The Expository Files

The Heart Of The Prophet

Jeremiah 8:18-22

“I would comfort myself in sorrow;
My heart is faint in me. Listen!
The voice,
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 years!!

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 paid attention.

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 people?

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 evangelism.

(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 charitable need.

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
my people?”
[ 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 other?

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 participating member?

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