You deceive me, Lord, and I was deceived]; you overpowered me and prevailed.
I am ridiculed all day long; everyone mocks me.
Whenever I speak, I cry out proclaiming violence and destruction.
So the word of the Lord has brought me insult and reproach all day long.
But if I say, “I will not mention his word or speak anymore in his name,”
his word is in my heart like a fire, a fire shut up in my bones.
I am weary of holding it in; indeed, I cannot.
I hear many whispering, “Terror on every side! Denounce him! Let’s denounce him!”
All my friends are waiting for me to slip, saying, “Perhaps he will be deceived; then we will prevail over him and take our revenge on him. ”But the Lord is with me like a mighty warrior; so my persecutors will stumble and not prevail.
They will fail and be thoroughly disgraced; their dishonour will never be forgotten.
Lord Almighty, you who examine the righteous and probe the heart and mind,
let me see your vengeance on them, for to you I have committed my cause. Jeremiah 20.7-12
Jeremiah was given by God a difficult and demanding task. The period of his task is linked with a particular time in history (1.1-3) and (1.4-5) tell us that God chose him, even before he was formed in the womb, to be a prophet to the nations and to the people of Israel in particular.
This was a hard calling as chapters 2-6.3 tell us in some detail that those to whom he was called to preach had committed ‘Covenantal Adultery’ being unfaithful to the God whose people they were and who had loved and cared for them from their beginning as a nation. It was not a period when preaching about their condition would be well received.
In this situation the passage gives us, in a very personal way, an insight into Jeremiah’s thoughts as he sought to be obedient to his heavenly calling and it comes as a challenge to us as we are called to live for Christ in our time in a broken world.
In many respects we live in very similar times. Christians are relatively few in number set against the whole population. Church attendance is in freefall and there is a sad lack of leadership from mainline church leaders who seem to be intent on bringing the church into line with secular culture rather than calling the culture to conform to God’s standards. This means that those who are obedient to their heavenly calling, like Jeremiah, face the same challenges that he did.
In the face of persecution and ridicule the temptation is always to withdraw and keep quiet but he found that if he did this, God’s word became ‘like a fire’ in his heart, which he could not hold in. He was aware of the opposition both verbal and physical but he was more aware that ‘The LORD was with him like a mighty warrior’ so that ultimately his persecutors would ‘stumble and not prevail’.
The culture in which we live needs men and women like Jeremiah. People who are so Christ centred that like the apostles in Acts 4.20 they ‘cannot but speak of what they have seen and heard’.
Let us ask God, to give us and all our Christian brothers and sisters, that fire in our hearts and that confidence in the LORD so that we might be urgent and unafraid in proclaiming Christ as the glorious Saviour and hope for a broken world.