Then in my heart it becomes like a burning fire — Jeremiah 19-21

Are you beginning to feel bad for Jeremiah? There’s no doubt that he has a “pretty tough row to hoe” as the saying goes. Today’s reading gives us some insight into the prophet’s heart and mind as he’s going through the prophecies and persecutions that followed. I think it’s important to read and feel Jeremiah’s struggle, because sometimes we are called upon to be Jeremiah’s in our own world. The prophets were not these granite-jawed, angry, iconoclasts without ordinary human sensitivities that we sometimes caricature them as. It’s hard to be rejected, reviled, shunned, made out to be the bad guy, be the guy of whom King Ahab said, “…There is yet one man by whom we may inquire of the LORD, but I hate him, because he does not prophesy good concerning me, but evil. He is Micaiah son of Imlah…” ( 1 Kings 22:8). And Jeremiah is showing signs of the strain.

Jeremiah 19:10, 11 “Then you are to break the jar in the sight of the men who accompany you and say to them, ‘Thus says the LORD of hosts, “Just so will I break this people and this city, even as one breaks a potter’s vessel, which cannot again be repaired; and they will bury in Topheth because there is no other place for burial.'”” — The destruction was going to be a complete shattering — not a crack or a chip or broken into large pieces that might be mended; rather an irreparable shattering. Have you ever watched or perhaps been the child (I was) that received warning upon warning, but disregarded the warnings, until the parent had enough, picked the child up, and went to the “woodshed”? I would often try to make quick amends on the way to the place of my punishment, but it never cut any ice with my mom or dad. Have you ever watched a marriage disintegrate? Warnings passed back and forth between spouses, but pridefully ignored, until one day divorce papers get served and someone gets dumped forever? Heartbreakingly, it was to be like this in Jerusalem. Heartbreakingly, it will be this way on the last day with many.

Jeremiah 20:9 “But if I say, “I will not remember Him Or speak anymore in His name,” Then in my heart it becomes like a burning fire Shut up in my bones; And I am weary of holding it in, And I cannot endure it.” — Jeremiah is saying this after having shattering the pottery for a point (see above) and after being consequently arrested by Pashur the priest to be beaten and put into the stocks (public humiliation). When Jeremiah is released from the stocks, he is ready to quit his calling as a prophet, “O LORD, You have deceived me and I was deceived…I have become a laughingstock all day long…the word of the LORD has resulted in reproach and derision all day long.” But then Jeremiah remembers the urgency of the message, that these warnings are his people’s only hope, and he is, therefore, compelled by his own heart to continue to warn. Jeremiah is between the proverbial “rock and a hard place”. He is weary (to the point of profound depression — 20:14-18) of the contempt he suffers at the hand of God’s deaf people, but he loves them too much to quit. He weeps about their condemnation, he aches over their coming doom, and he cannot but burst out in warnings — really pleadings — with his hard-hearted nation. Do we care as much as Jeremiah? There was a political bumper sticker that used to be popular, but seems to fallen out of popular favor: “If you’re not outraged, you’re not paying attention!” It needs to be applied religiously: If you’re not broken-hearted and feeling the urgency over the lost world, you’re not paying attention to either the spiritual condition of the world around us or God’s words of warning.

Jeremiah 21:8, 9 ““You shall also say to this people, ‘Thus says the LORD, “Behold, I set before you the way of life and the way of death. “He who dwells in this city will die by the sword and by famine and by pestilence; but he who goes out and falls away to the Chaldeans who are besieging you will live, and he will have his own life as booty.” — Here’s a classic example of what God often calls His people to do — swim UPstream, go AGAINST the grain. If you want to preserve your life, leave the safety of the walls of Jerusalem and walk into the captivity of the Babylonians. It sounded like utter folly, like treason, like insanity! But as things turned out, it really was the only way that any citizen of Jerusalem would survive. God still asks us to leave the safety of the wall and walk into what may seem like foolishness, like disloyalty, or even insanity; but in the end, it is always the faithful who survive — and better than survive, triumph.

See you tomorrow, Lord willing.

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About parklinscomb

I'm a minister for the church of Christ in Manchester NH where I've worked since the 1970's. I'm a big fan of my family, archaeology, the Bible, the Lord's church, and Gander Brook Christian Camp.
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