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Feminine Tenderness and Masculine Strength

James

I was looking through old pictures and I came across a photo of Ben, our cross-breed dog which we had as a family pet when Linda, Robin and Fiona were growing up in Stevenston. I could get side-tracked by illustrating how clever an animal he was. He was also very demonstrative - he clearly displayed his emotions. When he was happy, his whole body swayed - not just his tail and I am convinced that he even had a happy face. When I was a bit too slow in getting out of the can the disgusting-looking dog-food which he devoured ravenously, he whined restlessly in his impatience. Within our circle of friends, Ben had his favourites and his feverish excitement showed that he was pleased to see certain visitors. He could also get angry and surly if suspicious strangers dared to intrude into his territory.

It might not seem very complimentary to compare Jeremiah to a long-deceased collie-labrador dog. Yet Jeremiah was a very sensitive person who expressed his feelings vocally. He has been described as the "weeping prophet" but that maybe a bit misleading.

"Many authors have called Jeremiah the “weeping prophet.” While he does occasionally weep for Israel’s condition (8:18–9:3; 13:15–17), and this depth of concern speaks well of him, this emphasis on his weeping may mislead readers regarding his toughness. Jeremiah was a determined, dedicated, longsuffering, and visionary follower of God. His courage and stamina serve as examples to even the most faithful of all God’s embattled servants. The apostle Paul certainly viewed his own ministry as being like Jeremiah’s (see 2 Corinthians 3). Thus, Jeremiah’s weeping hardly summarizes his character. He could perhaps more accurately be called “the persevering prophet.” [ESV Study Bible.]

Another writer speaks of Jeremiah's "feminine tenderness and masculine strength."
"He blends in his character, to a degree of striking fineness, feminine tenderness with masculine strength, nervous sensitiveness with transparent simplicity, so that his nature reveals its reactions to outside goings-on as sharply as the limpid waters of Alpine lakes reflect every mood of the changeable skies above them. I know of no man who reveals a truer heart-likeness to Jesus Himself than does Jeremiah, in his suffering sympathy both with God and men, in his unretaliating forbearance, his yearning concern for his fellows, his guileless motive, his humility, his willingness for self-sacrifice, and his utter faithfulness, even to the point of unsparing severity in denunciation." [J. Sidlow Baxter: Explore the Book pp 259 - 60].

I would like to end this blog by illustrating these points by quoting some passages from Jeremiah where he show his emotions. In the West of Scotland, it is not considered cool for a man to show his feelings - at least in public. Jeremiah did not have these hang-ups. Here are some examples:

As he contemplated the awful destruction which was going to befall his homeland of Judah, he showed the depths of his despair and anguish - emotional distress affecting him physically.

"My anguish, my anguish! I writhe in pain! Oh the walls of my heart! My heart is beating wildly; I cannot keep silent, for I hear the sound of the trumpet, the alarm of war.
Crash follows hard on crash; the whole land is laid waste. Suddenly my tents are laid waste, my curtains in a moment. [Jeremiah 4; 19 - 20 ESV]

Are we even remotely upset by the thought that our relatives, friends and neighbours are oblivious to the divine judgement that lies ahead of them?

In chapter 8 he vividly expresses his grief that his people have not shown any sign of repentance and they have refused to seek the Lord's help in their circumstances.

"My joy is gone; grief is upon me; my heart is sick within me." Jeremiah 8: 18] He uses the tender expression "daughter of my people" as he identifies with his own people in the punishment that was heading their way.

For the wound of the daughter of my people is my heart wounded; I mourn, and dismay has taken hold on me. [Jeremiah 8: 21]

There are times when Jeremiah indicates that he feels that God is being too harsh on his own people but when he experiences their violent rejection he begins to appreciate how evil they were and he even calls for revenge on the people from the village of Anathoth where he grew up.

"But I was like a gentle lamb led to the slaughter. I did not know it was against me they devised schemes, saying, "Let us destroy the tree with its fruit, let us cut him off from the land of the living, that his name be remembered no more.
But, O LORD of hosts, who judges righteously, who tests the heart and the mind, let me see your vengeance upon them, for to you have I committed my cause." [Jeremiah 11: 19 - 20]

There are times when we are similarly inconsistent and like Jeremiah or the writer of the Psalms we desire to see God's punishment fall on the evil men and women of our generation. In this day of God's grace, we should leave the matter of judgement and punishment to God in a future day and we should be praying that our unsaved neighbours, friends, relatives and family members will come to Christ for salvation. Like Paul we should be praying, "Brothers, my heart's desire and prayer to God for them is that they may be saved." [Romans 10:1 ESV]