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God’s Word for You

Jeremiah 17:14-18

by Pastor Timothy Smith on Monday, January 5, 2015

Here Jeremiah pours out his heart in another one of his confessions. This passage (17:14-18) is the entire confession. Unlike most of the other recorded confessions of the prophet, this one is not followed by a response from the Lord—and this should give us comfort. Sometimes God does not answer our prayers instantly, and sometimes the Lord does not automatically say ‘yes’ to anything and everything we ask. Even with a prayer like this one—in which the prophet simply makes a bold confession of faith amid suffering—the Lord accepts the prayer silently, inviting the prophet to continue his silent acceptance of the troubles before him.

14 Heal me, LORD, and I will be healed.
      Save me, and I will be saved,
      for you are the one I praise.

Jeremiah’s faith is simple, total, and complete. He knows that if he asks the Lord for healing he will get healing, and if he asks the Lord for saving, that he will be saved. In this way, he is precisely in tune with the Lord’s Prayer and Jesus’ ideal petition: “Your will be done.” There are times when a Christian might not ask for healing or rescue from danger, but simply that God’s will be done. We recognize that God allows some things to happen to us for our good, but that God might allow some things to happen to us for the good of others. Perhaps I should not always run from my troubles, if they might be of benefit to someone else. But in everything that comes to us, we ask God to remind us to praise him the way Job praised him: “The Lord gave, and Lord has taken away. May the name of the Lord be praised” (Job 1:21).

15 They say to me,
      “Where is the word of the LORD?
      Let it come!”
16 I have not run away from being your shepherd,
      nor have I longed for the day of incurable sickness.
What comes from my lips
  is before you.
17 Do not be a terror to me.
      You are my refuge in a day of disaster.

Jeremiah had heard many people who doubted the word of God. As a prophet, he became a lightning rod for the attacks of unbelievers. Peter heard similar words when doubters spat at him: “Where is this ‘coming’ he promised?” (2 Peter 3:4). They ridiculed the second coming as much as people in Jeremiah’s time doubted that the first coming of Jesus would ever take place.

While Jeremiah had not run away from doing God’s command, from being his shepherd, he did not relish the destruction of God’s enemies either. This is what he means when he says, “Nor have I longed for the day of incurable sickness.” The word anosh (אָנוּשׁ) means “sickness,” although many translations interpret it with “distress.” The idea of anosh is an incurable disease, a wasting that cannot be stopped. This is the “incurable wound” of Job 34:6, and the “incurable pain” of Isaiah 17:11.

Also, the prophet confesses that he did not add to God’s word, nor did he take anything away from it. He had obeyed God’s frequent warning not to add or subtract anything to the word of Scripture (Deuteronomy 4:2, 12:32; Proverbs 30:6; Revelation 22:18). “What comes from my lips is before you.” God knows what Jeremiah said, and God judges every word.

18 Let my persecutors be put to shame
      but do not let me be put to shame.
Let them be dismayed,
  but do not let me be dismayed.
Bring on them the day of disaster
  and destroy them with total destruction.

Jeremiah’s confession concludes with a simple prayer. Let the day of shame and dismay come. Let it come to those who oppose the Lord, but (he prays) don’t let it come to me. He doesn’t relish the destruction of hell even on his worst enemies and critics, but if this is the Lord’s will, then let it be done. This is the whole meaning behind the Third Petition of the Lord’s Prayer, that everything God wills would be done. If it is suffering for me so that I might be drawn closer to God, then let it happen. If it is difficulty in my life so that someone else might benefit in some way for the sake of their soul, then let it happen. If it means the damnation of unbelievers, then let God be glorified and let his will be done.

We rejoice that we also know that God’s will includes our rescue. His will was that the cup of suffering would come to Jesus even though Jesus asked for the cup to be taken from him (Mark 14:36). His will was that the full force of punishment of my guilt would be emptied into Jesus’ heart on the cross, and that in agony he would feel what it’s like to be abandoned by God in hell (Mark 15:34). God’s will meant that Jesus was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities, and the punishment that brought us peace was upon him. By his wounds we are healed (Isaiah 53:5).

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.