Today’s Reading: JEREMIAH 12:1-15:21
In 1985 I went home to spend the summer prior to my last year of college with my mother. One particular Sunday after church I got on a “EL” train for the city to go down and meet up with my brother to paint his apartment. It would be a commute that would stick with me for a long time. I felt like Jeremiah that day.
In those days I was very active in my college group “The Navigators”. I was an active evangelist in those days. I carried my New Testament with me at all times, ready to share with anyone who crossed my path. On that particular Sunday afternoon I was on a nearly empty train when two men boarded. They sat near me and we struck up a conversation. I was of course trying to see how I could talk about the Lord and what he had done in my life. They of course were trying to figure out how to get my 21st birthday watch and money for themselves. As I was flipping through my New Testament sharing the Roman’s Road with them they were fiddling with a gun in their coat pocket. Ultimately, they got to their purpose of our conversation before I got to mine. I was robbed. I lost only $5, a watch and a lot of my pride.
For the next 15 minutes I continued on with my commute. I was depressed and upset. How could the Lord let me be robbed while trying to share the Good News with others? What was the lesson for me? What is the purpose in all of this?
Thankfully, I had the means to continue my journey and I transferred to a bus for the last part of the journey. I sat down and a middle aged man sat next to me. He was nicely dressed in a linen suit. I took the opportunity to start up another conversation. I mentioned that he was sharply dressed and asked if he had gone to church that morning. He hadn’t. I tried to move the conversation to the Lord again, talking about my morning at church. I told him what happened on the train. We talked for a bit more and then I realized that he was a middle aged homosexual man that was trying to ask me out. In a span of 30 minutes, while trying to share the Gospel with two different people I got robbed by one guy and propositioned by another. What a day?
I got off the bus at my brother’s spot and nearly collapsed from all the expelled energy. I was confused, depressed, angry and upset. Why was this happening? Why would two opportunities to share about God turn so wrong? Why, when I was doing what I was supposed to be doing being taken so wrongly? Was I being punished? What was God’s purpose in all this?
Reading today’s passage reminded me of that Sunday afternoon in the Summer of 1985. Jeremiah was persecuted much more than my one afternoon in the sun. He had endured opposition for years. He had people set out to have him killed. In today’s reading he complains to God:
Jeremiah 15:10, 15 – 18 (NLT)
10 Then I said,
“What sorrow is mine, my mother.
Oh, that I had died at birth!
I am hated everywhere I go.
I am neither a lender who threatens to foreclose
nor a borrower who refuses to pay—
yet they all curse me.”
15 Then I said,
“Lord, you know what’s happening to me.
Please step in and help me. Punish my persecutors!
Please give me time; don’t let me die young.
It’s for your sake that I am suffering.
16 When I discovered your words, I devoured them.
They are my joy and my heart’s delight,
for I bear your name,
O Lord God of Heaven’s Armies.
17 I never joined the people in their merry feasts.
I sat alone because your hand was on me.
I was filled with indignation at their sins.
18 Why then does my suffering continue?
Why is my wound so incurable?
Your help seems as uncertain as a seasonal brook,
like a spring that has gone dry.”
Jeremiah is frustrated that he has done everything the Lord had asked and he was still being persecuted. The Lord answers Jeremiah’s plea with a series of promises:
Jeremiah 15:11, 19 – 21 (NLT)
11 The Lord replied,
“I will take care of you, Jeremiah.
Your enemies will ask you to plead on their behalf
in times of trouble and distress.
19 This is how the Lord responds:
“If you return to me, I will restore you
so you can continue to serve me.
If you speak good words rather than worthless ones,
you will be my spokesman.
You must influence them;
do not let them influence you!
20 They will fight against you like an attacking army,
but I will make you as secure as a fortified wall of bronze.
They will not conquer you,
for I am with you to protect and rescue you.
I, the Lord, have spoken!
21 Yes, I will certainly keep you safe from these wicked men.
I will rescue you from their cruel hands.”
Just like me in my mini one hour crisis, Jeremiah had felt that God had left him alone against his enemies. But the Lord had never left him alone. Sure I was exhausted, frustrated and dejected, but the Lord kept me safe the whole time. I didn’t die or even get injured (beyond my pride). The Lord was there the whole time. God’s plans were bigger that Jeremiah or I could have understood.