Possibly one of the most difficult tasks of all is to preach repentance to a nation going astray. Jeremiah was a prophet called to do just that. He could be considered a mighty man of valor like those listed in the books of the former prophets (see Joshua, Judges, 1 and 2 Kings, 1 and 2 Chronicles), not only because he was courageous, but because he was mighty in spirit, in character and in endurance.
God knew Jeremiah before he was formed in the womb and called him to be a prophet when he was still young (probably close to 20 years old). Resisting God’s plan for him to be a spokesman to the nations, Jeremiah said to God, “Behold, I cannot speak, for I am a youth” (Jeremiah 1:6 Jeremiah 1:6Then said I, Ah, Lord GOD! behold, I cannot speak: for I am a child.
American King James Version×). But God told him to not let that be a hindrance to him, and He encouraged Jeremiah to not be intimidated by the people when he delivered God’s message.
Jeremiah yielded and followed God’s instruction. And because of God, Jeremiah had the courage and stamina to prophesy destruction to the kings, princes, priests and people of Judah. He spoke out against them, telling them that if they did not give up their sinful ways and turn back to following God, they would certainly face death, capture or worse.
A compassionate prophet
Jeremiah uses a lot of emotion in his writings as he reflects the sadness of God in this situation. The nation of Israel had been so wicked—they turned away from God like an unfaithful wife who became a harlot, disregarding the covenant they agreed to after coming out of Egypt (Exodus 24:3 Exodus 24:3And Moses came and told the people all the words of the LORD, and all the judgments: and all the people answered with one voice, and said, All the words which the LORD has said will we do.
American King James Version×). God was very disappointed with the nation, and was determined to carry out justice.
God had compassion toward Jeremiah and wanted to protect him in this time of destruction and woe. He said that Jeremiah should not marry so that he would not have to see his wife and children suffer miserably (Jeremiah 16:2-4 Jeremiah 16:2-4 2 You shall not take you a wife, neither shall you have sons or daughters in this place.
3 For thus said the LORD concerning the sons and concerning the daughters that are born in this place, and concerning their mothers that bore them, and concerning their fathers that begat them in this land;
4 They shall die of grievous deaths; they shall not be lamented; neither shall they be buried; but they shall be as dung on the face of the earth: and they shall be consumed by the sword, and by famine; and their carcasses shall be meat for the fowls of heaven, and for the beasts of the earth.
American King James Version×). The grief and emotional toil from seeing Judah suffer caused Jeremiah to write: “Hear and give ear … But if you will not hear it, my soul will weep in secret for your pride; my eyes will weep bitterly and run down with tears, because the Lord’s flock has been taken captive” (Jeremiah 13:15 Jeremiah 13:15Hear you, and give ear; be not proud: for the LORD has spoken.
American King James Version×, 17).
Similarly, he also writes: “Oh, that my head were waters, and my eyes a fountain of tears, that I might weep day and night for the slain of the daughter of my people!” (Jeremiah 9:1 Jeremiah 9:1Oh that my head were waters, and my eyes a fountain of tears, that I might weep day and night for the slain of the daughter of my people!
American King James Version×). Through his writings, Jeremiah shows that he wants all the people of Judah and Israel to come away from sin and evil doing, a sentiment that reflects God’s own desire for mankind.
Jeremiah had some very good characteristics that would classify him as a mighty man of valor. He was an obedient man, and he knew what had to be done for the people of Judah. With God’s strengthening, he was able to stand up to Judah’s false prophets who prophesied nothing but good for the nation. God told Jeremiah: “…They will fight against you, but they shall not prevail against you; for I am with you to save you and deliver you … I will deliver you from the hand of the wicked, and I will redeem you from the grip of the terrible” (Jeremiah 15:20-21 Jeremiah 15:20-21 20 And I will make you to this people a fenced brazen wall: and they shall fight against you, but they shall not prevail against you: for I am with you to save you and to deliver you, said the LORD.
21 And I will deliver you out of the hand of the wicked, and I will redeem you out of the hand of the terrible.
American King James Version×).
Just imagine how it would feel to be standing against so many prophets who carried a lot of weight within the nation, and to be the only one preaching darkness and destruction! This was certainly a trial of endurance for Jeremiah. The princes and priests of Judah repeatedly attempted to quiet him. They wanted to kill him, but, amazingly enough, they were afraid to, because he had spoken to them as a prophet from the Lordtheir God.
Jeremiah dejectedly wrote, “Woe is me, my mother, that you have borne me, a man of strife and a man of contention to the whole earth! … Every one of them curses me” (Jeremiah 15:10 Jeremiah 15:10Woe is me, my mother, that you have borne me a man of strife and a man of contention to the whole earth! I have neither lent on usury, nor men have lent to me on usury; yet every one of them does curse me.
American King James Version×).
Jeremiah was imprisoned, almost starved and even accused of defecting to the Babylonians. Probably the worse fate of all was when he was held prisoner in a pit of stinking mire.
In spite of these trials, Jeremiah remained loyal to God and carried out his duties as a prophet. Jeremiah endured and relentlessly proclaimed God’s message to Judah for 40 years until their capture. And it was not a calm and peaceful time for the people of Judah as they went through several attacks and endured famine until their final capture. How difficult it would have been to deal with the stubbornness of these people!
Watching his nation collapse
It was a sad end of events for Jeremiah to finally see the people of his nation carried off into captivity, but it was what had to happen since they would not repent.
He writes in Lamentations of his grief in seeing such suffering: “My eyes fail with tears, my heart is troubled; my bile is poured on the ground because of the destruction of the daughter of my people, because the children and the infants faint in the streets of the city. They say to their mothers, ‘where is grain and wine?’ as they swoon like the wounded in the streets of the city, as their life is poured out in their mothers’ bosom” (Lamentations 2:11-12 Lamentations 2:11-12 11 My eyes do fail with tears, my bowels are troubled, my liver is poured on the earth, for the destruction of the daughter of my people; because the children and the sucklings swoon in the streets of the city.
12 They say to their mothers, Where is corn and wine? when they swooned as the wounded in the streets of the city, when their soul was poured out into their mothers’ bosom.
American King James Version×).
After Judah’s capture by the Babylonians, King Nebuchadnezzar had mercy on Jeremiah because he had continually urged Judah to surrender. King Nebuchadnezzar rewarded him and offered him as much honor as he would accept, but Jeremiah continued to work steadfastly for God and cried out against the Babylonian king for the unmerciful destruction of the people of God.
Throughout the story of Jeremiah, we can see that he had a very valiant nature and godly character. He was very obedient and compassionate, and can definitely be considered a mighty man of valor. His strength was in his endurance. He just kept plodding along, doing the job God had given him. What a terrific example encouraging us to continue on, holding fast and having faith in God for whatever work He has us do! VT