Jeremiah - a good man with bad press who needed to ‘calm down’

JEREMIAH, of whom we read in the Old Testament, has always had a bad press.

Actually, Jeremiah was a good man with a masterly grasp of his mother tongue and even in translation his sayings are full or rich metaphors and quotable lines.

He lived in trying times when the kingdom of Judah was in decline and was hastening towards its absorption into the kingdom of Babylon. Jeremiah, as a prophet of God, warned his generation against the smug belief that they were indestructible.

Jeremiah had a soul mate in Josiah, the youthful king of Judah, and they enriched each other in the best tradition of companionship, ennobling each participant. Together they laboured in the purging of their nation of idol worship and launched a Bible reading campaign across the land.

Then tragedy struck - the Pharaoh of the time came campaigning in Northern Israel to assist his friend, the King of Assyria.

Josiah decided, perhaps hastily, that Pharaoh should be confronted and he set off for the Plain of Megiddo to prevent him going further.

Pharaoh warned him to stay out of this as he had no quarrel with Josiah, but the young king persisted. In the ensuing struggle, Josiah was killed.

Jeremiah was devasted. The Pharaoh represented idolatry, arrogance and tyranny, while Josiah represented godliness, comradeship and liberty. Yet, when these two confronted each other, the Pharaoh won. Jeremiah decided to give the Almighty a bit of his mind! Read about it in Chapter 12 of his book.

“Lord, I want to talk to you about justice!” he cried. The Almighty’s reply is remarkable and instructive. The answer the agitated prophet was given was: “So Jeremiah, if you’re worn out in this foot race with men, what makes you think you can race against horses?

“And if you can’t keep your wits during times of calm, what’s going to happen when troubles break loose like the Jordan in flood?”

God was telling the excitable prophet to calm down. In fact, God said: “Jeremiah, cool it!” Certainly, life brings its challenges, trials, disappointments and hassles and none are immune.

Instances abound which confirm the view that we live in a fallen world. There are times when it seems the world is off the axles of justice.

To cry out for instant retaliation in the presence of arrogant wickedness seems natural, but the Almighty doesn’t handle wrong-doers with such summary actions.

Certainly, judgment will come and is inescapable. John Chapman has written, “He whose throne is built on justice and righteousness will see that righteousness prevails. That is why sin must and will be punished.

But judgement day holds no terror for the Christian, for as Billy Graham wrote, “Believers in Christ have already come through the storm of judgement. It happened at the cross.”

Of course, vengeance belongs to God, but are we the ones to designate how and when God brings the lawbreaker to the bar of Divine justice?

No matter how saintly we are or aspire to be, we are always pilgrims and learners in the school of life and faith. Patience and hope sustain the people of God as they await the coming of the Kingdom and the maturing of their own spiritual lives.

Biblical patience is not rooted in fatalism that says everything is out of control. It is rooted in faith that says everything is in God’s control. John Calvin contended, “Patience is the fruit and proof of faith.”

Life is a symphony and we lose a third of it by cutting out the slow movement. Patient waiting is often the highest way of doing God’s will.