Jeremiah is often described as the weeping prophet because he reacted emotionally to the messages of judgment God communicated through him. God called the prophet to a ministry involving “uprooting, tearing down, destroying and demolishing” (1:10).
Jeremiah 12 begins with the prophet complaining about the disparity between the prosperity of the wicked and the experience of God’s people. In this passage, God details the issues in His relationship with the Hebrews due to their violation of the exclusive covenant with God.
Jeremiah forthrightly shares his concerns with God, desiring to bring a legal case against God. His issue is the unfairness he sees in the prosperity and ease of the lives of wicked people contrasted with the struggles of God’s people.
God planted the wicked, and the wicked took root and produced fruit. While the wicked frequently talk about God, their consciences are not bothered by the separation between their lips talking about God and their hearts being unaffected by God’s holy nature.
Jeremiah protests that God knows him in a personal way. He sees the prophet and tests his faithfulness. Jeremiah commands God to drag the wicked to judgment now rather than the final day of judgment.
The people reason that if God does not judge now, He cannot see or judge what the end will be.
Jeremiah challenged God’s justice. Now God challenges Jeremiah’s complaints.
In essence, God says, “If you cannot race with runners because you are worn out, and if you stumble in a peaceful land, then what will you do when life becomes harder?”
Jeremiah 11 describes the response the prophet received from the people when he proclaimed God’s message. They plotted against him to destroy and kill him (11:19). Even Jeremiah’s family responded negatively to his preaching.
God strengthens and enables the prophet to continue his ministry despite being rejected and forcibly deported to Egypt (43:7).
Because of his faithfulness, Jeremiah’s life became harder. He received a command not to marry or have a family (16:2). God made Jeremiah capable because he trusted the One who made him capable.
The people reject God. Therefore, God rejects His people. Jeremiah uses descriptive metaphors to describe God’s love for His people, yet He has abandoned them.
The prophet uses numerous images to describe God’s relationship to His people: My house, My inheritance (heritage) and the love of My life.
Yet God’s people respond to Him like wild animals. The people roar like a lion, a howling hyena and birds of prey ready to attack God.
The shepherds — religious leaders — destroy and make desolate God’s vineyard. God Himself judges the people, but the people sow what they harvested.
By Mark Rathel
Professor at the Baptist College of Florida in Graceville, Florida