Day 224: Taking Jeremiah Personally, Part 2 (Jeremiah 20, 29)

August 27, 2023 Glynwood Baptist Church, Prattville, AL

James Jackson, Lead Pastor

When I was a kid, I was fascinated by Greek mythology. I loved reading all the stories about gods and goddesses. I became a Christian when I was pretty young—seven or eight years old, so I knew they weren’t really gods or goddesses, but I always loved the myths.   There’s one story from Greek mythology that’s a little less familiar. It’s the story of Cassandra. Does anyone know the story of Cassandra? In mythology, Cassandra was a daughter of the king of Troy, known for her beauty and her intelligence.   One day, the god Apollo promised to give her the gift of prophecy if she would become his wife. Well, she promised, and Apollo gave her the gift of prophecy. She became the most revered prophet in all of Troy. But then, Cassandra changed her mind about marrying Apollo, and she broke it off.   Well, that ticked off Apollo, so he decided to get his revenge on Cassandra by turning his wedding gift into a curse. From that point on, Cassandra would be able to predict the future with just as much accuracy as before, with one big difference: No one would believe her. You’ve probably heard the story of the Trojan Horse. Troy had won a huge battle against the Greek army, and they were all celebrating, thinking the war was over. The next day they woke up, and there’s a huge statue of a horse right outside the city gate. All the city officials were like, “Cool, a horse! Let’s bring it inside.”   Well, Cassandra had seen the future. She knew it was a trap. She knew the Greek soldiers were hiding inside the statue, and that if they brought it through the gate the soldiers would pour out of the horse and capture the city. So she tried to warn them.   No one believed her. They made fun of her and called her names.   In desperation, she tried to destroy the horse herself with an axe, and her own people threw her in jail. Her prophecy came true, the city of Troy was destroyed, and Cassandra went insane.   One of the most famous paintings of Cassandra shows her pulling at her own hair, with Troy burning behind her.   And the reason I tell you all of this is because I think it’s a pretty good picture of what it’s like when you try to warn someone of something and they don’t believe you. It just makes you want to pull your hair out!   You ever been the one to say I told you so? Where you warned someone of consequences, and they didn’t believe you, and they did it anyway?   Maybe it was with your children when you told them not to touch a hot stove. Or came back from the camping trip covered in mosquito bites, even when you told them to put on bug spray.   Or maybe it was with a teenager who… well, I don’t really have to give any specifics, do I?   Maybe it was with your company. You told your boss that something was a bad idea, and they did it anyway.   Maybe it was with a guy in your accountability group.   If you’ve ever wanted to pull your hair out because no one was listening to you, then you can relate to Jeremiah.   If you weren’t here last week, lets review: Jeremiah had a forty year ministry that started with the last good king of Judah and ended with the destruction of Jerusalem. Jerusalem was conquered by the Babylonians in 586 BC. The temple was destroyed, and the entire population was led into exile.   He witnessed the Babylonian invasion. He watched the city burn and the temple be destroyed. He was with the people of Jerusalem as they were led away into captivity.

You could summarize the message of Jeremiah with three words: Warning, Weeping, Wrath.   Of all the writing prophets, we probably know more Jeremiah than anyone else. We know he had a clear calling from God. In Jeremiah 1:4-5 Now the word of the Lord came to me, saying, “Before I formed you in the womb I knew you,
and before you were born I consecrated you;
I appointed you a prophet to the nations.”  

Now, we didn’t get to this last week, but I really love Jeremiah’s response. Look at verse 6:   “Then I said, ah, lord God…”   Not a great reception to God’s call on your life—“ah, lord God.” I tried to look up the what the Hebrew word was that was translated “ah.” You know what it is? It’s “ah.” It’s exactly what we would say when we are told to do something we don’t want to do. “Ah, man” Whenever it’s used in the Bible, its either an expression of grief, like “Alas, O Lord,” or reluctance, like here.   Jeremiah didn’t want to give the message God wanted him to give. He tries to make it about being too young. He says   Behold, I do not know how to speak, for I am a youth.” Now, Jeremiah’s probably in his 20s, at the latest.

Look at God’s response:   “But the Lord said to me, do not say I am only a youth,” Jeremiah, don’t Don’t begin with that, don’t dwell on that, don’t say that I am a youth. for to all to whom I send you, you shall go, and whatever I command you, you shall speak.   Verse 8:

Do not be afraid of them,
for I am with you to deliver you,
declares the Lord.”  

I love verse 8 in the King James. It says, “Do not be afraid of their faces.”   You know, this is good for any speaker. Because when a speaker looks at a crowd of faces, there are what experts call yes faces and no faces. And when I am preaching, I’m looking for the yes faces. I’m drawn to the ones who look like they want to hear what I’m saying. But Jeremiah knew that he was going to encounter lots of no faces.   And God says, Jeremiah, don’t be afraid of the “no” faces. You are going where I send you. You are saying what I tell you. This isn’t about you.   Do you ever notice in scripture how God uses the very people who think they’re unqualified to be used?  

  • Moses said, I can’t speak. I’ve got a speech impediment. God sent him to be a spokesman.
  • Isaiah, when God called him, said, woe is me. I’m undone, I am a man of unclean lips. I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips. God said, don’t worry about it. I’ll clean your lips, I’ll give you the power.
  • Paul the Apostle said, I’m less than the least of all the saints. I was a persecutor of the church. And yet, he recognized God called him to speak the unsearchable riches of Christ.

  The general principle is this– God chooses the most unlikely, the weakest– doesn’t look for the best or latest model.

And usually the people who say, man, I’m awesome, I can’t believe God isn’t using me more, God will often bypass to find the ones who say, I don’t know if God should ever use me. Bingo, you’re the one I’ve been looking for. I’ve had you on my mind all along, even before you were born. I’ll put my words in your mouth. And I will be with you, says the Lord.

So this is the start of Jeremiah’s 40-50 year ministry. And over the course of that ministry, Jeremiah got a ridiculous amount of “no” faces. It was probably the most unsuccessful career we have record of in the Bible.   If Jeremiah had been a church planter or an IMB missionary, the Board would have been like, Dude, we’re calling you off the field. You’ve been there nearly fifty years. No one is listening to you. And not only are they not listening, they don’t even like you. No converts. Nothing but hostility for your entire career.
And by the time we get to Jeremiah 20, it’s just too much. Let’s go there.   Here’s the scene: Jeremiah has been warning the people to repent because Babylon is coming. No one’s listening to him. They’ve denounced him and done everything they can do to discredit him. At the beginning of chapter 20, a priest named Passhur, who is described as a chief official in the temple of the Lord, here’s Jeremiah preaching his message of repentance, and verse 2 says he had Jeremiah beaten and put in stocks.   How unpopular do you have to be to get beaten up by a priest? For what it’s worth, Jeremiah won’t be the last character in Scripture to get beaten by a priest. Peter and John were beaten by priests in Acts 5. Jesus was punched in the face by a priest in John 18:22. Paul was punched in the face by Ananias in Acts 23:2. I’ll bet up in heaven they all have matching shirts.   But you get the sense in Jeremiah that the prophet is hitting his breaking point. Look at verse 7:
O Lord, you have deceived me,
    and I was deceived;
you are stronger than I,
    and you have prevailed.
I have become a laughingstock all the day;
    everyone mocks me.   Jeremiah seems to be saying, Lord, you didn’t tell me it would be like this. They aren’t listening to me. They don’t believe me. They laugh at me and mock me all day long.   Lord, I’m starting to think you weren’t honest with me. That word for “deceived” is translated in other verses as “entice” or even “seduce.” It’s like, “Lord, you led me on.” You promised me one thing and gave me another.   We’ll get back to that in. a minute, but skip down and see just how low Jeremiah is feeling:
Cursed be the day
    on which I was born!
The day when my mother bore me,
    let it not be blessed!
15 Cursed be the man who brought the news to my father
“A son is born to you,”
    making him very glad. Basically, he’s saying, I don’t like my life. I don’t like my birthday. I don’t like the guy who passed out cigars in the waiting room and said, “It’s a boy.”   In fact, says Jeremiah in verse 17, I wish I had never been born.   Look, I know it’s dark. But can I tell you how glad I am that this is in the Bible? Because I’ve been there. I struggle with anxiety and depression. There’s been times that I’ve gotten so overcome with feelings of inadequacy and failure that I’ve cried out to God, God why am I even here? This is hard. Ministry is hard. Marriage is hard. Parenting is hard. Grief is hard. Cancer is hard. Suffering and natural disaster and evil in the world. It’s hard. Life isn’t a highlight reel. It’s not all an Instagram moment.   God, I thought if I trusted you, you would make everything work out for me. I thought if I surrendered my life to you, all my problems would be solved.   You deceived me Lord, and I was deceived.   I’m so glad this is in the Bible, because it tells me I’m not alone. It tells me I can pour out my deepest complaints to God, and that He is big enough to take it.   Listen: God is going to hold you tight, even when you are beating your fists against him. God is going to calm you in the crisis, even while you’re in the middle of blaming Him for it. And when you have calmed down enough to listen, God’s going to remind you, My child, I never deceived you. In fact, I told you it was going to be hard. Jeremiah, I told you not to be afraid of their faces. I told Moses that Pharaoh was going to harden his heart. I told Isaiah that the people would be ever hearing but never understanding.   And he tells us the same thing. Jesus said in the sermon on the mount, Blessed are you when men persecute you and insult you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me.   Not if. When.   John 15:   18 “If the world hates you, know that it has hated me before it hated you. 19 If you were of the world, the world would love you as its own; but because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hates you.    Listen: The promise was never that you would never have trouble. John 16:33: In this world, you will have trouble. The promise is that Jesus has overcome the world.   I want you to notice what Jeremiah says next. In Jeremiah 20:8-9, he says,
Whenever I speak, I cry out
    proclaiming violence and destruction.
So the word of the Lord has brought me
    insult and reproach all day long.
But if I say, “I will not mention his word
    or speak anymore in his name,”
his word is in my heart like a fire,
    a fire shut up in my bones.
I am weary of holding it in;
    indeed, I cannot.  

Church, Verses 8-9 are probably the most realistic picture of what it means to be unashamed in our gospel witness. We are called to exhort and encourage the people around us, no matter what the response will be for the people around us. For fifty years, Jeremiah proclaimed that unless the people repented and turned to God, there would be violence and destruction. Do you know what the first words out of Jesus’ mouth were when He began His public ministry? Mark 1:15: The time is fulfilled, the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe the Gospel.   In Acts 2, after Peter preached the sermon on the day of Pentecost, the people cried out, “Brothers, what must we do?” And Peter replied, “Repent and be baptized, every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins (Acts 2:36).   The beginning of every gospel proclamation is “repent and believe. Repent and believe.” And that’s not an easy job. It wasn’t easy for Jeremiah. They didn’t repent. It wasn’t easy for Cassandra. No one believed her. And it isn’t easy for us. We might not be successful. We will not be popular. But God doesn’t call us to success and popularity, he calls us to faithfulness.   And even if we want to keep it to ourselves, we can’t. Jeremiah said that God’s word was like a fire shut up in his bones. He couldn’t hold it in if he wanted to.   Why? Because it is the word of the Lord. That phrase, “The word of the Lord” shows up 53 times in Jeremiah.   And we have received it. ““The word of the Lord came to me”: 10 times in Jeremiah.   We can’t hold it in. We can’t hold it back. Romans 1:16: I am not ashamed. So we always have to be ready to give an answer for the hope that is within us.   And here’s the thing: Even if we think no one is listening, someone is. Jeremiah didn’t have anyone respond to him. But I want to close with looking at a verse many of us know in Jeremiah 29:11    


 Matthew 2 where did the wise men come from? How did the wise men know to look for Jesus? Because for seventy years, God allowed his people to be in exile. 



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