This week, grace time is rapidly running out for the nation of Judah.
Babylon has besieged Jerusalem, and it is only a matter of time before the whole city falls. Many will die, and many who survive will be led away into exile from their God-given land.
Last week was a week of many disheartening prophecies, oracles of destruction from Nahum, Zephaniah, Habakkuk, and now Jeremiah. But what is hard for us to read must have felt all but impossible for them to speak: they are all Israelites, men burdened by God with the truth of His wrath, men who wept for the destruction of God's people not as onlookers but as participants. Jeremiah said of his heavy purpose,
For each time I speak, I cry aloud; I proclaim violence and destruction, because for me the word of the Lord has resulted in reproach and derision all day long. But if I say, "I will not remember Him or speak anymore in His name," then in my heart it comes like a burning fire shut up in my bones; and I am weary of holding it in, and I cannot endure it.
- Jeremiah 20:8-9
These men, and the many other prophets we've read up to this point, had the calling none of us wants: the responsibility to loudly declare the truth to those who hate it, who find it offensive to their lifestyles, who would kill God's messengers before opening their hearts, and who would choose to listen to the voices of peace and safety even as the Babylonian army marches up to the gate.
Yet the word of the Lord coursed through the bones of the prophets like fire, so powerful that it had to be spoken.
"Is not My word like a fire?" declares the Lord, "and like a hammer which shatters a rock?"
The hardest part is that I can't imagine having this calling... even though I do have this calling.
I live in a generation that would follow the voices of peace and safety directly to hell if it meant they didn't have to open their hearts to the hard truth.
But who is taking up the responsibility to loudly declare that truth to the people who hate it, who find it offensive to their lifestyles, who may even be the same people who go to church every week? Is God's Word such a fire in my bones that I can't contain even the messages that could result in "reproach and derision all day long"?
In Acts 4, the apostles Peter and John were thrown into prison by the religious leaders who hated the truth of Jesus the Messiah - yet the Holy Spirit burned in them so powerfully that they couldn't keep silent:
Then Peter, filled with the Holy Spirit, said to them, "Rulers and elders of the people, if we are on trial today for a benefit done to a sick man, as to how this man has been made well, let it be known to all of you and to all the people of Israel, that by the name of Jesus Christ the Nazarene, whom you crucified, whom God raised from the dead - by this name, this man stands here before you in good health. He is the stone which was rejected by you, the builders, but which became the chief cornerstone. And there is salvation in no one else; for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved."
And when they had summoned them, they commanded them not to speak or teach at all in the name of Jesus. But Peter and John answered and said to them, "Whether it is right in the sight of God to give heed to you rather than to God, you be the judge; for we cannot stop speaking about what we have seen and heard."
Sometimes I would much prefer God's Word to be more like a bandage, or maybe a salve - soothing and gentle and easy. But it isn't. It's the truth, the truth which can both heal and destroy, the very voice of the One who is both Lion and Lamb. And it's only by the truth that relationship with God is made available to anyone.
I pray that it becomes in us a force of the Holy Spirit so powerful that we can't contain it.
Jeremiah: God of Weeping
Total read time: 4 hours