My blog header is from Rembrandt’s painting Jeremiah Weeping over the Destruction of Jerusalem (the full image appears below). I’m no art critic, but I have always been a bit captivated by this particular painting. The prophet’s expression captures something of the despair expressed in the Book of Lamentations. In the background the city is burning and in the distance there is the faint figure of a man holding clenched fists up to his eyes. This is Zedekiah, the last king of Judah, whose eyes were put out by Nebuchadnezzar. The domed building in the background is probably Solomon’s Temple. Jeremiah’s arm is resting on a book which has the inscription “Bibel” on the edge of the pages (thought to be a later addition to the painting).
There are pros and cons to the artistic depiction of biblical scenes and figures. Perhaps it is one way of interpreting a biblical text, but a painter no less than a preacher runs the risk of misinterpretation. That said, I think Rembrandt’s impression of Jeremiah is a powerful commentary on one moment of biblical history and one prophet’s painful ministry.
A beautifully framed print of this painting (a gift from my mother) hangs in my office directly in front of my desk where I see it whenever I look up. It is a melancholy image, yet it reminds me of Jeremiah’s prophecy in which God reaffirmed His grace and covenant faithfulness to His people while Jerusalem was in ruins: “Through the Lord’s mercies we are not consumed, because His compassions fail not. They are new every morning. Great is Your faithfulness!” (Lamentations 3:22, 23).