There was a strand in yesterday’s office reading from Jeremiah that I hadn’t noticed before.  In it, starting at 15:27, Jeremiah says:

I took no pleasure in sitting with merrymakers; with your hand on me I sat alone,
choking with the indignation you filled me with.
Why is my pain ongoing,
my wound incurable, refusing to heal?
Why, you’re like  a spring that dries up when it’s needed most,
like waters that can’t be relied upon!

The commentary in The Jewish Study Bible suggests that Jeremiah has failed in his office of being a prophet.  Perhaps he protested too strongly in these verses we just read.  Or perhaps in his loneliness he choose to side with the people over against God.  The suggestion is made that he may have failed so badly that he had to be stripped of his office and later reinstated!  The commentary in The Inclusive Bible (the translation I’m using here) notes at verse 19 that Jeremiah (like Israel) is being called to repentance for thinking that God is unreliable.  Which could be considered apostasy (for both Jeremiah and Israel).

God’s response to Jeremiah in verse 19 says:

If you repent,
I will return you to my service.
If you extract the valuable from the worthless,
you will be my mouthpiece.
Let them come back to you,
but  you must not go back to them …

This does seem to suggest, in fact, that God had to recommission Jeremiah to his office of prophet after his lapse into apostasy!

I found this startling at first.  But the more I’ve thought about it, the more it seems to me that Jeremiah was simply human.  We can get lonely standing alone.  We want community.  When things aren’t going right, when our lives feel broken and don’t seem to be healing, it’s hard to be trusting and obedient.  It happens to all of us – even the giants of the faith.

The thing about Jeremiah though, is that even in his brokeness, he turned to God.  There was enough of a relationship still that he turned to God with his anger and frustration.  He was truthful about what he was really feeling and experiencing.  And he not only took it to God, he listened to God’s response.  And he took God’s response to heart.

I think that’s probably what makes him a giant of the faith.

Which didn’t make his life easy or safe.  Ultimately, as I recall, he was carried off by enemies, headed to Egypt, and never heard from again.

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