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God’s Word for You

Jeremiah 20:3-6

by Pastor Timothy Smith on Tuesday, January 27, 2015

3 The next day when Passhur released him from the stocks, Jeremiah said to him, “The LORD does not call you Passhur, but Magor-Missabib,ª  4 for this is what the LORD says: I will make you a terror to yourself and to all your friends. They will fall by the sword of their enemies before your very eyes. I will hand Judah over to the king of Babylon. He will carry them captive to Babylon, and he will kill them with the sword. 5 Also, the riches of this city, all its property, and all the treasures of the kings of Judah—I will give it all away into the hands of their enemies. They will plunder them, sieze them, and carry them off to Babylon. 6 As for you, Passhur, and all who live in your house, you will go into captivity. You will go to Babylon! You will die there, and you will be buried there, you and all your friends to whom you have prophesied falsely.”

ª 20:3 Magor-Missabib means Terror on Every Side.

There are three or four reasons for imprisoning someone because of a crime. The sentence removes the wrongdoer from being able to repeat the crime and gives the population a sense of safety. The sentence also shows other potential wrongdoers that there is a consequence for the crime. The sentence might give the wrongdoer time to reconsider his life and reform his ways, and it might also give the victim or the victim’s family a sense that there is a payment and a retribution for the crime.

What should a man do who is wrongfully imprisoned? In that case, none of the above reasons for imprisonment have been fulfilled, and there is a tangled mess to undo regarding the actual wrongdoer, possible restitution for the wrongfully accused, damage to a sense of public safety, and so on.

When Jeremiah was released, no one admitted that he had been wrongfully convicted, and Jeremiah didn’t dwell on it. However, he immediately began to prophesy as he always had about the danger coming from Babylon and the fall of Jerusalem. To this he added a warning for Passhur his accuser: Passhur and his whole family would go into captivity, and Passhur would die and be buried there.

To this, Jeremiah added that Passhur would become a Magor-Missabib, something that Jeremiah has been had been prophesying about from the beginning. Magor-Missabib means “terror on every side.” It’s a line from one of David’s psalms that Jeremiah adopted and used many times. David’s words are about conspiracy: “For I hear the slander of many; there is terror on every side; they conspire against me and plot to take my life” (Psalm 31:13). Jeremiah used these words to talk about the approaching danger to all of Judah (Jeremiah 6:25), but as his ministry progressed he applied these words more and more to himself, as he does here, with the terror taking the form of Passhur the temple security man standing right in front of him.

Jeremiah didn’t hesitate to speak the word of God even when he seemed to be in trouble because of it. Instead, these hard times strengthened his resolve, and made him more able to call a spade a spade. May God strengthen our faith and our resolve to be faithful to him through hard times. One of the reasons that God allows trouble to come is to temper us, make us even more certain of his promises and his help, and to teach us to look to him alone for help. If God has promised to raise us even from the dead, he can and will raise us from the bumps and troubles that come to us day by day.

     But I trust in you, O LORD;
         I say, “You are my God.”
     My times are in your hands;
         deliver me from my enemies
         and from those who pursue me.
     Let your face shine on your servant;
         save me in your unfailing love.
                                    (Psalm 31:14-16)

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.