This is how the LORD responds: “If you return to me, I will restore you so you can continue to serve me. If you speak good words rather than worthless ones, you will be my spokesman. You must influence them; do not let them influence you!
This verse comes immediately after Jeremiah presents a complaint to God about the suffering that he endures for being a prophet. He wants his persecutors to be paid back for treating him poorly, but God’s response seems to be pretty strange concerning the circumstances. Jeremiah complains that his suffering comes because he is being faithful as a prophet of God, and he believes that his suffering should cease.
So, God responds by telling Jeremiah to return to him. The Lord has this uncanny ability to see through us and point out things that even we cannot see. In Jeremiah’s case, he mentions how he would sit out of the people’s “merry feasts,” sitting alone because of his “indignation at their sins” (v. 17). From this verse, it seems as though Jeremiah might rather be asking for some of what they’re having rather than a continued blessing from God. He was sick and tired of being left out, not being invited to the party.
The reason this seems to be the case is that God tells Jeremiah that he needs to be the catalyst that inspires people to change. He needs to influence rather than be influenced. So, God sees through Jeremiah’s complaint. He wanted his persecution to end. He was hoping for the temporal rather than the eternal. God pointed that out to Jeremiah and reminded him of the promise that He gave Jeremiah when He first called him to be a prophet; He would never leave Him. Jeremiah would never fall prey to his persecutors though they would be “like an attacking army” (vs. 20). The concession that they’d be like an army lets Jeremiah know that it won’t be easy, but God does tell him that He will not leave him.
Jeremiah lost his sight. In a world of visible, tangible things, it can be an extraordinarily easy thing to miss the point where we start aiming for the temporal rather than the eternal. Even in our eagerness to follow hard after God as Jeremiah was, we can fall into the snare of blurring the lines between the physical and the spiritual. We can become so headstrong that, since a physical or emotional need is not being met, we think God is no longer looking out for us. This is, however, a legitimate, honest place to find ourselves sometimes.
Jeremiah was honest when he felt like God wasn’t being faithful to His promise, and the Father gently pointed out to Jeremiah that it was he who had lost sight. God helped Jeremiah discern the difference between desiring the things that he saw around him and desiring what God had for him.
It is much better to be honest with God when we feel as though He is not there. When we feel like He’s not being faithful, we need to tell Him. It is better to be honest than simply go off and take what we believe should be ours. Jeremiah saw the feast and wanted in, but he did go to God rather than simply crash the party.
If we’re honest with God, He is faithful to correct and forgive us. He is capable of pointing out when our sights have shifted from the eternal to aiming for the temporal. We most certainly are unable to tell the difference most of the time. Like 1 John 1:9, He is faithful and just to point out to us when we are not trusting Him. If we are honest with the way we are feeling, He will not leave us alone in a state of confusion. Instead, He will point us in the direction that leads us to intimacy with Him.