Why Jeremiah Didn't Quit

     Jeremiah was not treated well by many of his hearers. His message was very unpopular because it was not what the people in his audience wanted to hear. He found himself being slapped around and worse than that from time to time. People like to hear what they want to hear. People like to be told that everything is just fine the way it is. People like to be told that whatever they are doing is just exactly what they ought to be doing. And it’s not just anonymous “people” who like these things, specific people, like to hear what they want to hear. To be more specific, I like to hear what I want to hear! Don’t you?

     Well, sure we do. But at some point in life we reach a level of maturity and come to understand that we ought to listen to what we need to hear as opposed to what we want to hear. And yet some folks never get to that point. We don’t know too much about the priest and temple governor named Pashhur from Jeremiah 20. Since I have come to be on Jeremiah’s side (and I really hope we all are) I am inclined to think he was a rude and crude individual. Pashhur had heard some of what Jeremiah had been saying and he didn’t like it. So he struck the prophet and put him in the stocks. He really didn’t like Jeremiah’s preaching!

     One might think that a person in Jeremiah’s place might change his tune so that he might get better treatment. But Jeremiah did not change his tune. If anything he spoke ever the more clearly. He told Pashhur that he would die and be buried in captivity.

     Pashhur did not want to hear what he needed to hear. Look to chapter 20 and see that the message did not change. God used Nebuchadnezzar to carry Judah into captivity. Judah had rebelled against God and had to pay a price. God would use Babylon to keep a remnant relatively pure until time for the return. In His time (Galatians 4:4) He would send Christ to save the souls of all lost people. We might not blame Pashhur for being ignorant of all the details, but he is responsible for rejecting the preaching and counsel of Jeremiah. And just so, we are responsible when we reject the teaching of the Word of God in our own lives.

     But the question of why Jeremiah did not quit is still before us. There was a part of him that wanted to quit. This story is told in the middle of the account of the prophet’s interaction with Pashhur. Jeremiah complained about how he was being treated for preaching his unpopular message. He evidently got to the point where he said within himself that he was not going to say another word! (Jeremiah 20:9). But before the verse concludes he reveals that he just could not be quiet: “But His word was in my heart like a burning fire shut up in my bones; I was weary of holding it back, and I could not.” The prophet goes back and forth between resolve and to despair but in the end he just keeps going. How could he do this?

     He kept going because He knew he was doing the will of God. Early on we read that God said to Jeremiah, “Behold, I have put My words in your mouth. See, I have this day set you over the nations and over kingdoms; to root out and to pull down, to destroy and to thrown down, to build and to plant” (1:9-10 NKJV). Though Jeremiah did not like some of the things that happened to him, he could never doubt the certainty of the message he had been given to deliver for the simple and profound reason that God Himself had given him the message.

     I am thankful that I was not in Jeremiah’s shoes. These days not many of us are in shoes like his. Some Christians are in brutally tough circumstances (parts of Africa, Ukraine, etc.) but most of us deal with more subtle challenges. But we still have the same type of problem: people do not want to hear the truth. People want to hear what they want to hear whether it’s about something inconsequential or about God’s vastly consequential plan of salvation.

It’s not always easy to stay with the truth, but we keep going just like Jeremiah did. He knew what God told him. We can know what God tells us in His Book. And just like with Jeremiah, that will keep us from quitting.