“Doom, despair and agony on me…If I had no bad luck, I’d have no luck at all…”
This is the message sung by the actor/singers of Hee Haw, televised many years ago. It was sung at least once each show with a “kick” at the end. We laugh, but how many times do we come to the end of our ropes feeling gloomy and doomy when we have had enough “bad luck” happening to us or we are living the consequences of our behaviors?
We hear you, Jeremiah! We hear your weeping and weariness. We also know you will finish the work God began in you. Yes, Jeremiah is ready to give up but the “fire of the message” cannot be put out within him. “All I get for my God-warnings are insults and contempt. But if I say, “Forget it! No more God-Messages from me!” The words are fire in my belly, a burning in my bones.
I love that about this “weeping prophet”, Jeremiah. He is honest but will not give up.
Jeremiah 20, The Message
Life’s Been Nothing but Trouble and Tears
1-5 The priest Pashur son of Immer was the senior priest in God’s Temple. He heard Jeremiah preach this sermon. He whipped Jeremiah the prophet and put him in the stocks at the Upper Benjamin Gate of God’s Temple. The next day Pashur came and let him go. Jeremiah told him, “God has a new name for you: not Pashur but Danger-Everywhere, because God says, ‘You’re a danger to yourself and everyone around you. All your friends are going to get killed in battle while you stand there and watch. What’s more, I’m turning all of Judah over to the king of Babylon to do whatever he likes with them—haul them off into exile, kill them at whim. Everything worth anything in this city, property and possessions along with everything in the royal treasury—I’m handing it all over to the enemy. They’ll rummage through it and take what they want back to Babylon.
6 “‘And you, Pashur, you and everyone in your family will be taken prisoner into exile—that’s right, exile in Babylon. You’ll die and be buried there, you and all your cronies to whom you preached your lies.’”
* * *
7-10 You pushed me into this, God, and I let you do it.
You were too much for me.
And now I’m a public joke.
They all poke fun at me.
Every time I open my mouth
I’m shouting, “Murder!” or “Rape!”
And all I get for my God-warnings
are insults and contempt.
But if I say, “Forget it!
No more God-Messages from me!”
The words are fire in my belly,
a burning in my bones.
I’m worn out trying to hold it in.
I can’t do it any longer!
Then I hear whispering behind my back:
“There goes old ‘Danger-Everywhere.’ Shut him up! Report him!”
Old friends watch, hoping I’ll fall flat on my face:
“One misstep and we’ll have him. We’ll get rid of him for good!”
11 But God, a most fierce warrior, is at my side.
Those who are after me will be sent sprawling—
Slapstick buffoons falling all over themselves,
a spectacle of humiliation no one will ever forget.
12 Oh, God-of-the-Angel-Armies, no one fools you.
You see through everyone, everything.
I want to see you pay them back for what they’ve done.
I rest my case with you.
13 Sing to God! All praise to God!
He saves the weak from the grip of the wicked.
* * *
14-18 Curse the day
I was born!
The day my mother bore me—
a curse on it, I say!
And curse the man who delivered
the news to my father:
“You’ve got a new baby—a boy baby!”
(How happy it made him.)
Let that birth notice be blacked out,
deleted from the records,
And the man who brought it haunted to his death
with the bad news he brought.
He should have killed me before I was born,
with that womb as my tomb,
My mother pregnant for the rest of her life
with a baby dead in her womb.
Why, oh why, did I ever leave that womb?
Life’s been nothing but trouble and tears,
and what’s coming is more of the same.
WHAT DO WE LEARN—HOW DO WE RESPOND?
What before had been threats now became a reality. Pashhur, son of Immer, assistant to the high priest and chief security officer for the temple, didn’t like what Jeremiah was saying; therefore, he had Jeremiah arrested, beaten, and put into the stocks until the next day. The stocks were located at a prominent place in the temple area, in order to add shame to pain. Spending all night with his body bent and twisted would have been terribly uncomfortable, and adding the pain of the beating, we can imagine how Jeremiah must have felt.
This is the last of Jeremiah’s recorded “doom, despair and agony on me” laments, a human blending of grief and joy, prayer and despair, praise and perplexity. When we remember the sensitive nature of this man, we aren’t surprised that he would be on the mountaintop one minute and in the deepest valley the next.
Jeremiah, however, lived above his moods and did the will of God regardless of how he felt. Can we say that about our own lives of service to God and for God? How honest are we when we pray to God about our current situation? God sees our hearts. God is okay with honesty, if fact, delights in it. God looks for honest hearts with “fire in the bones” to deliver his message of truth through to the world. Are we that person?
Growing in the going. God had warned His servant that the demands of ministry would increase and he would have to grow in order to keep going. What Jeremiah’s ministry was doing for the nation was important, but even more important was what Jeremiah’s ministry was doing for Jeremiah. As we serve the Lord, our capacity for ministry should increase and enable us to do much more than we ever thought we could do.
Faith doesn’t ignore problems; it faces them honestly and seeks God’s help in solving them.
Paul’s prayer message to the church at Ephesus is my prayer thought this morning: “God can do anything, you know—far more than you could ever imagine or guess or request in your wildest dreams! He does it not by pushing us around but by working within us, his Spirit deeply and gently within us. Glory to God in the church! Glory to God in the Messiah, in Jesus! Glory down all the generations! Glory through all millennia! Oh, yes!”
Have it your way, Lord. To you be the glory!
In Jesus Name, Amen