The Observations.net Weblog
Of all the prophets of the Old Testament, there is none into whose heart we see so clearly; whose internal struggles are laid so bare as Jeremiah. He shares his five “Confessions“ which are recorded in Book 1, chapters 11 - 20 of his prophecy. These are his confessions of those things which so deeply troubled him.
Jeremiah was a tender hearted man. He was not someone of whom others would have said, “He should be a hell-fire prophet“ For Jeremiah had trouble with the message of doom he had to deliver.
“Woe is me, my mother,
that thou hast borne me
a man of strife and a man of contention to the whole earth!
I have neither lent on usury,
nor men have lent to me on usury;
[yet] every one of them doth curse me.“ (Jer. 15:10-11)
God responded to Jeremiah‘s lament:
“If thou return,
then will I bring thee again,
[and] thou shalt stand before me:
and if thou take forth the precious from the vile,
thou shalt be as my mouth:“
God was strict, but forgiving towards Jeremiah, his child. And God would forgive Jeremiah many times, until the prophet was fully willing to accept his God-given ministry.
We are told that after Jeremiah‘s outburst, God gave the prophet a command; a command which Jeremiah would obey. But a personal crises for the prophet would ensue.
In chapter 19, God told Jeremiah to break a potter‘s flask before the elders of the people. As he broke the potter‘s flask, he was to give this message:
“Thus saith the LORD of hosts, the God of Israel; Behold, I will bring evil upon this place, the which whosoever heareth, his ears shall tingle. ... And I will make void the counsel of Judah and Jerusalem in this place; and I will cause them to fall by the sword before their enemies, and by the hands of them that seek their lives: and their carcases will I give to be meat for the fowls of the heaven, and for the beasts of the earth. And I will make this city desolate, and an hissing; every one that passeth thereby shall be astonished and hiss because of all the plagues thereof. And I will cause them to eat the flesh of their sons and the flesh of their daughters, and they shall eat every one the flesh of his friend in the siege and straitness, wherewith their enemies, and they that seek their lives, shall straiten them.“
Jeremiah‘s messsage was true, but it inspired vile and ugly hatred for him as a human being. A high priest named Passhur struck Jeremiah and had him placed in stocks before the Temple.
Jeremiah, the tender man, was hurt, angry and humiliated. He cried out to God:
“O LORD, thou hast deceived me, and I was deceived:
thou art stronger than I, and hast prevailed:
I am in derision daily,
every one mocketh me.
For since I spake, I cried out,
I cried violence and spoil;
because the word of the LORD was made a reproach unto me,
and a derision, daily.
Then I said, I will not make mention of him,
nor speak any more in his name.
But [his word] was in mine heart as a burning fire
shut up in my bones,
and I was weary with forbearing,
and I could not [stay].“
“Cursed [be] the day wherein I was born:
let not the day wherein my mother bare me be blessed.
Cursed [be] the man
who brought tidings to my father, saying,
A man child is born unto thee;
making him very glad.
And let that man be as the cities
which the LORD overthrew, and repented not:
and let him hear the cry in the morning,
and the shouting at noontide;
Because he slew me not from the womb;
or that my mother might have been my grave,
and her womb [to be] always great [with me].
Wherefore came I forth out of the womb to see labour and sorrow,
that my days should be consumed with shame?“
Jeremiah rages at God. He is tired of being mocked and ridiculed for his message of doom. He believes that God has not protected him as promised, and, thus, God has deceived him. He basically says that he tried to quit being a prophet. However, the prophetic message burned inside him and would not let him be still.
It is comforting to see God‘s untiring forgiveness towards Jeremiah. Some of his confessions approach what some would call blasphemy. Yet, God does not turn away, and is quick to restore him, not once, but several times. Maybe God‘s ready forgiveness made an indelible impression on Jeremiah. Because after chapter 20, there are no more confessions. Jeremiah stays the course no matter how difficult.
And life truly does become nothing but more difficult for Jeremiah. Yet, despite attempts on his life, imprisonment, being thrown down into a muddy cistern to die, being carried away against his will to Egypt, despite being required to live a lonely life with no wife or children, he speaks the message of God boldly without wavering. Jeremiah truly emerges as one of the most compelling men of the Old Testament.
And as our world slides deeper into depravity, we may have to follow in the footsteps of Jeremiah. God may call on us to deliver an unpopular message to an unrepentant world. And, if so, let us respond with the courage and heart of the great Jeremiah.
* posted by Robert on Mon 09/08/03