Why is Jeremiah known as the weeping prophet?Jeremiah was a prophet to the leaders of Judah leading up to, during, and after the Babylonian conquest of Judah and Jerusalem. Thus, his prophecies were often dire, foretelling the destruction that was to come. After the fall of Jerusalem, Jeremiah composed poems of lament now preserved in the scroll of Lamentations. Knowing ahead of time the suffering that was to come, and then watching those predictions come to fruition before his eyes, drove the prophet to tears. This weeping is recorded both in the book of Jeremiah and in Lamentations. Thus Jeremiah is often referred to as the "weeping prophet."
Before the Babylonian conquest, in Jeremiah 7:29, God commanded Jeremiah to mourn when He said, "Cut off your hair and cast it away; raise a lamentation on the bare heights, for the LORD has rejected and forsaken the generation of his wrath." In Jeremiah 8:18, the prophet said, "My joy is gone; grief is upon me; my heart is sick within me." He continued, "I mourn, and dismay has taken hold on me…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 8:21; 9:1). Neither God nor Jeremiah took delight in the harsh judgment that was to come, but rather mourned the coming defeat.
After Jerusalem had been destroyed by the besieging Babylonians and all the predictions had come true, Jeremiah surveyed the destruction of the city and the suffering of his people. He said, "My soul is bereft of peace; I have forgotten what happiness is… My eyes flow with rivers of tears because of the destruction of the daughter of my people. My eyes will flow without ceasing, without respite, until the LORD from heaven looks down and sees" (Lamentations 3:17, 48–50). This was a prophet who had cause to weep.
Despite these dire prophecies of bad news, and the suffering Jeremiah witnessed, God also gave Jeremiah words of hope and encouragement as well. It is Jeremiah who spoke forth the well-known line "For I know the plans I have for you, declares the LORD, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope" (Jeremiah 29:11). He shared God's plan to make a new covenant whereby God promised, "I will put my law within them, and I will write it on their hearts. And I will be their God, and they shall be my people. And no longer shall each one teach his neighbor and each his brother, saying, 'Know the LORD,' for they shall all know me, from the least of them to the greatest, declares the LORD. For I will forgive their iniquity, and I will remember their sin no more" (Jeremiah 31:33–34). These words promising a hope for the future and a new covenant whereby sins are forgiven and people know the Lord intimately and personally were enough for Jeremiah to cling to his faith in God, even during his times of weeping.
After lamenting "My endurance has perished; so has my hope from the LORD," Jeremiah then said, "But this I call to mind, and therefore I have hope: The steadfast love of the LORD never ceases; his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness. 'The LORD is my portion,' says my soul, 'therefore I will hope in him'" (Lamentations 3:18, 21–24). Jeremiah knew how to weep over bad news, lament the reality of suffering around him, and yet cling to hope in God's promises and hold fast to faith in God's steadfast love. Jesus also modeled this ability to weep at people's suffering while knowing God's plan to restore the future when He wept at Lazarus's tomb before raising him from the dead (John 11:35).
Being known as the weeping prophet shows Jeremiah's compassion for his fellows and foreshadows the compassionate weeping Jesus would also display. But let us not mistake his weeping for a lack of faith in God's goodness and love. In fact, Jeremiah's faith in God's steadfast love and faithful promises sustained him during his times of weeping.
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Can we trust biblical prophecy? Does biblical prophecy really predict the future?
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