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God’s Word for You

Jeremiah 20:7-10

by Pastor Timothy Smith on Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Here we come to what the NIV Study Bible calls “the sixth, last and longest of Jeremiah’s confessions.”

Jeremiah’s Confession
7 You persuaded me, LORD, and I was persuaded.
     You are stronger than I am, and you prevailed.
I have become a laughingstock all day,
  and everyone mocks me.

The word pathah occurs in two different Hebrew stems here. One is intensive (a piel stem—my wife has endured many hours of me ranting about the piel stem for two years now because of a side project I’ve been working on at home) and the other is a passive stem. Although pathah can mean “deceived” in other stems as many translations prefer here, I have found that the piel of pathah most often means to entice or persuade. In 1 Kings 22:20-22 there is a strange story of an angel called by God to “entice” the King of Israel. In Hosea 2:14 God compares himself to a lover persuading his beloved to come back to him. In Exodus 22:16 there is a similar reference to a man seducing a girl. This is the way Jeremiah described his call to become a prophet. The Lord prevailed or even seduced Jeremiah, persuading him, and this is how he came to be the Lord’s prophet. He couldn’t do anything to change what he had become. Yet everybody was laughing at him.

8 Whenever I speak, I cry out.
     I cry, “Violence and destruction!”
Because the word of the LORD has become a reproach for me,
  derision all day long.
9 If I say, “I will not mention him
     Or speak in his name any more,”
then there is a burning fire in my heart,
  shut up in my bones,
and I am weary of holding it in.
   I cannot!

The word of God was burning in Jeremiah’s heart. This is certainly not the only time that God’s word is described in this way. When Jesus appeared to the Emmaus disciples, they said later, “Were not our hearts burning within us?” (Luke 24:32). And although the bride in the Song of Solomon was talking about her love for her husband, we can apply what she said to the Church’s response to the word of God: “It burns like a blazing fire, like a mighty flame” (Song of Solomon 8:6).

The prophet had, in a sense, been talked into becoming what he was, and that talk from God—every word and message he received—had to come out. It should not be possible to hold the word of God inside.

10 I hear many whispering,
      “Terror on every side!”
“Denounce him! We will denounce him,”
   say all my close friends,
   those who watch for my fall.
“Perhaps he will be persuaded
   then we will prevail against him
   and we will take our revenge on him.”

Jeremiah knew that he had been given a nickname by the people. He called Passhur the temple official Magor-Missabib, “Terror on Every Side,” but the name didn’t stick. Instead, people began using that name for him. “Here comes old ‘Terror on Every Side’”! they whispered to each other.

Now with irony, Jeremiah realized that just as God persuaded him to become a prophet, the people of Judah wanted to persuade him to give it up and quit his ministry. “Then,” they thought, “we can denounce him and take our revenge against him.” If they could make him quit, they could claim that he had never been a prophet at all. It was the alternative to being imprisoned again, and perhaps even to being murdered, but it was a trap within a trap.

Jeremiah had no choice but to let the burning word of God in his heart explode into flames; to let the conflagration ignite God’s condemnation of Judah and all its congregation.

We have the word of God. How can we help but share it? How can we help but proclaim it? Too many people have that same word of God mixed with a little bit of error. A little decision-theology on one side, a little idolatry and prayers to saints on the other side. Let the truth of the Gospel ignite and jump straight out of your full heart. Christ alone is the way to eternal life! Christ alone gives the forgiveness of sins! The Holy Spirit alone creates faith in our hearts through the Gospel. We can’t take credit for our salvation, and we can’t take credit for our faith, either. It’s all a gift straight from God Almighty to each and every one of us.

Abraham did not waver in his gift of faith, but was strengthened by it and gave glory to God, “being fully persuaded that God has power to do what he had promised. This is why ‘it was credited to him as righteousness.’” (Romans 4:21-22). And we are fully persuaded, too.

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.