At the end of the last chapter, we found Jeremiah back among the men of his hometown of Anathoth – disappointed and heartsick. He was unsuspicious of danger, as a gentle lamb that was being led to the slaughter (chapter 11:19). Surely among his brethren, in the house of his father, he would be safe! There he would certainly be able to find the sympathy and affection which his sensitive heart hungered for, but which evaded him everywhere else. But alas! It was not to be. In this respect also, he was to be like the Lord Jesus – Who came unto His own family, but they did not receive Him. They even led Him to the edge of the hill upon which their city was built, in order to throw Him down from there.
There was treachery in the little village of Anathoth. The sacred tie of family relationship was too weak to restrain the outbreak of fanatic hate. The priestly families had winced beneath the vehement denunciations of their young relative Jeremiah, and they could bear it no longer. Therefore, a plot was set on foot; and under the pretense of fair words, they conspired to take the prophet’s life. He would not have even known of his danger, except for Divine illumination: “The Lord hath given me knowledge of it, and I know it: then thou showedst me their doings” (chapter 11:18). Stunned by this sudden discovery, Jeremiah turned to God with remonstrance and appeal. Conscious of his own righteousness before God, and of the righteousness of God Himself, he was temporarily caught up in that same whirlpool of questioning which has always agitated the minds of God’s oppressed ones, concerning the unequal distribution of earthly favors and blessings. “Wherefore doth the way of the wicked prosper? wherefore are all they at ease that deal very treacherously?” (verse 1)
Without a doubt, Jeremiah was profoundly conscious of his unworthiness. None could have lived as close to God as he did, without an overwhelming sense of uncleanness. But in respect to this special outburst of hatred, he knew of nothing for which he could blame himself. He had not declined from being a spiritual shepherd, nor had he desired the woeful days that he had prophesied, nor had he taken pleasure in the disasters which he predicted, nor had he spoken in the heat of personal passion. The sins of the people had procured the evils which he foretold, and he had only endeavored to warn them of the certain ruin that lay ahead of them. He had never swerved from the narrow path of obedience. At all hazards, he had dared to stand alone – deprived of the comforts that fall into the lot of ordinary people. He did not scruple to lay his heart open before the Lord, for he knew that he had done His bidding. And yet he was hated, persecuted, and threatened with death; while the way of the wicked prospered, and they were at ease who dealt very treacherously. Why does this happen? This is the question of all ages, and it can be answered only by remembering that this world is upside-down. The course of nature has been disturbed by sin, and things will not be totally made right again until we go home to heaven.
The prophet was anxious for God’s judgments to be poured out upon those who hated him. There seems to be a touch of apparent vindictiveness in his cries, and we are immediately inclined to contrast these words with those which Jesus breathed from the cross for His murderers. But we must understand that the prophet was concerned with the eternally ruining effect that would be produced upon his countrymen, if Jehovah passed over the sin of his persecutors and would-be assassins. It was as if he feared that his own undeserved sufferings might lead people to reason that wrong-doing was more likely to promote their prosperity than integrity and holiness would. Therefore, he cried for vengeance – not for the gratification of his own feelings, but for the sake of the immortal souls of his people.
In this time of distress, Jeremiah rolled his cause upon the Lord (chapter 11:20). This was a wise course of action indeed! And it is our only safety in times of great soul-anguish. The Divine Sufferer did this when He was upon the cross; and in His footsteps, we must plant our feet. When men malign and plot against us, when friends forsake us, and when difficulties threaten to engulf us like Atlantic waves; we must roll our anxieties away from our own shoulders, and roll them upon our Lord – the Almighty Burden-bearer – and leave them with Him! He will take care of everything concerning us; and He will do so with a love so strong and tender and true, that we will have no further cause for fear! Let us roll ourselves and our burdens upon Him today!
When God sends trials into our lives, He does not immediately put us to contend with horses (so to speak), but He first tests us by running with footmen (verse 5). He does not allow any one of us with frail and fainting courage to meet the overflowing floods of Jordan, but He first causes us to be tested on our own homestead – the land of peace, where we are comparatively secure amidst those who know and love us. He gives us the opportunity of learning to trust Him in the slighter difficulties, so that our faith may become muscular and strong, and so that we may be able to walk to Him amidst the surges of the ocean-waves. Do not be discouraged or give up the fight! Do not say that you cannot bear it. You can! Why? Because there is sufficient grace in the Lord Jesus! Rest upon Him, for He cannot fail you! Take to yourself all the grace and comfort and assurance that He waits to give you in order to go forward!
Dear Lord, be our Almighty Burden-bearer and roll away all our anxieties from off our shoulders. Thank You for taking care of us in Your loving manner. Amen.
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