Jeremiah 20:7-13 (NRSV)
7 O Lord, you have enticed me,
and I was enticed;
you have overpowered me,
and you have prevailed.
I have become a laughingstock all day long;
everyone mocks me.
8 For whenever I speak, I must cry out,
I must shout, “Violence and destruction!”
For the word of the Lord has become for me
a reproach and derision all day long.
9 If I say, “I will not mention him,
or speak any more in his name,”
then within me there is something like a burning fire
shut up in my bones;
I am weary with holding it in,
and I cannot.
10 For I hear many whispering:
“Terror is all around!
Denounce him! Let us denounce him!”
All my close friends
are watching for me to stumble.
“Perhaps he can be enticed,
and we can prevail against him,
and take our revenge on him.”
11 But the Lord is with me like a dread warrior;
therefore my persecutors will stumble,
and they will not prevail.
They will be greatly shamed,
for they will not succeed.
Their eternal dishonor
will never be forgotten.
12 O Lord of hosts, you test the righteous,
you see the heart and the mind;
let me see your retribution upon them,
for to you I have committed my cause.
13 Sing to the Lord;
praise the Lord!
For he has delivered the life of the needy
from the hands of evildoers.
Imagine, if you will, a Pastor/Preacher/Prophet standing on the steps of the Congressional building in D.C. and proclaiming that God was about to take the whole country down. Imagine how that person would be received if they proclaimed that judgment was about to come on the country from God because of sinfulness and the injustices the country was allowing. What would be the response to that person?
Imagine, then, the person, Jeremiah, who’s lament we read for our devotional reading today. Jeremiah was told by God to take a piece of pottery and take some leaders to a public place and smash the piece of pottery before them all; and, to make the connection that just as he had destroyed the pottery, God is about to destroy the country. Just as the pottery is smashed to bits, God is about to bring the foreign enemy, the Babylonians, and execute judgment and wrath on the country because they would not heed God.
Jeremiah is the “weeping prophet” that is moved to proclaim this word from God. He finds he both loathes himself for speaking the message and faces the ire of the people for speaking it. Even his friends turn their back on Jeremiah, rejecting him for so boldly predicting that God is about to demolish Israel as a sign of judgment for their turning their back on God. Being a prophet like Jeremiah is not an easy thing!
How do we respond to the prophets of our day? When many preachers proclaim “prosperity gospel” and “positive/self-help messages,” what about when God raises up someone who looks at the injustices and horrors of our society and calls them what they are? Not many people are willing to sign up for the role of the prophet speaking the word of judgment and correction. You tend not to get invited to the cocktail parties and social occasions the world so relishes. You may not even like yourself for doing it. But, God calls certain people to speak even unpopular messages. What will we say about them and to them?