You Can Be Honest with God (Jeremiah 20:7-18) - May 19th 2013

    Jeremiah’s sermons did not make people feel good. When he predicted the destruction of the city and the Temple, the chief of the Temple police treated him roughly (Jeremiah 20:1-7). Perhaps during imprisonment or shortly afterward, Jeremiah’s prayer was recorded. We study this prayer to understand better the freedom God gives us to be honest with Him. 

    1.    When obedience provokes pain, speak to God.                 vv. 7-10
    7 O Lord, you deceived me, and I was deceived; you overpowered me and prevailed. I am ridiculed all day long; everyone mocks me.
    Jeremiah accused God of seducing him and making him a laughing stock but God had warned Jeremiah of the people’s reaction. (1:8, 19; 12:5) The weeping prophet poured his anger on God.
    8 Whenever I speak, I cry out proclaiming violence and destruction.
          So the word of the Lord has brought me insult and reproach all day long.
    As we approach God, we sometimes fall into one of two lines. In one line, people see religion as a way to successful living, allowing them to get what they want. In the other line, people see faith as a path to wholeness, and the experiences of life as ways in which we learn to express our commitment to being who God wants us to be.
    Eugene Peterson: The aim of the person of faith is not to be as comfortable as possible but to live as deeply and thoroughly as possible— to deal with the reality of life, discover truth, create beauty, act out love.
    Jeremiah sang the blues revealing a desire for a pain-free ministry. 
    How can a Christian die to self and avoid sacrifice/pain at all costs?
    Perhaps we can learn to pray: “God, free me from the illusion of control
    and my commitment to a pain-free heart.”
    9 But if I say, “I will not mention him or speak any more 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.
    Jeremiah’s dilemma: if he spoke, people abused him; if he were silent, he had no peace.
    Oh, my anguish, my anguish! I writhe in pain. Oh, the agony of my heart! My heart pounds within me, I cannot keep silent.                            Jeremiah 4:19
    10 I hear many whispering, “Terror on every side! Report him! Let’s report him!” All my friends are waiting for me to slip, saying, “Perhaps he will be deceived; then we will prevail over him and take our revenge on him.” 
    Jeremiah had his eyes on the people even as he prayed.

    2.    When assurance prompts praise, speak to God.              vv. 11-13 
    Jeremiah turned his eyes toward God. His lament paused to acknowledge God’s sovereignty and grace in his circumstances.
    11 But the Lord is with me like a mighty warrior; so my persecutors will stumble and not prevail. 
    Faith does not ignore problems but seeks God’s solutions for problems. 
    Learn to Pray: God, I want you to be seen in me as I work through this.  
    11 They will fail and be thoroughly disgraced; their dishonor will never be forgotten. 12 O Lord Almighty, you who examine the righteous and probe the heart and mind, let me see your vengeance upon them, for to you I have committed my cause.
    Jeremiah asked God to bring judgment on the mockers. The prophet had been stung by their words but God knew their words and their thoughts.
    Jeremiah did not make himself an agent of retaliation.
    13 Sing to the Lord! Give praise to the Lord! He rescues the life of the needy from the hands of the wicked.

    3.    When despair possesses your soul, speak to God.            vv. 14-18 
    Jeremiah turned his eyes on himself for his “Poor Me” cry.
    14 Cursed be the day I was born! May the day my mother bore me not be blessed! 15 Cursed be the man who brought my father the news, who made him very glad, saying, “A child is born to you—a son!” 16 May that man be like the towns the Lord overthrew without pity. May he hear wailing in the morning, a battle cry at noon. 17 For he did not kill me in the womb, with my mother as my grave, her womb enlarged forever. 18 Why did I ever come out of the womb to see trouble and sorrow and to end my days in shame?
    We find ourselves face to face with the weakness of a good man. Jeremiah was righteous but he was not perfect. Even in his agony, he respected the law and did not curse God or his parents.
    Our moods in times of difficulty sometimes distort our prayers.
    Just as our minds can wander from the bad to the good, the prophet’s mind stumbled over the desire to quit, stretched to praise God and fell in complaint over the “whys” of his life. He had the courage to take his “Why” to God and move into his “Now What.”

    The Bible translation is the New International Version.