In chapters 11 – 20, there are six specific “complaints” (sometimes called ‘confessions’ though they are not really confessions) Jeremiah brings against God. You can find the first two in 11:18-20 and 12:1-6. The third one is here in chapter 15 (verses 5 – 21 – note the other three in 17:14-18; 18:18-23; and 20:7-18).
This third complain reminds me of when I was a child and reached an impasse in an argument with my parents. I’d begin “But . . .” only to be cut off with “don’t talk back.”
Jeremiah objects that while God may be just in disciplining Israel, Jeremiah himself has also suffered. It isn’t fair. After all, at least in Jeremiah’s eyes, Jeremiah is innocent. He accepted God’s word and delivered it to others. He didn’t keep company with party-goers. In fact, his determination to righteousness pretty well cut him off from his community and made him a loner. And yet, his own pain is unending, his wounds incurable.
God tells him, in essence, “Don’t talk back Jeremiah, you’re not all that good. You too need to shape up” (vs. 19).
Jeremiah isn’t the first person to “talk back” to God (remember Job? Moses? David?). Nor is he the first unrighteous person to do so. And God doesn’t always rebuke a complainer. We are a created people, mortal and weak. We struggle and fail and complain and God understands. He loves us enough to listen to us and sympathize – and sometimes act in our behalf. But let no one misunderstand: though David might have demanded God deal with him according to David’s righteousness (see Psalm 7:8) and Job asked to go “toe to toe” (13:15) with God, neither David nor Job nor we are really righteous. From time to time, like children, even though the children of God, we must be reminded of our place. God is not a man. And man is not God.