O LORD, thou hast deceived me, and I was deceived; thou art stronger than I, and hast prevailed: I am in derision daily, every one mocketh me.
8For since I spake, I cried out, I cried violence and spoil; because the word of the LORD was made a reproach unto me, and a derision, daily.
9Then I said, I will not make mention of him, nor speak any more in his name. But his word was in mine heart as a burning fire shut up in my bones, and I was weary with forbearing, and I could not stay.
10For I heard the defaming of many, fear on every side. Report, say they, and we will report it. All my familiars watched for my halting, saying, Peradventure he will be enticed, and we shall prevail against him, and we shall take our revenge on him.
11But the LORD is with me as a mighty terrible one: therefore my persecutors shall stumble, and they shall not prevail: they shall be greatly ashamed; for they shall not prosper: their everlasting confusion shall never be forgotten.
12But, O LORD of hosts, that triest the righteous, and seest the reins and the heart, let me see thy vengeance on them: for unto thee have I opened my cause.
13Sing unto the LORD, praise ye the LORD: for he hath delivered the soul of the poor from the hand of evildoers. (jer 20.7-13 kjv)
This is one of Jeremiah’s famous complaints. The English word jeremiad is derived from his habit of complaining very directly & vehemently to the Lord about his persecutors. His complaints are very personal, direct, raw, and heartfelt. He complained so virulently and trusted in the Lord almost to a dangerous or an unhinged extent — in such a way that I scarcely would have dared to. Maybe that’s part of why passages like these are recorded — so we are encouraged to pray boldly and even inappropriately (or so it seems.) Jeremiah’s prayers push the outer edges of propriety and stretches the limits, but he never breaks through into unbelief. He never falls into that.
Jeremiah complains about the cross — it’s no fun and it hurts. He’s not having fun. His degradation is due solely to the Word; it’s not of his own making. Hence the complaining, but hence also the benefit. Confession of the truth is painful, but entirely necessary, an integral part of the child of God’s life.
Victory comes not from man, but from the Lord. Only He releases our feet from the snare. Ultimate judgment rests with our Defender, the Lord who made heaven and earth.
Jeremiah vents his spleen in shockingly frank fashion here, but he says what every child of God wishes they could, or doesn’t dare to, at times. He goes farther than we do so we feel secure in opening up to the Lord under duress.
Jeremiah’s bold words in v.9 give me a tingle every time I read them, like there’s an electrical current running through my body. They’re that powerful. The imagery is outstanding. You can really picture fire shut up in someone’s bones — and then he declares that he won’t fight it anyway, it has to be heard and to blazes with what everyone else thinks. Amazing.
V.10 sounds a little overwrought and dire to our debased, timid ears. “Who will he be reported to?” we wonder. Yet that was a very real danger for him. Jeremiah bucked the religious establishment of his day, and that’s rarely a comfortable or an easy road to follow. Part of the problem is that most of us have never experienced what Jeremiah did. We’ve been softened and vitiated by the passage of time in this decaying world grown so old, and by the relentless attacks of the ungodly world. They don’t quit and they keep coming. They wear us down and after a while we wonder if it’s worth it. We need to hear Jeremiah’s strong words declaring that the One we serve is stronger than all the enemies that rise up against us. “They shall not prevail.”
When this reading is used in church, it ends before v.14, which is kind of a humorous juxtaposition. V.13 is such a confident declaration of faith, full of joy. Contrast that with vv.14-18: “Cursed be the day wherein I was born: let not the day wherein my mother bare 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 as 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 labour and sorrow, that my days should be consumed with shame?” It would be amusing if it weren’t so dire — if it weren’t a soul in pain crying out. Yet the Lord brought Jeremiah safely through all his trials; He rescued him and delivered him, and eventually He used those trials to deliver Jeremiah to eternal life, where he has consolations that far exceed his temporary suffering at the hands of his contemporaries in Israel. We too will be richly rewarded for our faith and perseverance, if we do not surrender the Word that promises us everything. Sometimes all we have left is the Word; and if we do not fall away in the times of testing, the Word will give us everything in the next life.