19 Oh, my anguish, my anguish!
I writhe in pain.
Oh, the agony of my heart!
My heart pounds within me,
I cannot keep silent.
For I have heard the sound of the trumpet;
I have heard the battle cry.
20 Disaster follows disaster;
the whole land lies in ruins.
In an instant my tents are destroyed,
my shelter in a moment.
21 How long must I see the battle standard
and hear the sound of the trumpet?
22 “My people are fools;
they do not know me.
They are senseless children;
they have no understanding.
They are skilled in doing evil;
they know not how to do good.”
(Jeremiah 4:19-22 NIV)
In today’s passage, we see Jeremiah’s grief over the Lord’s discipline upon the nation of Judah and the city of Jerusalem (vv. 19-21), and God’s response to Jeremiah (v. 22).
Jeremiah is a priest by training and a prophet by God’s appointing (chapter 1, verses 1-10). And Jeremiah is also a fellow citizen of Judah and a regular traveler to Jerusalem. Because of Jeremiah’s role as a prophet, he delivers whatever messages the Lord tells him. But Jeremiah’s message is not a cold, disconnected, clinical communication like a mundane press conference. Because Jeremiah also lives in the land he is prophesying about, he experiences the pain, anguish, and misery of the message first-hand.
The NIV captures the emotional essence of Jeremiah’s utterance in verse 19. The Hebrew literal word-for-word translation says, “O my bowels, my bowels, I writhe!” Jeremiah’s words reflect the ancient belief that the intestines were the center of a person’s most powerful emotions. Jeremiah’s love for the Lord and his love and concern for his people was tearing him apart. Jeremiah knew God’s heart, and he knew that God would stop at nothing to bring His wayward children back to Himself. The result was restoration, but the process to get there was gut-wrenching.
Jeremiah’s prophetic experience was not a vague dream, but rather a vivid nightmare in living color and surround sound. Have you ever had a dream so seemingly real that you wake up with your heart racing and in a cold sweat as if the event you were dreaming about had just taken place? Now you know a little of how Jeremiah felt.
But Jeremiah’s vision was no dream – this was the eventual reality of Jeremiah and his fellow citizens. What Jeremiah experienced in his mind would soon be played out in slow motion in Judah and Jerusalem. Jeremiah would listen to the enemy’s trumpet blasts and hear their battle cries as they crushed everything in their path. The enemy’s standard, their conquering battle flag, was waving proudly over the land. Jeremiah even saw his home being destroyed as if it were a flimsy tent.
Verse 22 is God’s response to Jeremiah’s anguish. The Lord calls His people “fools,” knowing nothing of doing good and following Him. The Lord says the only thing His people are proficient at, the only skill they have, is to do evil.
As we study God’s Word, may we stop and give the Lord an opportunity to permeate every fiber of our being. May God’s Word not get stuck at mere head knowledge, but may His Word penetrate our hearts, impacting our mind, will, and emotions.
And may our response to God’s Word be our love and commitment to Him, first of being like Christ, and then in doing as He leads us.