The Expository Files.

The Unpopularity of the Lord's Servant

Jeremiah 15:15-20


You are not going to get a medal for being a faithful disciple; at least not in this lifetime. There will be no parades honoring you for spiritual or moral courage. There is no blue ribbon offered for struggling with and overcoming temptation. There is no lifetime achievement award for faithful discipleship. You will not receive a platinum plaque inscribed with the account of how you faced your persecutors alone and prevailed. Of course, there will one day be an award ceremony. It will be celestial in nature; and its glory will far outshine anything here. But on that day, the victors will be giving credit to another for their victory. Jesus deserves my medal, my crown, my trophy. The world seems quite willing to heap prizes on those it has determined to be great. Some of the feats it awards are indeed noteworthy; Scientific advances in medicine or technology; athletic achievement and/or acts of bravery. But then, it also awards not so noble achievements. The winners of MTV music awards are some of the most ungodly men and women who have ever walked the face of the planet. The same could be said for some of the winners of the Oscar. And at the same time the world is awarding such wickedness, it mocks those who seek to live by faith. Its very frustrating to see the toll such attitudes takes upon society at large, but it is society's fault. To see society heap its accolades on those who have lost all remnants of human decency and nobility is terribly sad.

But the problem is not a new one. It was during the years of 625-575 B.C. that the prophet Jeremiah did his work. It was a very discouraging time to be a man of God. The nation of Judah looked at people of faith in much the same way as our own society. They weren't giving away medals for faith during Jeremiah's time either! At one point in his career, this great prophet expressed some feelings that people of faith usually try to squelch when they arise. Let's notice Jeremiah's prayer (which is more of a complaint than anything else) as well as God's answer. Hopefully, both will help us to see our own similar circumstances a little more clearly
(Jeremiah 15:15-20).

"Thou who knowest, O LORD, remember me, take notice of me, and take vengeance for me on my persecutors. Do not, in view of Thy patience, take me away; know that for Thy sake I endure reproach." (Jeremiah 15:15). Jeremiah knows that God is aware of the circumstances which he faces. God was aware of the moral and spiritual collapse of Judean society, and He is aware of the same in our own society today.

Additionally, Jeremiah asks that the Lord intervene. The ideas of "remember" and "take notice" involve more than mere mental awareness. Jeremiah is asking that God take action, first by taking vengeance on those that are persecuting him.

We may wonder how that fits with the spirit of Christianity. Suffice it to say that it puts vengeance where it ought to be; in the Lord's hands. Also, the concept of asking for such is not foreign to the New Testament (Revelation 6:10). Righteous indignation against the wicked is certainly permissible for the Christian, though such anger must not cause us to lose control.

"Thy words were found and I ate them, and Thy words became for me a joy and the delight of my heart; for I have been called by Thy name, O LORD, GOD of hosts." (Jeremiah 15:16). Jeremiah thinks back to the beginning of his walk with God. He had "eaten" the word of God; that is, he made them a part of himself. He remembers how that he was so happy and confident. But now much of that joy seems to have vanished amid the troubles he was facing.

Again, many have reached similar points in our lives today. Due to tumults of life, our joy as God's children is diminished and sometimes forgotten. Our happiness that we are children of God gives way to distress. We may long to have that confidence once again. We must not think that we are alone on that road. Jeremiah walked it six centuries before Christ came.

"I did not sit in the circle of merrymakers, nor did I exult. Because of Thy hand upon me I sat alone, for Thou didst fill me with indignation."  (Jeremiah 15:17). Much of Jeremiah's work had to do with pointing out the peoples' error and calling them to repentance. It had to do with announcing the grave consequences of their continuing apostasy. It should not be surprising then that Jeremiah was not invited to many parties. Faithful people of God who live during such times simply are not going to be popular people. Obviously, Jeremiah did not enjoy "sitting alone." Here he simply is voicing his discouragement. It is the same thing that you have probably endured at one time or another. One of the things this tells us is that this text is written by a real person with real feelings, just like us.

"Why has my pain been perpetual and my wound incurable, refusing to be healed? Wilt Thou indeed be to me like a deceptive stream with water that is unreliable?" (Jeremiah 15:18). Jeremiah goes further here than I would be comfortable in going in a prayer to God. Maybe it is because I have never been tested as sorely as Jeremiah.

He asks when his pain will cease and his wound heal. He is not talking about physical pain and wounds here, but emotional and spiritual. Here we have a hurting man.

He also asks if God will turn out to be a deceptive stream to him, promising refreshment but in the end offering no drinkable water. He has told others that God is a well of water for the thirsty. But now doubts have entered his own heart and need to be dealt with.

"Therefore, thus says the LORD, 'If you return, then I will restore you - Before Me you will stand; and if you extract the precious from the worthless, you will become My spokesman. They for their part may return to you, but as for you, you shall not go to them. Them I will make you to this people a fortified wall of bronze; and though they fight against you, they will not prevail over you; for I am with you to save you and deliver you..." (Jeremiah 15:19-20). In the Lord's answer to Jeremiah, the first thing He invites Jeremiah to do is to "return." Jeremiah must first pick his armor back up to be restored. God will not do it for Jeremiah. He will not force Jeremiah back into his work. It must be Jeremiah's choice. A part of this must entail "extracting the precious from the worthless." There had been  conflicting thoughts clouding up Jeremiah's mind. Things of faith must be separated from thoughts of doubt, and the doubts then be discarded. That, too, is up to Jeremiah.

Also, Jeremiah must resolve not to compromise truth with others in order to become acceptable to them. The Lord says its fine for them to "return to you, but you shall not go to them." The truth of God must not be compromised... ever.

If Jeremiah will return; if he will extract the precious from the worthless; if he will not compromise away the truth, then God promises that He will make Jeremiah strong, like a "bronze wall." He assures Jeremiah that he will ultimately prevail.

To bring the message home; the Lord has assured us of the same things. He promises to strengthen us in perilous times (Philippians 4:13; Hebrews 4:16). If we maintain our walk with the Lord, there is nothing that can defeat us; not tribulation; not distress; not persecution; not even death (Romans 8:35-39). I do not know, given the nature of the times in which we now live, of a more important message than this for those who are the people of God.

By Jon W. Quinn
From Expository Files 2.2; February, 1995