Thursday, June 22, 2017

The human Jeremiah

Jeremiah by Rembrandt
Jeremiah by Rembrandt
TODAY'S SPECIAL: Jeremiah 20:7-18

TO CHEW ON: "Then I said, 'I will not make mention of Him,
Nor speak anymore in His name!'
But His word was in my heart like a burning fire
Shut up in my bones; I was weary of holding it back
And I could not." Jeremiah 20:9

Poor Jeremiah—he is not a happy prophet. In our reading today we see the human heart of this mouthpiece of God.

Putting his lament in context, the early verses of Jeremiah 20 describe how Pashur the priest and governor reacts to a previous negative prophecy. He puts Jeremiah in stocks in a gate near the temple. It sounds public and humiliating.

Jeremiah is released the next day, unbowed. He prophecies a future of Babylonian captivity on not only the nation but specifically on Pashur and his household. I'm sure that goes over well! And then he comes out with his complaint to God.

"You induced me, and I was persuaded," he says. But the result is that he becomes "A reproach and derision."

He decides to shut up—not speak God's prophecies any more. But they burn inside him; he can't keep silent. So he speaks again, enduring more of the same, feeling egged on and betrayed by "All my acquaintances." Family and friends too? It sounds like it.

The curious part of his monologue is the section where he breaks into sublime praise (Jeremiah 20:11-13). It's almost as if, in the middle of his rant, he gets a glimpse of reality:
"But the Lord is with me as a Mighty Awesome One.
Therefore my persecutors will stumble and not prevail…"

Alas, he doesn't stay there but slips even deeper into depression, wishing he'd never been born (Jeremiah 20:14-18).

Jeremiah's honesty here can instruct us:

- Even great prophets have a human side. Jeremiah longed to be accepted and liked, not unlike most of us. Maybe we need to remind ourselves of him when we're tempted to criticize our teachers, pastors and "prophets."

- Jeremiah didn't keep quenching the Holy Spirit
within him. Under the Spirit's compulsion he kept speaking, despite how his listeners responded or didn't. Let's not let the negative reaction to the gospel in our time silence us either.

- When he looked at the big eternal picture his tune changed to praise
"Sing to the Lord! Praise the Lord!
For He has delivered the life of the poor
From the hand of evildoers" - Jeremiah 20:11.
The same can be true for us.

- But he allowed himself to slip back into the dumps. I wish he had kept his focus on God—that he had ended with verse 13 (Jeremiah 20:13) instead of verse 18 (Jeremiah 20:18).

Jeremiah's slip-slide into gloom reminds me of something Joyce Meyer teaches: "We have to purposely choose right thinking. After we have finally decided to be like-minded with God, then we will need to choose and continue to choose right thoughts" - Joyce Meyer, Battlefield of the Mind, p. 26).

Dear God, thank You for using flawed human instruments like Jeremiah. Remind me of him and his humanness when I'm tempted to criticize the pastors and prophets in my life. Help me to overcome depressing thoughts with thoughts of the eternal truths of Your word. Amen.

Unless otherwise noted all Scripture quotations are taken from the New King James Version®. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

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