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What the Bible says about Jeremiah's Complaint
(From Forerunner Commentary)

Jeremiah 12:1-4

Jeremiah, like Baruch, has become discouraged by the turbulent maelstrom of events around him, the confusion and destruction that always accompany the unraveling of a nation. Yet, the prophet's complaint is more focused than that of his scribe's. Moreover, Jeremiah's complaint does not betray the self-absorption that Baruch's grumbling exhibits. Instead, Jeremiah's complaint is oriented outside himself. It is a “green” complaint, as we would say today: The land, he declares, mourns, the herbs everywhere wither, the animals and birds are gone because the residents of the land are evil.

It is clear that the natural environment of Judah was languishing as a result of mismanagement at the hands of selfish, exploitive people. Jeremiah did not limit culpability to Judah's leaders, but speaks more generally of the “wicked” (verse 1) or of “those who dwell there” (verse 4), who have “taken root” (verse 2), that is, become established to the point that they are prospering due to their environmentally destructive activities.

Jeremiah's complaint, therefore, has at its heart the issue of prosperity on the part of the wicked, people without scruples who take advantage of others and circumstances for their own gain. Why does God permit the wicked to prosper? The psalmist Asaph broached this issue in Psalm 73:1-28. Asaph comes to understand that a time will come when, “in a moment,” God will “destroy those who destroy the earth,” as John states it in Revelation 11:18. Solomon writes in Ecclesiastes 8:11, “Because the sentence against an evil work is not executed speedily, therefore the heart of the sons of men is fully set in them to do evil.” Sooner or later, though, their sins and crimes catch up to them, and divine justice—destruction and death—follow.

Charles Whitaker
A Tale of Two Complaints (Part One)

Jeremiah 12:5-7

God begins by asserting, in effect, “If you think it's bad now, wait until I'm done with Judah. The worst of times are yet to come!” Jeremiah has only done battle with those in Jerusalem in a time of relative calm—the calm before the storm. The going would get really tough outside Judah, in the countries where God would eventually send the prophet, in Egypt, Spain, and Ireland.

As in His response to Baruch, God here reminds Jeremiah that he was not living in normal times but turbulent ones: “I have forsaken My house, I have left My heritage; I have given the dearly beloved of My soul into the hand of her enemies” (verse 7). When God lifts His protective hand from His people, all sorts of terrible things are likely to ensue. The wolves will pounce.

Charles Whitaker
A Tale of Two Complaints (Part One)

Jeremiah 15:1-8

Chapter 15 records Jeremiah's second complaint. Here, the prophet experiences a crisis as major—if that could be—as the crisis Judah's king and people were experiencing. Jeremiah's was a crisis in belief so dangerous that it threatened his position as God's prophet. Chapter 15 opens with what can only be characterized as a sensational word-picture of God's rejection of Judah. Indeed, only a man after God's own heart, with a super-robust conviction of God's ultimate beneficence, could stomach such a mammoth calamity, seeing God's hand in it.

Charles Whitaker
A Tale of Two Complaints (Part Two)

Jeremiah 15:10-11

The intensity of rhetoric in the preceding verses, the horrific images it evokes, brings Jeremiah to experience profound depression, as verse 10 indicates. Jeremiah is not even a banker, yet people all around him condemn him!

Consider that, to this point, God has as yet done nothing more than what He told Amos He would always do: He would do nothing until he has revealed His secret to His servants the prophets (see Amos 3:7). Yet, the information He has provided Jeremiah has overwhelmed him. The prophet mouths the same formula Baruch would later utter, “Woe is me.” Is there anyone on “the whole earth” who understands what Jeremiah has gone through and who appreciates the work he is doing for God? Is he, like that mariner of old, alone in the wide, wide sea?

God's response contains three elements:

1. A message of hope, assuring the prophet that he is not alone (verse 11).

2. A powerful rebuke, complete with a threat (Jeremiah 15:19).

3. A reminder of the grace He has afforded Jeremiah from the start (Jeremiah 15:20-21).

God starts out with a message of hope, promising Jeremiah that He will provide a remnant, a group of people who will survive the siege and the destruction of Judah. Jeremiah is not alone and will never be alone. By His use of the term “your remnant,” God indicates that Jeremiah will “own” this group; he will be its leader. “Surely it will be well with your remnant; surely I will cause the enemy to intercede with you in the time of adversity and in the time of affliction” (verse 11).

Charles Whitaker
A Tale of Two Complaints (Part Two)

Jeremiah 15:15-18

Jeremiah is not satisfied with God's assurances. In verses 15-18, the prophet retorts with words bespeaking the depth of his dejection, the seriousness of his crises of belief. Jeremiah reminds God that he has taken of God's Word and rejoiced in it; he has called on God's name and avoided the gainsayers. Yet, his pain is ongoing. Like Baruch, he finds no rest (see Jeremiah 45:3). Will God be with him to the end? Will God abandon him? The Jubilee Bible 2000 renders verse 18 this way: “Why was my pain perpetual and my wound incurable, which refuses to be healed? Wilt thou be altogether unto me as a liar and as waters that fail?”

Strong words! Like Asaph, whose “feet had almost stumbled” and whose “steps had nearly slipped” when he became envious of “the prosperity of the wicked” (Psalm 73:2-3), Jeremiah is clearly experiencing intense spiritual doubts. Can God use such an individual as His spokesman, His prophet, especially in this time of national emergency, the approaching “worst of times?”

Charles Whitaker
A Tale of Two Complaints (Part Two)

Jeremiah 15:19

God continues His response to the prophet with a stunning rebuke, one which contains more than a veiled threat.

This translation masks the moment—the import—of God's words. He is warning Jeremiah that he must return, that is, repent, abandoning “this mistaken tone of distrust and despair,” as The Amplified Bible glosses verse 19. God promises He will restore him as His prophet, the “mouth” of God, only if he comes to understand the difference between the precious way of God and that vile way of the wicked.

The Living Bible better conveys the import of God's comments to Jeremiah with this paraphrase of verse 19:

Stop this foolishness and talk some sense! Only if you return to trusting me will I let you continue as my spokesman.

The Message handles the same passage this way:

Take back those words, and I'll take you back.
Then you'll stand tall before me.
Use words truly and well. Don't stoop to cheap whining.
Then, but only then, you'll speak for me.

The Good News Translation presents this paraphrase:

If you return, I will take you back, and you will be my servant again. If instead of talking nonsense you proclaim a worthwhile message, you will be my prophet again.

It is clear that God is not mincing His words. In this time of crisis for Judah, God demands a servant in whom He can have confidence, one who will fearlessly warn in the face of persecution and who will remain committed to carrying out His work to its conclusion—no matter where that work may take him. God needs an individual of resolute and indefatigable faith.

Actually, God is telling Jeremiah that his office of prophet is on the line. He absolutely must overcome his doubts of God's fidelity. He must not fall back into the ways of the people of Judah. He can only continue to be separate from them by believing God.

Charles Whitaker
A Tale of Two Complaints (Part Two)

Jeremiah 15:20-21

As God so often does, He attaches encouragement to His rebukes. God is in fact reminding the prophet of his original commission, as recorded in Jeremiah 1:18-19:

Today I have made you an armed city, an iron pillar, and a bronze wall against the entire land—the kings of Judah, its princes, its priests, and all its people. They will attack you, but they won't defeat you, because I am with you and will rescue you. (Common English Bible)

It was the worst of times back then, yet not so bad as the coming Tribulation that we face today. God demands that His people be faithful. Should we come to doubt God's reliability and His faithfulness—should we come to feel He has abandoned us, His people—we may want to think hard about God's words to Jeremiah: “If you change your heart and return to me, I will take you back. Then you may serve me” (Jeremiah 15:19, New Century Version).

The ever-faithful God will not forget His plans for us, even though we may come to forget His promises to us.

Charles Whitaker
A Tale of Two Complaints (Part Two)

Jeremiah 25:3-5

Jeremiah was God's prophet at this time, when Judah was just about to suffer captivity. He was God's last major prophet—the last one He sent to appeal to the Judeans before their society, their civilization, came to an end. What was Jeremiah's complaint? "For twenty-three years I've been speaking to you, and you're not listening." And because they did not listen, by the time of Jeremiah 25, the nation had already been defeated, and a small group of refugees was on the run trying to save their lives. So Jeremiah made it very plain: "You didn't listen."

This is typical of why Jesus admonishes us to listen. They heard, but they did not listen. The direct result was ultimately the pain of warfare, but also all of the disruptions in society before the war actually broke out—the kind of things that our culture is struggling with now—things similar to the drug scene, rampant murder, all kinds of disease, and so forth. God said if they would only repent, He would heal them.

They did not listen. They did not repent. They did not get healed. Instead, they went through war and into captivity, and these few had to flee for their lives. God is saying what almost any parent would say to a child in a similar situation: "I told you not to do that, but you wouldn't listen." How many times have we said that to our children?

Why did Judah not listen? The answer is not difficult. They did not listen because, to them, the word spoken by God's prophets carried no authority. They dismissed it as a little thing, of having no consequence. It carried no authority with them because the people had no faith in God's sovereignty.

Because these people had made the covenant with God and had been taught by one of God's prophets, if asked if they believed in God, these Judeans would have replied, "Yes, I believe in God." But the practical reality is that they had no faith in God; they lived as if He were nowhere around. They did not have faith that He had the power to do what He said or that He cared enough about them to do it. In a word, they did not have living faith.

Why is it so important to listen to God's message? Because it is to those who listen and believe the message that God's summons comes and through whom God's work is done.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Sovereignty of God (Part One)

Jeremiah 36:5-7

Jeremiah had upset the apostate leadership so much that they had forbidden him to enter the Temple precincts. Jeremiah, therefore, delegates Baruch as his proxy.

Charles Whitaker
Baruch's Complaint (Part Two)


 




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