Then Yahweh’s word came to me, saying, “You shall not take a wife, neither shall you have sons or daughters, in this place.” For Yahweh says concerning the sons and concerning the daughters who are born in this place, and concerning their mothers who bore them, and concerning their fathers who became their father in this land: “They will die grievous deaths. They will not be lamented, neither will they be buried. They will be as dung on the surface of the ground. They will be consumed by the sword and by famine. Their dead bodies will be food for the birds of the sky and for the animals of the earth.”
I would have to agree that this is not your typical devotional passage, but we are committed to hear what God says to us, and not just what makes us feel good. It probably didn’t feel too good to Jeremiah that he was not to get married or have children, but what God was doing was protecting him from the sorrow that the other Israelis were going to feel. Jeremiah had just prayed against them and God’s judgment was so severe that it mean that Jeremiah would do best to not have any relatives to worry about.
When I read this graphic description of death, I wondered why God would choose to have it written. I believe that God has allowed me to detect a couple of reasons. God knows that when we are told to do something that we have the tendency to ask: “Why?” Notice that Jeremiah doesn’t have to ask. God makes it clear why he shouldn’t marry and have children by describing what would happen to them. That makes it a lot easier for him to bring his desires into alignment with God’s and to understand that God is being merciful not restrictive. Another reason that comes to mind is that God may have wanted to impress upon Jeremiah the seriousness of the coming horror so that when he spoke to the people, it would be obvious to them that Jeremiah really knew something. By making Jeremiah more sober, it would give the people less excuse to not believe his words. This is another sign of God’s mercy and desire for the people to turn from their sin before it is too late.
This passage may not be comforting when you read about the horrible deaths of children, but God’s desire to warn His people through Jeremiah is a sign of His deep desire to give mercy. That is a comforting thing because you and I have accepted His mercy. We can also rest assured that when God denies us of something that would He would normally allow, He has a good reason for it. He may be sparing us from very deep sorrow caused by the sins of those around us.