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Jeremiah 15:10-21 – More Laments from Jeremiah


Jeremiah voices two laments to God that suggest a crisis of calling for Jeremiah (15:10, 15-18), and God responds to each (15:11-14, 19-21).


Jeremiah is dismayed that the people to whom he is called to preach are so critical of what he does and says. In his view, everyone is out to get him, even his family and friends! Indeed, he is persecuted and brought to trial (26; 36-38). He has not sought conflict, but the word of God that he speaks does just this. God responds with words of assurance, though the conflict is not going to disappear.

Jeremiah continues in his lamenting (15:15-18). He petitions God to remember him during this time of oppression and rescue him from his persecutors. He gives God reasons to act on his behalf (15:15c-17). In effect, God is responsible for putting him in this conflicted situation, not least by the word of wrath that he has been called to speak, and God has made commitments to him. Jeremiah has been faithful to his calling, and his daily life has been commensurate with the message he has brought. He pours out his "Why?!" questions to God (15:18) in view of the pain he is suffering. Even more, he reproaches God: Why is God like a deceitful brook, which appears from a distance to have water, but turns out to be dry? Where is God when Jeremiah needs relief from his suffering?

God's reply has occasioned differing interpretations (15:19-21). Some think God is disciplining him for his questions and is calling him to repentance. Another approach seems preferable. Jeremiah, standing within the lament tradition, voices concerns that are common in such texts (for example, Psalm 22:1-2). Jeremiah's call is in some kind of crisis, and God's word is intended to jolt him out of his dispiritedness. But Jeremiah has not sinned in what he has said and has no need to repent for it. God's basic word to Jeremiah is: Get on with it! Face up to the difficulties! Using a matter-of-fact condition, God says: If Jeremiah does so, he will indeed be serving God's purposes. God extends words of reassurance and reaffirmation to him (Jeremiah 15:20-21).

Jeremiah 15:10-21

Jeremiah Complains Again and Is Reassured

10 Woe is me, my mother, that you ever bore me, a man of strife and contention to the whole land! I have not lent, nor have I borrowed, yet all of them curse me. 11The Lord said: Surely I have intervened in your life* for good, surely I have imposed enemies on you in a time of trouble and in a time of distress.* 12Can iron and bronze break iron from the north?

13 Your wealth and your treasures I will give as plunder, without price, for all your sins, throughout all your territory. 14I will make you serve your enemies in a land that you do not know, for in my anger a fire is kindled that shall burn for ever.
15Lord, you know;
   remember me and visit me,
   and bring down retribution for me on my persecutors.
In your forbearance do not take me away;
   know that on your account I suffer insult.
16 Your words were found, and I ate them,
   and your words became to me a joy
   and the delight of my heart;
for I am called by your name,
   O Lord, God of hosts.
17 I did not sit in the company of merrymakers,
   nor did I rejoice;
under the weight of your hand I sat alone,
   for you had filled me with indignation.
18 Why is my pain unceasing,
   my wound incurable,
   refusing to be healed?
Truly, you are to me like a deceitful brook,
   like waters that fail.

19 Therefore, thus says the Lord:
If you turn back, I will take you back,
   and you shall stand before me.
If you utter what is precious, and not what is worthless,
   you shall serve as my mouth.
It is they who will turn to you,
   not you who will turn to them.
20 And I will make you to this people
   a fortified wall of bronze;
they will fight against you,
   but they shall not prevail over you,
for I am with you
   to save you and deliver you,

says the Lord.
21 I will deliver you out of the hand of the wicked,
   and redeem you from the grasp of the ruthless.

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