“for the word of YHWH has been to me a reproach and derision all the day.” Jeremiah 20:8
Reproach – Jeremiah tells us that he desperately tried not to speak God’s words. He tried to shut them up within his heart. But it was no use. They became a burning fire that had to be released. And every time he spoke, he suffered.
Are God’s words burning coals inside of you? Do His words plague you? Do you wake at night with His thoughts on your mind? Do you weep when you see the world with His eyes? Are you unable to contain the compassion, the angst, the wrath that the Lord has placed within you? The greatest travesty of the faithful today is the absence of unquenchable fire within. Today we are complacent co-conspirators in silencing God’s words to the world. Oh, we mouth the right vocabulary. We say the right evangelical lines at the right occasions. But where is the reproach? Where is the struggle to contain? Where is the boiling over, the bursting forth, the explosive agony of revealing the thoughts of our God?
Jeremiah is a lot more like us than we might imagine. He didn’t want to be an outcast. He didn’t want to be on the wrong side of political power. He didn’t want to be castigated, punished, excommunicated and ridiculed. Who would? Not me, and probably not you (although you may be more willing than I am). After all, most of us are only human. What Jeremiah knew, and what he had to learn again and again, is that God doesn’t really care if we are only human. Of course, He cares immeasurably that we are human. He created us that way and loves us that way. But He doesn’t really care that we often excuse ourselves as human. God knows exactly what He demands of us and He knows that His demands do not exceed our capacity because He insures that we are able to do all He asks. It is simply our unwillingness to conform ourselves to His will that puts us in such terrible inner trauma. The truth is often hard to swallow but is nevertheless, the truth. God gives us assignments for His purposes, not ours.
The Hebrew word herpah has some pretty terrible associations. It is used to hurl insults toward enemies, to describe the uncircumcised (outsiders), those without children and those who are widows. There is nothing pleasant about herpah. Jeremiah knew only too well that the words of the Lord spoken with his mouth would make him an enemy to his own people. He wanted to shut up, but he just couldn’t contain himself. Perhaps today we have more psychological barriers than Jeremiah so we are able to restrain God’s message to make it comfortable. We say that we only want to be relevant, but if we learn anything from Jeremiah, the truth is probably that we want to protect ourselves. What would life be like if we spoke so boldly that we became enemies of our own culture? Perhaps that’s just too hard to think about. Let’s just go the mall.
Topical Index: reproach, herpah, enemy, Jeremiah 20:8