corollaries, where God became man, and manhood was ultimately drawn up into the Godhead.
The lines of distinction between the words of the prophet, the words of the people, and the words of God in this passage are not at all clear: but this is one possibility.
1. The prophet fainted with sorrow when he foresaw the exile (Jeremiah 8:18-19a). Even so, when a congregation sees their pastor weep, it is not because he is soft, but because he cares.
2. The people mocked the prophet with their mistaken reassurance that God would never leave the Temple, nor remove Himself from Jerusalem. Surely His continued presence, as they perceived it, guaranteed their ultimate safety? (Jeremiah 8:19b). If I am a member of this or that church, or belong to a so-called ‘Christian’ nation, we argue, then surely I am safe? Yet what really matters is whether or not we have a relationship with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.
3. God saw through this hypocrisy, accusing the people of leaving Him through their acts of idolatry (Jeremiah 8:19c). Similarly, Jesus had to issue certain warnings against the seven churches of Asia (Revelation 2-3), and speaks still through the Spirit to the churches of today.
4. The people complained of God’s failure to save them (Jeremiah 8:20). I have heard people say, ‘Well of course God will forgive us, that is His job after all.’ Yet will we repent? This people evidently did not!
5. We see the grief of God behind the grief of the prophet (e.g. Jeremiah 8:21-22; Jeremiah 9:1). In the Person of Jesus Christ, God suffers (so to speak) on account of the sins of His people (cf. Luke 13:34; Luke 19:41-44). Man’s resources have run out, and there is no healing “balm” for the malady of sin apart from the blood of Jesus.
The Apostle Paul reflected the tears of God in his concern for those to whom he had preached who were not living accordingly (Philippians 3:18-19). Surely every preacher longs to see fruit in the lives of converts? Those who sow (the Word) with tears shall reap with joy (Psalm 126:6).
The answer to all this weeping lies in the fact that God’s anger is brief, but His favour is life-giving, lifelong and eternal. ‘Weeping may endure for a night, but joy comes in the morning’ (Psalm 30:5).