Jeremiah lived an extraordinary life, both incredibly on the cutting edge of what God was doing, and yet also in the thick of suffering. He was called at a young age to speak hard words against the rebellious kings, officials, priests of the whole land of Judah, a people who had experienced God’s favour but had walked away from him.
In chapter 15 he is found in a very difficult situation. On the one side there is God, pronouncing destruction, punishment and discipline on the rebellious people of Judah. Remember, not only had this people worshipped false gods and also created false prophecies pretending God himself has spoke them, deceiving many, but they had also been sacrificing their own children and killing anyone who spoke against their evil ways – including Isaiah. God’s righteous judgment is wreaking havoc all around Jeremiah. On the other, he has the people of Judah themselves cursing and persecuting him for speaking words they considered hateful, even eventually throwing him into a muddy cistern.
He cries out “Woe is me, my mother that you bore me, a man of strife and contention to the whole land! I have not lent, nor have I borrowed, yet all of them curse me.” Jeremiah 15:10
His suffering is undeserved after he has faithfully followed God for many years and obeyed his commands to speak. But God seems to be allowing him to suffer! In fact his biggest fear is that God himself will abandon him: “Will you be to me like a deceitful brook, like waters that fail?” (15:18)
Yet God replies to him that his suffering is actually for the good these wayward people. “Have I not set you free for their good?” (15:11). Jeremiah is called to plead with his insulters and at the same time endure and suffer their insults!
He then reassures Jeremiah to keep speaking his words “If you utter what is precious, and not what is worthless, you shall be as my mouth. You must influence them; do not let them influence you!” (15:19) and reminds him of his promises to him “I am with you to save you and deliver you, declares the Lord.” (15:20)
The same is true for us today! There are people who do not know God’s ways, and often we suffer insults and exclusion for speaking about our faith and living it out. But our suffering is for their good, that before it’s too late they might be influenced by us and be saved.
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