In today’s lesson, Jeremiah is put into prison and cries out to God.
Jeremiah Chapter 20
Lessons from the text
Why Do Sinners Persecute?
Sinners go to great lengths to silence men and women of God. They try to humiliate, insult, and threaten true believers out of their faith. Why go through all of that effort? If they do not like what the preacher says, why not just leave and never step foot into church again? If they don’t like the one co-worker who won’t cuss and participate in dirty jokes on the job, why not leave the person out of the loop and avoid that person in conversation?
It drives sinners crazy to see someone righteous in their midsts.
A sinner believes that they are who they are because no one is strong enough to be righteous. No one can put up with all the hardships of life and keep an “innocent faith.” Sooner or later, everyone fails and realizes they are just trash.
A true believer is a threat to this way of thinking. Someone who has made mistakes and yet clings to a belief of righteousness only makes a sinner aware that he or she has chosen to give up on being righteous. Sinners allow their circumstances to overpower them instead of overpowering their situations. Can I choose into what family I am born? No. But I can choose whether or not I will treat them with respect and dignity.
Can I change if I am homeless and no one will give me an opportunity to work despite my efforts? No. But I can maintain faith in a reward of comfort in the life to come.
The point is, sinners have quit. They give up on life and decide they might as well live in darkness and sin because they can not live up to the expectations of righteousness. What a tragedy. No one can live up to the expectation of righteousness. At some point, all of us have lied, stolen, or wished hurt on another human being. That is the meaning of Romans 3:23. Yet what separates the righteous from the sinner is that the righteous will take responsibility for their shortcomings, confess them to God, and ask for forgiveness. Then, through the grace of God, believers can continue to grow more and more Christ-like, shrinking their faults little by little until they become invisible compared to the presence of God in their lives.
When Pashur sees Jeremiah beaten, humiliated, and yet still determined to preach God’s word, he is reminded that there is a better way to life; Pashur could have chosen the difficult path of responsibility and righteousness. Praise God that we can be a witness to the lost just by clinging to the faithfulness of Christ, refusing to give up our faith no matter how we are ridiculed or threatened!
Verse by Verse Commentary
1-2 Pashur is the son of a priest and governor over the house of Lord. He is in charge of all the affairs of the priests. In essence, he rules over the priests, musicians, teachers, scribes, and prophets. To have a prophet speaking things contrary to the blessings of God, one lone prophet contradicting the words of all the other prophets, is an insult and threat to him.
Pashur intends to teach Jeremiah to be obedient to the current authorities instead of prophesying against them; sinners would rather convert or mock a person rather than dispose of that person. If Pashur had intended true harm to Jeremiah, he would have brought him into a court instead of humiliating him for one day.
3-4 Upon his release, Jeremiah immediately prophesies against Pashur. The governor’s attempts to dissuade Jeremiah of preaching has failed. Magormissabib means “terror on every side.” Jeremiah explains the prophetic nature of the name by predicting that Pashur will be horrified by himself and everyone around him. This will come to pass when Jeremiah’s words are fulfilled, proving that Pashur is prophesying falsely and, by fighting against Jeremiah, is fighting against God.
5 Jeremiah reiterates the message he has been preaching: destruction is coming to Jerusalem by Babylon for the sins of the people.
6 Part of Pashur’s judgment is to see and experience the very thing that he has denied is of God; namely, Jeremiah’s prophecy of the captivity of the Jews. Noteworthy is that while God has promised restoration for the Jews (Isa. 44:24-28), Pashur is intentionally excluded from that particular prophecy for he will die in Babylon.
7-10 After freed from the stock, Jeremiah cries out to God in private. He showed a strong face to Pashur, but inwardly he is torn apart. The believer is entitled to cry out to God over the pain of humiliation and persecution, but the believer is never to show a lack of faith in the eyes of others.
Jeremiah’s words do not suggests that he is rejecting the Lord. To the contrary, the tone implies broken submission to the will of God. Jeremiah tried to stop preaching, but the impulse was too strong to suppress. The righteousness implanted in his soul cannot be silenced. The phrase “thou hast decided me” is rightly interpreted as Jeremiah yielding to the fact that he is completely taken over by the will of God.
Jeremiah, perhaps because of his youth, imagined serving God would look different than how events in his life have unfolded; therefore, he feels “deceived” even though he knows all along that God is stronger, wiser, and more righteous than he and that God’s words will prevail over the mocking of his peers.
11-18 Jeremiah begins to praise God. A wise response to persecution is to express one’s feelings yet override those feelings with the truth of God’s glory, sovereignty, and victory over all wickedness.
Jeremiah feels that his life should have been cursed. Rejected by his family, friends, and the authorities, he incorrectly views himself as having been better off if he had never been born. Jeremiah never looses faith in God; he merely feels so overwhelmed with shame that he wishes he had never been born and did not have to suffer through such intense rejection.
As he said earlier, he has prayed and prayed for the people, trying to lead them to righteousness because he cares about them, and in return they only ridicule and imprison him (Jer. 18:19-20).
Jeremiah’s pain has made his life seem unbearable in his eyes, yet a righteous indignation still spurs him on, making him wish for the wicked to be destroyed. All those in whom a spirit of righteousness live have an intense hatred of sin. They therefore pray for its removal from existence.
Noteworthy is that God does not answer Jeremiah’s prayer. God knows that what he is experiencing is a temporary emotion that will pass. Such is why God does not address Jeremiah’s sorrow but instead answers Him by continuing to use him to speak to the people. In essence, God is saying, “Here are my words; I am still using you; you are not forgotten.”
Thank you for your faithfulness in studying God’s word.
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