“Oh that I had in the wilderness a lodging place of wayfaring men; that I might leave my people, and go from them! for they be all adulterers, an assembly of treacherous men.” (Jeremiah 9:2)
In my personal opinion, Jeremiah’s words are harsh, severe, unsettling. They are also appropriate. His people had committed gross immoralities and idolatries, provoking the Lord to anger with their graven images and “strange vanities” (Jeremiah 8:19). And so the Lord had turned them over to judgment. Despite numerous warnings (Jeremiah 7:25), the Jews refused to return to the Lord their God (Jeremiah 8:5). They weren’t even ashamed of their wickedness (Jeremiah 8:12)! And so they were a vexation to Jeremiah’s soul as he beheld their ungodliness day after day.
But they were his people, and he loved them. His love caused him to be longsuffering toward them because he didn’t want to see them come to destruction. Jeremiah had such a burden for his people, that his own desire was that he may “weep day and night” (Jeremiah 9:1) for them. Jeremiah is often referred to as “The Weeping Prophet,” as he tearfully pled with his people and his God. However, God firmly told Jeremiah not to pray for his people anymore. Their sins would be judged. (See Jeremiah 7:16.)
As I read this portion of Scripture (especially our text verse), I find myself identifying with the weeping prophet over the situation of his people. He had begged and pleaded with them to turn from their idolatries, and to sanctify the Lord in their lives; but they had discounted his words, even scorning his reproof.
Jesus reminded us that a prophet is without honor “among his own kin, and in his own house” (Mark 6:4). Again He says:
“Think not that I am come to send peace on earth: I came not to send peace, but a sword.” (Matthew 10:34)
“For I am come to set a man at variance against his father, and the daughter against her mother, and the daughter in law against her mother in law.” (Matthew 10:35)
“And a man’s foes shall be they of his own household.” (Matthew 10:36)
The truth is that a New Life in Christ is a separated life (2 Corinthians 6:17) that marks one as being “peculiar” by the standards of the world (Titus 2:14). By this, we are given to know that walking with Christ sometimes requires us to be hated by our own people for His Name’s sake (Matthew 10:22). But it is often difficult for us to accept the fact of this hatred coming from our own kin, whom we love so dearly.
But there also comes a moment of frustration on our part as well, in which we become so vexed in our soul over the disdain of our erring loved ones. This is where Jeremiah finds himself in our text, so sickened by the stiff-necked and impenitent hearts of his people, that he just wanted to separate himself from them, go off into the wilderness, and live among strangers. Jeremiah would have handled the rebuke of strangers as preferable to that of his own people.
I identify perfectly with the weeping prophet Jeremiah. As he exhorted those he loved to live righteous, God-fearing lives, he was met with coldness and indifference. It is evident that Jeremiah may have enjoyed their fellowship, had he given assent to their wickedness, and prophesied of peace “when there is no peace” (Jeremiah 8:11). But this would have required him to turn a blind eye to their wickedness; and then the watchman has not blown the trumpet of warning for their abominable deeds; and “…his blood will I require at the watchman’s hand” (Ezekiel 33:6c; also verse 8).
As I said, I can identify with Jeremiah. Now, I’m not perfect, and I don’t claim to be. But I do strive to enter in the strait gate (Luke 13:24) and to live a life that glorifies the Lord God who bought me (1 Corinthians 6:20). My life is different because I have been changed; I’ve been given a new heart as a provision of the New Covenant in Christ (Jeremiah 31:31-34). This means that I have new desires as God works in me “both to will and to do of His good pleasure” (Philippians 2:13), and that I am now ashamed of my old wicked ways (Romans 6:21).
Recently, I had the displeasure of hearing someone I love very dearly making light of a sinful behavior. When I told them of my disappointment in this attitude, I was met with the response, “You might have changed; but that don’t mean everyone else did.” Sadly, this is true. And to hear professing Christians condone ungodly behavior on such a ground is disheartening. Especially when these unchanged “Christians” are your close family relations.
Just like Jeremiah, I weep for my people – because of their sins; because of their obstinacy; because of their unchanged, unregenerated heart. My heart breaks for my people who refuse to see the wrath of God ready to be poured out on the ungodly. Just like Jeremiah, I often want to separate myself from my people, to abide in a wilderness among strangers. Sin is rampant in prison. But I can handle the rebuke of ungodly prisoners a whole lot better than I can that from my own loved ones.
Just like Jeremiah, I weep and plead for my people. But unlike Jeremiah, God has not told me to stop praying for them. And so I continue to pray; I continue to plead; I continue to Hope in the Power of God to turn them as only He can do. I continue to encourage, admonish, instruct; sowing seeds and watering them, waiting patiently for God to give the increase. I continue to show love and Godly sincerity, urging my loved ones to turn from their wicked devices and return to the Bishop of their souls.
If anyone reads this message and is in question of their own positional standing in Christ, I would urge you to carefully make examination of your heart. Salvation is more than a prayer you repeated as a child; it’s a heart transplant. If you’ve had an experience of God’s saving grace, you will be changed. If you have not been changed, then you have not been saved. It’s just as simple as that. This doesn’t mean that you won’t sin, or even desire to sin. But it does mean that you will have the desire and the power to please God because His grace will be at work in your life.
In closing, we look at the Scriptural witness in a very brief, yet concise, statement of the salvation message:
“For whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved.” (Romans 10:13)
Reader, are you calling upon the Name of the Lord? If Jesus Christ is not your Lord, He cannot be your Savior. Christ does not want to “help” you “get saved”; for He saved you on the Cross (Romans 3:24-25; Ephesians 1:7). Therefore, confess His Salvation. This comes about when He turns your heart of stone into a New Heart by shedding His Love abroad in it (Romans 5:5). You will be changed into His image, given New Life, with new desires. You will grow more and more in grace and knowledge of Him as your Lord and Savior. You will be a New Creature. You will be changed.