29 February 2016

Jeremiah 20:7-13

“O Lord, you have enticed me, and I was enticed…” (v. 7)

Psalm: Psalm 45


Often in the books of the prophets we read public proclamations; but here we get a glimpse at a prophet's inner turmoil. In the previous chapter Jeremiah had been called to smash an earthenware jug as a sign of what God would do to the people of Judah and its capital Jerusalem. This action led to Jeremiah being locked in the stocks by Pashhur, a priest.

After his release Jeremiah prays to God using stark language. He uses a traditional Jewish form of lament - laying out his complaint against God, telling God what he wants to see happen, reaffirming his trust in God and concluding with praise of God.

Jeremiah begins with a no holds barred accusation of God. The word entice may be translated as 'fool', 'deceive' or even 'seduce'. In all cases God comes out badly as the one who deceived or seduced Jeremiah into speaking and acting on his behalf.

We may think this language hostile, aggressive or even blasphemous; but it shows the intimacy of Jeremiah's relationship with God that he felt able to be that honest. What is more, it speaks of the level of pain Jeremiah was feeling.

Jeremiah's initial call promised that God would use him for building and planting as well as ripping up and tearing down (Jeremiah 1:10). However, so far his message seemed to be all death and destruction. Upon his release from the stocks Jeremiah labelled Pashhur 'Terror-all-around' (Jeremiah 20:3) and now his enemies were using that against him as a term of derision.

His pain may have been intensified by the fact his proclamations were aimed at an area of society close to his heart. Born into a priestly family and then called to pronounce the destruction of the temple may have been like a stab in the heart.

But then Jeremiah ends with this odd twist. The God who deceived is now trusted to deliver. The root of Jeremiah's complaint becomes the object of his worship. When all hope seemed lost, Jeremiah returned to the foundation of his faith.

To Ponder

  • In what circumstances might you be tempted to speak to God in such terms? Is it justified?
  • How might Jeremiah still rely on God after all he had accused him of?

Bible notes author

The Revd Will Fletcher

Will is a presbyter stationed in the Sheffield Circuit. He has oversight of one multisite church (The Beacon Methodist Church) which is spread over three locations in western Sheffield.