Day 93: A Serious Look at Persecution

Jeremiah 20:14-18

Cursed is the day in which I was born.
Don’t let the day in which my mother bore me be blessed.
Cursed is the man who brought news to my father, saying,
“A boy is born to you,” making him very glad.
Let that man be as the cities which Yahweh overthrew,
and didn’t repent.
Let him hear a cry in the morning,
and shouting at noontime;
because he didn’t kill me from the womb.
So my mother would have been my grave,
and her womb always great.
Why did I come out of the womb to see labor and sorrow,
that my days should be consumed with shame?

Jeremiah is one of the men in the Bible that curses his own birthday. Job did the same thing as we read in his book. Both men were chosen by God to suffer persecution at the hands of their own friends. Since we know the end of Job’s story, it’s pretty obvious that Jeremiah is going to be taken care of in the end, but going through persecution is not a good thing. If it were, I’m sure that God would arrange for us all to be persecuted forever in Heaven someday. That doesn’t make any sense does it? Neither does pretending like persecution is good. Jesus did tell us to rejoice when we are persecuted, but He also told us why. Let’s look at that again:

Luke 6:22-23

Blessed are you when men shall hate you, and when they shall exclude and mock you, and throw out your name as evil, for the Son of Man’s sake.

Rejoice in that day, and leap for joy, for behold, your reward is great in heaven, for their fathers did the same thing to the prophets.

Jeremiah didn’t have these words from Jesus yet. These words have been entrusted to us along with the example of Jeremiah’s life. It makes sense that Jeremiah would be given space to complain by God. I’m not sure that Jeremiah and Job were given the knowledge of the fact that there are rewards in heaven. We were told and it is written into the Bible now. We are the ones who know without any doubt that we are going to receive a great reward because we have been treated like Elijah, Isaiah, Jeremiah and Job. We have a great deal of good to look forward to, but the pain and suffering we receive here, are not good. Jeremiah’s words remind us of that fact. We should not have a morbid desire to be persecuted, but we should be happy that we are going to be rewarded with men like Jeremiah for what we had to go through.

Day 74: It’s Getting Personal

Jeremiah 15:10-14

Woe is me, my mother, that you have borne me, a man of strife,
and a man of contention to the whole earth!
I have not lent, neither have men lent to me;
yet every one of them curses me.
Yahweh said,
“Most certainly I will strengthen you for good.
Most certainly I will cause the enemy to make supplication to you in the time of evil
and in the time of affliction.
Can one break iron,
even iron from the north, and bronze?
I will give your substance and your treasures for a plunder without price,
and that for all your sins,
even in all your borders.
I will make them to pass with your enemies into a land which you don’t know;
for a fire is kindled in my anger,
which will burn on you.”

We are entering one of the passages of the Bible that speaks to me in a very personal way. As a Christian, it’s easy for me to start looking at how I’m being treated by people for my obedience and to start to complain against God. It’s hard when you are being troubled by friends and enemies, because of your unwillingness to avoid your conscience. It’s hard when you are doing what is right and getting paid pain for it. These things are hard but it doesn’t mean that God is making a mistake or that He won’t make things better someday.

In this passage Jeremiah tells God what he feels about having to share a message that makes him unpopular with everyone. They treat him like a scoundrel even though he didn’t do anything that scoundrels do. He said that even his mother is cursed because she bore a son like this. These comments make it pretty obvious that Jeremiah was frustrated and I have been feeling things like this too.

After Jeremiah complains to God, God says some things that are pretty difficult for me to interpret. It’s as if God is telling Jeremiah that when he is taken captive, he will be treated with respect but his property and people are still going to be taken because of God’s anger against Jeremiah and Jeremiah’s people. Now why would God be angry with Jeremiah? That’s what seems confusing to me, but there does seem to be a thread of guilt that God is putting on Jeremiah here that appears to continue on in this chapter.

God was planning to protect Jeremiah as He had already told Him. Jeremiah’s duty was to believe and not doubt. It was good for Jeremiah to come to God with his complaint, but his complaint was still wrong. God was right to allow Jeremiah to be born and God had the right to use Jeremiah to do something difficult. God wasn’t doing anything worthy of his complaint. I need to remember that too. When things aren’t going right, I have the responsibility to trust in God’s choice and not be angered or frustrated by God’s way of doing things.

Day 62: God Takes Jeremiah’s Side

Jeremiah 12:5-13

“If you have run with the footmen,
and they have wearied you,
then how can you contend with horses?
Though in a land of peace you are secure,
yet how will you do in the pride of the Jordan?
For even your brothers, and the house of your father,
even they have dealt treacherously with you!
Even they have cried aloud after you!
Don’t believe them,
though they speak beautiful words to you.

“I have forsaken my house.
I have cast off my heritage.
I have given the dearly beloved of my soul into the hand of her enemies.
My heritage has become to me as a lion in the forest.
She has uttered her voice against me.
Therefore I have hated her.
Is my heritage to me as a speckled bird of prey?
Are the birds of prey against her all around?
Go, assemble all the animals of the field.
Bring them to devour.
Many shepherds have destroyed my vineyard.
They have trodden my portion under foot.
They have made my pleasant portion a desolate wilderness.
They have made it a desolation.
It mourns to me, being desolate.
The whole land is made desolate,
because no one cares.
Destroyers have come on all the bare heights in the wilderness;
for the sword of Yahweh devours from the one end of the land even to the other end of the land.
No flesh has peace.
They have sown wheat,
and have reaped thorns.
They have exhausted themselves,
and profit nothing.
You will be ashamed of your fruits,
because of Yahweh’s fierce anger.”

It obviously doesn’t matter whether or not you are a majority if God decides to be on your side. It’s fascinating to me but it appears that what we have here is God agreeing with the horrible position the Jeremiah finds himself in. He appears to be saying that if you are being overpowered by common soldiers, how will you be able to deal with the more advanced weapons when they are leveled against you? He appears to be talking about Jeremiah’s family compared to those in Judah who weren’t in his family. Even Jeremiah’s own family was against him but they were talking to him as if they were being nice. This really made God angry and He goes on describing the great horror that He was going to bring on them and all of Judah.

I believe that God wants us to realize that when we suffer, He really suffers with us. When we represent him and we are persecuted, God is also being persecuted. He takes it personally and the difference is, He has all the power to do something about it. God is not aloof when it comes to our suffering. He is participating and here we read He even comments about it. He may use it as a reason for His acts of wrath against those who do evil. We see this in Jesus’ words to Saul when he was blinded on the road to Damascus.

Acts 9:4-6

He fell on the earth, and heard a voice saying to him, “Saul, Saul, why do you persecute me?”

He said, “Who are you, Lord?”

The Lord said, “I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting. But rise up, and enter into the city, and you will be told what you must do.”

Remember, Saul was persecuting Christians. He wasn’t persecuting Jesus directly, but Jesus took it personally. It appears to me that God did the same thing with Jeremiah, and it just made things worse for Judah. They made God more willing to bring wrath on them by how they treated the prophets. We can be sure that when we feel pain, God does too. When we are sad, so is He. He may even be making comments about it like He did here to Jeremiah. When that happens, it doesn’t matter if you are the only one doing right on the earth. Only those on God’s side are going to win.