Tuesday of Pentecost 14 – Jeremiah 15:15-21

15 O LORD, you know;
    remember me and visit me,
    and take vengeance for me on my persecutors.
In your forbearance take me not away;
    know that for your sake I bear reproach.
16Your words were found, and I ate them,
   and your words became to me a joy
   and the delight of my heart,
for I am called by your name,
   O LORD, God of hosts.
17 I did not sit in the company of revelers,
   nor did I rejoice;
I sat alone, because your hand was upon me,
   for you had filled me with indignation.
18Why is my pain unceasing,
    my wound incurable,
   refusing to be healed?
Will you be to me like a deceitful brook,
   like waters that fail?  19Therefore thus says the LORD: “If you return, I will restore you,
   and you shall stand before me.
If you utter what is precious, and not what is worthless,
   you shall be as my mouth.
They shall turn to you,
   but you shall not turn to them.
20 And I will make you to this people
   a fortified wall of bronze;
they will fight against you,
    but they shall not prevail over you,
for I am with you
   to save you and deliver you,
         declares the LORD. 21 I will deliver you out of the hand of the wicked,
   and redeem you from the grasp of the ruthless.” My friend Jon and his friends were hiking in the desert southwest of the United States. They planned a hike of several days in the wilderness to see parts of this world which few had seen. In the desert, water is the key. They could not carry enough. They checked the map and it indicated a source of drinking water. They checked with the ranger to see if it was indeed so and he confirmed it. After three days of hiking, they had used most of their water. When they came to the place on the map, however, there was no water. Just a note from a prior hiker indicating that this was indeed the right spot and there was no water. My friend and his fellow hikers were in trouble. They immediately began a regimen of water conservation. They plotted the quickest way to drinkable water and set out. Dehydration is a terrible way to die. It was a near thing. Had a group of fellow hikers not encountered my friend’s party and shared water with them, it is likely I would not have ever heard him relate this story. Jeremiah wonders if God is a deceitful brook, a water that fails to deliver when he needs it most. This was not the speculation of an armchair theologian. Jeremiah was at the end of a long and difficult trail, staring at a dusty, dry spigot.  He had followed all the rules. When God had given him a message to proclaim, he had proclaimed it. But that had only brought him more and more trouble. You read about all his troubles in his long and sometimes sorrowful book. Jeremiah was persecuted, hunted down, nearly killed, imprisoned, humiliated, and betrayed. He did not suffer for doing wrong. He suffered for doing the right thing, what God commanded him to do. And it just went on and an. These words find Jeremiah turning around to God and wondering if God is really going to save him. Will God leave him high and dry when the crunch time comes? We might be feeling the same way. Like Jeremiah we might be saying, “We could use a little help down here, God!” And we might be wondering what God will do. Turn to the last part of this passage and read it carefully, starting at verse 19. God’s answer to Jeremiah are words to us too. God says four important things to Jeremiah

  1. We need to be turned toward God. This pouting posture assumed up this point needs to end.
  2. We need to say the precious words, not the worthless things.
  3. God establishes us. We will be like a wall of fortified bronze which will not be overthrown.
  4. They will fight against us, but they will not win.

I think Jeremiah really wanted people to like him. He was not going to get that. He was not going to see his message result in public affection. They would fight against him and fail to topple him. They would not like him. The church is built on a rock which shall not fail. He does not promise an easy, conflict-free path forward. He promises his presence and a final victory which is for us too.

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