Text: Jeremiah 8:18 – 9:1
The wider context of this passage (Jeremiah 8:4-9:9) is the prophet’s accusations against the people of Judah. Contrary to the birds who know their seasons of returning, the only “turning” God’s people know is to turn “away in perpetual backsliding” (18:5 – RSV). In contrast to their trust in the law they have actually made the word of the Lord into a lie (verse 8). They wish each other peace (verse 11) but the sounds of the coming battles can already be heard (verse 16). From 9:3 onwards the prophet draws a picture of falsehood, evil and deceit until he cries in chapter 9 verse 6, “Heaping oppression upon oppression, and deceit upon deceit, they refuse to know me, says the LORD” (RSV).
But Jeremiah does not rejoice when he sees the enemy on the march from Dan (verses 16-17). He does not gloat over the events that prove his prophecies right. On the contrary – the suffering of his people is his suffering. According to Jeremiah 8:18-9:1 the prophet is deeply disturbed by the plight of the people of Judah. Although 9:2 tells of a longing to distance himself from them, he stands with them in their troubles. This very personal and emotional passage tells of his compassion for the people of God. Listen to his cry in verse 21, “For the wound of the daughter of my people is my heart wounded, I mourn, and dismay has taken hold on me” (RSV). Therefore he cannot find enough tears to express his grief for those who have died in the battle (9:1).
Jeremiah 8 teaches us about the dangers of turning our backs on God. But it is in this personal passage, where Jeremiah opens his own heart, that we find a reflection of God’s love for his people. It is this love that became flesh when the Son of God was born as one of us. This love was explained when He took our sins to the cross.
Imagine the world of HIV and AIDS flooded by the compassion expressed in Jeremiah 8:21 – “for the wound of the daughter of my people is my heart wounded”!