Always, everywhere he went around Jerusalem, he could not escape dragging pain of the truth. It hurt, it hurt on so many levels that as soon as he grew numb, resigned to the ache that could not be denied, it would assault him from a different direction entirely, and once more cut him into shreds.
No one believed him. Not only did they not take him seriously, that would be bad enough, they had always tended to be a people who honoured God with their lips while their hearts were far from him, (and if their pious hypocrisy was an affront to his heart, what must it be to God?) but they didn’t even pretend to believe him. Openly they mocked his words, laughing in his face when he warned them of the calamity to come. Their tame prophets declared peace and prosperity, Jerusalem was a splendid city and a return to the glory-days of Solomon was just over the horizon. They could not see that their prosperity was built on the shallowest of foundations and that their days in the promised land were numbered because they cared so little for the keeping of God’s covenant. “You say, ’Peace! Peace!’ when there is no peace,” he said to them, but they brushed aside his words like an annoying foolishness.
And that was the deeper problem that tore at his heart. Jerusalem was going to fall, and it would be terrible. Babylon was coming, and this time they would not be spared, as they were in the time of the Assyrians, when Sennacherib’s army decamped overnight. This time it would be for them as it had been for the northern kingdom of Israel then. A time of horror, grief and great pain would soon be upon them; they would be taken away into exile and no longer live in the land that God had promised to their ancestor Abraham. They had deliberately misunderstood the covenant, they thought that as long as God’s temple stood within their city they were safe. Yet this generation would not know peace because they had forsaken the God of Peace, the Lord their Righteousness.
Jeremiah wept and trembled for the agony that was to come, and the destruction of the beloved city. He grieved for these people who were so unprepared for calamity because they would not listen to his prophetic warnings. Darkness lay ahead.
Yet,even in this, despair was not the final answer. One day, beyond the cognizance of this present generation, Babylon would fall in her turn, punished for her idolatrous rapacity. Then the exiles would return, and there would be peace. And one day the Lord Himself , the branch of David, would come among them, and some would know him to be, as Isaiah had foretold, the Mighty God, the Everlasting Father, and the Prince of Peace. So he waited. And as he waited, he lifted his tear-drenched eyes and remembered afresh that God was still, even in the midst of tragedy and horror, the one who had hold of his heart, and would keep it:
“Because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed
For His compassions never fail
They are new every morning
Great is Your faithfulness.”