Michelangelo’s “Jeremiah”. Sistine Chapel, Vatican
Righteous art thou, O LORD, when I plead with thee: yet let me talk with thee of thy judgments: Wherefore doth the way of the wicked prosper? wherefore are all they happy that deal very treacherously? (Jeremiah 12:1 KJV)
Michelangelo painted him in darkness, contemplative, with his head on his hand, not looking up to God or outward to his fellow man. There is no happiness in the book Jeremiah nor its companion, Lamentations. This is the weeping prophet:
Oh that my head were waters, and mine eyes a fountain of tears, that I might weep day and night for the slain of the daughter of my people! (Jeremiah 9:1 KJV)
Even his fountain of tears did not change the hearts of those who heard his message:
Then the LORD said unto me, Proclaim all these words in the cities of Judah, and in the streets of Jerusalem, saying, Hear ye the words of this covenant, and do them. (Jeremiah 11:6 KJV)
May I tell you those words are just as valid today as they were coming from Jeremiah? And, our response:
Yet they obeyed not, nor inclined their ear, but walked every one in the imagination of their evil heart: therefore I will bring upon them all the words of this covenant, which I commanded them to do; but they did them not. (Jeremiah 11:8 KJV)
We no longer have to imagine what is in another’s heart, do we? It is shown in our newscasts,our television shows and the move theaters. It’s written by individuals and shown to the world through social media. Some is uplifting and spiritually encouraging. Some absolutely obeying not.
Yet, they prosper and we ask the same question Jeremiah did – why are they all happy and we are filled with sorrow?
The answer Jeremiah received as not one we want to hear, but may be truth for us today:
If thou hast run with the footmen, and they have wearied thee, then how canst thou contend with horses? and if in the land of peace, wherein thou trustedst, they wearied thee, then how wilt thou do in the swelling of Jordan? (Jeremiah 12:5 KJV)
The Pulpit Commentary speaks of this verse:
The opposition to the prophet will reach a still higher pitch; and if he is so soon discouraged, how will he bear his impending trials?
Isn’t that where we stand today? Moral issues have become battles in our country and from a biblical perspective, those battles have been lost. How can we complain to God about these losses when so much is being inflicted on our country – finances, drought, floods, international wars and rumors of wars. What more will we endure? What more are we prepared to endure.
I can’t help but think of Christians in Nineveh as ISIS (or ISIL or IS, whatever they’ve chosen as a label today) offered them conversion, onerous taxation or death. From news accounts, many chose death – or it was chosen for them.
What would we choose? For ourselves? Our family? Jeremiah chose to continue proclaiming God’s words, though none are shown to have listened. None were humbled nor responsive. Yet we, thousands of years later, read Jeremiah, study the words, and look to God for answers.
Or, do we?