Jeremiah 14-15: Wall of Bronze
October 7, 2020
TODAY'S BIBLE READING:
Jeremiah 14-15, Ecclesiastes 5, John 2:12-25, James 3:13-18
The section begins with a problem. There is an economic downturn, a serious recession, brought on this agrarian society by that terror of the ancient world: “drought” (14:1). What is the cause of it? Because the Israelites know that God is the cause, ultimately, of all, they turn to God and ask him to have mercy on them, improve their economy, and send rain again on their land (14:7-9).
But it is too late (14:10-11). “He will remember their iniquity and punish their sins” (14:10). In fact, Jeremiah, “Do not pray for the welfare of this people” (14:11). It is too late.
Jeremiah is astonished—as any of us would be when being told that a certain church, for instance, simply needs to closed down. He says that the other prophets are telling the Israelites that all will be well (14:13). But says God, “The prophets are prophesying lies in my name” (14:14).
One test of whether a preacher is a true preacher of God’s Word or not is whether he ever preaches the things that people don’t like to hear. If he only emphasizes the “popular” messages of the Bible—love, joy, peace, and all the rest—likely as not he is taking his cue from what pleases the people around him, rather than aiming to please God first of all. Of course, it is possible to run to the other extreme and be so full of bile and unpleasantness that the preacher only preaches what will aggravate the people who hear him! Some are people pleasers; others are working out their inner anger at people by preaching in a way that is attacking, rather than edifying. Balance, truth with love, is the key. And it is this which is, to use Paul’s terminology, preaching “the whole counsel of God” (Acts 20:27), or ploughing a straight furrow through the Scriptures. We are, in our preaching, to reflect the balance of God’s Word—not the preferences of our own selves or of the people around us.
Jeremiah, in the midst of this hard ministry to which he was called, complains to God. Why does everyone hate him (15:10)! Prophets and preachers are rarely if ever universally popular, and if you ever feel like you are pushing uphill, Jeremiah will encourage you! “I have not lent, nor have I borrowed, yet all of them curse me” (15:10). Probably he is slightly exaggerating—presumably he had a group of supporters or advocates, otherwise we would be unlikely to have had his words so long recorded. But it certainly felt as if everyone hated him, and indubitably he had a lot of detractors. You cannot do a great work for God without opposition—at least from the devil. And the devil usually takes those around you, sometimes those very close to you, and attempts to take them captive to his will. “Strike the shepherd, and the sheep will scatter” (Zech. 13:7).
So Jeremiah appeals to God: “O LORD, you know; remember me and visit me…know that for your sake I bear reproach” (15:15). He has loved God’s Word: “Your words were found, and I ate them, and your words became to me a joy and the delight of my heart…” (15:16). But “Why is my pain unceasing, my wound incurable, refusing to be healed? Will you be to me like a deceitful brook, like waters that fall?” (15:18). Will God let him down?
And so God encourages Jeremiah, but very much in a tough love way. If you return to me, Jeremiah, I will return to you (15:19). Jeremiah was a sinner who needed to repent too, and in his repentance, though, he found acceptance. What is more, he needed to toughen up—considerably! “And I will make you to this people a fortified wall of bronze; they will fight against you, but they shall not prevail over you, for I am with you to save you and deliver you, declares the LORD” (15:20).
Oh, for more “wall of bronze” preachers! Pray for those who preach to you. And be bold in your personal witness and in standing for the truth. But remember: do so with love, humility, willing to learn as well as teach.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Josh Moody (Ph.D., University of Cambridge) is the senior pastor of College Church in Wheaton, IL., president and founder of God Centered Life Ministries, and author of several books including How the Bible Can Change Your Life and John 1-12 For You.
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