Jesus shares the laments of the Prophets

Today’s OT reading in the Daily Office was Jeremiah 20:7-12, which was a prophetic lament by Jeremiah after being beaten up by Pashhur, a corrupt priest in the Temple.  Although it’s part of the writings of a prophet, passages like this act much like Psalms in that they can be more broadly applied to the life of Israel, the Church, and especially Jesus Christ.  Here are some short meditations on Christ through these verses.

7O LORD, you have deceived me,
and I was deceived;
you are stronger than I,
and you have prevailed.
I have become a laughingstock all the day;
everyone mocks me.
8For whenever I speak, I cry out,
I shout, “Violence and destruction!”
For the word of the LORD has become for me
a reproach and derision all day long.

Like Jeremiah, Jesus is preaching repentance to a sinful generation who doesn’t want to hear it.  The religious authorities have been largely overcome by corruption, political strife hangs over the land, and God’s anointed prophets are the minority voices decrying the sins of the people.  So they are mistreated for the words they deliver from God, and are constantly hated by many.

9If I say, “I will not mention him,
or speak any more in his name,”
there is in my heart as it were a burning fire
shut up in my bones,
and I am weary with holding it in,
and I cannot.
10For I hear many whispering.
    Terror is on every side!
“Denounce him! Let us denounce him!”
say all my close friends,
watching for my fall.
“Perhaps he will be deceived;
then we can overcome him
and take our revenge on him.”

Surely there was great temptation to give in and prophesy good times ahead, like the false prophets were doing.  But the Spirit of the Lord, burning with passion, compels them to persevere in their God-given missions.  Even Jesus, on his last night (remembered tonight, on Maundy Thursday), admitted his desire to escape and not face crucifixion.  All his friends, as this lament puts it, abandoned Jesus too on that night.  They were watching for his fall, denouncing him (explicitly in the case of Peter).  And his enemies certainly exercise their revenge upon him for preaching what they didn’t want heard.

11But the LORD is with me as a dread warrior;
therefore my persecutors will stumble;
     they will not overcome me.
They will be greatly shamed,
for they will not succeed.
Their eternal dishonor
will never be forgotten.

Indeed, their eternal dishonor has not been forgotten to this day.  We still shake our heads sadly at the apostasy of the latter days of the kingdoms of Israel and Judah who abused God’s prophets such as Jeremiah.  We still remember the 1st century Jewish religious authorities who worked in tandem with Roman governor Pilatus to kill Jesus.  And in the end, we know that God’s purposes have won, transcending those losses in time, ultimately vindicating His anointed ones, either in death or in resurrection.

12O LORD of hosts, who tests the righteous,
    who sees the heart and the mind,
let me see your vengeance upon them,
for to you have I committed my cause.

The daily office didn’t call for this verse to be part of the reading, but most translations group this verse with the previous.  In general, the BCP lectionary likes to avoid verses like this which call for the destruction of enemies.  But as I mentioned in my previous post, this should not be a terribly big deal to us Christians reading and praying along.  Witnessing God’s final judgment includes witnessing His vengeance on the wicked on the last day, not so much an active pursuit & destruction of the wicked in this life, although that has been the case at certain times in OT history.  But the primary point of this is found in the last line, “to you have I committed my cause.”  Trusting in God and persevering is the real aim of this kind of statement.

Also, this verse marks a noticeable turn from talking about God to talking to God.  If up to this point we were simply following along with Jeremiah’s words, or Christ’s appropriation of them, this verse draws us in to praying with him.  We may not have been abused, oppressed, and rejected in the same magnitude as Jeremiah or Jesus were, but that doesn’t matter; we are all subject in this life to spiritual warfare, temptation to sin, and antipathy to our faith.  We are all tested, as this verse puts it, and are intimately known by our God.  And we all must persevere, trusting in Christ alone.

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About Fr. Brench

I'm an Anglican Priest and a sci-fi geek. Therefore, I write about liturgy & spiritual formation, theology & biblical studies, and Doctor Who. But I keep those blogs separate so I don't confuse too many people!
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