The Faith of Jeremiah

Posted by Worldview Warriors On Sunday, May 20, 2018 0 comments

by Logan Ames

Have you ever stopped and reflected on your life and wondered how in the world you ended up where you are? This can happen in either a very positive or a very negative light. Personally, I’ve had those moments when I’ve found myself leading a church in Marion, Ohio or ministering to the homeless in Findlay, Ohio after spending the first twenty-seven years of my life in Pennsylvania. Currently, I’m living back in Pennsylvania, residing and ministering in a town forty minutes from where I grew up yet still very familiar to me because of the four years that God allowed me to earn an income as a driver for FedEx Ground here. I’m experiencing all of this with my wife who “just happened” to wind up in Ohio at the same time I was and “just happened” to get a job at the homeless shelter where I was working, even though she spent most of her life growing up in Virginia. When I look back on my life, I realize not much of it could’ve been predicted and most of it is an example of God’s grace, his providence, and his GOOD plan.

Most of you could probably say the same thing about your own lives and the directions they have taken. We don’t always realize that God is working when he is, but it’s fairly easy to see when we take a moment to reflect on our lives. However, the question I shared above can also be asked when we find ourselves in the midst of negative circumstances. I can think of very specific times in my life when I looked around at the destruction and misery that surrounded me as a result of my own choices and wondered how I could have ever gotten that far down the wrong path. Again, I’m sure many of you reading this could say you’ve had those moments as well. The results in our lives can often be traced back to either God’s goodness or our own sins.

What we should know as believers in the Lord is that when we follow him, it’s a dangerous thing to evaluate our decisions and lives solely on our circumstances. While “reaping what you sow” is generally a true concept and is even Biblical (Galatians 6:7), the reaping doesn’t always make sense to our finite minds and worldly ways of examining our circumstances. One thing we’ve seen through this series on the heroes of our faith is that God sometimes blesses them even when they are caught in sin and allows them to suffer when they appear to be following him wholeheartedly. God uses everything according to his will and sometimes we don’t reap the rewards of our faith until we spend eternity with him.

One faithful hero who likely often wondered how he could end up where he did was the prophet Jeremiah. Despite his faithfulness to God, he was known as “the weeping prophet” and rarely reaped any positive consequences from his obedient sowing. More than just mental anguish over the state of his people, he also experienced great physical and emotional torment. Hebrews 11:36 tells us that some of the anonymously faithful “faced jeers and flogging," which could probably be characterized today as severe verbal and physical abuse. Jeremiah was one of several people from the Old Testament who would likely fit this description. In Jeremiah 20, we see that a priest named Pashhur, who at the time was the official in charge of the temple of the Lord, has Jeremiah “beaten and put in stocks” because he was upset about the things Jeremiah was preaching regarding the Lord’s anger toward the sins of the nation (vv. 1-2). A commentary I was reading from Enduring Word suggests that the expression translated as “beaten” most likely referred to the “forty lashes minus one” concept applied during a severe flogging. If you read last week’s post, you may remember that the Apostle Paul experienced this most painful of beatings five times. In addition, the “stocks” refers to a structure in which a prisoner was locked into a twisted and confined position to cause increasing pain and discomfort. By the way, this was likely AFTER he had already been flogged. So, it’s not like his wounds were healed before his body was forcefully contorted. Verse 3 tells us that Jeremiah was released the next day, which means he was kept in that position for the rest of the day!

This didn’t stop Jeremiah from continuing to speak whatever the Lord commanded him to speak. He was a prophet of the Lord and was not willing to water down the message in order to make people happy and save himself from harm. Jeremiah would face many other obstacles and extreme punishments during his time as a prophet, including being thrown in prison in Jeremiah 37 and then lowered into a cistern with no water and only mud in Jeremiah 38. That last punishment was intended to kill him; he was done. Jeremiah 38:6 says that he “sank down into the mud." If those are the cruelest of circumstances for someone who has done nothing but obey God, I don’t know what is. He was literally sinking into the mud in a cistern deep in the ground with no way to save himself or meet any of his other needs. He would die by either suffocation in the mud or starvation, whichever happened first.

God moved in the heart of one of the officials to rescue him before it was too late, but Jeremiah was certainly aware of how much pain had come to his life because he was obedient. There is a section in the book that specifically lays out Jeremiah’s complaint to God. It’s found in Jeremiah 20:7-18 and I encourage you to read it yourself. At first glance, it may come across like he is deranged and literally going back and forth between worship and whining. But such is the life of one who obeys the Lord in the face of intense opposition and endures all of the pain that comes with it. He says he is “ridiculed all day long” and mocked by everyone (v. 7). He adds, “The word of the Lord has brought me insult and reproach all day long” (v. 8). And we already know about his being beaten/flogged. He reflects on his life and has the thoughts most of us would: “Why did I ever come out of the womb to see trouble and sorrow and to end my days in shame”? (v. 18) Yet, even in the midst of all the pain and suffering he faced, Jeremiah reminds himself that he was born to be the very prophet of the Lord that he was: “But if I say, ‘I will not mention his word or speak anymore in his name’, his word is in my heart like a fire, a fire shut up in my bones. I am weary of holding it in; indeed, I cannot” (v. 9).

Jeremiah knew what he was born to do (God told him in Jeremiah 1:5 that he knew him BEFORE he was even born and that he had appointed him as a prophet to the nations) and the thought of not doing it was worse than enduring the pain and suffering that came because he was obedient to the Lord. This is a faithful hero if I ever read about one. He may have faced jeers and flogging, but his obedience forced the people who should’ve been honoring God all along to have to face their own wickedness. And while they ultimately did not listen to Jeremiah and were overtaken by the Babylonians as a result, Jeremiah could rest knowing that he did everything he could to stop it. Are you willing to speak the truth of God’s word to others no matter what it causes to take place in your life? People may not listen to you, but that’s between them and God. What you share and how you represent God’s word to them is between YOU and God. You may not reap good circumstances for yourself in this lifetime, but trust in God as your full reward and reap the benefits for all of eternity.

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