1, 2. (a) What was the spiritual condition of the Jews of Jeremiah’s day? (b) How should the Judeans have reacted to their condition?
JEREMIAH was in tears. He was affected both by the present condition of his people and by what God had him foretell about their future. He wished that his head were like a water source and his eyes a fountain so that he could cry without stopping. Jeremiah had reason to grieve over the condition of the nation. (Jer. 9:1-3; read Jeremiah 8:20, 21.) The Jews kept rejecting divine law and did not obey Jehovah’s voice, thus calamity would come.—Jer. 6:19; 9:13.
2 However, the people of Judah, who loved to hear the ‘all-is-well’ chorus of their religious leaders, were not genuinely interested in what Jehovah thought of their conduct. (Jer. 5:31; 6:14) They were like patients looking for a physician who would say soothing things but ignore serious symptoms. If you were seriously ill, would you not want an accurate diagnosis so that you could be treated in time? Spiritually speaking, the Jews in Jeremiah’s day should have sought an honest appraisal of their spiritual condition. They ought to have asked: “Where is Jehovah?”—Jer. 2:6, 8.
3. (a) How could the Jews have answered the question, “Where is Jehovah?” (b) What was one way for the Jews to seek Jehovah?
3 For the Jews to ask, “Where is Jehovah?” would have meant seeking divine guidance when faced with decisions, both major and minor. The Jews at that time did not do so. But after the desolation of Jerusalem and their return from Babylon, they were to ‘seek Jehovah’ and ‘search for him.’ By so doing, they would be able to find him and come to know his ways. (Read Jeremiah 29:13, 14.) How could they do that? One way was by approaching God in sincere prayer, asking for his direction. That was King David’s attitude. He asked God: “Make me know your own ways, O Jehovah; teach me your own paths.” (Ps. 25:4) Note the invitation that the Hearer of prayer extended through Jeremiah in the tenth year of King Zedekiah. “Call to me, and I shall answer you and readily tell you great and incomprehensible things that you have not known.” (Jer. 33:3) If the king and the renegade nation called to God, He could reveal things “incomprehensible” to them, the desolation of Jerusalem and its restoration after 70 years.
4, 5. In what other ways could God’s people have sought Jehovah?
4 Another way the Jews could have sought Jehovah was by searching through history and considering how he dealt with his people. Thus they could have called to mind what had gained God’s approval and what had incurred his wrath. They had Moses’ writings and a number of inspired historical records as well as the annals of the kings of Israel and Judah. By meditating on those and by listening to God’s true prophets, the Jews in Jeremiah’s day could have grasped the answer to the question “Where is Jehovah?”
5 A third way those Jews could have sought Jehovah was by learning through their personal experiences and those of others. Not that they had to learn everything through trial and error, but they could have benefited from considering what they themselves had done in the past and how Jehovah viewed the way they had acted. If they had been observant, they could have understood how God viewed their conduct.—Prov. 17:10.
6. What encouragement may you find in Job’s example?
6 But let us bring this down to our day. Have you been regularly asking, “Where is Jehovah?” when you are making decisions and choosing your course? Some may feel that they have not been as conscientious as they should have been. If in some sense that might be true of you, do not be downhearted. Even the faithful patriarch Job struggled in this regard. When he was under pressure, he was wrapped up in himself. Elihu had to remind him of the common tendency of mankind: “No one has said, ‘Where is God my Grand Maker?’” (Job 35:10) Elihu encouraged Job: “Show yourself attentive to the wonderful works of God.” (Job 37:14) Job needed to observe the mighty works of Jehovah in the creation around him and in God’s dealings with humans. Through his own experience, Job came to understand Jehovah’s ways. After he had endured his ordeal and had seen how Jehovah handled the matter, Job said: “I talked, but I was not understanding things too wonderful for me, which I do not know. In hearsay I have heard about you, but now my own eye does see you.”—Job 42:3, 5.
7. As depicted on page 116, what are we going to discuss next?
7 As for Jeremiah himself, the prophet continued to seek Jehovah and was able to find him. Unlike his countrymen, over the decades of his faithful service, Jeremiah kept asking: “Where is Jehovah?” In what follows in this chapter, we will see from Jeremiah’s example how we can seek Jehovah and find him through prayer, study, and personal experiences.—1 Chron. 28:9.
What does it mean to ask, “Where is Jehovah?” In what ways could the Jews of Jeremiah’s day have asked that?
JEREMIAH TURNED TO JEHOVAH IN PRAYER
8. Under what circumstances did Jeremiah approach God in prayer?
8 Over the years while serving as God’s mouthpiece to the nation of Judah, Jeremiah sought Jehovah through heartfelt prayers. He turned to God for support when he had to proclaim unpopular messages, when he felt that he could not continue, and when he had questions about why certain things took place. God answered him and gave direction as to how to proceed. Consider a few examples.
9. (a) How did Jeremiah express himself at Jeremiah 15:15, 16, and how did Jehovah respond? (b) Why do you think it is important to express your feelings in prayer?
9 Once when Jeremiah was given a denunciatory message to proclaim, he felt that everyone was calling down evil upon him. So the prophet called on God to remember him. Consider his prayer, recorded at Jeremiah 15:15, 16, in which he tells how he felt about the divine response. (Read.) In that prayer, Jeremiah expressed his feelings of anguish. Yet, when he found God’s words and put them in his mouth, as it were, he became joyful! Jehovah helped him to appreciate the privilege of bearing the divine name and proclaiming a divine message. Jeremiah could clearly see where Jehovah was in this matter. What lesson is there in that for us?
10. In what way did God respond when the prophet said that he would not speak in Jehovah’s name anymore?
10 On another occasion, after the priest Pashhur the son of Immer struck him, Jeremiah said that he would not speak in Jehovah’s name anymore. In what way did God respond to Jeremiah’s prayerful expression? (Read Jeremiah 20:8, 9.) The Bible does not tell us that God responded by speaking to Jeremiah from heaven. But God’s word became like a burning fire shut up in his bones, and he could not help but declare it. Indeed, by honestly expressing himself before God and allowing himself to be moved by what he knew of His will, Jeremiah was motivated to follow through on what God wanted him to do.
11, 12. How did Jeremiah receive an answer to his question about the seeming success of the wicked?
11 Jeremiah had a vexing question when he observed the wicked succeed. (Read Jeremiah 12:1, 3.) Though not at all questioning Jehovah’s righteousness, the prophet sought a response to his “complaint.” His forthrightness made it clear that he had a strong bond with God, much like that of a child with his beloved father. It was just that Jeremiah did not understand why many Jews were prospering despite being wicked. Did Jeremiah get a satisfying answer? Jehovah assured him that He would uproot the wicked. (Jer. 12:14) As Jeremiah saw the outworking of the matters he took to God in prayer, his confidence in divine justice must have deepened. As a result, Jeremiah must have increasingly turned to God in prayer, expressing himself to his Father.
12 Near the end of Zedekiah’s reign, when the Babylonians were laying siege to Jerusalem, Jeremiah referred to Jehovah as someone “whose eyes are opened upon all the ways of the sons of men, in order to give to each one according to his ways and according to the fruitage of his dealings.” (Jer. 32:19) Jeremiah could see where Jehovah stands on the matter of justice, that God is indeed watching over what each one is doing and hearing the earnest prayers of his servants. And, correspondingly, they would see more and more evidence that He gives to “each one according to his ways and according to the fruitage of his dealings.”
13. Why are you confident of the outworking of God’s will?
13 We may not feel that we have any doubt about God’s justice and the wisdom of how he both accomplishes and will yet accomplish his will. Nevertheless, we can benefit from reflecting on what Jeremiah went through and bringing up in our prayers how we feel at heart. Our expressing ourselves in that way can reinforce our confidence in Jehovah, that his will is certainly going to be accomplished. Even if we do not fully understand at present why things are developing as they are, or why God’s will is proceeding at the rate it is, we can express in prayer to him our confidence that he is in complete control. His will is going to take place in the way and at the pace he knows is best. This is guaranteed; we have no reason to doubt it. We will continue to ask, “Where is Jehovah?” in the sense of prayerfully seeking to comprehend his will and to see evidence of its outworking.—Job 36:5-7, 26.
What assurance do you derive from Jeremiah’s experiences in seeking Jehovah in prayer?
JEREMIAH FED HIS HEART WITH KNOWLEDGE
14. How do we know that Jeremiah researched the history of God’s people?
14 In connection with the question, “Where is Jehovah?” Jeremiah was well-aware of the need for ‘knowledge of Jehovah.’ (Jer. 9:24) He must have studied the history of God’s people as he compiled the books now known as 1 and 2 Kings. He specifically mentioned “the book of the affairs of Solomon,” “the book of the affairs of the days of the kings of Israel,” and “the book of the affairs of the days of the kings of Judah.” (1 Ki. 11:41; 14:19; 15:7) Accordingly, he came to understand how Jehovah had dealt with various situations. Jeremiah could see what pleased Jehovah and how He viewed people’s decisions. He could also consult inspired writings available at the time, such as those by Moses, Joshua, Samuel, David, and Solomon. No doubt, he was knowledgeable about the earlier prophets as well as his contemporaries. How did Jeremiah’s personal study benefit him?
15. What benefit might Jeremiah have derived from his research into Elijah’s prophecy?
15 Jeremiah recorded the account about Jezebel, the wicked wife of King Ahab of Samaria. His account included Elijah’s declaration that dogs would eat up Jezebel in the plot of the land of Jezreel. (1 Ki. 21:23) And in harmony with what Jeremiah recorded, you know that some 18 years later, Jezebel was thrown out of a window, trampled upon by Jehu’s horse, and eaten by dogs. (2 Ki. 9:31-37) Research into Elijah’s prophecy and its fulfillment, even in its details, must have strengthened Jeremiah’s faith in God’s word. Indeed, behind his perseverance as a prophet was faith that had been built up by his study of Jehovah’s past activities.
16, 17. Why do you think Jeremiah could persevere in warning the wicked kings of his day?
16 Let us take another example. What do you think enabled Jeremiah—despite being persecuted—to keep on warning such wicked kings as Jehoiakim and Zedekiah? A major reason was that Jehovah made Jeremiah “a fortified city and an iron pillar and copper walls” toward the kings of Judah. (Jer. 1:18, 19) But let us not overlook the fact that Jeremiah had done extensive research into the reigns of earlier kings of Judah and Israel. He had made a record of the fact that Manasseh had built “altars to all the army of the heavens in two courtyards of the house of Jehovah,” had sacrificed his own son in the fire, and had shed innocent blood in very great quantity. (2 Ki. 21:1-7, 16; read Jeremiah 15:4.) Yet, Jeremiah must have known that when Manasseh humbled himself and kept praying to Jehovah, “He let himself be entreated,” and Jehovah restored the king to his place.—Read 2 Chronicles 33:12, 13.
17 In his writings, Jeremiah did not mention Jehovah’s mercy toward Manasseh. But Manasseh died only 15 years or so before Jeremiah embarked on his prophetic career. Hence, the prophet must have heard about what happened when the king repented of his past wickedness. Researching Manasseh’s terrible conduct and the outcome must have helped Jeremiah to see the value of urging kings, such as Zedekiah, to seek Jehovah’s mercy and loving-kindness. Even a king notorious for idolatry and bloodshed could repent and be forgiven. If you had been in Jeremiah’s situation, would the events involving Manasseh have encouraged you, giving you reason to persevere during the reigns of other bad kings?
LEARNING FROM EXPERIENCE
18. What could Jeremiah learn from Urijah’s example, and why do you so answer?
18 During his career as a prophet, Jeremiah certainly learned from seeing how his contemporaries acted in given situations. One was the prophet Urijah, who prophesied against Jerusalem and Judah during the reign of Jehoiakim. However, out of fear of King Jehoiakim, Urijah fled to Egypt. Thereafter, the king sent men to bring him back from Egypt, and then he had Urijah killed. (Jer. 26:20-23) Do you think Jeremiah learned a lesson from the experience of Urijah? The fact that Jeremiah kept warning the Jews of their impending doom—even doing so in the temple area—proves that he must have learned a lesson. Jeremiah maintained his courage, and Jehovah did not abandon him. God must have moved Ahikam, Shaphan’s son, to protect the life of courageous Jeremiah.—Jer. 26:24.
19. Jeremiah could see what from Jehovah’s persistence in sending prophets to His people?
19 Jeremiah also learned from his own experience of being used by Jehovah to warn His people. In the fourth year of King Jehoiakim, Jehovah told Jeremiah to write down all the words that He had spoken from Josiah’s day to that time. What was the reason for this divine direction? It was to encourage individuals to turn from doing bad and be forgiven. (Read Jeremiah 36:1-3.) Jeremiah, who got up early to give warning messages from God, even pleaded with the people to end their detestable practices. (Jer. 44:4) Is it not clear that Jeremiah must have realized from his own experience that God had sent the prophets out of compassion for His people? And would that not have engendered compassion in Jeremiah himself? (2 Chron. 36:15) You can understand, then, that when Jeremiah survived Jerusalem’s destruction, he could say: “It is the acts of loving-kindness of Jehovah that we have not come to our finish, because his mercies will certainly not come to an end. They are new each morning.”—Lam. 3:22, 23.
How must Jeremiah have been affected by researching God’s past dealings and meditating on what he and others had experienced? What can we learn from this?
DO YOU DAILY ASK, “WHERE IS JEHOVAH?”
20. How can you imitate Jeremiah in seeking Jehovah?
20 In the decisions that you face daily, do you make it a point to seek out what is God’s will, to ask, “Where is Jehovah?” (Jer. 2:6-8) Unlike the Jews in his day, Jeremiah always looked to the Almighty for help in discerning which way he should go. Imitating Jeremiah in daily seeking Jehovah’s view is undoubtedly the wise course for each of us when making a decision.
21. What kind of prayer might help you in connection with your ministry, such as when someone responds harshly?
21 The decision does not have to be regarding a major issue or a turning point in life. For example, what of the decision to go out in the field ministry on the day you planned? Perhaps you wake up and note an overcast sky, which may not be inviting. The territory scheduled for house-to-house witnessing that day may have been covered repeatedly. You may recall that some of the people turned you away with feigned politeness or with outright rudeness. At that early point in the day, could you ask in prayer, “Where is Jehovah?” Doing so might help you to think of the beauty of the message you will bear and to sense more deeply that it is God’s will that you declare that message. You then might feel the word of Jehovah becoming a source of joy and exultation for you, as it was for Jeremiah. (Jer. 15:16, 20) If later during your ministry you meet someone who is very harsh or even threatening, you can again express your feelings in prayer to God. Will you? Do not forget that he can provide holy spirit so that you can respond appropriately, and your desire to speak God’s message will overpower negative feelings.—Luke 12:11, 12.
22. Why might some prayers be blocked?
22 It is good to be aware that some prayers can be hampered, or blocked. (Read Lamentations 3:44.) Jehovah did not listen to the prayers of the rebellious Jews because they were ‘turning their ear away from him’ and persisting in a practice of lawlessness. (Prov. 28:9) The lesson must have been clear to Jeremiah, as it should be to us: If a person fails to act in harmony with his or her prayers, that will disappoint God and can result in His ceasing to hear the prayers. Surely, that is something we should seek to avoid at all costs.
23, 24. (a) What is essential if we are to find out Jehovah’s will? (b) How can you make your personal study more beneficial?
23 In addition to sincere prayer for Jehovah’s direction, we need to continue in our personal study, a key means of finding out Jehovah’s will. In this, we have an advantage over Jeremiah. We have the complete Bible. Like Jeremiah, who did deep research to compile his inspired historic account, you can rove about in the Word of God and look for divine guidance, asking, “Where is Jehovah?” By seeking to learn his will, you put trust in him, and you “will certainly become like a tree planted by the waters, that sends out its roots right by the watercourse.”—Read Jeremiah 17:5-8.
24 As you read and meditate on the Holy Scriptures, try to discern what Jehovah wants you to do in various situations. You can look for principles that you want to remember and apply in your life. While reading historical accounts, divine commands, godly principles, and wise sayings in God’s Word, consider how those passages should influence your daily decisions. In response to your asking, “Where is Jehovah?” he can reveal to you by means of his written Word how to deal with even dire situations you might face. Why, you may see in the Bible the “incomprehensible things that you have not known” or sensed in a certain light!—Jer. 33:3.
25, 26. Why can experiences benefit us?
25 Additionally, you can consider experiences, your own and those of others. For instance, you may see that a few stop relying on Jehovah, as in the case of Urijah. (2 Tim. 4:10) You can learn from their course and avoid the same disastrous outcome. Call to mind often Jehovah’s loving-kindness in dealing with you, remembering that Jeremiah too appreciated God’s mercies and compassion. No matter how desperate your situation, do not think that the Most High does not care about you. He does, just as he cared about Jeremiah.
26 As you meditate on Jehovah’s dealings with individuals today, you will realize that he is providing daily guidance in various ways. Aki, a young sister in Japan, felt that she was unworthy of being a Christian. One day when in field service with the circuit overseer’s wife, Aki expressed herself: “I feel that Jehovah is about to spew me out of his mouth, but I am hanging on to his lips, asking him to give me a little more time.” The circuit overseer’s wife looked her in the eye and said: “I’ve never felt that you were a lukewarm Christian!” Later, Aki mulled over that reassuring comment. In fact, there was no real indication that Jehovah had ever viewed her as lukewarm. Thereafter, Aki prayed to Jehovah: “Send me wherever you wish. I will do whatever you want me to do.” About that time, she visited a foreign land where there was a small Japanese group that needed someone who spoke the language and who could stay and serve with them. It so happened that Aki had been born in that land, which made it easy for her to move there and help. But where could she live? A sister whose daughter had just relocated offered a room. “It was just like pieces of a jigsaw puzzle falling into place; Jehovah was opening the way for me,” Aki concluded.
27. Why should the question, “Where is Jehovah?” motivate you?
27 Many brothers and sisters can relate instances in which they personally felt God’s guidance, perhaps as they did Bible reading or personal study. You too may have had similar experiences. Such should strengthen your bond with Jehovah and move you to approach him in prayer even more frequently and fervently. Trust that as we daily keep asking, “Where is Jehovah?” he will show us his way.—Isa. 30:21.
How can you find an answer to the question, “Where is Jehovah?” In what ways can you search for his guidance?