7 O 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. 8 For 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. 9 If 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. 10 For 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.” 11 But 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. 12 O 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. 13 Sing to the LORD; praise the LORD! For he has delivered the life of the needy from the hand of evildoers. – Jeremiah 20:7-13 (ESV)
I’d like to linger in Jeremiah 20 a moment longer, because a stack of parallels were unveiled to me between Jeremiah, Paul and Jesus. In verses 7-8 Jeremiah, Paul and Jesus all had abuse and ridicule heaped on them. They were insulted and repulsed by their own people, simply for bearing God’s message. In verse 10, their very own turned on them and initiated their execution, and all because people found God’s message abrasive. And yet, verse 11, all three of these men set their hope in Yahweh, the mighty warrior (or their “dread warrior” as the ESV renders it) who, in verse 13, is the means of rescue for the destitute.
What is the essential message they considered was worth suffering for? Verse 8a reads:
For whenever I speak, I cry out, I shout, “Violence and destruction!” (ESV)
Can you blame anyone, for being outraged at such a message? “Violence and destruction.” How absurd. What an embarrassment. No wonder people think God’s Word is backward. I mean surely a kind and loving God is at odds with a message of “violence and destruction,” right? In its original context Jeremiah was pronouncing the impending downfall of the southern kingdom, Judah, as punishment for their apostasy. But, ultimately, this “violence and destruction” points us to crucifixion of Jesus. It is an indispensable, part of God’s gospel message. It is paradoxical. It defies logic that God could bring about any good, from something so terrible. Yet such is the message of the Cross, and Jeremiah, Paul and Jesus are not embarrassed by it, they are passionate about it. So passionate, they even staked their lives on it. From what we can piece together from History, Jesus was savaged then crucified just outside of Jerusalem on a Roman cross between AD 30-33. Paul was tortured and beheaded by Nero in Rome in 67 AD, and, according to Jewish tradition, Jeremiah was stoned to death in Egypt.
Father, help us embrace Your message of violence and destruction, visited upon Jesus in order to restore us to You. Jesus was torn down that we might be built up. Jesus is our only hope and, in order to defend the message of the cross, He is worth staking our lives on. May we follow in the footsteps of Jesus, Paul and Jeremiah.