Summary: Rather than moaning to one another, grumbling about our plight, we should go to the LORD, and lay it out before Him.
MAKING OUR COMPLAINT TO THE LORD
Jeremiah had been put in the stocks - by the church governor, no less - for having the audacity to speak the Word of the LORD in church (Jeremiah 20:1-2)! Even then, there was no stopping Jeremiah telling it as it is, speaking forth the words of God. In this passage we are overhearing the praying prophet wrestling with God.
The prophet’s lament falls in line with others of the genre: both in his own writings, and in the rest of the Bible.
“O LORD” (Jeremiah 20:7) is the briefest of openings: but nevertheless, in his pain, Jeremiah is crying out to none other than the true and living God. A good place for any of us to begin.
The complaint commences with an expression of the occasional doubt of every preacher: that his words are perhaps not, after all, from God. Jeremiah fears that he may have been “enticed” (Jeremiah 20:7) by the LORD (cf. 1 Kings 22:19-23), and consequently fallen foul of the law concerning false prophets (Ezekiel 14:9-10).
This fear arose from Jeremiah’s interpretation of the mocking (Jeremiah 20:7), reproach and derision (Jeremiah 20:8), and defaming (Jeremiah 20:10) which he was facing. The prophet took his eye off the ball. The persecuted preacher questions his own integrity when the LORD does not do things exactly as he thinks God should, and momentarily loses his assurance.
Jeremiah complains that he has been unfairly overpowered by the LORD (Jeremiah 20:7), but he has not the power to forbear from speaking His words (Jeremiah 20:9). Like Peter and John, he ‘cannot but speak’ the word of God (Acts 4:20). Like Paul, ‘necessity is laid upon me… woe is unto me if I preach not the gospel’ (1 Corinthians 9:16).
Jeremiah’s enemies hoped that the prophet would prove to have been deceived, and that they would prevail (Jeremiah 20:10). But against this Jeremiah’s faith reasserts itself in the assurance that his enemies would not, ultimately, prevail (Jeremiah 20:11). It is God who will prevail.
Jeremiah emerged from his ordeal with an invitation to the faithful to join him in singing praise to the One who had delivered him (Jeremiah 20:13). Although his experience is very personal, and very real, Jeremiah also stands for all the people of God: both Israel (Jeremiah 15:5), and the wider Church (1 Peter 4:16). As well as this, Jeremiah is a type of Christ, and anticipates the coming of the suffering Saviour (Isaiah 53:3).