Thursday, November 21, 2019

Jeremiah: The Mark of a Prophet

"I hear many whispering, “Terror on every side! Report him! Let’s report him!” All my friends are waiting for me to slip, saying, “Perhaps he will be deceived; then we will prevail over him and take our revenge on him” (Jeremiah 20:10).

Jeremiah was no different from you and me. Made in God’s image, he loved beauty and peace and enjoyed the companionship of others. He did not enjoy bringing God’s message of woe to the people, and he did not like being persecuted by them. His soft heart never hardened under persecution, and he did not become an embittered loner, rejecting human company. Rather, he continued to suffer when he was rejected.

Jeremiah might have given up. He might have become one of the false prophets preaching only “peace and love.” These never said anything that would upset anybody. After all, they said, Isaiah told us to comfort God’s people and speak peace to Jerusalem (Isaiah 40). There are plenty of such preachers today who say, “God loves you just as you are.”

The Bible’s message is, “God loves you and demands that you change your ways.” Isaiah was being told to comfort the afflicted; Jeremiah was told to afflict the comfortable. Those who groan over sin and wickedness are those who are to be comforted. Those who are at ease in sin and who perpetrate evil in society need to be afflicted.

From time to time true prophets experience affliction from angry sinners. Jeremiah experienced it a lot. Yesterday we saw Jeremiah tell the wicked Pashhur that in the future his name would be “Mr. Terror on Every Side.” In fact, that was the name Jeremiah was being called (Jeremiah 20:10). The leaders of the city were out to get Jeremiah, and when people saw him on the street, they would say, “Here comes Mr. Bad Luck. Let’s turn him in and get him in trouble.”

Jeremiah’s associates (the “friends” of verse 10) also conspired against him. They hoped he would commit some sin so they could discredit him. His fellow priests hated him because his faithfulness exposed their unfaithfulness. They had to condemn him in order to keep looking good in the public eye. So it is today. If you stand up for what is right, whether in the pulpit or on the job, there will be those who attack you. Such is one mark of a true disciple of the holy God.

The media delights to expose the sins of ministers of God’s Word. Gossip grapevines inside the church run rampant with exaggerated tales and lies about those in authority. As Christians, we should not be so prone to uncritically believe scandalous reports. Even when such tales turn out to be true, we should grieve and pray for the person involved, resisting the temptation to gloat and gossip.