Jeremiah 16 has the prophet getting a personal message from God. “You shall not take a wife, nor shall you have sons or daughters in this place”. This is a unique command that very much went against the general will of God in that day. Culturally, it was a shame and dishonor to be single and childless. In fact, in the biblical Hebrew language, there isn’t even a word for ‘bachelor’. Marriage and kids were part of their way of life. But God makes it clear that he was going to do some deep and painful cleansing, and there was no reason for Jeremiah to put himself in a place of suffering.
God tells Jeremiah “I have taken away my peace from this people, my steadfast love and mercy, declares the Lord”. The people are going to be cut off and die, and they were not to be buried nor mourned over. Jeremiah was commanded not to go in and feast with them or to interact in any way. “I will silence in this place, before your eyes and in your days, the voice of mirth and the voice of gladness, the voice of the bridegroom and the voice of the bride”. Joy and gladness will be gone – no more celebrations or weddings.
Of course, Jeremiah knows the first question he’ll get when he prophesies what is to come will be the all too familiar one we always ask: “why”? God is very clear about the problem. “Because your fathers have forsaken me, declares the Lord, and have gone after other gods and have served and worshiped them, and have forsaken me and have not kept my law, and because you have done worse than your fathers, for behold, every one of you follows his stubborn, evil will, refusing to listen to me”. The answer is direct, detailed, and personal. This sin is generational and also personal. And God is done putting up with it.
Jeremiah knows it will be a difficult message to deliver and he’ll be the object of attack and ridicule. He knows where his strength comes from. “O Lord, my strength and my stronghold, my refuge in the day of trouble”. We can always depend on God to be there for us exactly the same way Jeremiah does. And our mission is also the same as the one God gave to him – to make God known and glorified. “I will make them know, this once I will make them know my power and my might, and they shall know that my name is the Lord”. Jeremiah has a job to do – to warn the people of God’s judgment and to make them know that He is Lord. Our job is the same. We need to proclaim the coming judgment for sin and let people know that Jesus Christ is the only answer to that reality.