O YHWH, You have deceived me and I was deceived; You have overcome me and prevailed. I have become a laughingstock all day long; everyone mocks me. Jeremiah 20:7
Overcome – Jeremiah employs extraordinary imagery in his description of God’s claim on his life. This is the man who pleaded with God not to choose him, who rued the day he was born, who begged to be released from God’s service. He saw quite clearly that his role would lead to death. But God would not let him go. If you were under the impression that being a prophet called by God is a blessing, then you haven’t read Scripture. If you are one of those contemporary men or women who believe God has called you to a prophetic role, and you desire it, then you are truly strange. As far as I can tell, no person chosen by God as a prophet ever wanted it – and for very good reasons. Reluctant leaders are biblical. Shattered prophets are too. Notice Jeremiah’s cry in this verse, but don’t read it in English. The English translation has removed the emotional violence against Jeremiah. Let’s look at it in Hebrew: pititani YHWH va’epat hazaktani.
Heschel points out that the two verbs, patah and hazak, are used to describe “wrongfully inducing a women to consent to prenuptial intercourse” (Exodus 22:16, Hosea 2:14, Job 31:9) and “violent forcing of a woman to submit to extranuptial intercourse (Deuteronomy 22:15, Judges 19:25). Heschel translates the verse:
O Lord, Thou hast seduced me, and I am seduced. Thou hast raped me and I am overcome.
The word translated “overcome” in the English NASB above ignores the context of the first verb and its usage in Deuteronomy and Judges. Jeremiah is not conquered or overwhelmed. He feels like he has been raped. The verb hazak expresses his feeling of forcible violation. God has humbled him in the worst possible way. His sense of personal integrity has been violated and destroyed. He sees God as a perpetrator and he is the victim. His sense of morality has been shattered. He has been seduced. He has been forced to submit. How can he have any dignity left when his own God is responsible for such a violation?
Today we encounter people who crave the limelight, even within the religious community. They want the title “Prophet” or “Anointed” or “Chosen.” But their sense of self-worth has not been ravaged. They have not been defiled by holiness and despoiled by God’s call. Every true prophet knows that God lays waste to His servants. Those who desire such a calling are most likely pursuing pride and power, not the humiliation God needs to bring about His purposes. Be careful whom you follow. A man who has not felt God’s destruction is probably not fit to lead broken people.
Topical Index: prophet, rape, patah, hazak, Jeremiah 20:7
 Abraham Heschel, The Prophets, Vol. 1, p. 113.