by Maria Rudolph
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Now reform your ways and your actions and obey the Lord your God. Then the Lord will relent and not bring the disaster he has pronounced against you (Jeremiah 26:13).
A letter from an old friend arrived in our letterbox recently. It was sad and weighed down with a heart heavy from despair about the state of our church and our society at large. It spoke of rejection and a lack of feeling supported in fighting the Lord’s battle.
Jeremiah is called the ‘weeping prophet’. He was chosen by God to fulfil a task that would bring him much misery and hardship throughout his life. He was unusually young (Jeremiah 1:6) when he was chosen by God to be his mouthpiece to the people of Judah so they could reform themselves and turn back to God. Judah’s sister nation of Israel had already fallen captive to the Babylonians, and the situation was dire. The people had completely fallen away from God, were practising idol worship, even sacrificing children and engaging in all kinds of acts that directly opposed the Ten Commandments. It was Jeremiah’s harsh task to prophesy doom and gloom to an audience who couldn’t care less about what he said and thought he was downright stupid to the point of wanting to kill him.
Eventually, Jeremiah would be proven right as the events he foretold unfolded and the nation was taken into Babylonian exile for 70 years. When the remnant of Israelites eventually returned to their land and resettled in its towns, they all came together to listen to Ezra the priest, Nehemiah the governor and the Levites reading the Books of Moses to them, and the realisation of their failings hit them hard. They all started weeping, as once only Jeremiah had done. But Nehemiah graciously reminded them: ‘Do not grieve, for the joy of the Lord is your strength’ (Nehemiah 8:10).
We must heed Nehemiah’s advice each and every day. I could list at least ten reasons right now why I’d rather be weeping than rejoicing, and I’m sure you could too! What does your list look like? It’s good to admit what we feel upset about. The Lord hears our complaints loud and clear – even when they only take place inside our heads. And more than that, the Lord sees right down into the depth of our hearts, where the causes and the underlying reasons for those sadnesses are buried. No motive is hidden from him.
We must remember that unlike Jeremiah and the Israelites who were banished into exile, we live in the resurrection joy of our Lord Jesus Christ every day. We have received the good news to share with the world, telling of God becoming human and showing us the Father’s heart before dying a sacrificial death so that we gain life through his blood. It is good to weep with those who witnessed the crucifixion on Good Friday, but as Christians, we don’t remain there. We move towards Easter Sunday, the day of the resurrection, where we overflow with joy that Christ has risen indeed. And that is the day we celebrate in our worship Sunday after Sunday. We celebrate resurrection day. There is a reason for our weeping to become dancing week after week, and, in fact, daily, as we joyously celebrate Christ’s victory over sin, death and the devil forever.
Heavenly Father, when I despair because people seem to turn against you, restore the joy of your salvation in me just as Simeon rejoiced in the temple when he came face to face with baby Jesus. Make my heart leap for joy at the good news, and grant me the boldness and wisdom to share it. In Jesus’ name. Amen.