7 You deceived me, Lord, and I was deceived;
you overpowered me and prevailed.
I am ridiculed all day long;
everyone mocks me.
8 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.
9 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.
10 I hear many whispering,
“Terror on every side!
Denounce him! Let’s denounce 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.”
11 But the Lord is with me like a mighty warrior;
so my persecutors will stumble and not prevail.
They will fail and be thoroughly disgraced;
their dishonor will never be forgotten.
12 Lord Almighty, you who examine the righteous
and probe the heart and mind,
let me see your vengeance on them,
for to you I have committed my cause.
13 Sing to the Lord!
Give praise to the Lord!
He rescues the life of the needy
from the hands of the wicked.
14 Cursed be the day I was born!
May the day my mother bore me not be blessed!
15 Cursed be the man who brought my father the news,
who made him very glad, saying,
“A child is born to you—a son!”
16 May that man be like the towns
the Lord overthrew without pity.
May he hear wailing in the morning,
a battle cry at noon.
17 For he did not kill me in the womb,
with my mother as my grave,
her womb enlarged forever.
18 Why did I ever come out of the womb
to see trouble and sorrow
and to end my days in shame?
(Jeremiah 20:7-18 NIV)
In our last passage, the Lord directed Jeremiah to proceed directly from the Valley of Ben Hinnom to the Lord’s Temple to repeat the same message of God’s judgment of destruction to all the people in the Temple. The Temple official Pashhur arrested Jeremiah and put him in the stocks. When Pashhur frees Jeremiah the next morning, Jeremiah calls out God’s curses on him and all his friends.
In today’s text, Jeremiah painfully laments his public humiliation and cries out to the Lord. Jeremiah also remembers his calling and the Lord’s promise of protection.
In verse 7, Jeremiah begins with a very shocking accusation against the Lord. The word “deceived” is very particular in Hebrew, and means “seduced.” Jeremiah previously thought of his relationship with the Lord to be something akin to a marriage. Instead, Jeremiah now feels more like a lover that the Lord has seduced then left behind. And if the pain of that loss is not enough, Jeremiah experiences the ridicule of everyone else knowing about the seduction and publicly mocking him for foolishly falling for the temptation.
In verse 8, Jeremiah laments both the message the Lord has given him as well the delivery method the Lord had required. The words “speak”, “cry out” and “proclaiming” indicate a loud and aggressive delivery method. And with the delay in fulfillment of any of these predictions, Jeremiah becomes nothing more than an overbearing annoyance to everyone. Jeremiah blames his problems on the Lord.
In verse 9, Jeremiah decides that the best course of action would simply be to be quiet and leave his prophetic post. But when he does, Jeremiah finds that God’s words inside him are like a fire burning their way out. He cannot be silent.
In verse 10, Jeremiah laments his friends and fellow priests ridiculing him and his message. The phrase “terror on every side” (Hebrew, “Magor-missabib”) is such a common phrase from Jeremiah that it becomes his nickname. The villagers would likely say to one another, “There goes grumpy old Magor-missabib again. I wonder who he will dump his doom and gloom on today?” Jeremiah’s message was at the point where his fellow priests and friends were looking to trap him so they could get rid of him.
Jeremiah expresses his trust in the Lord and victory over his detractors in verses 11 – 13. He knows that justice will prevail and that one day he will be vindicated.
In verses 14 – 18, Jeremiah curses the day he was born. This lament is not a literal curse but rather a general bemoaning of the hurt and separation he is experiencing. Our tender-hearted hero is feeling the full force of rejection from his unbelieving peers. In a small way, Jeremiah was going through a tiny taste of what Jesus experienced on the cross.
We might ask ourselves why Chapter 20 ends on such a down note. When the psalmists expressed their hurts and laments about their situations, they concluded by acknowledging the Lord’s hand of protection and promise and inviting the Lord to provide justice. Why didn’t Jeremiah stop after verse 13?
The simple answer is that verses 14 – 18 provide a transition from Jeremiah’s personal strife to the nation of Judah’s corporate struggle in chapters 21 – 24. What Jeremiah felt as one individual would soon be the entire country’s experience.
May we, when faced with insurmountable opposition, allow ourselves to feel the depth of our pain and not bury it.
And like Jeremiah, may we turn to our Advocate, Protector, and Provider for our salvation.
God’s comforting words to His people long ago are still available to us through Christ:
For I am the Lord your God
who takes hold of your right hand
and says to you, Do not fear;
I will help you.
(Isaiah 41:13 NIV)