Question: "Why is Jeremiah known as the weeping prophet?"
Answer: Jeremiah was chosen by God before birth to be a prophet to the nation of Judah (Jeremiah 1:4–50). He spoke the words of the Lord during the reigns of Kings Josiah (2 Chronicles 36:1), Jehoiakim (2 Chronicles 36:5), and Zedekiah (2 Kings 24:18–19). Jeremiah grieved over the wickedness of his people and the impending judgment the nation’s sins had provoked. Jeremiah’s warnings went mostly unheeded, and he responded to Judah’s rebellion with tears of mourning (Jeremiah 13:17). Jeremiah has been dubbed “the weeping prophet” because of the often gloomy nature of his message and the grief he expressed for his people.
God’s plan for Jeremiah called for loneliness and suffering, but the Lord was never far from him (Jeremiah 1:7–8). Because of the impending judgment on Judah, God forbade Jeremiah to marry or have children (Jeremiah 16:2). While that prohibition may have increased the prophet’s loneliness for a time, it was also a blessing as he did not have to watch his family torn from him when the Babylonians invaded Judah and destroyed Jerusalem (Jeremiah 16:3–4).
Jeremiah the weeping prophet stood alone declaring God’s words while his beloved nation continued to reject the path of life. That ongoing rejection and personal isolation cost him greatly, as many in ministry understand. Those who heed God’s call on their lives may suffer many abuses from an ungodly world. A. W. Tozer wrote, “Always remember: you cannot carry a cross in company. Though a man were surrounded by a vast crowd, his cross is his alone and his carrying of it marks him as a man apart” (Man—The Dwelling Place of God).
Jeremiah’s cross to bear was obedience to his role as Judah’s prophet, and he bore it with courage as the weeping prophet. Many today who’ve been called by God are coming to understand Jeremiah’s position. In our tumultuous world, our voices often seem lost in the wind. Some Christians respond to the cultural insanity with angry tirades and name-calling that do nothing to further the cause of Christ. But many weep, as Jeremiah did, for the fate of people who have been deceived by the evil one (see Psalm 119:136). In his sorrow, Jeremiah the weeping prophet revealed the heart of God. The Lord Jesus also wept over those upon whom judgment was coming: “As he approached Jerusalem and saw the city, he wept over it and said, ‘If you, even you, had only known on this day what would bring you peace—but now it is hidden from your eyes’” (Luke 19:41–42). It should comfort us to know that, when we weep for the fate of lost people, God Himself joins us (Jeremiah 9:1, 10). When Jeremiah wept over Judah’s rebellion, He was not alone. The Lord wept with Him.
There came a day when the Lord called a halt to the mourning over Judah, and Jeremiah the weeping prophet delivered a message of hope: “This is what the Lord says: ‘Restrain your voice from weeping and your eyes from tears, for your work will be rewarded,’ declares the Lord. ‘They will return from the land of the enemy. So there is hope for your descendants’” (Jeremiah 31:16–17).
The Lord never leaves His people hopeless. In judgment there is mercy. Even in our rebellion, God offers an open door (Revelation 3:8). There is a season for everything, including weeping (Ecclesiastes 3:1–8). Though we may weep now, a day will come for God’s people when He will “wipe away every tear from their eyes” (Revelation 7:17; cf. 21:4). Although Jeremiah was a weeping prophet during his faithful ministry on earth, he is now comforted for eternity. He has discovered, as we will, too, that “weeping may endure for a night, but joy comes in the morning” (Psalm 30:5).