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"The Crushing of a Prophet"
Wednesday AM Bible Study
January 4, 2005
Jeremiah, in a previous time of frustration and confusion, cried out to God
about the prosperity of the wicked (12:1-4). It was a dark time for the
prophet. But God asked him, "If you have run with the footmen, and they
have wearied you, then how can you contend with horses? And if in the land
of peace, in which you trusted, they wearied you, then how will you do in
the floodplain of the Jordan?" (12:5). It was a foreboding question! In
other words, God responds to Jeremiah's question by asking how, if he
struggled at such times, would he be able to bear-up when things got worse?
Surely, as we come to chapter 20, we find that such a time had come!
This is, without a doubt, one of the darkest personal times in Jeremiah's
ministry. And chapter 20 reveals the deep torment that he was under: (1)
being beaten by one of God's enemies for having spoken God's word to them,
and yet then being called upon to stand up and speak again (vv. 1-6); (2)
deciding to refrain from speaking God's word, and yet finding that burned
within him to the point that he could no longer hold it in (vv. 7-12); and
(3) singing praise to the Lord for His faithfulness; and yet wishing that he
himself had never been born (vv. 13-18).
And yet, in spite of it how overwhelmed beyond description Jeremiah was, God
still used him and proved His own faithfulness through him. There's a great
lesson for us in this. How could he run with the horses? How could he
stand strong in the floodplain? The answer, of course was that he could
only stand by God's power. And as this passage shows us, His servants own
times of "crushing" in the Lord's service are the Lord's times of displaying
His power through them.
I. THE PROPHET IS CRUSHED BY THE REBELLIOUS (vv. 1-6).
A. Jeremiah had just spoken through the sign of the potter's house (chpt.
18) and the sign of the broken flask (chpt. 19). Pashhur, a priest who was
also chief governor - an overseer - in the temple heard "these things", attacked
Jeremiah for them physically (vv. 1-2).
B. After detaining Jeremiah in public humiliation near the very temple from
which he had prophesied (19:14-15), Pashhur released him. It was then that
Jeremiah turned to the man who - in wicked bravado - persecuted him for
prophesying, and spoke a message from the Lord (v. 3):
1. God had a new name for Pashhur. The precise meaning of his old name
isn't clear. But his new name would be "Magor-Missabib" - "Fear on every
side!" (v. 4. See also verse 10).
2. It was a name intended to indicate his destiny; because Jeremiah told
him that God would make him a terror both to himself, and to all his
friends. This would be because:
a. They would all fall by the sword of the Babylonians, and he would see it
b. They would be carried away by the king of Babylon, where they would be
slain (v. 4).
c. All the prosperity of Jerusalem would be delivered over as plunder to
the Babylonians (v. 5).
d. Pashhur, his whole household, and all the friends to whom he prophesied
lies, would die in captivity in Babylon.
C. God displayed the greatness of His power in Jeremiah by the fact that he
arose after his persecution to continue to speak God's word to his
persecutor. Only God could enable a man to do this! (See Paul in Acts
II. THE PROPHET IS CRUSHED BEFORE THE LORD (vv. 7-12).
A. Jeremiah complains before God in a very bold way. He has complained in a
similar way to God in 15:15-18; but not with the agony with which he
complains here! (vv. 7-10).
1. He acknowledges that God called him - inducing him, as it were, and
prevailing over him to become a prophet. But it has resulted in his
becoming a laughing-stock to all around him. He spoke a serious message of
God's impending judgment; but the "word of the LORD" was made his daily
reproach and derision (vv. 7-8).
2. Since it became a cause of his being mocked and ridiculed, he even
determined that he would be silent. But God's word that had been placed in
him could not be contained. It boiled up inside him until he could hold it
in no longer (vv. 9-10). Nevertheless, he spoke only to be ridiculed:
a. They made fun of his message of "Magor-Missabib" - fear on every side.
b. They mocked by suggesting, "Tell us a message from God, and we'll pass
c. His acquaintances - "The men of my peace" - watched for him to stumble and
tried to induce him so they could prevail against him.
B. But when Jeremiah complained before, God promised to display the
greatness of His power in him (15:19-21). And here, he affirms that promise
in his present distress (vv. 11-12).
1. He affirms that the Lord is with him as "a mighty awesome One".
2. That because the Lord was with him, those who were seeking to make him
stumble would themselves stumble.
a. They would be greatly ashamed and will not prosper.
b. Their confusion would be everlasting and never forgotten.
3. But the Lord - here called "the LORD of hosts", - would
a. Show Himself to be the one who tests the righteous and sees the mind and
b. Allow the prophet to see God's vengeance on his persecutors, because he
cried out to Him.
C. God displayed the greatness of His power in Jeremiah through the times
when He cried out to God under the greatness of his burden (2 Cor. 1:8-10).
III. THE PROPHET IS CRUSHED WITHIN HIMSELF (vv. 13-18).
A. Jeremiah bursts forth with a word of praise to God; affirming His
deliverance (v. 13).
B. And yet, even in his praise for this future deliverance, Jeremiah
suffers under the weight of it all. He speaks of his despair with frankness
that makes us uncomfortable!
1. Cursing the day of his birth (v. 14).
2. Cursing the man who announced his birth (v. 15-16).
3. Asking why the one who announced his birth didn't kill him before he
was able to come out of the womb, and into all his sorrow and shame (v.
C. Again, though, we see that God was glorified in His crushed prophet whom
He called even in his youth. He lived on and continued to speak; and his
words have been preserved for us even today.
* * * * * * * * * *
And so, this dark chapter illustrates a bright principle for us. It's one
that the apostle Paul wrote of: "But we have this treasure in earthen
vessels, that the excellence of the power may be of God and not of us. We
are hard pressed on every side, yet not crushed; we are perplexed, but not
in despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not
destroyed - always carrying about in the body the dying of the Lord Jesus,
that the life of Jesus may also be manifested in our body. For we who live
are always delivered to death for Jesus' sake, that the life of Jesus also
may be manifested in our mortal flesh" (2 Cor. 4:7-11).
When God calls us to do something for Him, He often calls us to do something
far beyond our ability to do. He may even choose - as He did with Jeremiah - to
place upon us a burden so terribly great and so dreadfully crushing, that we
despair even to the point of death. And then, when it's over, God's
sustaining power proves to be the only explanation for our having stood at
all; "that the excellence of the power may be of God and not of us."