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Let’s consider Jeremiah’s prayer within the context of Chapter thirty-two.
Focal point: Obedience to God’s instructions when they seem irrational to human understanding.
Jeremiah was imprisoned in the courtyard of the guard in the royal palace of King Zedekiah (32:1-2). He was imprisoned because of his obedience to God’s command to prophesy the destruction of Jerusalem by the Babylonians, and that the people would be carried off into captivity, including the king (vs. 3-5).
Here are the questions based on human rationale: If Jerusalem will be destroyed and the people carried away, what sense does it make to purchase land? Why buy worthless land?
Nevertheless, Jeremiah was obedient to what the LORD instructed; he bought the land and put the title deeds in a clay jar (vs. 6-13). WORTH NOTING is that although God commands/instructs us to do something irrational to us, He always has a purpose for what He instructs us to do. Also, because He is sovereign, He may not or may tell us His purpose, as He did with Jeremiah.
The reason Jeremiah was instructed to buy the land, and preserve the title deeds in a pottery jar was to signify that someday all the land of Judah, worthless at the time because of Babylonian invasion, would once again become valuable, would be bought and be occupied by God’s chosen people. In essence, buying the land was a “prophetic act” of faith in the sovereignty of God and the truth of His word.
Although Jeremiah’s instructions were private, his actions were public. No doubt, the act of symbolism was senseless to the people; yet, the prophet obeyed.
There is a trendy saying now, “Just do it.” Let me encourage you, “just do it”–just do what God says. Additionally, when you obey God’s instructions regardless of how illogical they may seem, acknowledge His sovereignty. Since God is sovereign, you can trust Him to work all things according to the counsel of His will and good pleasure.
Here’s Jeremiah prayer acknowledging God’s sovereignty, which substantiates his obedience to God’s instructions, and affirms his trust in God’s faithfulness to perform what He has spoken:
16 Then after I had given the papers to Baruch, I prayed to the Lord:
17 “O Sovereign Lord! You made the heavens and earth by your strong hand and powerful arm. Nothing is too hard for you! 18 You show unfailing love to thousands, but you also bring the consequences of one generation’s sin upon the next. You are the great and powerful God, the Lord of Heaven’s Armies. 19 You have all wisdom and do great and mighty miracles. You see the conduct of all people, and you give them what they deserve. 20 You performed miraculous signs and wonders in the land of Egypt—things still remembered to this day! And you have continued to do great miracles in Israel and all around the world. You have made your name famous to this day.
21 “You brought Israel out of Egypt with mighty signs and wonders, with a strong hand and powerful arm, and with overwhelming terror. 22 You gave the people of Israel this land that you had promised their ancestors long before—a land flowing with milk and honey. 23 Our ancestors came and conquered it and lived in it, but they refused to obey you or follow your word. They have not done anything you commanded. That is why you have sent this terrible disaster upon them.
24 “See how the siege ramps have been built against the city walls! Through war, famine, and disease, the city will be handed over to the Babylonians, who will conquer it. Everything has happened just as you said. 25 And yet, O Sovereign Lord, you have told me to buy the field—paying good money for it before these witnesses—even though the city will soon be handed over to the Babylonians.”
In the end, what God promises will come to pass! Do you believe this?
Can we acknowledge God’s sovereignty by being obedient to His irrational instructions?
Are we at a point in our relationship with God that if He instructs us to do something irrational and does not tell us why, will we be obedient?
Today’s culture mocks devotion to the Christian lifestyle and obedience to God’s Word. Declaring the Good News of Jesus Christ is unpopular. Even sharing the truth of God’s Word and reminding Christians of the consequences of disobedience to God is unwelcome. When the truth falls on deaf ears it can be heartbreaking, we can feel ineffective, become discouraged, angry, disappointed and selfish in our prayers.
Can you imagine how Jeremiah felt after proclaiming God’s messages and warnings to the Israelites, God’s chosen people? From his prayers we can imagine his disappointment, frustration, discouragement, and yes, even anger. Consider Jeremiah’s prayer:
Jeremiah 17:14-18 New Living Translation (NLT)
14 O Lord, if you heal me, I will be truly healed;
if you save me, I will be truly saved.
My praises are for you alone!
15 People scoff at me and say,
“What is this ‘message from the Lord’ you talk about?
Why don’t your predictions come true?”
16 Lord, I have not abandoned my job
as a shepherd for your people.
I have not urged you to send disaster.
You have heard everything I’ve said.
17 Lord, don’t terrorize me!
You alone are my hope in the day of disaster.
18 Bring shame and dismay on all who persecute me,
but don’t let me experience shame and dismay.
Bring a day of terror on them.
Yes, bring double destruction upon them! Yes, bring double destruction upon them!
What is evident when you read this prayer?
I saw and heard three (3) things in Jeremiah’s prayer when I read it ALOUD:
- Personal relationship. Jeremiah’s attention is on his personal relationship with Jehovah God. It’s personal; it’s all about him (Jeremiah).
- Emotionalism mingled with faith. He acknowledges his faith in God to heal him because he is distressed, hurt (broken in spirit). He also acknowledges his faith in God to save (rescue and protect) him from the attacks of those who scoffs and mocks him because of his messages and warnings of disastrous judgment from God.
- Personal defense. He continues by expressing his faithfulness, consistency and persistence in his assignment. In essence, Jeremiah defends himself by saying, “I’ve done my job—I have done what You chose me to do, and I’ve said what You told me to say. Lord, this is Your plan; not mine.”
- Personal vindication/retaliation. After presenting his defense by reminding God of his obedience in carrying out his assignment, he then ask God to not let him be the object of terror or let him be destroyed. He acknowledges his hope (expectation) is in God alone when the time of disaster comes. However, he closes his prayer by expressing his desire for retaliation (vengeance) against those who persecuted him for doing his job. Basically, he unashamedly ask God to follow through with His plan to destroy those who persecuted him.
Important to note: God does not acknowledge Jeremiah’s prayer! In verse 19, God gives him another assignment with the command: “GO and stand in the gates of Jerusalem…”
Can you relate to Jeremiah’s personal conversation with God? Jeremiah’s prayer is really no different than ours when we are feeling overwhelmed in life and ministry, frustrated by challenges, and disappointed by people who hurt us, particularly those we are trying to help. Sometimes we may feel ineffective, yet we must be careful not to let our feelings of rejection and discouragement sabotage our faith and trust in the sovereignty of our God to the point that we are praying out of emotions instead of our spirit, which should be aligned with God’s will.
The next time you are frustrated, feeling overwhelmed, disappointed and discouraged, how will you pray?