Pentecost 3 (Proper 7), June 21, 2020

The Praise of a Trapped Prophet

Text: Jeremiah 20:7–13

  • Dad – “Sometimes I think I should have been something other than a Pastor but I can’t imagine doing anything else”
  • Studied to be an architect
  • Was asked to rise the ladder at Brink’s
  • Successful Marine during Korea
  • Even was offered shares in McDonald’s stock
  • He had choices throughout his life – I must preach!

“Jeremiah’s life was not working out as he expected. Life started well for the prophet. He was born during the reign of one of Judah’s good kings, Josiah. He came from a priestly family and probably began his work as a prophet at about eighteen years old. That was unusually young. Most men in Judah weren’t even allowed to comment on the Scriptures until they were thirty. And the Lord had given him incredible gifts. God made Jeremiah tough. The Lord described him as a wall of bronze (1:18; 15:20). God spoke directly to him. He made Jeremiah wise and insightful and passionate. And all of that made him very unpopular. Jeremiah’s family and friends abandoned him, and he was alone in the world. His wisdom made it impossible for him even to enjoy simple amusements because he saw the encroaching doom. He lived in evil times and the last years of the Kingdom of Judah. What may have been worst of all is that all the impending pain and sorrow was utterly avoidable. But no one would listen. False prophets assured the people that God was a supporter of their sin and Jeremiah was just a bitter conservative. The people had abandoned the Lord and turned power and money and pleasure into their gods. They had claimed to know the true God, but they worshiped false gods and demanded that the church and prophet change God’s Word and declare them righteous.”

V 7: 

  • “You have deceived me, and I was deceived.” The verb pth more likely means “to entice” or “to persuade.” 
  • This word often bears the connotation of deception or seduction. 
  • Regardless of the rendering, the prophet is experiencing a reality different from the one he imagined. 
  • Speaking the truth has made him a mockery.

Vv 8

  • “Word of the Lord.” 
  • In Jeremiah, the Word is not merely a message communicating certain information; rather, the Word is a person who comes to the prophet, counsels him, and performs his will (cf. Jer 1:4, 11; 2:1; 7:1). 
  • The personal character of the Word is foundational for the New Testament description of Jesus as the divine Logos (Jn 1:1, 14). 
  • It is the Word of the Lord living and speaking in Jeremiah that is the source of his rejection and persecution.

Vv 9: 

  •  “A burning fire shut up in my bones.” 
  • The prophet must deliver God’s message. St. Paul speaks similarly in 1 Cor 9:16.
  • The prophetic office is not a career choice for Jeremiah; it is not external to Jeremiah’s person so that he can speak at will. 
  • Jeremiah has been created by God to be a prophet (Jer 1:5). Thus, Jeremiah must speak in the same way that he must breathe. 
  • The prophetic identity resides at the very depth of his being. 
  1. V 10:
  • “Overcome.” 
  • This is the key word that binds the passage together. 
  • In v 7, God prevails over Jeremiah so that the prophet admits his own weakness. 
  • In v 9, Jeremiah confesses that although he tried to remain silent, he could not prevail against God’s Word. 
  • It is Jeremiah’s weakness that inspires his enemies to think that they can prevail against him (v 10). 
  • However, in v 11, Jeremiah’s weakness in relation to the Word of the Lord is seen to be an invincible strength. 
  • Because the Word is with Jeremiah, the prophet’s enemies will not prevail against him.

V 11: 

  • Two names for God are used in this verse. 
  • Yahweh, the Lord, is the name by which he gives most of the messianic promises of the Old Testament. 
  • “Dread warrior.” This text is the only place where the Lord is described in this manner. However, it almost certainly has allusions to the exodus account: in Ex 15:3, God is described as “a man of war.” 

V 12: 

  • “Committed my cause.” 
  • Jeremiah’s reluctant surrender in v 9 is transformed into a bold voluntary commending of himself into the hands of God. 
  • Jeremiah glories in his own weakness, that is, his reliance upon the Word. 
  • This weakness is the source of his victory and his hope (Lk 23:46).

V 13: 

  • The imperatives to sing to and praise the Lord are followed by a reason for this praise, even while Jeremiah is surrounded by mockers. 
  • The Lord delivers the needy, the poor: 
  • Another way to say it is that the Lord delivers those who cannot save themselves.
  • Stress from persecution for the Gospel’s sake can easily cause heartburn (vv 7–8).
  • Jeremiah’s heart is burning with the desire to proclaim God’s truth, even when it brings persecution (v 9). 
  • God gave Jeremiah harsh words of condemnation as well as words of future hope. 
  • His love for God’s Word and people compelled him to carry on. 
  • Even when God disciplined his people, it was out of love and concern for their salvation.
  • The verses preceding our text (Jer 20:1–6) are a vivid portrayal of the suffering that may come to God’s faithful people precisely because they are faithful. 
  • Hence the believer dare not base his faith on what is visible, on the appearance of success or failure, or on the evaluations of others. 
  • It would be far easier to keep quiet and keep your head down in these times.
  • The faithful need to remember that the only verdict that counts is the one that will come at the end of time—the appraisal issued by the One who has power over both body and soul, heaven and hell (Gospel Lesson).
  • How does someone hold to God’s Word in times like this? 
  • The first step is to take Jeremiah’s experience seriously. 
  • Even though he felt like it, he did not stop proclaiming God’s truth. 
  • God did not leave his people, his Church, here on earth to fit in with the multitudes. 
  • He speaks a different word than they do—a higher, ancient, eternal word that will always prove right. 
  • It’s right not only because it’s true but because its purpose is to save the world from its folly. 
  • If you love your children, spouse, friends, parents, and even your enemies, you should want them to hear and know this truth.
  • The Lord loves his children, and that’s why this word has been proclaimed in every generation. He will not let it die. He will not let it go unheard. He will not allow it to return to him empty without accomplishing the purpose for which it is sent.