Prayer That Asks, “God, Don’t You See What Is Happening?”

Sometimes leaders who pray may want to ask, “Where are you, God? Why do you tolerate injustice?” Jeremiah, proclaiming that God would punish Israel by means of pagan nations, encountered bitter opposition. Even his own relatives conspired against him, and almost ambushed him. Jeremiah says, “I had been led like a gentle lamb to the slaughter” (Jeremiah 11:19). Jeremiah appealed to God’s love for justice when he prayed a call for lethal fire, “But, O Lord Almighty, you who judge righteously and test the heart and mind, let me see your vengeance upon them, for to you I have committed my cause” (Jer. 11:20).

This prayer and a longer one in the next chapter inspire as they reveal the prophet’s brutally honest fears and desires: Jeremiah trusts God to deliver him; he knows God’s integrity. Still, the prevalence of evil behavior in his society haunts him. The impact of this wickedness, he observes, even damages the environment. He prays,

“You are always righteous, O Lord, when I bring a case before you. Yet I would speak with you about your justice: Why does the way of the wicked prosper? Why do all the faithless live at ease? You have planted them, and they have taken root; they grow and bear fruit. You are always on their lips but far from their hearts. Yet you know me, O Lord; you see me and test my thoughts about you. Drag them off like sheep to be butchered! Set them apart for the day of slaughter! How long will the land lie parched and the grass in every field be withered? Because those who live in it are wicked, the animals and birds have perished. Moreover, the people are saying , ‘He will not see what happens to us'”(Jeremiah 12:1-4).

Jeremiah laments the prosperity of the wicked; he uses agricultural metaphors to implicate God in their oppression of the land: “You have planted them, and they have taken root; they grow and bear fruit. He still recognizes God’s omniscience and that God desires that right prevail. The prophet also notes that the wicked profess faith in God despite their actions, foreshadowing Jesus’ lament in Luke 6:46: “Why do call me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ and do not what I say?” Confession of faith in God without confirming actions fails to satisfy in both Old and New Testaments. James, the brother of Jesus, asserts that “faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead” (James 2: 17). Jeremiah accuses, “You are always on their lips but far from their hearts.” Jeremiah profoundly realizes his own accountability to God; God tests his thoughts! He pleads for God to hold the wicked accountable to the same extent. The prophet who was “like a gentle lamb led to the slaughter” argues that God should “drag them off like sheep to be butchered! Set them apart for the day of slaughter!” Their disregard for God’s will has had an impact on the land; even birds and animals have died as a consequence. The arrogance of their sin despite professed faith emerges in their assertion, “He will not see what happens to us!”

Jeremiah struggled to reconcile widespread hypocrisy in a supposedly believing culture with the justice of God. He witnessed damage caused by unthinking rebels against God. The more he proclaimed God’s will, the more pain he experienced. At the beginning of Jeremiah’s ministry, God had promised that he would be with him. In this prayer, Jeremiah voices how hard it can be to trust God’s promises. He wrestled with his doubts; he pleaded for God to vindicate him. Other prayers of Jeremiah reveal his love for his people even as he warns them. These prayers in chapters 11 and 12 unveil his fear and doubt, but also his confidence that in the end, God will be faithful to his values. We too may question why God tolerates evil in our own society. Like Jeremiah, let us pray with conviction and commit our cause to God.

About Michael Summers

Michael Waymon Summers has preached in twenty-seven of the United States as well as seven other countries. Michael earned a Master of Theology degree. He also has done graduate work in international studies. Michael likes to run, loves to sing, and reads voraciously.
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7 Responses to Prayer That Asks, “God, Don’t You See What Is Happening?”

  1. There were numerous things I wanted to say in comment to this post but can’t seem to fit them into a coherent sentence today. So, this will have to suffice: Thanks for this excellent post. It has spurred me to study Jeremiah more and has made my day better.

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  6. My goodness, this is a powerful post. I spent years wondering where God was in the midst of the pain I suffered as a child. For years God couldn’t show me because i wasn’t strong enough to receive His answer. As I began to know God and trust in His Sovereign love and saw Him as the loving Father, I realized that my problem with where was God in my past was based on expectations. I wanted God to act a certain way – understandable – I wanted Him to stop my father from abusing me. God didn’t. But, as I’m writing my memoir, God is showing me that He was there – not liking what my parents did to me, but He was my imaginary mother and father who gave me comfort after the abuse. He was in the “nots”, what did not happen – I did not get pregnant, did not die, did not get a sexually transmitted disease even though my father slept around, did not go insane. He was there, just not like I expected Him to be. Since I’ve been healed from my past, God has shown Himself strong. He has restored all that the locusts ate. He has given me a wonderful family and husband. The truth is, we live in a fallen world, and we can’t expect that God will protect us from all hurt. We can TRUST that HE will be with us as we walk through the hurt. Thanks for a great post.

  7. I’m glad, Heather, that this post has encouraged you and that you have experienced the recovery and joy in relationships with husband and children that you have.

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