In House Church this evening we did a comparative study between Jeremiah 15 and Jeremiah 20. In chapter 15, Jeremiah rightly complains that his life had gotten complicated due to the message God had given him. He even points out that he is not like those who don’t honor God but actually did everyting he was instructed to do and say…but his life was no better off. In fact, he was in more pain than ever for his trouble.
I love Jeremiah’s integrity. He actually records God’s response to his complaining–I doubt I would. Here’s what God says: v. 19
“If you repent, I will restore you
that you may serve me;
if you utter worthy, not worthless, words,
you will be my spokesman.
No compassion for the man’s pain, no hint of exploring what Jer is really feeling; simply, “repent”.
I know what you are thinking (you know that’s just a phrase people say, including me), “So, does God not want to hear our struggles?” “Was He put off by Jeremiah’s honest complaint/lament?”
The story get more interesting… In chapter 20, Jeremiah actually uses harsher language this time. In v. 7 he suggests that God bound him and forced Himself upon Jeremiah (you will not find that in your English Bible, but that’s what it says in the Hebrew). Did Jer actually accuse God of rape? Certainly sounds like it. The story goes on and ends with no mention of God telling Jeremiah to repent. I wonder why?
Well without getting too long winded here, I think the answer lies in 15:19b. Notice the rest of the verse,
“Let this people turn to you,
but you must not turn to them.”
This phrase is a Hebrew idiom that is basically saying, “these people need to adopt your world view, you must not adopt theirs.” So, what’s the people’s world view? Simply put, they believed “they did not deserve what they were getting”. You see, in ch. 3 the people actually repent. Yet, God continues to speak judgment into their lives. Even Jeremiah is a bit taken back ’cause in ch. 4 he tells God that He deceived the people to think peace would come if they repented.
So, now in ch. 15, Jeremiah joins the chorus. I’m doing what you asked and my life is no better off. In essence, “God, you owe me…” “Repent and I will take you back Jeremiah. Let these people adopt your world view you must not adopt theirs.”
Ouch! God might as well been speaking directly to me. So often my prayers are more about obligating God to me in my subtle ways of outlining all I do for Him…so, please come through for me…for your glory…but really my comfort.