Bible Passage: Jeremiah 20:7-13
Pastor: Pastor Berg
Sermon Date: June 25, 2017
Perhaps some of you have received an email similar to this one: Dear in Christ, I am Mrs. Sandra Wills an aging widow suffering from long time illness. I have some funds I inherited from my late husband, the sum of $9,400,000. and I need a very honest and God fearing Christian that will use the fund for God’s work. I found your e-mail address from the internet and decided to contact you. Please if you would be able to use the funds for the Lord’s work, kindly reply for further details. Mrs. Sandra Wills. I receive emails like this all the time. Maybe it’s because “pastor” is my title. I don’t know, but it’s obvious that this email is an attempt to persuade me and other “undisclosed recipients” who received the same.
Everywhere we look, it seems that someone or another is trying to persuade us. Whether it’s the televangelist who promises financial prosperity if we support their “ministry,” or the grand prize winner mailings we receive that promise us a huge payoff if we only give them our personal information for verification purposes; people all over the world are trying to persuade us, to take advantage of us. It’s something that we expect from a sinful world. It’s something that we’re certainly prepared for.
But to see and hear what Jeremiah says in verse 7 of chapter 20 is something different. It’s something we would not expect to hear, especially about our God. “You persuaded me, O Lord,” is what Jeremiah writes. That word has the idea of enticing or deceiving behind it. The Lord enticing someone? The Lord deceiving someone? Is that possible? What is Jeremiah talking about? May the Lord grant us an open heart and mind to hear this Word of God and to understand what he says to us today. May we, after mining the depths of God’s revelation to us, may we joyfully say, “O Lord, Thank You for Persuading Us!”
Jeremiah is considered one of the major prophets of the Old Testament. He was the son of a priest. He became a prophet of God while he was quite young. His ministry spanned the last six kings of Judah. It is about 120 years later than Isaiah, falling into the so-called evil period, when a flood idolatry, immorality, and every kind of injustice and violence had engulfed everything. The people of Judah had hardened their hearts before the Lord, leading to their inevitable doom. Even though there were attempts at sweeping reforms by men like Josiah, true repentance was not found. The nation as a whole had nothing but scorn and hatred for the Word of God and persecution for the prophets who spoke that Word.
God’s call to Jeremiah was to preach repentance to this people. But because of the hardened hearts of these people, Jeremiah’s message of repentance became a resounding gong of judgment. Arguably, Jeremiah’s ministry was the most difficult and most thankless of all the prophets. And it’s that little nugget that helps us to understand how Jeremiah could have ever said such a thing as we find in our lesson this morning. Listen again as Jeremiah cries out to the Lord. “You persuaded me, Lord, and I was persuaded. You are stronger than I am, and you prevailed. I have become a laughingstock all day long, and everyone mocks me. Whenever I speak, I call out. I call out, “Violence and destruction!” because the word of the Lord has brought me insult and mockery all day long.”
Jeremiah had endured almost unimaginable suffering during his many years of ministry. Just before he spoke the words before us this morning, Jeremiah had spent a day or two in the stocks. He had been physically beaten. But perhaps even more damaging was the mocking done by his countrymen. All of this had driven Jeremiah to the point of quitting. He felt that he could no longer endure all that came with being faithful to God’s Word and he was just ready to be quiet. So, he says to the Lord, “O Lord, you persuaded me, you deceived me…”
When we hear that word “deceive” we automatically think about the scam artist, the crook, the liar who are trying to cheat us out of something or trying to bring us harm. How could Jeremiah say such a thing about the LORD? Was Jeremiah really accusing God of tricking him or scamming him into being his prophet? Looking at Jeremiah’s life may lead you to think that it’s not that far out of the realm of possibility. However, deceive is really a secondary meaning. The primary meaning of the word is to persuade. God had persuaded Jeremiah to be his prophet by the power of his Holy Word. That Word of God persuaded Jeremiah to believe in God and his promises. Being God’s prophet is not something Jeremiah could have or would have chosen to do. In fact, Jeremiah did the best he could to persuade the Lord that he wasn’t up to the task. But the Lord persuaded him. He enticed him by his promises that his Word would work. For many in Israel, that mean their hearts would continue to reject the Word and they would be hardened in unbelief. For some, it meant they would repent and believe. The only problem was that in Jeremiah’s mind, the Word wasn’t working as God had promised. Instead, the Word was bringing Jeremiah insult and mockery all day long. The people to whom Jeremiah was called to preach the Word were making his life miserable.
My friends, maybe we haven’t experienced the persecution of the world to the same level as Jeremiah, but the world we live in is opposed to God’s Word. We are ridiculed, we are mocked, we are opposed. It may not be as public and as open as it was for Jeremiah, but that doesn’t mean it’s not there. In fact, sometimes the underlying, hidden opposition is harder to face because we can’t address it head on.
If you’ve ever spent time paddling in a canoe or kayak, you know how enjoyable it can be when you’re paddling with the current, when the water is helping you down the stream. But you also know how hard it is then to try and paddle upstream, against the current. It often feels like you’re going nowhere. No matter how hard you try, you don’t make any progress. And sometimes that’s how it feels to follow God’s will for our lives and tell of Jesus’ love. God persuaded us by his Word. He promises that Word will work and it won’t return to him empty. And there are plenty of examples where we can see that happening. But then there are those times when it seems that despite our best efforts, the Word doesn’t seem to be getting the job done. So what do we do then? Do we call God on the carpet and say like Jeremiah, “God, you have persuaded us!” Do we look to things other than the Word as ways to bring people in? Do we like Jeremiah think about throwing in the towel and giving up? God forgive us for those sinful thoughts and attitudes! So what do we do? Listen to what Jeremiah says.
If I say, “I will not mention him or speak in his name any more,” then there is a burning fire in my heart, shut up in my bones, and I am weary of holding it in. I cannot! I hear many whispering, “Terror on every side!” “Denounce him! Let’s denounce him,” say all my close friends, those who are watching for my fall. “Perhaps he will be persuaded, then we will prevail against him and we will take our revenge on him.” But the Lord is with me like a fearsome warrior. So my persecutors will stumble and they will not prevail. They will be utterly ashamed because they have failed. Their eternal dishonor will never be forgotten. Lord of Armies, you who tests the righteous, who sees the heart and the mind, let me see your vengeance on them, for I have revealed my cause to you. Sing to the Lord! Praise the Lord, for he has delivered the life of the needy from the grasp of the wicked.
So thoroughly had God persuaded Jeremiah that he couldn’t help but preach God’s Word! When he tried to hold it in, when he tried to keep silent, that Word burned in his heart like a fire. He says that he became weary of holding it in and in fact, he couldn’t do it! So persuaded was he by God’s Word that he had to speak it! And so he did. He spoke of the Lord’s protection for his messengers. He spoke of the Lord’s ultimate victory over his enemies. He spoke of the Lord’s righteousness that probes the hearts of all mankind, bringing justice to the righteous and judgment on the wicked. And most importantly, just verses after he accused the Lord and just a verse before he asks God to curse the day he was born, Jeremiah breaks out into a doxology of praise. He praises the Lord for rescuing the needy.
Jesus, our Savior, has rescued us needy ones from ourselves, from the world, and from the Devil himself. He has given us his perfect life as a garment of righteousness so that when God probes our hearts, he sees his Son. He has given us the ultimate victory over sin, death, and the Devil by his atoning work on the cross. And most amazing of all, he has somehow persuaded me to believe that he did all of this for me as an act of his grace. My Savior and yours has enticed us all to be part of his family. That’s something we never would have chosen to do on our own nor could we choose. But God has made us his own and now he’s persuaded us to share that message of grace with others. Yet, it’s a message that’s often met with opposition. It’s a message that can cause the messenger hardship. Jesus said as much to his disciples in our gospel this morning. But we’ve been persuaded. Like Jeremiah, we can’t hide the light of the gospel. We can’t keep it in. If we try, it burns inside us, it makes us weary of holding it it. The good news of God’s gospel is not meant to be held in; it’s meant to be shared. And when we share it, we have God’s promise that it will work, not as we think is best, but in his way and on his terms.
Jeremiah withstood opposition that we can only imagine. And through it all he remained faithful to his calling. How? It was a gift of God. But that gift came through God’s Word. It came from God’s promise way back in chapter 1. “They will fight against you but will not overcome you, for I am with you and will rescue you,” declares the LORD.” God has given us that same promise to be with us and bless us. If we’re going to remain faithful to our calling to share God’s Word in a world that is just as hostile as it was in the days of Jeremiah, then we are going to need that God-given gift of courage. And we will have it when we simply proclaim the Word and trust the Lord will take care of the results.
And so we pray, O Lord, Thank You For Persuading Us! Thank you for persuading us away from a life of sin to a life of righteousness. Thank you for enticing us away from a hopeless existence to trusting in your grace alone. Thank you for persuading us away from the father of lies and a home in hell, and instead to a room in heaven with our name on it. Lord, may we use your Word to persuade others to the truth that Jeremiah so faithfully preached and that they so desperately need to hear. In Jesus name, Amen.