Jeremiah 19-22: A Broken Pot
October 9, 2020
TODAY'S BIBLE READING:
Jeremiah has a sermon with a visual aid—a “potter’s earthenware flask” (19:1). As he preaches against the idolatry of God’s people, including human sacrifice of their children (19:5), he is commanded to “break the flask” (19:10). The point is that in the same way the flask is broken, so shall God’s people be broken (19:11). It must have been a dramatic moment. I remember one missionary stacking a pile of ceramic plates next to his lectern, and while he was talking about all those who did not know Jesus throughout the world, picking up the plates and smashing them to the ground. His point was a missionary one: we should take seriously our responsibility to global mission. But Jeremiah’s point is a prophetic one: God’s people need to take seriously their responsibility to worship and serve God and him alone.
One of the religious elite, “Pashur the priest” (20:1), takes a dislike to Jeremiah and his message and “put him in the stocks” (20:2). He uses his institutional power to ridicule Jeremiah and make it clear that Jeremiah’s message does not meet the standard of acceptable doctrine of the time.
As soon as Jeremiah is freed, however, God’s word comes to him, and in a prophetic denouncement God tells him to change his name to “Terror On Every Side” (20:3). Pashur no longer has a blessed name but a name that indicates that exile, with all its horrors, is coming (20:4-6).
Jeremiah, let it be noted, finds all this standing fast and pushing hard against the religious leaders, the swimming against the stream, something that takes an emotional toll on himself. He certainly develops depressive tendencies, if not downright suicidal ideation. “Cursed be the day I was born!” (20:14). Being a prophet was not for wimps, and as we are all called to be salt and light in the world, we need to pray for the courage and strength to keep going with grace and love.
As if to add agony to Jeremiah’s already painful situation—he does not want to declare that God’s people are going into exile—when Zedekiah sends to him to inquire whether they will be rescued from the Babylonian king Nebuchadnezzar (21:1-2), he can only answer that God will not rescue them (21:3-10). Whereas when they sent to Isaiah, God’s answer had been different. Why? Jeremiah 22:4-6 makes the answer to that question clear: the leaders of God’s people had not done what was right. Even more clearly, all of God’s people had become idolatrous (22:8-9):
“Why has the Lord dealt thus with this great city?” And they will answer, “Because they have forsaken the covenant of the Lord their God and worshiped other gods and served them.”
And yet still the kings and leaders of God’s people are only interested in amassing wealth for themselves rather than serving the people they are called to serve, and turning back God’s wrath by calling on God’s people to repent (22:13, 15-16). And so even if the sons of Josiah (Josiah, who was himself a good king) had been like a “signet ring” to God, attached to him and close to him, even if that were the case, it would not stop God executing discipline and judgment on their rebellion (22:24-27).
In fact, the pot is broken (22:28).
Hardly encouraging messaging from Jeremiah! But once again, as we look at the leaders of our country, we can understand how bad leadership can provoke inadequate character among the people, and how also the people get the leaders they deserve. Pray for our leaders. Pray for God’s church. May we faithfully follow God and remove the idols of our hearts and our lives. May we see God move again in power in our day and in our age.
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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