God's anguish

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‘Man shall not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God’ (Matthew 4:4). Pause. Pray – ask God to feed you now from his Word.

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Bible passage: Jeremiah 4:19–31

19 Oh, my anguish, my anguish!
    I writhe in pain.
Oh, the agony of my heart!
    My heart pounds within me,
    I cannot keep silent.
For I have heard the sound of the trumpet;
    I have heard the battle cry.
20 Disaster follows disaster;
    the whole land lies in ruins.
In an instant my tents are destroyed,
    my shelter in a moment.
21 How long must I see the battle standard
    and hear the sound of the trumpet?

22 “My people are fools;
    they do not know me.
They are senseless children;
    they have no understanding.
They are skilled in doing evil;
    they know not how to do good.”

23 I looked at the earth,
    and it was formless and empty;)
and at the heavens,
    and their light was gone.
24 I looked at the mountains,
    and they were quaking;
    all the hills were swaying.
25 I looked, and there were no people;
    every bird in the sky had flown away.
26 I looked, and the fruitful land was a desert;
    all its towns lay in ruins
    before the Lord, before his fierce anger.

27 This is what the Lord says:

“The whole land will be ruined,
    though I will not destroy it completely.
28 Therefore the earth will mourn
    and the heavens above grow dark,
because I have spoken and will not relent,
    I have decided and will not turn back.”

29 At the sound of horsemen and archers
    every town takes to flight.
Some go into the thickets;
    some climb up among the rocks.
All the towns are deserted;
    no one lives in them.

30 What are you doing, you devastated one?
    Why dress yourself in scarlet
    and put on jewels of gold?
Why highlight your eyes with makeup?
    You adorn yourself in vain.
Your lovers despise you;
    they want to kill you.

31 I hear a cry as of a woman in labor,
    a groan as of one bearing her first child—
the cry of Daughter Zion gasping for breath,
    stretching out her hands and saying,
“Alas! I am fainting;
    my life is given over to murderers.”

New International Version (NIV) Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984 by International Bible Society

Audio Bible passage

The audio version of the passage is taken from the Contemporary English Version (CEV).


Loving judge
How does God see you when you sin? Do you imagine him cold and distant, frowning disapproval from afar? True, God does not take sin lightly – the first half of this chapter (vs 5–18) describes the severe judgement that is coming on Judah because sin is so serious. But the Judge is not indifferent and unfeeling.

In fact, he’s in anguish (v 19)! The judgement he is bringing (v 6b) on the people causes agony to his heart, even though they have brought it on themselves (v 18). Jeremiah is known as ‘the weeping prophet’ because his pronouncements are so often filled with tears, with mourning, with the strongest of feelings.

God cares deeply
But, often, it is difficult to distinguish between which are God’s words and which are Jeremiah’s. And that’s precisely the point: ‘It’s not merely that Jeremiah speaks God’s words; he also feels God’s feelings.’* The intensity of these verses pushes home the point: our sin pierces God’s heart, and bitterly so (v 18).

Isn’t it wonderful to be so loved by God? Our sin is not a small thing, not only because God is infinitely worthy of our worship, but because he cares so deeply for us, and desires our good. Our disobedience breaks his heart.

Angus Moyes


Reflect on the foolishness of sin (v 22), and spend some time confessing your sin to God.

Deeper Bible study

Sometimes one hears or reads someone denouncing the awful behaviour of those in our societies. Not a bad thing, you might think – surely that is exactly what Jeremiah is doing. However, it seems that occasionally – or even, with some, often – the speaker sounds as if they are enjoying their task, revelling in the thought that the people they are denouncing will face judgement. There is not a hint of the deep love and the dreadful pain expressed in this passage. It is not always exactly clear when Jeremiah is expressing his own feelings and when he speaks for God. He knows that God feels the same way that he does – he looks at what is going on, knows that he has to speak of punishment and destruction and the whole situation causes great grief and anguish. The hurt stems from the fact that the people are behaving in this way, ignoring God and his requirements – and also from the thought of what they will have to face because of their behaviour.

It may be that we sense that God is calling us to speak out, denouncing the wrong things and the wrong attitudes that we see around us, in society, in government, in the media, or even in the lives of individual people. However, if the thought of doing such a thing does not cause us anguish – because we care about the people or the communities we are speaking of, we know that God loves them and we know that God himself hurts because of their behaviour – then it is extremely likely that we have mistaken that particular calling. Surely neither arrogant judgementalism nor condemnation, without sharing the love of Jesus, should be hallmarks of the modern prophet.

Mary Evans

Bible in a year

Read the Bible in a year.

1 Kings 1,2

Psalm 55


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  • Song: A Thousand Times (From The Inside Out)
  • Written by: Joel Houston
  • Copyright: Copyright © 2005 Joel Houston/Hillsong Publishing/kingswaysongs.com
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You’re the God of this city
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Written by: Boyd/Bleakley/Comfort/Kernaghan/McCann/Jordan
Copyright © 2006 Bluetree Publishing

  • Rachael Hampton | Wednesday, 16 May 2018

    Yes Thelma, prayer is primarily about relationship. Abiding in Him, and His words abiding in us, Jesus said, is what enables Him to answer our prayers. From that position we will know and feel His heart, as Jeremiah did, and it will cause us anguish over the suffering of our fellow humans, and their impending fate. Lord, may I grow ever closer to Your heart. And may I be ever more concerned with this relationship than with ‘getting my prayers answered.’

  • Angela Munday | Thursday, 17 May 2018

    God looks out into the world and like us, sees the evil and the neglect of His Holy way; a connection has been lost. Jeremiah and Jesus saw the same scene just as we do in this age; tears of sadness are wept by all who care. We hear God calling out to people but His voice goes unheard in a world of noise and clutter. God’s light and love will never dim and He will bring a victorious family together for all eternity to enjoy His company together......love waits....to forgive.

  • Roger Hall | Thursday, 17 May 2018

    Sometimes when thinking forward to the time "when the thoughts of all hearts shall be revealed," there comes to me an awful but enjoyable feeling of Schadenfreude. Then the faces of those who are causing trouble pass before me. Why does it take that for me to realise that I have to replace the self enjoyment with prayer. Also something else, because it is me who must humble himself! But the Lord is so brimming with love and Grace and forgivenesd that he has provided a way: by praying for the very folk by name takes away the thoughts of satisfaction and somehow replaces it with prayers as they parade across my mind.

  • Gilvin Crisifeca | Thursday, 17 May 2018

    I like the wording in KJV of Jn 6:63 It is the spirit that quickeneth; the flesh profiteth nothing: the words that I speak unto you, they are spirit, and they are life. Quicken - to stimulate, activate, inspire. It's so obvious that if we want to hear from the Spirit of God, then we must listen to what God says in His Word. The Spirit (Holy Spirit) and the Word (Jesus - Jn. 1:1) are one. Amen and amen.

  • Lynn Creation | Thursday, 17 May 2018

    In the last 6 weeks that my David has been so ill, I can truly say that the Lord has drawn close to me and I to Him, through the many prayers of His people. It has been a very rocky road, a difficult one to travel, but He has been with me all the way. Along the way He has chosen to answer many prayers in the affirmative, performing miraculous recoveries. He is a great God....The Great God.....who loves us individually. I praise Him.

  • Lynn Creation | Thursday, 17 May 2018

    ......caught by a phone call.....Thank you all for praying. My David has had a brain scan which shows no abnormalities, PTL. It is just going to take a very long time for his brain and body to recover. He seems to have stabilised now and they are thinking of stepping him down from critical care to high dependency rehab. Thank you again for your prayers.

  • Lynn Creation | Thursday, 17 May 2018

    RICHARD. Praying that your op went well, that they have managed to remove all the tumour and that you will make an uneventful recovery.

  • Peter Oliver | Thursday, 17 May 2018

    LYN praising GOD for David Getting better and being with you at this difficult time.As has been said prayer is our dependence on GOD Richard hope you are better as well .My internal scan shows I have a gastric ulcer and hiatus herner started treatment tablets iron pills and diet.

  • Peter Oliver | Thursday, 17 May 2018

    Sorry for spelling mistakes.

  • Eileen Smith | Thursday, 17 May 2018

    Thank you for the update Peter—not pleasant for you- I hope the treatment soon begins to work for you & you start to feel better quickly

  • Ruth Lewis | Thursday, 17 May 2018

    LYNN, thanking and praising our Almighty God for the outcome of David's brain scan. We serve a Mighty God!!! I will continue to pray for him and also you, as he goes through the next stage of the journey. I know you both will feel the presence of God all along the way!!!

  • Jack Russell | Thursday, 17 May 2018

    The anguish and pain Jeremiah feels is not dissimilar as has rightly been said about the sadness Jesus felt as he wept over Jerusalem or indeed the anxiety he felt in Gethemane. "Senseless children", "no understanding" "skilled in doing evil". I keep a file that says if you want to be a great spirit you must be prepared to be mocked, misunderstood and hated. And yes people will behave like petulant children in response to things of God. If we are honest with ourselves, we know that we will have been like that to a greater or lesser degree at times. This is not an easy read and it is a challenge for any one of us facing concern over what we see happening in people we love and serve. For those of us facing opposition. mistreatment and hatred there is the comfort that the reward is great in the kingdom. Praise be to God!

  • David Chipchase | Thursday, 17 May 2018

    Lynn thank you for your update. Pleasing to hear. Peter, praying. My medical report; my symptoms concern my cardiologist but the stress/echo was clear; reassuring. My doc wants to do an angiogram. I am waiting for the appointment.

  • Ruth Lewis | Thursday, 17 May 2018

    I am continuing to pray for you PETER and DAVID!!!

  • Eileen Smith | Thursday, 17 May 2018

    LYNN- yes — definitely PTL re results for David— praying for full recovery.. DAVID- praying for a quick appointment for angiogram with positive results & continued support for you

  • Peter Oliver | Thursday, 17 May 2018

    I would like to thank all wordlivers for yours prayers for my self David and Richard thank you.

  • Barbara Sabin | Thursday, 17 May 2018

    God is faithful and our faithfulness is important to Him. God warned that destruction was certain but the faithful would be spared. God is creator, preserver and ruler. He will preserve those who are faithful to Him. God is committed to us and he wants us to be committed to Him. We are to be disciplined in our faith and grow in grace. Remember God is still on the throne. https://youtu.be/mEDyXlIOrFU

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