TERROR ON EVERY SIDE
Lord, give me the courage to say what You want said.
Read JEREMIAH 20:1–18
Jeremiah and Pashhur
20 When the priest Pashhur son of Immer, the official in charge of the temple of the Lord, heard Jeremiah prophesying these things, 2 he had Jeremiah the prophet beaten and put in the stocks at the Upper Gate of Benjamin at the Lord’s temple. 3 The next day, when Pashhur released him from the stocks, Jeremiah said to him, “The Lord’s name for you is not Pashhur, but Terror on Every Side. 4 For this is what the Lord says: ‘I will make you a terror to yourself and to all your friends; with your own eyes you will see them fall by the sword of their enemies. I will give all Judah into the hands of the king of Babylon, who will carry them away to Babylon or put them to the sword. 5 I will deliver all the wealth of this city into the hands of their enemies—all its products, all its valuables and all the treasures of the kings of Judah. They will take it away as plunder and carry it off to Babylon. 6 And you, Pashhur, and all who live in your house will go into exile to Babylon. There you will die and be buried, you and all your friends to whom you have prophesied lies.’”
7 You deceived me, Lord, and I was deceived;
you overpowered me and prevailed.
I am ridiculed all day long;
everyone mocks me.
8 Whenever I speak, I cry out
proclaiming violence and destruction.
So the word of the Lord has brought me
insult and reproach all day long.
9 But if I say, “I will not mention his word
or speak anymore in his name,”
his word is in my heart like a fire,
a fire shut up in my bones.
I am weary of holding it in;
indeed, I cannot.
10 I hear many whispering,
“Terror on every side!
Denounce him! Let’s denounce him!”
All my friends
are waiting for me to slip, saying,
“Perhaps he will be deceived;
then we will prevail over him
and take our revenge on him.”
11 But the Lord is with me like a mighty warrior;
so my persecutors will stumble and not prevail.
They will fail and be thoroughly disgraced;
their dishonor will never be forgotten.
12 Lord Almighty, you who examine the righteous
and probe the heart and mind,
let me see your vengeance on them,
for to you I have committed my cause.
13 Sing to the Lord!
Give praise to the Lord!
He rescues the life of the needy
from the hands of the wicked.
14 Cursed be the day I was born!
May the day my mother bore me not be blessed!
15 Cursed be the man who brought my father the news,
who made him very glad, saying,
“A child is born to you—a son!”
16 May that man be like the towns
the Lord overthrew without pity.
May he hear wailing in the morning,
a battle cry at noon.
17 For he did not kill me in the womb,
with my mother as my grave,
her womb enlarged forever.
18 Why did I ever come out of the womb
to see trouble and sorrow
and to end my days in shame?
New International Version (NIV)
Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV® Copyright ©1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.
Why do you think Jeremiah is called “the weeping prophet”? One reason is found in verse 7.
In this chapter we see two aspects of Jeremiah’s life. In verses 1–6 he is on duty, carrying out his ministry, denouncing Pashur, in spite of just having being jailed for delivering a message that Pashur did not want to hear. In our own generation we have seen power-hungry leaders also seeking to silence opposition by imprisonment or alternative means. Pashur might be proud of the nickname Jeremiah gives him, as though he will inflict terror upon his enemies, but his attempt to silence Jeremiah does not derail the original message: “terror on every side” (3) will be something that Pashur will experience rather than cause.
Then, in verses 7–18, we see Jeremiah back at home in his own room, struggling with the opposition that he faces. He has attributed to Pashur “terror on every side” but is quite aware that this is actually his own experience (10). He feels let down by God (7,8), persecuted by his own people (9,10) and so depressed that he wishes he had never been born (14–18). Like yesterday’s psalmist, however, at the same time as he experiences this vicious treatment, he also understands who God is and what his ultimate purposes are—and finds it possible, in spite of everything, to praise God (11–13).
Most of us experience this kind of dual reality at times. We may not be able to copy Lewis Carroll’s “White Queen” in believing six impossible things before breakfast, but we are certainly not always logical in our thinking. Like the psalmist, Jeremiah encourages us to express our feelings, but also to recognize that the underlying truth does not change in the light of our current circumstances or emotions.
When you were last shot down by someone with whom you were sharing the Gospel, how did your feelings line up with verse 9?
Lord, my Rock and my Redeemer, help me, particularly when life seems so very difficult, to remember that, when we reach rock bottom, we really do find rock.