Jeremiah's Burden

“If I say I will put Him out of my mind, I will not speak in His name any more, then it is like a burning fire in my heart, imprisoned within my body. I weary myself from holding on to it, and I cannot do so.” - Jeremiah 20:9

In his book God’s Prophet, God’s Servant John Goldingay, one of the world’s foremost Old Testament scholars, offers a penetrating study of the book of Jeremiah and Isaiah chapters 40-55. Goldingay demonstrates how the ministries of Jeremiah and Isaiah were preludes to the ministry of Jesus Christ. What is more, Jesus’ ministry provides the model for all of those who are called to speak God’s words to God’s people.

In the section titled “What being a prophet costs,” Goldingay points out some lessons learned from the life of Jeremiah, the weeping prophet. To be a prophet, he writes, is “to be as hard as a rock on the outside even while you are being torn apart inside.” The author goes on to comment on verse nine chapter of twenty quoted above:
“Robert Davidson put Jeremiah’s position more briefly in the question, ‘If he had never said, ‘I’ll forget Him’ would he ever have affirmed so positively, ‘I can’t’?” So Jeremiah, though outwardly resolute, is inwardly torn apart by humiliation. He is torn apart by fear…”

I have heard many people whispering –
There is terror on all sides.
“Report him, let’s report Him!”
All my friends are watching for my downfall.
“Perhaps he can be persuaded and prevailed over,
then we can catch him and take vengeance on him.
- Jeremiah 20:10

Curse the day I was born!
May the day my mother bore me never be blessed!
Curse the man who brought the news to my father,
“It’s a boy! You have a son!”,
making him glad.
May that man be like the cities
that Yahweh overthrew without pity,
may he hear a cry in the morning and an alarm at noon,
because he did not kill me at birth,
so that my mother would have become my grave,
and her womb would have been enlarged forever.
Why did I come out of the womb,
to see trouble and affliction
and end my life in disgrace?
- Jeremiah 20:14-18

“Why is there recorded in Scripture the personal and private agonizing of the man of God with God? One reason may arise out of the fact that it is obviously not easy to be hard as a rock outside when you are being torn apart inside. The tension between the outward proclamation and the inner scream itself threatens to rend the man apart. The scream, indeed, cannot finally be stifled or repressed. It has to receive expression. So writing it down helps to give expression to it in the only way that is possible. It gets it out of the system. That may be the reason why Jeremiah put it in writing…

“I remember once noticing a poster on Nottingham Railway Station: ‘There is a religion which sees life as a challenge to be met, not as a cross to be born.’ If there is, then it is not the religion of Jeremiah, nor of Jesus. Nor is it a religion I am very interested in. Because a religion that is worth following has to be able to cope with the fact that life is not always a thrilling challenge; it is sometimes an experience of crucifixion. And being a prophet, or being any kind of faithful servant of God, is not always a thrilling challenge. Sometimes, the experience of the cost, in isolation and opposition, in the loss of any right to run one’s own life, in being torn apart even as one is as hard as a rock outside, is rather an experience of crucifixion.”

…always being given up to death for Jesus’ sake, so that the life of Jesus may be manifested in our moral flesh. - II Corinthians 4:11