Jeremiah 20:1-6: The rubber prophet!(please click here for todays Bible passage)

The saying, ‘Don’t shoot the messenger’ springs to mind. The person who has to deliver unpalatable truth regularly takes a bullet for it. (It is ironic to think about a preacher of God’s Word being put in stocks, in church, because of faithful preaching! Essentially, that is what you find here.) The preaching of Jeremiah cost him dearly. In these verses he records the first of many experiences of physical abuse at the hands of his enemies. He had been warned about the personal cost of his ministry at his calling (1:19). He had been given the promise that he would not be overcome by his foes, but no guarantee was given that he would not suffer. ‘’Similarly, the Christian is assured of final victory because of the resurrection of Christ – but not of immunity from suffering or opposition.’’ Gordon McConville: ‘The New Bible Commentary’, p.688. These opening verses of chapter 20 show how much of a stir Jeremiah was creating in the higher echelons of Judean society.’’Passhur’’ seems to have been a kind of priestly policeman, responsible for order in the temple area.

God’s messengers will suffer because of the messages they bring. If you are a preacher and your text is the Bible; if your calling is to say what God says, somewhere along the line you are going to run into trouble. There will be people who hate what you are saying, and who may even hate you. Some will want you out of the way, and there may be those in your path who will actively take steps to remove you. God’s Word is potent. It goes to work on sin and evil. Therefore the devil hates it, and kicks up a fuss, pulling on people’s strings in his counter-attack (Ephesians 6: 12).

God’s messengers need to be resilient. Jeremiah has been characterised as ‘the weeping prophet’, but to my mind he is also the ‘rubber’ prophet, because after this beating he bounced back. In the next section, it is true, we will see something of how this hurt him, but it doesn’t alter the fact that he got back up from the canvas with his fists up, ready for more fighting. But this wasn’t personal animosity; it was rather a refusal to be silenced when he had been entrusted with God’s message. His ‘come back’ must have taken immense courage, because after his release from the stocks (3) he would surely have experienced the temptation to keep his head down. Wasn’t this the reason for the punishment anyway; to cow him into silence? But whatever the temptation he may have felt, he couldn’t help himself (8, 9). The words in him from God were like pent up floodwaters behind a locked door. They just had to burst through. There was no holding them back. He was so brave, because when he spoke again he delivered a personal word to the man who’d had him beaten: ‘’GOD has a new name for you: not Pashhur but Danger-Everywhere, because GOD says, ‘You’re a danger to yourself and everyone around you…’ ‘’ The Message. ‘’Ironically, the one who thought he was guarding the institutions and traditions was doing just the reverse; the temple with its rituals and its wealth, which he was protecting from the disorderly, would soon be no more, and the priesthood an irrelevance in a foreign land. No institution, however good, can be an end in itself; it can be good only if it points forward to the kingdom of God.’’ Gordon McConville: ‘The New Bible Commentary’, p.688.

God’s messengers must remember who is in control. In Jeremiah’s situation it wasn’t ‘’Pashhur’’ or his ‘’friends’’ or any of the other people who hated his message. It wasn’t the Babylonians either. Jeremiah’s God was in control. Look at the repeated ‘’I will’’ in (4, 5). Let’s keep our eyes on the Lord and always remember that He reigns.

‘’Let God take care of the people who create problems for you.’’ Warren W. Wiersbe.