The Heart Of The Prophet
“I would comfort myself in sorrow;
My heart is faint in me. Listen!
The cry of the daughter of My people
From a far country:
Is not the Lord in Zion?
Is not her King in her?
Why have they provoked Me to anger
With their carved images
With foreign idols?
The harvest is past,
The summer is ended, And we are not saved!
For the hurt of the daughter of my people
I am hurt. I am mourning;
Astonishment has taken hold of me.
Is there no balm in Gilead,
Is there no physician there?
Why then is there no recovery
For the health of the daughter of my people?”
What is to be said of this Old Testament book and this man, Jeremiah? You may
have discovered, reading the book of Jeremiah is not a joy. You may even find
some of this book to be difficult to understand. Well, this man was called by
the Lord to deliver bad news!
Being people oriented to the New Testament, we are well acquainted with the
apostles of Christ, who were charged to deliver good news. The good news of
the New Testament is – you can leave sin, come through Christ to God, live
right and go to heaven, and even take people with you! There is no better
news! But in the Old Testament, there were prophets who were charged to
deliver bad news.
They were communicators, delivering to the people the bad news from the Lord –
that they were destroying themselves by their continued sin! This theme is
repeated over and over and Jeremiah was sent to Judah, some 500 years before
Christ to tell the people this very thing: They were destroying their lives by
their continued sin.
This ruin of sin had many dimensions. Idolatry and Immorality; listening to
false teachers and false prophets; trusting in human strength instead of
divine grace; and refusing to give heed to
many appeals to repent – appeals that were issued over approximately 40
And it is clear in this passage, Jeremiah took it personally! He was not like
the messenger who is indifferent, and who simply says: “OK People, Here’s the
bad news; it isn’t my problem, you deal with it, I don’t care!” NO – Jeremiah
took on the pain of his people; he is sometimes called “the weeping prophet.”
(1) JEREMIAH WAS PAYING ATTENTION. When he
delivered God’s message to Judah about their sin – he knew what God was upset
about because he was paying attention. The
Lord told him to “see and know,” according to Jer. 5:1. God chose a man who
was paying attention to what was happening; who was sensitive to the crisis
among his people. He became – not just a messenger, but a keen observer who
knew what was happening to Judah, and knew it wasn’t good. He not only spoke
against lying and believing lies – He heard people lying, and saw people
believing those lies, and living as deceived people. Jeremiah was a man who
What about Christians today? Do we need to look around and pay attention and
see what is happening to people? Can we isolate ourselves inside our own
little worlds? Does God expect us to pay attention to what’s happening to
people? Do we refuse to accept the reality of what a free reign sin has over
But concerning the times and the seasons, brethren, you have no need that I
should write to you. For you yourselves know perfectly that the day of the
Lord so comes as a thief in the night. For when they say, Peace and safety!
Then sudden destruction comes upon them, as labor pains upon a pregnant woman.
And they shall not escape. But you, brethren, are not in darkness, so that
this Day should overtake you as a thief. You are all sons of light and sons of
the day. We are not of the night nor of darkness. Therefore let us not sleep,
as others do, but let us watch and be sober. For those who sleep, sleep at
night, and those who get drunk are drunk at night. But let us who are of the
day be sober, putting on the breastplate of faith and love, and as a helmet
the hope of salvation. – 1 Thess. 5:1-8
There is some parallel historically – comparing the time of Jeremiah with the
times and conditions of the Thessalonians. People were being deceived, living
in moral darkness, distracted from focus of heart on God. Paul said, in
response to the times and seasons: “…let us not sleep, as others do, but let
us watch and be sober.” Today, we can’t just look the other way, or pretend
that everything in our nation and culture is fine! That’s not watchful and
sober. And, to whatever extent we don’t pay attention to the ruin of sin, we
are vulnerable to its’ destruction, and ill-equipped to serve others.
Around us today in our modern culture: We are being lied to. People are
believing lies and false promises. Various forms of idolatry capture the
hearts of our children. Churches play to the culture to gain numbers. Families
and marriages are falling apart. And many who consider themselves to be
Christians are just not paying attention. “Too busy,” they say. So, they are
not “wearing the breastplate of faith and love,” nor “wearing the helmet of
hope.” Too busy to pay attention to what is happening.
Look around – see what is happening – and it will prompt prayer. It will cause
you to be defensive about your own spiritual condition. It will add urgency to
your concern about your marriage and your children. It will compel genuine
(2) Jeremiah was tender-hearted; he addressed the
people of Judah: “My Dear People.” There was not only truth in his
message, there was love and care in his heart. Because he cared, he was
disturbed, seeing people ruining their lives by their continued sin. It hurt
him. There was no common indifference in this man – that thinks, “It’s not my
problem; it’s not my concern; I don’t care.” He cared . . . he wept . . . he
wrote the book called Lamentations.
Are we tender hearted, like Jeremiah? Could be, we are keenly aware of the
ruin of sin, we are paying attention. But our reaction is bitterness or hatred
of people; so we convey disgust, not concern. That will do us no good – and
will do sinners no good.
1 Pet. 3:8
“Finally, all of you be of one mind, having compassion for one another; love
as brothers, be tenderhearted, be courteous.”
Look at these words, which convey attitudes God’s people ought to have:
compassion, love, and being tenderhearted. Look at just part of this: “having
compassion,” or, “Be compassionate.” What does that require of me? The word
depicts feelings that come from the heart and reach out to specific people who
need what God can supply through us. Compassion is what causes you to stop and
help someone having trouble. Compassion is what causes you to contribute to
someone’s need. Compassion is what causes you to spread the word about some
NOW if compassion should be active when people are suffering physical need –
how much more should compassion operate, when we pay attention, and we see
people lost in sin – and ruining their lives by their disobedience to God!
Jeremiah illustrates paying attention to what’s happening, but also, he hurt
and he acted, out of compassion. One reason I’m on Facebook is, I learn a lot
about people. My primary purpose is communication. But I’ve discovered, on
Facebook, you learn a lot about people. I thought I knew some people very well
– but I’ve been disappointed. Some people I thought I knew well turn out to be
selfish, vulgar, brutal and exhibit an absence of compassion for people.
Impulsive remarks are made about people who are lost as idiots, to be
criticized, not saved. There is a heartless, impersonal, abusive, hateful
attitude, very easy for people to express, typing on their computer, in the
privacy of their home, office or car. Some of these people claim to be
children of God, followers of Christ! Yet, they show by their words they are
neither, certainly not having a heart like Jeremiah.
It should break our hearts that people ruin their lives and sin against God.
That compassion should compel us to teach and preach and influence and reach
out. Not just speak against people, but speak to people – of our concern, in
ways guided by wisdom.
Gal. 6:1 speak to this with divine clarity:
“Brethren, if a man is overtaken in any trespass, you who are spiritual
restore such a one in a spirit of gentleness, considering yourself, lest you
also be tempted.”
(3) Jeremiah Asked The Tough Questions. In
the Bible, compassion never rules out being clear and truthful. Compassion, in
the Bible, doesn’t keep you from saying what is true and should be
said. Compassion doesn’t compel silence – it is truthful. So Jeremiah asked
the tough questions: He repeats the appeal of the Lord: “Why have they
provoked Me to anger,” and then follows up . . .
“Is there no balm in Gilean?”
“Is there no physician there?”
“Why then, is there no recovery
for the health of the daughter of
[ See previous study of this in EF at
If we are paying attention to the ravages of sin around us in the world and we
really care, we should find opportunity to raise the tough questions without
being hateful – like these:
If there is a God, isn’t there a response to Him that we should give? If Jesus
is who He claims to be, shouldn’t we follow Him and obey Him . . .
consistently and with joy?
If He died for us – what should we be willing to do for Him, and for each
If the Bible is the most valuable book in circulation – should it be, not just
owned… but read and studied and obeyed?
If God ordained that there be local churches, should every Christian be a full
If we know there will be a judgment day, shouldn’t we be ready – all the time,
since we don’t know when the end will come??
Faith – of the genuine sort – will not back away from the tough questions.
(4) Jeremiah’s primary concern was, THE LORD. See, it was not compassion
generated within Jeremiah – separate from God!! It wasn’t just that his people
were hurting themselves, or that they weren’t listened to him, the prophet. He
said, “Is not the Lord in Zion? Is not her King in her?” All of this we have
studied about Jeremiah is based on all his fear of God and his primary
interests that God be glorified.
You will hear preacher’s say – It is all about God! It is not just that I can
have a better life here by applying the wisdom of the Bible. It is not just
about man’s social unity and peace here. It is all about God: So the prophet
spoke for God – statements like this:
Thus says the Lord: Let not the wise man glory in his
wisdom, Let not the mighty manglory in his might, Nor let the rich man glory
in his riches; But let him who glories glory in this, That he understands and
knows Me, That I am the Lord, exercising lovingkindness, judgment, and
righteousness in the earth. For in these I delight, says the Lord.
– Jer. 9:23,24
Understanding and knowing God – serving Him through the activity of our faith
in Christ – Are you doing that with your life right now? Is there some
compelling change you need to make? Is there some choice you need to announce?
Is there a response to God, that is urgent?
By Warren E. Berkley
From Expository Files 19.2; February 2012