Jeremiah 16: The cost of ministry.(please click here for todays passage)
In his remarkable book, ‘Intercessor’, Rees Howells says something along these lines: ‘’The Holy Ghost was stricter with me than any schoolmaster.’’ This Welsh man had a remarkable ministry in prayer, but there was a lot of self-denial and self-sacrifice behind the scenes. God will sometimes deny a person certain legitimate things for His own good reasons. He has a particular purpose for each life. We are not to compare ourselves with others, but faithfully do what the Lord asks of us (John 21: 20-23).
There is a price to be paid for an effective ministry. Indeed, there is a price to pay for a high profile ministry. Although, humanly speaking, he was largely unsuccessful in his day, and unpopular, Jeremiah has become one of the most famous names in history. But there was a price tag attached to what he said and did.
It must have been hard for a man ‘’of Jeremiah’s affectionate and sympathetic nature’’ to obey the commands in (2, 5 and 8). But this was part of his message. It gave him a platform to speak (10ff).
‘’When people asked Jeremiah about his strange behaviour, he would have opportunity to declare the Word of God.’’ Warren W. Wiersbe.
His life was his message, in a way. (In a slightly different way, it should be the case for us as well – that the godly way we live backs up what we say, and causes people to ask questions.)
‘’Jeremiah has already used a sign to reinforce his message (13:1-11); now his whole life becomes a sign (1-4). Being unmarried was unusual in ancient Israel, and so his singleness and childlessness stand out as noteworthy. In fact, they are intended by the Lord as a sign that all normal life in Judah will cease…Jeremiah is also forbidden to participate in normal funeral ceremonies, as a sign that death will be so widespread in Judah that such mourning ceremonies will become impossible (5-7). Gordon McConville: ‘New Bible Commentary’, p.686.
Jeremiah was also told that this was no time for feasting (8).
So, he was a lonely man: unmarried, childless, and with few friends. Someone pointed out that what Jeremiah was called to was tantamount to self-imposed excommunication. Perhaps these things were the kind of increased difficulty envisaged in (12:5).
‘’Jeremiah’s apparently anti-social conduct was to be a witness to the devastation that was about to descend upon Judah, when all normal activities of a community would cease.’’ A.E. Cundall.
How unpopular are you prepared to be for the cause of God in this world? As we will go on to see, although Jeremiah trod a lonely path, he was not alone. He had a ‘’refuge’’ (19). So do you and me. He will be our ‘’strength’’ to carry on.
Prayer: I am grateful Lord that when you ask something of us, you also help us to do that thing. Otherwise we would never have the courage or fortitude or ability to get on with the job.