15 Hear and pay attention,
do not be arrogant,
for the Lord has spoken.
16 Give glory to the Lord your God
before he brings the darkness,
before your feet stumble
on the darkening hills.
You hope for light,
but he will turn it to utter darkness
and change it to deep gloom.
17 If you do not listen,
I will weep in secret
because of your pride;
my eyes will weep bitterly,
overflowing with tears,
because the Lord’s flock will be taken captive.
(Jeremiah 13:15-17 NIV)
In the previous two passages, the Lord instructs Jeremiah to use two object lessons (a linen belt and wineskins) to show their waste and loss because of unrepentant sin.
In today’s passage, Jeremiah begs the people of Judah to repent before the rest of the disciplinary judgments fall on them.
And what is the primary issue Jeremiah addresses? Their pride (“arrogant” – v. 15, “pride” – v. 17). As we have studied before, the people of Judah thought they had progressed beyond serving the One True God; they were enlightened and modern. However, their so-called enlightenment was a product of their deluded minds and darkened hearts.
Jeremiah uses the analogy of fading light (the evening twilight) on a mountain to illustrate his point (v. 16). The twilight is not that of the breaking dawn as they had hoped, but of the fast onset of the inky darkness of the night. Having lived in a mountain community for ten years and having spent a lot of time outdoors, I quickly learned to respect the value of light and planned my outdoor activities between sunrise and sunset times. There are few things more disconcerting than having to hike out from a day trek after dark on an overcast, pitch-black night.
While Jeremiah called the people of Judah to repentance, he did not address them in scolding, self-righteous judgment or an attitude of hatred. Rather, Jeremiah addressed the people of Judah with love and compassion, with bitter weeping and a river of tears for their impending plight.
Jeremiah loved the people of Judah and wanted God’s best for them. Seeing their upcoming fall and captivity because of their pride broke Jeremiah’s heart. He did not separate himself from his people, but stayed and endured the hardship with them, begging them to repent and turn back to the Lord. Jeremiah did not have sympathy for his fellow citizens (“I’m sorry life is hard for you”). Instead, he had compassion and empathy (“I am experiencing your hurt and pain along with you”). Jeremiah did not rejoice in the fact that the people of Judah were going to get what they deserved; rather, it broke his heart and was the source of his grief and tears.
May we learn much from Jeremiah’s heart expressed in today’s passage:
- Letting God’s love for us overflow onto others, even when they don’t love us back
- Moving from self-righteous judgment, to sympathy, to Jeremiah’s heart of empathy
- To speak the truth in love (both truth and love, not one or the other)
- To give glory to God in all things, even His just standards of discipline upon us
- Never rejoicing over the calamity of others, but weeping at their fall (Prov. 24:17)