Saturday 1 October, 2016
"Who can I cry to but you?"
Jeremiah 20:7-9, 14-18
Cursed is the man who delighted my father saying, ‘You have a son’. He should have killed me from the womb and let my mother become my grave, her womb pregnant forever. Why is this – I left the womb to see trouble and pain and my days ending in shame. (part of verses 15 and 17)
The book of Jeremiah starts by describing how he was destined and sanctified from his mother’s womb to be a prophet. When he doubted that he, a child, could prophesy, he was told that God would give him the words he needed.
Because in English to ‘prophesy’ means ‘foretell the future’, we get confused about the biblical prophets’ role. The Hebrew word for prophesy means ‘convey God’s words to people’. If God’s words concern the future, then the English and Hebrew coincide, but the key is communication: making those around aware of God’s wishes. As Jeremiah’s life continued, he was tortured by knowing about the coming destruction, knowing people were ignoring his message, knowing false prophets were telling the people all will be well (Jeremiah 14). Jeremiah was hit and put in the stocks for repeating God’s words to the people. Once released, Jeremiah repeated to the high priest that captivity and exile would come soon. Then he cried out to God in misery at the suffering his role as prophet had brought. He is threatened with reprisals from the people to whom he must prophesy, yet if he remains silent, God’s words, sent to be uttered, will burn within him. No wonder he regrets his birth and his lifelong calling to prophesy. But he cries out his pain at his impossible position to God, asking why he was born to such trouble, rather than feeling he must suppress his feelings before God. Rabbi Lionel Blue has often said that God can take our anger but not our refusal to speak honestly.
† I lift my eyes to the mountains. From where will come my help? My help comes from the Eternal, who makes heavens and earth, who doesn’t let your footstumble; your guardian does not sleep (from Psalm 121). Amen