Summary: A three-part series looking at Jeremiah’s spiritual journey and how he could be a prophet of compassion instead of anger and judgment.
Faith & Failure #54
Jeremiah, pt. 3
This is the third look at Jeremiah, trying to focus not so much on the message he gave to his people, but what giving that message to his people meant to him and his relationship with God. Jeremiah had a very close relationship with the Creator of the universe. The One True God. The reason I bring this up is because we’re going to see how close and tight Jeremiah really was with God in how he communicated with him.
All of us—at one time or another and to one degree or another—are going to go through some Jeremiah-like experiences. Not being rejected and abused by every person you know for 40 years, but you’ll experience some kind of opposition by someone you care about at from time to time during different times in your life. If our relationships with God are going to be an anchor for our souls during those times, we need to spend some time eavesdropping on some conversations Jeremiah had with God.
We’re not going to have time to look at each of Jeremiah’s prayers, but I’ve picked some I think represent the full spectrum of emotional peaks and valleys he experienced and brought to God in prayer. Jeremiah prayed a lot. He prayed frustrated prayers, he prayed confessing prayers, and he prayed devoted prayers. First I want us to look at a few of Jeremiah’s…
This really isn’t a message on prayer, but we’re going to be talking about prayer quite a bit. So before we go any further, I want to tell you something that might disappoint you. Some of you may be expecting or even hoping that you’re going to leave here with a formula for prayer that will leave you feeling good about God and life all the time, even when everything around you is falling apart. If I could do that, I would, but I’m not.
Actually, my goal is that we would leave here today with a willingness and even a desire to get beyond the expectation of “answered prayers.” Now that sounds pretty dumb. “Why pray if you’re not expecting answers?” Good question. Why pray if you’re not expecting an answer? Because God is not like a guy I used to work with named Barry.
Years ago I worked at a company that had a warehouse and Barry managed the warehouse and about 25 people who worked there, so he was really busy all the time and he had no for people who just wanted to hang out. So we all learned that, if you walked into Barry’s office, you had better have a question he can answer or an answer he’s been waiting for. If not, don’t come in because he’s busy. In fact, he even had a sign on his desk that said, “If you have nothing to do, don’t do it here.”
Some of us think God’s got the same sign on his desk. If you don’t have a question he can answer, don’t bug him because he’s got lots of really big things to deal with like countries at wars and global hunger and making sure that Tim LaHaye keeps writing more “Left Behind” books.
But we often think God has neither the time nor the desire to listen to us gripe and whine and complain and ask questions for which there really are no answers—at least ones that would make us feel better. Jesus even said, “Your heavenly Father already knows what you need.” Yet in that same conversation, he also taught his followers to pray and to pray often. But when we pray, we’re expecting answers, so much so that, unless God answers our prayers the way we want him to, we talk as if he hasn’t responded to us at all. When you hear the phrase, “God has answered my prayers,” what does that mean? That’s Christian-speak for “God did what I asked him to do” or “God gave me what I asked for.”
God wants to take us to a deep place in our spiritual journeys where prayer becomes expressions of deeply-felt emotions, dreams, hopes, goals, desires, fears, and frustrations so that we become more aware of our incessant need to be fully dependent on God. This short prayer in Jeremiah 15 contains several things we’re looking for when we pray during this Jeremiah-like times in life. Look at verse 15.
15Then I said, “Lord, You know I am suffering for Your sake. Punish my persecutors! Don’t let them kill me! Be merciful to me and give them what they deserve!
During his 40-year career as a prophet, Jeremiah was falsely accused and arrested, falsely imprisoned, dumped in a well, beaten and put into stocks, and rejected by all his friends and family. He’s fed up. He’s tired and now he wants revenge. He wants to see those who have hurt him suffer. It’s like movies where the main character gets revenge by killing his enemies? Why do we love these movies? Because we get to see on the screen what we’d like to do in real life, but can’t. So Jeremiah does the next best thing—“You get them God! You’re the one they’re sinning against anyway. Punish them, but be merciful to me. But now look at verse 16 where he stays focused on his own frustration: