Pain and Joy

January 22, 2014
Jeremiah 15:15, 16

(All scripture is from the New King James Version unless otherwise indicated.)

Jeremiah is called “the weeping prophet” because God revealed to him the terrible judgments coming upon the southern kingdom of Judah.  The northern kingdom of Israel had been conquered by Assyria and deported to distant lands more than a hundred years before.  Jeremiah faithfully prophesied to the Jews all the revelation God had given him.  And he lived to see it all come to pass – the spiritual downhill slide of the rulers and people; the three deportations of the Jews to Babylon; the suffering and death of so many, especially during the final siege of Jerusalem in 586 BC; and the continued rebellion against God of the remnant who were left in the land.  Jeremiah loved his country and its people.  Several times he expresses thoughts similar to what he wrote in Jeremiah 9:1:  “Oh, that my head were waters, and my eyes a fountain of tears, that I might weep day and night for the slain of the daughter of my people!”  No wonder he is called “the weeping prophet!

But there is one of my favorite verses within this book – one that I memorized long ago – and it expresses not sorrow, but joy!  However, I will also reproduce the verse before this favorite, because the context is important, and the joy stands out all the more.  Jeremiah 15:15 and 16:

    O LORD, You know; remember me and visit me, and take vengeance for me
    on my persecutors.  Do not take me away in Your longsuffering.  Know that
    for Your sake I have suffered rebuke.  Your words were found, and I ate them,
    and Your word was to me the joy and rejoicing of my heart; for I am called by
    Your name, O LORD God of hosts.

This scripture shows forth one of the greatest truths of the Christian life – the source of joyful living – even in pain!  Of course it is God’s doing, but we have a major part in experiencing a life of joy!

The first verse of our scripture gives a snapshot of the hard life Jeremiah was living.  At the beginning of his ministry, God had warned him in Jeremiah 1:17 through 19 what kind of life he would have as a prophet:

    “Therefore prepare yourself and arise, and speak to them all that I command
    you.  Do not be dismayed before their faces, lest I dismay you before them. 
    For behold, I have made you this day a fortified city and an iron pillar, and
    bronze walls against the whole land — against the kings of Judah, against its
    princes, against its priests, and against the people of the land.  They will fight
    against you, but they shall not prevail against you.  For I am with you,” says
    the LORD, “to deliver you.”

Jeremiah was slandered, threatened, persecuted, imprisoned, sentenced to death but rescued at the last moment, taken captive by his own people, and ”Tradition relates that in Egypt they stoned Jeremiah. (Another tradition states they sawed him in two.)” – biblestudies/Old%20Testament/jeremiah.htm.

And in the midst of tribulation and suffering, Jeremiah breaks forth with his source of joy:  “Your words were found, and I ate them, and Your word was to me the joy and rejoicing of my heart; for I am called by Your name, O LORD God of hosts.”  The very thing that was causing the prophet such great trials – that he was “...called by [the name of the]…LORD God of hosts” – was the thing that gave him “…joy and rejoicing…!  How could this be?

It was because he “…found [God’s words], and…ate them….”!  He took in what the Lord had said – internalizing it – and let that Word do its work within him!  Back on March 18 and 20, I published two blogs that detail how this all works.  Check out Be Filled With What? and Rivers of Living Water.  You see, the Word will do its work in you if you do your part – consume the Bible!

Jeremiah was forced to go hungry at times, such as when he was imprisoned in chapter 37.  But in general he ate regular meals.  So do we – and if it is nutritious physical food that we consume – such eating keeps us in relative good health.  We don’t have to understand all the mechanics of how the food we take in our mouth ends up as vibrant energy emanating from our lives – we just have to take it in!

It is the same with the Word of God.  If we want spiritual energy in our lives – including joy even in times of severe trials – then we must eat God’s Word!  Jeremiah gave us a wonderful example to follow:  “Your words were found, and I ate them, and Your word was to me the joy and rejoicing of my heart; for I am called by Your name, O LORD God of hosts.

Pain and Joy – can they exist together?  Yes!  …if we do our part!

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