John T. Willis

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Jeremiah's Bitterest, Sixth, Final Complaint--Jeremiah 20:7-18

After his conflict with Pashhur, the chief officer [priest] at the Jerusalem temple, Jeremiah utters his final complaint, recorded in Jeremiah 20:7-18. This complaint falls into three parts: 20:7-10, 11-13, 14-18.

I. Jeremiah bitterly complains that Yahweh has not been faithful as he promised. Jeremiah 20:7-10.
a. Jeremiah accuses Yahweh of "enticing" him to preach Yahweh's message. When Yahwh first called Jeremiah, Jeremiah strongly resisted, but Yahweh persuaded him to preach, and assured Jeremiah that Yahweh would be with him (Jeremiah 1:4-10). But now that Jeremiah is doing exactly what Yahweh instructed him to do, he was in the midst of great threats, troubles, sufferings, afflictions, and disasters. Yahweh "forced" Jeremiah to preach against Jeremiah's will. All the people of Yahweh have made Jeremiah a "laughingstock." Everyone "mocks" at him. 20:7.
b. Jeremiah has tried to avoid the responsibilities Yahweh has laid on him. First, he determined to preach just one oracle or sermon of HOPE, but when he opens his mouth, Yahweh forces him to cry out: "Violence and destruction!" Yahweh is about to overthrow his sinful people through the Babylonians. 20:8.
c. Second, Jeremiah determined not to preach any more at all. But Yahweh enters into his inner being and FORCES Jeremiah to preach against Jeremiah's will. Jeremiah is very upset because he has to preach against his will. 20:9.
d. Everywhere around Jeremiah, people are whispering: "Magor-missabib"="Terror on every side," a boomerang of Jeremiah's message in 6:25; 20:3. All his close friends are seeking ways to bring revenge on Jeremiah. 20:10.

II. All the time, Jeremiah is confident that SOMEHOW Yahweh will be "with" him. Jeremiah 20:11-13.
a. All alone, Jeremiah turns to Yahweh alone. He declares that Yahweh is WITH him like a dread warrior, and thus Jeremiah's persecutors will stumble and fall. 20:11.
b. Jeremiah declares that Yahweh tests the righteous and see the heart and mind. Therefore, he begs Yahweh to bring retribution on his enemies. 20:12.
c. Then, Jeremiah bursts into song, and calls for all around to sing and praise to Yahweh, because he has delivered the needy from evildoers. 20:13.

III. Jeremiah concludes by wishing that he had never been born. Jeremiah 20:14-18.
a. Jeremiah 20:14-18 is very similar to the bitter complaint of Job recorded in Job 3. A careful reader will find many lines that are essentially the same.
b. Jeremiah declares: CURSED be the day I was born, when his mother gave birth and his father proclaimed to everyone that Jeremiah was born. 20:15-17.
c. But now that Jeremiah was born and is now alive, daily he faces only toil and sorrow and shame. 20:18.

Did Yahweh approve of this bitter complaint of Jeremiah? Similar texts like Jeremiah 15:15-21 suggest Yahweh was extremely disappointed about Jeremiah's feelings and declarations. At the same time, Yahweh WANTS all people to come to him to openly share their feelings and doubts and failures so Yahweh can deal with them.

All of us have had these feelings. This is healthy IF we turn to God for guidance and help as we grow to be more like he is.

Share YOUR feelings and problems and issues with others. Let me hear from YOU.

John Willis

Sunday, April 10, 2011

The Power of Speech

Divine and Human speech is one of the most powerful forces in human life. In the next several blogs [intermingled with a study of the Book of Jeremiah], we will discuss different aspects of speech--both positive and negative. In this introductory blog, let us think about a few great truths about the power of speech. God and human beings can denounce or harm or encourage or assure others. Here are a few examples and thoughts.

1. Proverbs 10:11: "The mouth of the righteous is a fountain of life,
but the mouth of the wicked conceals violence."

2. Proverbs 12:18: "Rash words are like swords of thrusts,
but the tongue of the wise brings healing."

3. Proverbs 12:25: "Anxiety weighs down the human heart,
but a good word cheers it up."

4. Proverbs 15:4: "A gentle tongue is a tree of life,
but perverseness in it breaks the spirit."

5. Proverbs 16:24: "Pleasant words are like a honeycomb,
sweetness to the soul and health to the body."

6. Proverbs 25:11: "A word fitly spoken
is like apples of gold in a setting of silver."

7. James 3:2-12:
"All of us make many mistakes. Anyone who makes no mistakes in speaking is perfect, able to keep the whole body in check with a bridle. If we put bits into the mouths of horses to make them obey us, we guide their whole bodies. Or look at ships: though they are so large that it takes strong winds top drive them, yet they are gujided by a very small rudder wherver the will of the pilot directs. So also the tongue is a small member, yet its boat of great exploits. How great a forest is set ablaze by a small fire! And the tongue is a fire. The tongue is placed among our members as a world of iniquity: it stains the whole body, sets on fire the cycle of nature, and is itself set on fire by hell. For every species of beast and bird, of repite and sea creature, can be tamed and has been tamed by the human species, but no one can tame the tongue--a restless evil, full of deadly poison. With it we bless the Lord and Father, and with it we curse those who are made in the likeness of God. From the same mouth come blessing and cursing. My brothers and sisters, this ought not to be so. Does a spring pour forth from the same opening both fresh and brackish water? Can a fig tree, my brothers and sisters, yield olives, or a grapevine figs? No more can salt water yield fresh."

9. W. E. Norris, in Thirlby Hall, penned this thoughtful jingle:
"If you your lips would keep from slips,
Five things observe with care;
To whom you speak, or whom you speak,
And how and when and where."

Speech is powerful. Think of the Sermon on the Mount, Abraham Lincoln's Gettysburg Address, Martin Luther King Jr.'s Speech: I Have A Dream. What are YOUR experiences about the power of speech? Share YOUR thoughts and insights with others. Let me hear from YOU.

John Willis