Jeremiah Man of Calling
Text: Jeremiah 20:7-13
Review: In the first chapter, we read the commission and call of Jeremiah, then just a young man. He objected and told God, “I cannot speak: for I am a child.” In chapter 12 we listened to Jeremiah when he spoke to God and questioned Him about His judgments concerning the wicked and why they prosper. Through it all Jeremiah remained faithful in the midst of the opposition and torment, but it has cost him, so that by the time we come to Chapter 20, we see Jeremiah bitter and angry and once again turning to God in with his anger. In the passage, we will see as Jeremiah moves from anger to a place of understanding, commitment and continued service.
Anger if dealt with under God’s direction can become something worthwhile, but we must be careful about anger outside of God’s direction, it can be very dangerous. Let me give you an example.
In his autobiography, “Number 1,” Billy Martin told about hunting in Texas with Mickey Mantle. Mickey had a friend who would let them hunt on his ranch. When they reached the ranch, Mickey told Billy to wait in the car while he checked in with his friend. Mantle's friend quickly gave them permission to hunt, but he asked Mickey a favor. He had a pet mule in the barn who was going blind, and he didn't have the heart to put him out of his misery. He asked Mickey to shoot the mule for him.
When Mickey came back to the car, he pretended to be angry. He scowled and slammed the door. Billy asked him what was wrong, and Mickey said his friend wouldn't let them hunt. "I'm so mad at that guy," Mantle said, "I'm going out to his barn and shoot one of his mules!" Mantle drove like a maniac to the barn. Martin protested, "We can't do that!" But Mickey was adamant. "Just watch me," he shouted.
When they got to the barn, Mantle jumped out of the car with his rifle, ran inside, and shot the mule. As he was leaving, though, he heard two shots, and he ran back to the car. He saw that Martin had taken out his rifle, too. "What are you doing, Martin?" he yelled. Martin yelled back, face red with anger, "We'll show that son of a gun! I just killed two of his cows!" - Scott Bowerman, Bishopville, South Carolina. Leadership, Vol. 16, no. 1.
That’s anger out of control but can God deal with anger even in his own children? Can God overcome bitterness and bring it to blessing? That is exactly what we will learn in Jeremiah 20:7-8
Jeremiah: A Bitter Man Jeremiah 20:7-8
O LORD, thou hast deceived me, and I was deceived: thou art stronger than I, and hast prevailed: I am in derision daily, every one mocketh me. For since I spake, I cried out, I cried violence and spoil; because the word of the LORD was made a reproach unto me, and a derision, daily.
Jeremiah Complains to God
The cause of Jeremiah’s complaint in found in vss. 1-7.
He had been arrested by one of the priests named Pashur.
He had been placed in stocks, beaten and mocked in full view of the temple.
What we see in vss. 8-10 is the aftermath of being treated so badly while serving God.
He accuses God of deceiving him and overpowering him.
Perhaps he believes God should have protected him, kept him out of the stocks, prison and derision.
He had told God when he was first called that he was too young and not fit for service yet God had still called him, God had overpowered him, took advantage of his youth.
Now he is mercilessly mocked and mistreated because he speaks and cries out that Babylon is coming and Israel will be destroyed and spoiled.
The very word of God has become a reproach, and because Jeremiah is God’s prophet he is disrespected and ridiculed every day.
Jeremiah is viewed as a traitor to his people. He is seen by them like Jane Fonda during the Vietnam War or Tokyo Rose during World War II.
Can you imagine how this makes Jeremiah feel?
Just like Jonah he must want to flee? This is his country and God has called him and forced him to be a hated man for the sake of God’s word. He must stand for the truth of God’s word and against his own people and the lies they believe.
It is no wonder than that he is discouraged, no wonder he bitterly complains to the one who has put him in this position.
Examining the “Jeremiah Syndrome?”
The Jeremiah Syndrome is to be angry even bitter at God even as you continue to serve Him, go to church and do your duty as a Christian.
It can happen due to pain, loss, opposition or our own feelings that God is neglecting or ignoring my situation.
Many of God’s servants have experienced the Jeremiah Syndrome.
David in Psalm 22 wrote “My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me? why art thou so far from helping me, and from the words of my roaring?”
Asaph in Psalm 73:1-14
Truly God is good to Israel, even to such as are of a clean heart. But as for me, my feet were almost gone; my steps had well nigh slipped. For I was envious at the foolish, when I saw the prosperity of the wicked. For there are no bands in their death: but their strength is firm. They are not in trouble as other men; neither are they plagued like other men. Therefore, pride compasseth them about as a chain; violence covereth them as a garment. Their eyes stand out with fatness: they have more than heart could wish. They are corrupt, and speak wickedly concerning oppression: they speak loftily. They set their mouth against the heavens, and their tongue walketh through the earth. Therefore, his people return hither: and waters of a full cup are wrung out to them. And they say, How doth God know? and is there knowledge in the most High? Behold, these are the ungodly, who prosper in the world; they increase in riches. Verily I have cleansed my heart in vain, and washed my hands in innocency. For all the day long have I been plagued, and chastened every morning.
Job 9:31 Yet shalt thou plunge me in the ditch, and mine own clothes shall abhor me.
Job 21:15 What is the Almighty, that we should serve him? and what profit should we have, if we pray unto him?
Job 34:9 For he hath said, It profiteth a man nothing that he should delight himself with God.
Job 35:3 For thou saidst, What advantage will it be unto thee? and, What profit shall I have, if I be cleansed from my sin?
Some of the greatest servants of God have come to that place of anger and bitterness in the service. I would have to say it goes with being a great servant of God.
But you know what is interesting in all these complaints? You never hear God condemn them or judge them for their weakness.
He doesn’t give up on them though they would like him to. God doesn’t strike them down because they are hurt and struggling.
Perhaps the greatest mistake we can make as servants of God is being afraid to complain to God. Talking to Him even when we are angry and hurt is much, much better than not talking to Him at all and hiding these things within ourselves until we grow even more bitter and hurtful and drive ourselves away from the God who loves us.
Illustration: Funeral for “Red”
One of my first funerals as a young preacher was for a man I didn’t even know and I only recall his nickname, “Red.” Red died and someone in our church knew the family and we made contact through them. I visited the family, they told me that Red was a barber and when I asked if there was any special scripture or songs they would like, they mentioned a few but not much else. The funeral was at a chapel on the cemetery grounds and it was memorable for two reasons. The first was the fact that the man’s son came to the funeral in handcuffs and shackles straight from the Texas State penitentiary. He and the police escorts set right on the front row. It was also memorable because afterward one of Red’s friend came up to me and asked if I knew Red because the scripture I used was one that Red had preached from when he was a pastor. I was very surprised since no one had even told me he had been a pastor. The man said yes, that Red had actually been selected as small church pastor of Texas by the SBC one year. I asked what happened since I had been told he was a barber and because I just saw his son being led in in shackles. The man said Red had gotten hurt, gotten bitter and turned his back on God and the church. Red had gotten bitter but he never came back to blessedness probably because he did not take his complaint to God.
Transition: Jeremiah’s bitterness then brings him to brokenness in vs 9-10.
Jeremiah: A Broken Man Jeremiah 20:9-10
Then I said, I will not make mention of him, nor speak any more in his name. But his word was in mine heart as a burning fire shut up in my bones, and I was weary with forbearing, and I could not stay. For I heard the defaming of many, fear on every side. Report, say they, and we will report it. All my familiars watched for my halting, saying, Peradventure he will be enticed, and we shall prevail against him, and we shall take our revenge on him.
Jeremiah, even in his anger, can’t stop serving God.
He reaches a decision after thinking about the stocks, the mocking the derision, he will quit.
He will not mention God, he will not even speak his name.
Yet something happens that is beyond Jeremiahs control
He says, But His word was in my heart as a burning fire shut up in my bones.
I grew wearying with forbearing, with bearing the burden of trying not to speak of God.
I could not stay, I could not stop.
Jeremiah could not quit because he was called of God. He was God’s child, God’s man, God’s prophet.
God had placed inside him a calling that could not be contained and that could not be stopped.
Like a fire it burned inside Jeremiah, building and building, hotter and hotter until he could not contain the pressure and had to speak out in the name of the Lord Almighty, who had called him to be a prophet.
In vs. 10 he says he had to speak even though he heard the lies, even though he see the fear all around, even though they were trying to catch him in his words that they might overpower him. Still he had to speak, or be consumed by the fire in his bones.
Real Christians Can’t Quit.
Jeremiah wanted to quit, determined to quit but he could not, because he was truly God’s man.
God had called him. God had given him a mission and God loved him.
That reality burned like a fire and had to have an outlet.
The commission of God was greater than the complaint to God.
Listen to me, true Christians, real Christians don’t quit.
Oh, believe me they complain, they cry, they often come to bitter places in their relationship with God and in their service to Him, but they don’t quit.
They don’t quit because they can’t, any more than Jeremiah could.
The reality of God’s call, God’s commission and God’s love burns inside them like fire in the bones.
They may want to quit, they may even try to quit but if they are truly God’s children they will grow weary in the trying and must return God.
Many, preachers quit every Monday and then go back to work for God on Tuesday.
They quit for many reasons but probably the most hurtful is undeserved criticism.
Example Joke: John Wesley and the scissors
John Wesley was a great English preacher of the 1700's. He was considered a rather spiffy dresser. One Sunday morning he wore a bow tie that had long ribbons that hung downward. After the sermon was over a lady walked up to him and said, "Brother Wesley, are you open to some criticism?"
He said, "I hope that I would be open to well-meaning criticism. What would you like to criticize?" She said, "The ribbons on your tie are entirely too long and inappropriate for a man of God." And she took out her scissors and cut them off.
A hush fell over the people standing there as Wesley calmly asked, "Now may I borrow the scissors for a moment?" As she handed them to him, he said, "Ma'am, are you open to some criticism?" She answered, "Well, I suppose I am." He said, "All right then, please stick out your tongue."
Paul spoke of this compulsion in
1 Corinthians 9:16-17
For though I preach the gospel, I have nothing to glory of: for necessity is laid upon me; yea, woe is unto me, if I preach not the gospel! 17 For if I do this thing willingly, I have a reward: but if against my will, a dispensation of the gospel is committed unto me.
Illustration: William Loyd Garrison
William Lloyd Garrison, who wrote the anti-slavery paper the Abolitionist and was one of the most ardent and passionate leaders in giving all men freedom, was so intense to get rid of the slavery cancer upon our society that he angered many, many people. One of his friends, Samuel May, said one day to him, "Oh, my friend, do try to moderate your indignation and keep more cool, why you're all on fire." To which Garrison replied, "My friend, I have need to be all on fire for I have mountains of ice around me to melt."
So it is with the true child of God when he sees the sin that destroys those he loves, when he hears the lies of Satan, and when he feels the fire in his bones then he must speak in the name of the Lord.
Transition: Now because Jeremiah has taken his complaint to God and committed himself to serving God, he can move from his brokenness to God’s blessedness.
Jeremiah: A Blessed Man Jeremiah 20:11-13
11 But the LORD is with me as a mighty terrible one: therefore, my persecutors shall stumble, and they shall not prevail: they shall be greatly ashamed; for they shall not prosper: their everlasting confusion shall never be forgotten. 12 But, O LORD of hosts, that triest the righteous, and seest the reins and the heart, let me see thy vengeance on them: for unto thee have I opened my cause. 13 Sing unto the LORD, praise ye the LORD: for he hath delivered the soul of the poor from the hand of evildoers.
Jeremiah looks to the Lord and finds the strength to continue.
He looks and speaks not now in anger but in worship. He speaks now not with bitterness but with blessing.
He sees the difficulties and trials that he has gone through over and over, time and again as the trail that God has used to make him stronger. He realizes that God will give him victory because he has “opened my cause.”
He ends what began as a bitter complaint with word of praise. “Sing unto the Lord, praise ye the Lord for he has delivered the soul of the poor from the hand of the evildoer!”
From brokenness to blessedness
All of us will go through trails and difficulties, most of it we will never understand exactly why. The real issue for real Christians is not “Why, Lord?” but “What is next, Lord?”
The greatest trap that we must avoid in is not that of complaining to God but not instead not talking to Him at all. It is there in our silence that Satan begins to grow the seeds of bitterness and resentment.
Talk to Him, complain to Him, if need be yell at Him. Believe me, you’ll not come close to the eloquence or the volume of Jeremiah, Job, David or the other great people of faith the Bible hold out to us for examples.
So talk to him even in anger because when you talk, then God can begin to work in your heart to bring you from bitterness to blessing.
Illustration: Asaph Psalm 73:15-28 (KJV)
If I say, I will speak thus; behold, I should offend against the generation of thy children. When I thought to know this, it was too painful for me; Until I went into the sanctuary of God; then understood I their end. Surely thou didst set them in slippery places: thou castedst them down into destruction. How are they brought into desolation, as in a moment! they are utterly consumed with terrors. As a dream when one awaketh; so, O Lord, when thou awakest, thou shalt despise their image. Thus my heart was grieved, and I was pricked in my reins. So foolish was I, and ignorant: I was as a beast before thee. Nevertheless I am continually with thee: thou hast holden me by my right hand. Thou shalt guide me with thy counsel, and afterward receive me to glory. Whom have I in heaven but thee? and there is none upon earth that I desire beside thee. My flesh and my heart faileth: but God is the strength of my heart, and my portion for ever. For, lo, they that are far from thee shall perish: thou hast destroyed all them that go a whoring from thee. But it is good for me to draw near to God: I have put my trust in the Lord GOD, that I may declare all thy works.
Asaph complained, doubted and questioned God but when he came to the sanctuary, when he came to where God was, to the place where he served God, then he understood, and God brought him from bitterness to blessing.
What did he say? “But it is good for me to draw near to God: I have put my trust in the Lord GOD,”
Impressed by your scars
Adoniram Judson, the great Baptist missionary to Burma, endured untold hardships trying to reach the lost for Christ. For 7 heartbreaking years he suffered hunger and privation. During this time he was thrown into Ava Prison, and for 17 months was subjected to terrible inhuman mistreatment. As a result, for the rest of his life he carried the large very visible marks on his wrists and ankles made by the chains and shackles which had bound him. Yet, as soon as he was released he went to another province in Burma where he might resume preaching the Gospel. The godless ruler indignantly denied his request, saying "My people are not fools enough to listen to anything a missionary might say, but I fear they might be impressed by your scars and turn to your God!"
Jeremiah didn’t quit in anger, Judson didn’t walk away in bitterness from serving God. If you and I are real Christians then we won’t either. May it be the scars of our service that others seen and not broken bitterness. If others see the scars of our service, then they may also see the love of the God we served.
Have you talked to God about what or even who is hurting you? Have you poured out your complaint before Him? Have you shown him your broken heart? If you have then you will find that He will begin to bring you back so that you can bless His name for bearing you up, just as Jeremiah, Job, David, Asaph and many others did.
Now is the time, here is the place. Will you talk to God this morning?