Jeremiah 17–21: Discouragement & Faithfulness

Read the Bible in 2011 ◊ Week 16: Friday

The heart is more deceitful than all else
And is desperately sick;
Who can understand it?

Jeremiah 17:9

Friday’s Bible reading is Jeremiah 17–21. Last September, in Fruit, I contrasted Jeremiah 17:5–8 with Psalm 1. These chapters contain many other well-known passages from this prophet, including the verse above as well as what is probably the most well-known “object lesson” in the book: the potter and clay.

In chapter 20, upon hearing Jeremiah’s prophecy of the imminent judgment of God, Pashur the priest has Jeremiah beaten and put into stocks. After he is let go the next day, Jeremiah tells Pashur of God’s judgment on Judah and Pashur.

The very next thing we read is Jeremiah’s discouragement and depression and his lament that he was ever born with words reminiscent of Job’s cries and some of David’s psalms. Francis Schaeffer comments with insight and wisdom:

In Jeremiah 20:14–18, we read one of the great cries of discouragement in the Bible, parallel to some of the cries of Job. But the intriguing thing is that neither Job, nor Jeremiah, nor David in the Psalms (where David often cried out to God, saying, “Have You turned away Your face forever, O God? Where are You?”)—in none of these cases does God reprove His people as long as they do not turn away from Him, nor blaspheme Him, nor give up their integrity in their attitude toward Him. There is no contradiction here. It is possible to be faithful to God, and yet to be overwhelmed with discourage- ment as we face the world. In fact, if we are never overwhelmed, I wonder if we are fighting the battle with compassion and reality, or whether we are jousting with paper swords against paper windmills.

So Jeremiah says in 20:14–18, “Cursed be the day on which I was born; let not the day on which my mother bore me be blessed. Cursed be the man who brought tidings to my father, saying, A man child is born unto thee; making him very glad. And let that man be like the cities which the Lord overthrew, and repented not; and let him hear the cry in the morning, and the shouting at noontide, because he slew me not from the womb; or that my mother might have been my grave, and her womb to be always great with me. Wherefore came I forth out of the womb to see labor and sorrow, that my days should be consumed with shame?” Jeremiah was discouraged because he was a man standing against a flood. And I want to say to you that nobody who is fighting the battle in our own generation can float on a Beautyrest mattress. If you love God and love men and have compassion for them, you will pay a real price psychologically.

So many people seem to think that if the Holy Spirit is working then the work is easy. Don’t believe it! As the Holy Spirit works, a man is consumed. This is the record of revivals; it is the record of those places in which God has really done something. It is not easy!

As I stand and try to give a message into the world—at the café tables and in the universities, to individuals and large seminars, publicly and privately—a price has to be paid. Often there is discouragement. Many times I say, “I can’t go up the hill once more. I can’t do it again.” And what is God’s answer? Well, first it is important to know that God doesn’t scold a man when his tiredness comes from his battles and his tears from compassion. Second, this involves learning to say, and mean, “Lord, please make your strength perfect in my weakness.”

Jeremiah, we recall, was the weeping prophet. This has psychological depth as well as historic meaning. He is really the man weeping. But what does God expect of Jeremiah? What does God expect of every man who preaches into a lost age like ours? I’ll tell you what God expects. He simply expects a man to go right on. He doesn’t scold a man for being tired, but neither does He expect him to stop his message because people are against him. Jeremiah proclaimed the message to the very end…1

Schaeffer’s words are of immeasurable comfort and encouragement to me right now. I hope they are to you as well.

Be faithful until death, and I will give you the crown of life.
Revelation 2:20b

Isaiah 42 Photograph: – Free High Resolution Photos for Christian Publications
1Francis Schaeffer, Death in the City, “The Persistence of Compassion.”

Original content: Copyright ©2011 Iwana Carpenter

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