Jeremiah, the “Weeping Prophet,” balanced his messages from God. His experience with the Israelites occurred during the optimistic times of King Josiah, but ended as Jerusalem fell to the Babylonians. His prophecies mirrored these historical events, providing motivation or correction according to the “norm of appropriateness.” When the people were feeling optimistic and comfortable in their successes and innovations, Jeremiah’s prophesies were reminders of doom, providing critique and correction to those in power, lest they become lazy in their practices and goals. Conversely, during the most horrific atrocities against the Israelites, Jeremiah’s prophesies brought visions of hope and a reminder that God has come through in the past, and will again.
The following examples demonstrate Jeremiah’s balance of prophesies:
Prophesies of Doom
Jer. 2:1-13 God is reminding the Israelites that their ancestors were faithful in following God, who then sustained them into the wilderness. But the people didn’t follow through with their promise, and defiled the land and did not stay true to God’s laws and practices. They are doomed because they have forsaken God and have built a future based on empty beliefs.
Jer. 5:1-5 There are no second chances even for the rich. Not one single person seems to understand they need to turn from their wicked ways. No one is left to set an example of faithful living.
Jer. 7:1-34 This isn’t the first time God has brought wrath and consequence to God’s people. And yet it doesn’t appear they are considering the ramifications of their ancestors to keep them from the doom of destruction.
Jer. 8:18–9:3 The prophet recognizes that the people are destined for disaster – yet he is sad because they didn’t heed God’s warnings – it could have all turned out differently.
Jer.18:1-12 There WAS hope, in that God was willing to give a second chance, but the people chose to carry on and ignore God’s warning. They are doomed.
Jer. 23:9-32 False prophets cause God’s people to go astray. Because of their false visions and message, disaster will befall the people.
Prophesies of Hope
Jer. 1:1-19; This prophecy punctuates God’s love and encouragement. Jeremiah has been called and God has equipped him for this mission. He may feel inadequate, but God has chosen him for such a time as this – God will make him victorious if he complies.
Jer. 4:23-28 Even though devastation has occurred, God promises to relent and will continue to further God’s purpose on earth. It’s a reality check that things are going very wrong, but God has spoken and is faithful.
Jer. 18:1-12 Because the prophet did not succumb to the temptation to turn from God, there is hope in saving him from destruction.
Jer. 20:7-13 The prophet is lamenting that he is damned if he does…damned if he doesn’t. He is being persecuted for telling the people to turn from their wicked ways, but if he keeps himself from telling them (to save himself from their anger), God brings about internal angst such that the prophet can’t be at peace. In the end, the prophet remembers the hope found in righteous living and a fair God.
Jer. 31 The prophet brings hope in the way of a God who historically has delivered God’s people. Recalling the deliverance and freedom provided from past oppression give hope and assurance that one day God will again repeat this action.
Jer. 32:1-15 The prophet offers hope in the midst of a seemingly impossible situation. Hope lies in property purchased as a way to see that the future holds freedom and prosperity.
Jeremiah’s model of preaching a balance of both hope and doom has modern day application. For example, if I were preparing a sermon to a congregation who had overlooked Jesus’ central message of “Love your neighbor as yourself,” I might introduce examples of past circumstances where children of God were excluded and oppressed. Where individuals were seeking a better life for themselves at the expense and detriment of others. These examples would also include the ultimate character deterioration of the individual who had been seeking success above everyone else. On the other hand, messages of hope, within a sermon, would balance those times when a congregation felt they had to take matters into their own hands because it seemed God was absent. When events in the community or world seemed to be out of control – messages of hope bring God’s faithfulness through past difficulties into the present and future.