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If You Utter What Is Precious... You Shall Be as My Mouth

8 March • Friday of the Third Week in Lent


Jeremiah 15:10-21

10 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. 11 The LORD said, “Have I not set you free for their good? Have I not pleaded for you before the enemy in the time of trouble and in the time of distress? 12 Can one break iron, iron from the north, and bronze?


13 “Your wealth and your treasures I will give as spoil, without price, for all your sins, throughout all your territory. 14 I will make you serve your enemies in a land that you do not know, for in my anger a fire is kindled that shall burn forever.”


15 O LORD, you know;

remember me and visit me,

and take vengeance for me on my persecutors.

In your forbearance take me not away;

know that for your sake I bear reproach.

16 Your words were found, and I ate them,

and your words became to me a joy

and the delight of my heart,

for I am called by your name,

O LORD, God of hosts.

17 I did not sit in the company of revelers,

nor did I rejoice;

I sat alone, because your hand was upon me,

for you had filled me with indignation.

18 Why is my pain unceasing,

my wound incurable,

refusing to be healed?

Will you be to me like a deceitful brook,

like waters that fail?


19 Therefore thus says the LORD:

“If you return, I will restore you,

and you shall stand before me.

If you utter what is precious, and not what is worthless,

you shall be as my mouth.

They shall turn to you,

but you shall not turn to them.

20 And I will make you to this people

a fortified wall of bronze;

they will fight against you,

but they shall not prevail over you,

for I am with you

to save you and deliver you,

declares the LORD.

21 I will deliver you out of the hand of the wicked,

and redeem you from the grasp of the ruthless.”

Meditation

 

Today’s text finds Jeremiah in a bad place. Quite simply, he is fed up: he has prophesied in God’s name for many years, and it has brought him nothing but ‘strife and contention’ (v.10). Any joy he once felt at being entrusted with God’s words (v.16) has vanished in the face of the people’s impenitence and hostility. Better not to have been born than to have had a calling like his!


Jeremiah is full of resentment against those who have opposed him. In verses 13-14 he repeats some of his earlier warnings of coming judgement, and follows that in verse 15 by saying: Bring it on, Lord! I deserve some vindication here! ‘Remember me... and take vengeance for me on my persecutors’ (verse 15). But can it ever be right for God’s prophet to want that?


Jeremiah is turned in on himself, focused on his own grief and pain, unable to believe that his hurt can ever be healed. Even God seems to have let him down (verse 18).


We can commend Jeremiah’s honesty: he does not hide his feelings from God. God does not blame Jeremiah for feeling as he does, but He does tell Jeremiah to ‘return’, that is, repent (verse 19). Jeremiah’s despairing words may be understandable, but compared to the ‘precious’ message of judgement and salvation that God has given him, they are ‘worthless’. Jeremiah must keep declaring God’s word, until people turn to Him. He will, finally, prevail, for God will be with him and deliver him (verses 20 and 21).


Jeremiah turned back to God and continued his hard calling. That is why we honour him today. He is a model of faithfulness in a hard and seeming fruitless ministry.


Prayer

 

Lord, thank You that You meet Your servants where they are, not where they (and perhaps You) would like them to be. When they are in a bad place You meet them with words that bring healing and restoration. If we find ourselves in a situation like Jeremiah’s, give us grace to hear what You may have to say to us. We pray in the name of Your Son Jesus, Your faithful Servant and Prophet.


Action

 

Have you tried to live faithfully for Christ (in your family, church, workplace)? How has that gone? Do you find yourself echoing some of Jeremiah’s disillusioned, resentful and self-pitying thoughts? If so, lay the matter before God in prayer and wait for God’s response.


Dr Philip Satterthwaite

Emeritus Lecturer in OT and Biblical Interpretation

Biblical Graduate School of Theology

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