Meet Jeremiah; the seemingly unhinged prophet – Friday, 5th week in Lent – Jeremiah 20:10-13/ John 10:31-42

Meet Jeremiah; the seemingly unhinged prophet – Friday, 5th week in Lent – Jeremiah 20:10-13/ John 10:31-42

The text of today can be divided into three movements. The attack on the Lord’s faithful (20:10), the protection of the Lord’s faithful (20:11), and the vindication of the Lord’s faithful (20:12-13).

Jeremiah did not want this job, God forced it upon him. In the preceding text, Jeremiah tells the Lord in no uncertain terms that God ‘enticed’ him (some translations have the word seduced) and he was ‘overpowered’ into taking this job. Far from the ‘honour’ that he thought the job of a prophet would bring, he finds himself a ‘laughingstock’ a man who is ‘mocked,’ his voice disregarded and so he has to ‘shout his prophecy’ but worst of all, his very words that should have struck fear are used against him.

Jeremiah wanted to quit. Chapter 20:9 tells us that he had enough. He wanted to give in his resignation but God had overpowered his heart. “If I say I will not mention him or speak his name or speak any more in his name, then within me is something like a burning fire shut up in my bones.”

The attack on the Lord’s faithful 20:10

The text of today tells us the hate that Jeremiah experienced from the people and even from the priest Pashur (20:1) who struck him and put him in stocks. His ‘close friends’ (verse 10) watch and wait for him to stumble. Others think they can make Jeremiah change his doomsday prophecy by ‘enticing’ him and then once he has changed his message they will destroy the messenger.

The protection of the Lord’s faithful 20:11

Our faith in the protection of God does not come from theoretical knowledge. Those who have trusted in the Lord have seen the Lord come through for them. Jeremiah has experienced hate and isolation because he brings the message of God but he also expresses the sure hope that God will not desert him. Echoing the words of Psalm 22, he says, “But the Lord is with me” and he is my undefeated champion.

 Interestingly the defeat of the enemy comes not because God has made a promise to Jeremiah but because Jeremiah lived the promise of God. Jeremiah says, “The Lord is with me like a dread warrior; THEREFORE, my persecutors will stumble.” Jeremiah is confident of the promises of God and even more predicts accurately what will happen to his enemies. He uses five deadly words that describe the Babylonian captivity; his enemies stumble, they did not prevail, they are greatly shamed, they did not succeed and their eternal dishonour will not be forgotten.

The vindication of the Lord’s faithful 20:12-13.

The Lord’s faithful don’t get free passes. Jeremiah asserts that God has tested their hearts and minds. If you call down blue murder on one who has hurt you, don’t be surprised if God does not come through for you. Your heart and mind have also been tested (verse 12) God does not come through for you because you bandy the name ‘Christian’ on your t-shirt, or because you wear a cross around your neck or make an occasional offering to St Anthony.  God sees the heart and the mind, so get that fixed while you wish your neighbour to be fixed.

Those who are pure of heart (Matthew 5:8) see the will of God and allow God to do what he thinks best. Jeremiah asserts that truth. He seeks God’s vindication and may even come across as vengeful when he says, “Let me see your retribution upon them.” However, he does not take retribution into his own hands; “for to YOU I have committed my cause.” Let God decide the time, the place and the measure of his protection for you.

Is it all that easy? Just three movements? Read the next few verses, and Jeremiah is back to doubting God’s presence. It’s the fourth movement; ‘the fall of the Lord’s faithful.’ Take consolation from the prophets. These holy men struggled with faith as much as you and I do.

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