What will you say, when he sets over you as head those whom you have yourself taught to be friends to you?
Won’t sorrows take hold of you, as of a woman in travail?
If you say in your heart,
“Why have these things come on me?”
Your skirts are uncovered because of the greatness of your iniquity,
and your heels suffer violence.
Can the Ethiopian change his skin,
or the leopard his spots?
Then may you also do good,
who are accustomed to do evil.
“Therefore I will scatter them,
as the stubble that passes away,
by the wind of the wilderness.
This is your lot,
the portion measured to you from me,” says Yahweh,
“because you have forgotten me,
and trusted in falsehood.”
Therefore I will also uncover your skirts on your face,
and your shame will appear.
I have seen your abominations, even your adulteries,
and your neighing, the lewdness of your prostitution,
on the hills in the field.
Woe to you, Jerusalem!
You will not be made clean.
How long will it yet be?”
In Old English, there’s a specific word for patience that is used. It’s the word “longsuffering.” That’s probably a better word to use for the kind of patience that God expects of us in this world. I believe that’s what we see God portraying for us in these words.
Israel and Judah had been sinning and sinning for generations. God is outside of time and that’s something that we really don’t quite understand, but I believe He frames Himself for us as One who is in time so that we can understand Him more. In other words, we can understand how God feels a bit better by considering what it would be like for Him to be in time like us, waiting for Israel to quit sinning!
God is both angry and sorrowful as He waits for Israel to change. What God communicates to us is that He knows that they aren’t going to change because it’s in their nature now just like the spots on a leopard. In His righteous wrath, God is going to expose their shame.
It isn’t our place to have wrath against sinners, but it is our place to have longsuffering as we wait for them to either change or be punished by God Himself. In a sense, God wants us to be satisfied and joyful, but in another sense, God wants us to be unsatisfied and sorrowful. Is God being joyful and satisfied in this passage? God is not satisfied with His people living in sin and He’s not happy about it either! There is a time to be sorrowful and Jeremiah was experiencing that. We may have to experience it too as we wait, with God, for a final resolution.