HARD TRUTHS HURT TO GIVE
Lord, help me to identify with those in need of repentance.
Read JEREMIAH 8:18—9:9
18 You who are my Comforter in sorrow,
my heart is faint within me.
19 Listen to the cry of my people
from a land far away:
“Is the Lord not in Zion?
Is her King no longer there?”
“Why have they aroused my anger with their images,
with their worthless foreign idols?”
20 “The harvest is past,
the summer has ended,
and we are not saved.”
21 Since my people are crushed, I am crushed;
I mourn, and horror grips me.
22 Is there no balm in Gilead?
Is there no physician there?
Why then is there no healing
for the wound of my people?
9 1 Oh, that my head were a spring of water
and my eyes a fountain of tears!
I would weep day and night
for the slain of my people.
2 Oh, that I had in the desert
a lodging place for travelers,
so that I might leave my people
and go away from them;
for they are all adulterers,
a crowd of unfaithful people.
3 “They make ready their tongue
like a bow, to shoot lies;
it is not by truth
that they triumph in the land.
They go from one sin to another;
they do not acknowledge me,”
declares the Lord.
4 “Beware of your friends;
do not trust anyone in your clan.
For every one of them is a deceiver,
and every friend a slanderer.
5 Friend deceives friend,
and no one speaks the truth.
They have taught their tongues to lie;
they weary themselves with sinning.
6 You live in the midst of deception;
in their deceit they refuse to acknowledge me,”
declares the Lord.
7 Therefore this is what the Lord Almighty says:
“See, I will refine and test them,
for what else can I do
because of the sin of my people?
8 Their tongue is a deadly arrow;
it speaks deceitfully.
With their mouths they all speak cordially to their neighbors,
but in their hearts they set traps for them.
9 Should I not punish them for this?”
declares the Lord.
“Should I not avenge myself
on such a nation as this?”
Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV® Copyright ©1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.
Reflect on how frustrating it is to know of a forthcoming calamity that those around you do not, made all the worse by their refusal to listen to you.
Jeremiah’s sorrow comes across in this passage with disturbing but strangely beautiful clarity. He is hurting, and he wants to share that hurt with his “Comforter in sorrow” (18). We can identify with his feelings of desperation and his need for comfort. He knows only too well that it is Judah’s own fault that they are being crushed (21). He knows that they deserve the punishment they are going to receive; he knows that they have refused to listen—but they are still his people, and Jeremiah is devastated by their refusal to take the opportunities God is providing for them through the hard message he has been called to deliver to them. Delivery of such a message is difficult enough, and the difficulty is compounded by the absence of any evidence that they have taken any notice of what he has said or have any intention of doing so in the future.
Jeremiah’s pain reveals how much he identifies with the people he has been sent to serve, how much he cares for them, and how much he longs for their attention and repentance. In this he also identifies with God, the only hope for the nation. God wants his people to heed the message of judgment and through personal and national transformation avoid the destruction that is otherwise inevitable. Paul speaks of his longing to “know the power of [Christ’s] resurrection and participation in his sufferings” (Phil. 3:10). I think he would have understood where Jeremiah was coming from in this passage. Bringing the message of salvation is costly, as is salvation itself.
Do I love other people as God loves them? Do I share his pain when they refuse the salvation offered them? Am I willing to hurt, that they may hear?
Lord, teach me to mourn over national sinfulness the way Jeremiah did, and keep me straight.