As we reenter Jeremiah part way through chapter ten, the vocabulary changes back from reflections on wisdom to prophetic lament and warning. What is rich about this particular passage is not only the imagery and metaphor employed by Jeremiah, but the glimpse we get into the prophet’s heart and mind. I think this is one of the things I am enjoying the most about this study in this prophet-following a faithful follower of God and learning from his frustrations, struggles, and triumphs.
In verses 17-18, and 22, the focus is the warning of impending judgment on the rebellious people. The rest of the chapter focuses on how that is affecting Jeremiah. Verses 19-21 hint at three things going wrong for the Weeping Prophet: possible physical illness (definite physical anguish), his home has been destroyed (and the families around him are being torn apart), and the general cultural decay wrought by corrupt and stupid leadership.
A good context for this short section is chapter 9:1-2. Here Jeremiah is conflicted between staying with his people and speaking God’s word to them in hope, and fleeing to the desert to escape all the inevitable pain. What does the prophet decide to do? He stays. His faithfulness to God’s call not only lead him through difficult circumstances, it required it of him. “Truly this is an affliction, and I must bear it.” (10:19)
So how does that make Jeremiah feel? It makes him feel like praying death and annihilation upon his enemies. “Pour out your wrath on the nations that know you not…” (10:25). In doing so, Jeremiah stands on solid ground with the other prophets and the Psalmists. Several times in Scripture God’s people pray for these kinds of things in no uncertain terms, and they are never rebuffed for doing so. For instance, “happy is he who…seizes your infants and dashes them against the rocks.” (Psalm 137:8-9)
But what I really want to know is if I should pray this way. I think we should, if we understand properly what these prayers are intended to do for us. First, praying this way teaches us utter honesty with God. We can dig into the ugly and gnarled depths of our selves and yank out the things we don’t even want to acknowledge. And note that the biblical pattern in these prayers is to request that God He resolve them. These are not vigilante prayers.
Secondly, we should learn to pray against God’s enemies this way. This does not mean praying against individuals, but the forces and the “isms” behind them. When was the last time you prayed against the Christian-killing reality of totalitarianism? Or what about the soul-dulling force of consumerism? Psalm 97:10 says, “O you who love the Lord, hate evil!”
And thirdly, praying this way helps make us aware of Christians who really are facing persecution and death around the world simply because they are the people of God. This was the scenario Jeremiah and David faced, and there are countless believers around the world facing the same thing for the same reasons. Pray for our persecuted brothers and sisters in Christ!
Is it OK to say these kinds of things? You bet-in fact, it might just be an enriching experience to let some of these things out into the open.