Sermon on Jeremiah 15:15-21
Text: LORD, you understand; remember me and care for me. Avenge me on my persecutors. You are long-suffering — do not take me away; think of how I suffer reproach for your sake. 16 When your words came, I ate them; they were my joy and my heart’s delight, for I bear your name, LORD God Almighty. 17 I never sat in the company of revelers, never made merry with them; I sat alone because your hand was on me and you had filled me with indignation. 18 Why is my pain unending and my wound grievous and incurable? You are to me like a deceptive brook, like a spring that fails.
19 Therefore this is what the LORD says: “If you repent, I will restore you that you may serve me; if you utter worthy, not worthless, words, you will be my spokesman. Let this people turn to you, but you must not turn to them. 20 I will make you a wall to this people, a fortified wall of bronze; they will fight against you but will not overcome you, for I am with you to rescue and save you,” declares the LORD. 21 “I will save you from the hands of the wicked and deliver you from the grasp of the cruel.”
If you are looking for a job, one of the things that you will want to consider is what does this job pay? You want to be sure that you will earn enough to support yourself. You want your potential employer to be honest with you in this area. You want to know exactly what you will be asked to do and what you can expect in return. As we study this portion of God’s Word from the book of Jeremiah, we find a man, who seems to be questioning what he was getting in return for what he was doing. As we study this interaction between Jeremiah and God, it gives us a good opportunity to look at this situation in our lives, as well. So, we ask: “WHAT KIND OF WAGES DOES THIS JOB PAY?” In doing so, we must ask ourselves: 1. “Do We Think We deserve Better?” and 2. “Do We Understand The Undeserved Compassion Of Our Lord?”
The prophet Jeremiah was called to be God’s spokesman to the people of the southern kingdom of Judah. He had a rather lengthy time in which he did his work. The purpose of his ministry was to warn the people to turn from their idolatrous practices and return to the Lord. The people stubbornly held to their sins. It even got to the point where God said in the first verse of Jeremiah 15, “Even if Moses and Samuel were to stand before me, my heart would not go out to this people. Send them away from my presence! Let them go!” (Jeremiah 15:1) Yet, in spite of the continued hardness of heart by the people, God still wanted Jeremiah to prophesy to them. He wanted them to repent and turn to him. As a result of Jeremiah’s prophecy, he was hated by the rulers, the priests, and the rest of the people. In the first four verses of our text, Jeremiah, pleads his case before the Lord.
Jeremiah begins by saying, “LORD, you understand; remember me and care for me.” (Verse 15) He was saying that only God could understand what he was going through, as he faithfully carried out the task that God had given him to do. Because of the misery he was facing, he asked the Lord to do something. He said, “Avenge me on my persecutors.” (Verse 15) ‘God, I want you to punish these people for what they are putting me through.’ Moreover, he notes, “You are long-suffering — do not take me away; think of how I suffer reproach for your sake.” (Verse 15) Jeremiah knows that the Lord is patient with people. If God extends this patience to these people, Jeremiah is afraid that he may well vanish from the scene.
Then, Jeremiah gives several reasons why he felt that he had the right to ask that God would avenge him. First of all, he says, “When your words came, I ate them; they were my joy and my heart’s delight, for I bear your name, LORD God Almighty.” (Verse 16) Jeremiah uses the picture of digesting God’s Word. Everything that God told him gave him great joy. Jeremiah learned, understood, and applied what God said to himself. Even the stern words of law that he was given to proclaim brought him joy, because they would be a call to the people to turn to the Lord. He also mentions the fact that he bore the “name, LORD God Almighty.” He was sent to reveal to the people everything about God. This is the first reason that Jeremiah thought he deserved better than what he was getting.
Secondly, we read in verse 17, “I never sat in the company of revelers, never made merry with them; I sat alone because your hand was on me and you had filled me with indignation.” Jeremiah notes that he did not join in with the sinful actions that those around him were engaged in. As a result, he says that he sat alone. He was shunned by everyone around him. The reason for this is that “your hand was on me and you had filled me with indignation.” As God’s spokesman, he saw what was going on and he was angry at how the people were continuing to disregard what God was telling them.
In verse 18, Jeremiah expresses his deepest feelings of doubt and frustration. He said, “Why is my pain unending and my wound grievous and incurable? You are to me like a deceptive brook, like a spring that fails.” Jeremiah was hurting because of the constant unfaithfulness of the people. He was also hurting because of contempt and blame these godless people placed on him. Then, Job made an accusation to God. He called him “a deceptive brook, like a spring that fails.” Earlier in this book, God described himself as “spring of living water.” (Jeremiah 2:13) With these words, Jeremiah tells God, ‘You are no such thing! I came to you, thirsting for your help. I come anticipating intense satisfaction, only to have it ripped away, like a dried up stream.’ Jeremiah obviously expected better treatment, better wages, than what he was receiving from the Lord.
Can you identify with what Jeremiah is feeling? We go through life, trying to live as Christians. We try to let our light shine. However, when we do so, people make fun of us for being so old-fashioned. ‘You never have any fun and you want to make sure that no one else does, either!’ When we stand up for what the Bible says, people don’t want to hear it. We find friends, co-workers, and family who become angry with us for telling them that what they are doing is wrong. They may shun us. We may lose friendships.
When that happens, how do you feel? Do you feel that it isn’t fair? Do you ever begin to think that God should be giving you a better than what you are receiving at the moment? We may even begin to point out to God the things that we have been doing for him. I am in church every Sunday. I bring my kids to Sunday School. I don’t go out and party like so many other people do. I put my offerings into the plate. God, don’t you see what’s going on? Don’t you think I deserve better than this?
Listen to how God responds to Jeremiah’s complaint and accusation. He said, “If you repent, I will restore you that you may serve me; if you utter worthy, not worthless, words, you will be my spokesman.” (Verse 19) Instead of commenting on or condemning Jeremiah’s angry, blasphemous, God simply tells Jeremiah to repent. Turn from the path that you are on, Jeremiah, and turn back to me. I will not dismiss you because of the worthless things that you have said. God, also, makes a promise to Jeremiah, “I will save you from the hands of the wicked and deliver you from the grasp of the cruel.” (Verse 21) Though it may not seem possible at this moment, Jeremiah, I want you to know that I will save you. Though you do not deserve for me to do this for you, I will deliver you.
In the meanwhile, God still had work for Jeremiah to do. “You will be my spokesman. Let this people turn to you, but you must not turn to them. I will make you a wall to this people, a fortified wall of bronze; they will fight against you but will not overcome you.” (Verses 19&20) God wanted Jeremiah to continue to be his spokesman, to tell the people what they needed to hear. God told Jeremiah very clearly that the people would continue to oppose what he had to say to them. They would fight against him. However, God told Jeremiah that he would make him a “fortified wall of bronze.” This is a picture of something that, in Jeremiah’s day, would have been nearly impossible to breach. God was going to be with Jeremiah as he continued to speak to the people. God also told Jeremiah, “Let this people turn to you, but you must not turn to them.” It would be so tempting to just give in, to just tell the people whatever they wanted to hear, so that Jeremiah’s life would be easier. However, God told Jeremiah that he was not to do that. He was to continue to share what God said with them so that they would turn, not only to Jeremiah, but, ultimately back to God. The fact that God allowed Jeremiah to continue to be his spokesman is an example of the undeserved compassion of the Lord.
God tells us the same thing, when we begin to complain that we aren’t enjoying the type of life we think we should because we are God’s people. He says, “Repent.” Repenting means, first of all, a realization of our sinfulness. We confess that we have sinned against God in so many ways, including our complaining. Part of this is also the knowledge of what we deserve because of our sins. We deserve to be eternally separated from God’s love in hell. However, the second part of repentance is trusting that God, for Jesus’ sake, has forgiven our sins. Jesus’ perfect life, his innocent suffering and death on the cross, and his glorious resurrection give us what we do not deserve. We are given the forgiveness of sins, salvation, and eternal life. I think that, at times, we forget the value of what has been done for us. We would have been lost forever. Jesus came and rescued us from an eternity of punishment. There is no greater gift that has ever been given to us or will ever be given to us.
When we are reminded of and understand the undeserved compassion of the Lord, then we better realize the privilege that God gives to us to live for him. One of the opportunities that we have is to be God’s spokesman to the people around us. Make no mistake about it, however. Just as God told Jeremiah, he tells us, as well, “they will fight against you.” People will not always like what we have to say. It would be so easy to say what they want to hear or say nothing at all. Yet, God tells us, “Let this people turn to you, but you must not turn to them.” Out of thanksgiving for God’s undeserved compassion, we want to give glory to him by telling others what they need to hear, whether it be the stern preaching of the law or the beautiful gospel message. As we proclaim his Word, he will also make us a fortified wall of bronze. He will be right there beside us, as we speak to others on God’s behalf. We also have the promise that God made to Jeremiah, “I will save you from the hands of the wicked and deliver you from the grasp of the cruel.” It may not be right away, but we know that it will happen. In the meantime, we echo the words of the apostles as they were persecuted for telling others about Jesus, “We cannot help speaking about what we have seen and heard.” (Acts 4:20)
What does the job of being God’s spokesman pay? As we have seen, it is not always days of sunshine and roses. They will be difficult days. Yet, we remember how they treated Jeremiah. We, also think of the way that his enemies treated Jesus. God never promised that it would be easy to be one of his people. Yet, we are thankful for the opportunities that he gives us, because it gives us the opportunity to praise him for all that he has done for us. May God help each of us to be faithful in the calling he has given us. Amen.
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