You deceived me, Lord, and I was deceived; you overpowered me and prevailed. I am ridiculed all day long; everyone mocks me. 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.
Here, in poetic form, we have the thoughts of Jeremiah while he is in the stocks, waiting for what would happen on the morrow. This is a remarkable account of what the prophet thought while he was imprisoned. He was, to say the least, a profoundly perturbed prophet! Here we get another look at the honest humanity of this man, at the way he faced circumstances just as we do, with fear and despair, alternating at times between faith and confidence.
The first thing he feels is that God himself has deceived him. Here is a bitter cry in which Jeremiah charges God with having lied to him, and with having taken advantage of him. Have you ever felt like that toward God? Jeremiah is probably thinking back to the promise with which he began his ministry. God had called Jeremiah as a young man, and Jeremiah had objected. Remembering those words, he is saying, “What happened, Lord? What happened to your promise? You said you’d be with me to deliver me, but here I am in these miserable stocks.” That is the way the heart can easily feel toward God. Like so many of us, Jeremiah took these promises rather superficially. He read into them assumptions God never intended, and so he charges God with lying. That, of course, is the one thing God cannot do. God cannot lie. Yet Jeremiah feels, as many of us have felt, that God has failed his promise. I do not know how many times people have said to me, referring to the word of God, “Well, I know what it says, but it doesn’t work!” That is just another way of saying, “God has deceived me; God’s a liar!” That was the prophet’s predicament.
The second thing he found was that people were mocking him. Though they could not answer the keenness of his logic, they did the only thing they could do — they began to ridicule his person. That is always the refuge of petty minds. When people cannot handle a logical argument they begin to attack the person, and try to destroy him personally. They laughed at Jeremiah, poked fun at him, ridiculed him. Mockery is hard to bear, hard for the human spirit to take, and this was getting to Jeremiah.
Third, he discovered an unbearable tension within himself. He says, “Lord, your word is a reproach and derision to me. I wish I had never heard it!” He wants to quit preaching, but he cannot. How he is torn with this inner tension — of fear and a dislike of proclaiming the truth, because it only subjects him to ridicule and scorn; and yet when he resolved to quit he found he could not, because the fire of God was burning in his bones and he had to say something. Do you know anything of that? Perhaps not about public preaching — we are not all called to that. But have you ever felt that you just had to speak out? Some injustice, some moral perversity, some scandalous conduct, some loveless hypocrisy was occurring, and you just could not keep quiet about it. Yet you knew that if you spoke out you would only get into trouble, and nobody would thank you for it — you would only upset the status quo and create strife — but you could not contain yourself. Did you ever feel that way? That was what Jeremiah was experiencing here — this tremendous struggle within himself against the proclamation of the Word of God which only created more trouble.
Lord, thank you that I can pour my heart out to you. Keep me from charging you with falsehood. Keep me, Lord, from weakness. But even when we are weak, thank you for the forgiveness and the healing that you manifest in my life.
Are we willing to stand against overt evil, and trust God’s sovereign wisdom for the outcome of our witness? When life tumbles in do we question God’s prerogative to determine our circumstances?