Wisconsin Lutheran Chapel logo

God’s Word for You

Jeremiah 20:11-13

by Pastor Timothy Smith on Thursday, January 29, 2015

Some people see God as an antagonist in the preceding verses, followed by the passage below in which God becomes the protagonist. I disagree with this analysis. There is no reason to see God as an antagonist when the prophet complains about the sinful people around him plotting against him. Rather, Jeremiah saw irony in the way God called him compared to the way his opponents were trying to call him away from being the prophet of the Lord. But there is certainly a change in what follows. Now Jeremiah is looking to God for help. Here we have the gospel and a prayer for deliverance.

11 But the LORD is with me as a fearsome warrior.
      So my persecutors will stumble
      and they will not prevail.
They will be utterly ashamed
  because they have not been wise.
Their eternal dishonor
  will never be forgotten.

In a recent Tuesday Bible class we studied the names of angels and the Bible’s eight or nine different titles for angels. The name of Gabriel means “God is my hero/warrior,” and the root of his name, gabor, is here translated “warrior.” It’s a reminder that God is always on our side, even when he disciplines us or allows troubles to come.

Jeremiah describes the punishment in store for those who reject God (people and demons) in terms of shame and dishonor. Rejecting God—he puts it so simply—is “not…wise.” And it will never be forgotten. Hell is real, and the shame and dishonor that will accompany the other torments there will be unending and everlasting.

12 LORD of Armies, who tests the righteous,
      who sees the heart and the mind,
let me see your vengeance on them,
  for I have revealed my cause to you.

In this simple prayer the prophet asks to see God’s justice in action. This was fulfilled when Jeremiah was present to see many of the exiles (perhaps including Passhur and his family) chained together and ready to depart from the city of Ramah (Jeremiah 40:1-16). Notice that he does not ask to be the one to carry out God’s vengeance, but simply to be permitted to see it happen. Vengeance belongs to God alone (Deuteronomy 32:35; Romans 12:19).

13 Sing to the LORD!
      Praise the LORD,
for he has delivered the life of the needy
  from the hands of the wicked.

Many readers will recognize “Praise the LORD” as the translation of Hallelujah in many of the Psalms. But Jeremiah uses God’s full name Yahweh, not just the psalmic abbreviation Yah, so what we have here is Hallelu-Yahweh (actually Hallelu-et-Yahweh), a phrase that occurs only a few times in the Bible, such as in Psalm 117:1 and Psalm 148:1,7. In addition, this is the only time Jeremiah says “Praise the LORD” in the Bible (assuming that he is not the author of Psalm 117 nor of Psalm 148).

His praise is specific: “He has delivered the life of the needy from the hands of the wicked.” He freely, openly and publicly calls Passhur “the wicked,” emphasizing the Lord’s judgment on the man whose family is condemned to the Babylonian exile (verse 6).

We give God the same praise, knowing that he has delivered our souls from the clutches of the wicked. By this we don’t just mean that we will be separated from unbelievers, although this will happen in the resurrection (Matthew 13:49). We will also be separated from the devil and his tempting demons forever when they are cast into the eternal fire prepared for them (Matthew 25:41) along with their eternal shame and dishonor. If the devil’s original sin was pride (Proverbs 16:18; Ezekiel 28:16-17), he will have nothing for which to be proud in hell.

Through faith in Christ, we will be brought into God’s eternal rest: “the righteous,” Jesus said, will go “to eternal life” (Matthew 25:46). Amen. Come, Lord Jesus.

In Christ,
Pastor Timothy Smith

Pastor Tim SmithAbout Pastor Timothy Smith
Pastor Smith serves St. Paul’s Lutheran Church in New Ulm, Minnesota. His wife, Kathryn, attended the Chapel from 1987-1990 while studying Secondary Education (Theater and Math) at UW-Madison. Kathryn’s father, John Meyer, was also the first man to serve as a Vicar at Chapel.

To receive God’s Word for You via e-mail, please contact Pastor Smith.