18 They said, “Come, let’s make plans against Jeremiah; for the teaching of the law by the priest will not cease, nor will counsel from the wise, nor the word from the prophets. So come, let’s attack him with our tongues and pay no attention to anything he says.”
19 Listen to me, Lord;
hear what my accusers are saying!
20 Should good be repaid with evil?
Yet they have dug a pit for me.
Remember that I stood before you
and spoke in their behalf
to turn your wrath away from them.
21 So give their children over to famine;
hand them over to the power of the sword.
Let their wives be made childless and widows;
let their men be put to death,
their young men slain by the sword in battle.
22 Let a cry be heard from their houses
when you suddenly bring invaders against them,
for they have dug a pit to capture me
and have hidden snares for my feet.
23 But you, Lord, know
all their plots to kill me.
Do not forgive their crimes
or blot out their sins from your sight.
Let them be overthrown before you;
deal with them in the time of your anger.
(Jeremiah 18:18-23 NIV)
In the previous two passages, the Lord told Jeremiah to observe the symbolic act of the potter remaking a pot and then use the illustration to preach repentance to the people of Judah and Jerusalem. The Lord also instructed Jeremiah to warn the people of impending doom if they did not repent.
In today’s passage, the people respond to the Lord’s message by plotting to do away with the messenger rather than heeding the message from the Lord. The majority of today’s text is Jeremiah’s lament over his situation.
Verse 18 covers the three roles the people of Judah observed Jeremiah fulfilling:
The evaluation of each function goes with the enumeration of the role:
- “Do we have enough priests to teach us God’s Law? Yes, we do.”
- “Do we have enough sages (wise men) to counsel us? Yes, we do.”
- “Do we have enough prophets to hear from God? Yes, we do.”
So what is the conclusion and will of the people? “We have enough priests, sages, and prophets without Jeremiah. He is a thorn in our flesh – let’s get rid of him and his annoying messages of gloom and doom.”
After recounting the plot (which the Lord, in His sovereignty, knew before Jeremiah became aware of it) in verse 18, Jeremiah launches into his lament. In verse 19, Jeremiah defends himself against his accusers, as if this were a court case of “the people vs. Jeremiah the prophet“.
In verse 20, Jeremiah reminds the Lord that he stood in the gap and prayed for the people (similar to how Moses had stood before the Lord and pleaded for the Lord not to destroy the ancient Israelites). Now the very ones Jeremiah had prayed for were turned against him and sought his life.
In verses 21 – 23, Jeremiah calls out the curses he wishes the Lord would bring down upon the people. These curses against the people that Jeremiah was requesting were all from previous messages that the Lord had pronounced against Judah and Jerusalem. The difference is that Jeremiah makes them personal, as a call for vengeance for the pain and anguish that he was suffering at the hand of his fellow citizens.
While Jeremiah was feeling the deep pain of rejection and betrayal by his country (and even his family, as we have seen in earlier passages), he was not walking in the promise that the Lord had proclaimed at the beginning of his calling.
As with Jeremiah’s previous lament (17:14-18), the Lord provides no direct reply. Similar to the last lament, the Lord gives Jeremiah the next assignment at the beginning of Chapter 19.
Jeremiah’s only saving grace from this intense rage is found at the beginning of verse 23: “But you, Lord, know…”. Jeremiah reminded himself that the Lord knew all this and identified with all his raw emotions and hurts.
And so it is with us. When a situation comes along to upset our current path, to disrupt our comfort and convenience, to bring an injustice against us, our reaction is often like Jeremiah’s. We want justice to prevail, for the Lord to intervene, and the sooner, the better.
However, when we are in the wrong, when we are the ones committing the injustice or the sin, our plea is for God’s mercy and a withholding of the punishment we deserve.
May we remember that the Lord is “a compassionate and gracious God,
slow to anger, abounding in love and faithfulness.” (Psalm 86:15).
May we remember that the Lord applies His compassion, grace, love, and faithfulness to all, seeking that all would repent and turn to Him. Before we were followers of Christ, we were counted among His enemies, in need of His saving grace and love.
May we remember to extend this same grace to others as we have found in Christ – even those who may have betrayed us or used to be our friends and are now against us.