Now, Contending for the Faith. In this regular feature, Dave and Tom respond to questions from listeners and readers of The Berean Call. Here’s this week’s question: “Dear Dave and Tom, I’m fascinated by what I’m reading in the book of Jeremiah. It seems to have so much application for what’s taking place in the world and the church today. However, when I got to Jeremiah:20:14-18, I became terribly confused. Is Jeremiah speaking for the Lord here? Or is what he’s saying true to the Lord?
Tom: Dave, I’m going to read Jeremiah 20, verses 14-18. It says, “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 noontime, 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?”
This was a tough day for Jeremiah, Dave, I think. But he had some difficult times. Does this…what’s your reading?
Dave: Well, Tom, you go back and read the context here. Jeremiah is discouraged: Verse 7: “O LORD, thou has deceived me, and I was deceived. Thou art stronger than I and hast prevailed: I am in derision daily, every one mocketh me. For 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. Then 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. For I heard the defaming of many, fear on every side,” and so forth. It’s a little bit difficult to understand, but I think that Jeremiah is here reporting the…this is what people are saying: “Cursed be the day” wherein he was born. I don’t think he is saying that. “Wherefore came I forth out of the womb to see labor and sorrow, that my days should be consumed with shame?” Or, it could be that he is just saying this in desperation, because he has foretold the judgment, destruction, of Jerusalem. And it hasn’t happened yet. And he’s being defamed, he’s being criticized, they’re ridiculing him. They put him in a slimy pit, and so forth, and…
Tom: And he has to tell them to abandon Jerusalem, to go over…to give them over to the enemy. What kind of reaction are the people going to have to that?
Dave: Didn’t make him popular. So I think Jeremiah has come to a point of discouragement, and you can hardly blame him. He’s pretty much alone, and when he reads his prophecies in the ears of the king, it’s torn up and thrown into the fire. And he has to rewrite it—exact same words, of course.
Well, Tom, I think it shows that Jeremiah is human, as David was, Moses—Moses got to the point where he wondered why God had troubled him or burdened him with this unruly people. And Jeremiah’s got to the point, “Well, God, I’m not going to talk anymore, I’m not going to give any more prophecies that you inspire me with. It just brings trouble.” And…that’s a possibility.
Tom: Dave, I think one of the reasons…this is a good question—people who read the Bible, sometimes they don’t know whether to take something literally, sometimes they realize, as you did, as soon as I read this, you went back to try and find the context—that’s really critical. We want to know whether these are instructions—whether these are the things that we’re supposed to have this mindset. Now, obviously, that would be evil, in this case.
I think of another verse, Job’s wife: “Curse God and die.”
Tom: You know, that’s not…I mean this was her heart here, and it wasn’t right. It wasn’t the thing to do, but she did it out of concern for Job and his suffering.
Dave: But she was not what you would call an example of a person who is walking with the Lord. On the other hand, David had times like this. He was discouraged. He had times when he despaired of life. When he had to pretend he was insane in order to survive.
Tom: Well, we have Elijah running from Jezebel and Ahab!
Dave: Amazing! Elijah—at the moment of greatest triumph, you would say, when God has just sent fire down from heaven to consume the sacrifice, the prophets of Baal have been killed, now it’s started to rain again, and he flees. Well…
Tom: And God has to bring nourishment to him. He has to deal with his physical needs as well as where his head and his heart are.
Dave: So, I guess, Tom, it would speak to you and to me. We can get discouraged too. But it is not our burden to carry. And I can honestly say I want nothing for myself. That would be foolish. All I want is to serve the Lord, to do what He wants. I mean, life is very short—probably shorter for me than for you—what am I? Twenty years ahead of you?
Tom: Not quite.
Dave: Not quite, but close. And at 77 I’ve already passed the threescore years and ten…so, what else is there? There is nothing in this life that I desire, I can tell you. It doesn’t hold any interest for me. And I want to do and to be what God wants me to do and be. And I would like to be His servant—to bring others to Him, to know Him. And there’s nothing else worth living for. And you can become discouraged. People criticize you. They attribute false motives to you. Tell lies about you, and so forth. But one day, it will all be sorted out in heaven, and in the meantime, we just be faithful, as we understand it, do our best, and work as hard as we can to serve the Lord.