Jeremiah 15:10-21 – More Laments from Jeremiah


Jeremiah 15:10-21


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).