Every once in a while a section in my daily Bible reading slaps me in the face. That’s what happened recently with Jeremiah 20.
Jeremiah is often known as the “weeping prophet” because God gave him so much doom and gloom to proclaim. His ministry came in the very last days of the southern kingdom of Judah. He dealt with mostly wicked kings who did not want to hear God’s message to change their idolatrous ways. They didn’t want to hear that Jerusalem would be destroyed, that God was finally going to punish them for turning away from him. (And of course that’s exactly what ended up happening.)
In chapter 20, Jeremiah has gotten a bit fed up with it all. He complains to the LORD about what is happening to him. He said, The word of the LORD has brought me reproach and insult all day long. (Jer. 20:8) He realized that if he didn’t speak what God told him, things would go better for him in a wordly sense. People would like him more. He’d be less likely to be beaten and locked up (as had just happened). This frustrated him!
But still, he wouldn’t stop proclaiming God’s Word. 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. (Jer. 20:9) Despite all his troubles, despite his anger and frustration, nothing was going to keep him from proclaiming God’s Word as his prophet.
I mentioned that this section slapped me in the face. Why? Because I’ve been called to proclaim God’s Word, too, not as a prophet, but as a pastor. Sometimes I, too, have a message that will make people upset, that not everyone will want to hear. I get frustrated at myself when I hold in that Word or hesitate to proclaim it, because is might make me uncomfortable or unpopular. Jeremiah was beaten and imprisoned for speaking God’s Word, and I can’t proclaim it for a few seconds of discomfort? Pathetic.
But then I look at the rest of this chapter, and Jeremiah is still able to rejoice! Sing to the Lord! Give praise to the Lord! He rescues the life of the needy from the hands of the wicked! (Jer. 20:13) Jeremiah knew that God would conquer for his people, that he would be rescued eternally. I know this, too.
I know that despite my shortcomings and fears, I have a Savior! He even forgives pastors. He’s won me eternal life in his Son. And isn’t it funny, when God’s Word hits me with that, suddenly I want to proclaim it! Suddenly I can’t hold it in! Then I realize that proclaiming all of God’s truth isn’t just my responsibility, but it’s my privilege. Even when it’s unpopular, God has given me the high honor of proclaiming his law and gospel to souls that need them both.
And all the while he still proclaims them both to me in his Word. Keep growing in that Word, friends!