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Jeremiah 20:113comment (0)

August 16, 2012

By Kenneth B.E. Roxburgh

Related Scripture: Jeremiah 20:1-13

Bible Studies for Life
Chair and Armstrong Professor of Religion, Samford University

Rise Above Discouragement 

Jeremiah 20:1–13
One feature of Jeremiah’s ministry was his fearlessness, which led him to receive opposition and even abuse at the hands of the religious leaders of Jerusalem. He reminds me of the great American preacher Samuel Davies. It is reported that his fame as a preacher was so great in London that when news reached King George II about “a dissenting minister from the colony of Virginia” and how he was attracting large crowds, the king wanted to hear him, so his chaplain invited Davies to preach in the royal chapel. However, as Davies was preaching, the king began to lose interest and chattered to people around him. Davies suddenly stopped. Looking directly at the king he said, “When the lion roars, the beasts of the forest all tremble; and when King Jesus speaks, the princes of the earth should keep silence.” Like Davies, Jeremiah never held back his message, even if it led him to the stocks!

Expect Discouragement (1–6)
Faithful discipleship, whether in the life of the church or our surrounding culture, will often lead to misunderstanding and rejection. Jeremiah rocked the political-religious boat in Jerusalem; and yet rather than silencing him, opposition made him more resolute in his determination to be true to his calling. In the midst of a culture — and sometimes even a Christian community — that refuses to hear the “word of the Lord,” we need to be like Jeremiah and refuse to give comfortable messages that ignore the challenge of living a life of holiness.

Confess Frustrations (7–10)
The feeling of being overwhelmed by the demands of ministry, especially when it brings misunderstanding and even slander from others, is part and parcel of being faithful to one’s vocation in life. In this situation Jeremiah used a long-standing form of prayer to express his feelings to God, a psalm of lament. Such a prayer is full of honesty; it “comes clean” before God and yet is not a prayer of unbelief. Indeed, only a person of faith and faithfulness is able to complain to God because his or her cry comes out of a fundamental relationship of confidence in the promises of God. Prayers of lament move from the depths of despair to the heights of hope, from despair to expressions of joy and thanksgiving. So it is here in this prayer of Jeremiah. 

Remember Who Is in Control (11–13)
The center of his hope is a God who may “appear” to have deceived him. Yet Jeremiah knows that even in his call narrative of chapter 1, God told him the difficulties he would face that would eventually lead him to become “a bronze wall to stand against the whole land” (Jer. 1:18). In the depths of his heart he knows that to speak God’s word will often make him a laughingstock, and yet to fail to speak is impossible because God’s “word” stirs him in the very depths of his being and he cannot keep it in. It is like a burning fire that he cannot quench; an inner compulsion that will not allow him to give up.

Yet the chapter does not stop with the words of verse 13, full of worship and praise. The chapter, paradoxically, goes on into a fresh expression of doubt and fear in verses 14–18 where the prophet questions why he had even been born. The word of confidence is not always the last word we speak in the life of discipleship and service. Like many people, Jeremiah falls back from praise to lament because the life of faith sometimes takes us from the heights back to the depths before we rise up in faith once more.

Winston Churchill, the great leader of Great Britain during World War II, returned during a period of great difficulty in the 1940s to give a commencement speech to his old school at Harrow. He stood before the young men who were gathered and finished his speech by challenging them to never give up.

As Christians this is our watchword, but the resources we have to support us are the promises of God and His presence with us through all the trials and troubles of life.

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