(All Scripture is from the New King James Version unless otherwise indicated)
Perhaps the New Year’s resolution that is the most promised is to lose weight! And it is also the quickest resolution to be broken! I resolve to lose ten to twelve pounds that I gained over the holidays, starting with the Hallowe’en candy I raided from my six grandboys’ haul! And I intend to keep this resolution……but we’ll see!
However, while gluttony is one of ‘the seven deadly sins,’ there is another way in which God encourages overeating! And I think you might have discerned such divine encouragement by the photo above. Here is the featured Scripture, Jeremiah 15:16: “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.”
There was hardly an Old Testament prophet more persecuted, more sorrowful, than Jeremiah! He was called to the prophetic office as a young priest from Anathoth, a priestly town about three miles northeast of Jerusalem. God commissioned him to prophesy to the people of the southern kingdom of Judah, his message was not well-received! For the main message that he preached was that God condemned the people of Judah:
“...you have forsaken the LORD your God, and the fear of Me is not in you....For though you wash yourself with lye, and use much soap, yet your iniquity is marked before Me,” says the LORD God .... “...My people have forgotten Me days with- out number....Also on your skirts is found the blood of the lives of the poor innocents....Yet you say...‘I am innocent...I have not sinned....’” (Jeremiah 2:19, 22, 32, 34, 35).
In Eerdmans The New Bible Dictionary, two paragraphs from the article on “Jeremiah” seem to catch the struggles the prophet encountered:
He insisted on repentance from a people who were in- capable of contrition. He unmasked the nation’s sins and broadcast its judgment knowing that it would end in futility. Those whom he loved hated him. A loyal patriot, he was branded a traitor. The prophet of un- dying hope had to exhibit the fallacy of his people’s hope. This priestly intercessor was commanded to in- tercede no more. This lover of Judah was by Judah ma- ligned. It is impossible to plumb the depths of grief into which Jeremiah was plunged. Despairing of comfort…he desired to dissolve in tears for doomed Judah.
He is known as ‘the weeping prophet’! (See Jeremiah 9:1; 13:17; Lamentations 1:16; 3:48, 49).
Here are some of the highlights (or should we say ‘lowlights’) of his recorded forty year ministry in the last days of the southern kingdom of Judah:
- The first eighteen years of Jeremiah’s ministry were exercised in comparative peace concerning the reaction of Judah’s population to his message. After that, opposition and violence broke upon the prophet!
- In chapter 20 of his prophetic writings is recorded the first major persecution against Jeremiah! He had been prophesying in the previous chapters about the siege (and accompanying famine) and destruction of Jerusalem by King Nebuchadnezzar and his Babylonian army! Jeremiah 20:1 and 2 describes how after hearing this awful prophesy, “…Pashur …the priest who was also the chief governor in the house of the LORD…struck Jeremiah…and put him [overnight] in the stocks….”
In chapter 26, the prophet had spoken out God’s message that Jerusalem would be devastated, “…like Shiloh…a curse to all the nations of the earth.” (Jeremiah 26:6). Shiloh was at one time the religious center of Israel. Scripture does not tell us exactly why or how this place was judged and abandoned, but Jeremiah used Shiloh as an example of what was going to soon happen to Judah’s capital city, Jerusalem!
Verses 8 and 9:
...the priests and the prophets and all the people seized him, saying, “You will surely die! Why have you prophesied in the name of the LORD, saying, ‘This house shall be like Shiloh, and this city shall be desolate, without inhabitant?’”
Jeremiah, in chapter 27 and verse 2 (God’s Word to the Nations), was told by the LORD, “Make leather straps and a wooden yoke, and strap the yoke on your neck.” This was to signify…
...the nations [including Judah] that bring their necks under the yoke of the king of Babylon and serve him, I will let them remain in their own land...and they shall till it and dwell in it.
But Jeremiah wrote in chapter 28, verses 1 through 3:
...Hananiah...the [false] prophet...spoke to me in the house of the LORD in the presence of the priests and... all the people...“Thus speaks the LORD of hosts...‘I have broken the yoke of the king of Babylon. Within two full years I will bring back...all the vessels of the LORD’s house, that Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon took away....’”
Hananiah then broke Jeremiah’s wooden yoke from off his neck, reinforcing his prophesy that the yoke of Babylon would be quickly broken! (See Jeremiah 28:10, 11). But Jeremiah told him that God would replace the wooden yoke with an iron one! Also, as a result of being a false prophet and misleading the people of Judah, God said Hananiah would be “‘…cast…from the face of the earth.’ …So Hananiah…died the same year in the seventh month.” (Jeremiah 28:16, 17).
- In chapter 36 and verse 2, God commanded Jeremiah to “Take a scroll…and write on it all the words that I have spoken to you against Israel…Judah, and…all the nations….” Jeremiah obeyed, using “…Baruch the son of Neriah…” (Jeremiah 36:4) as a secretary. With the prophet and his secretary in hiding, the scroll finally came to the attention of King Jehoiakim. But when the Judean princes’ messenger, Jehudi read it before the king, Jehoiakim cut the scroll apart and “…cast it into the fire that was on the hearth, until all the scroll was consumed in the fire….” (Jeremiah 36:23).
Jeremiah kept on prophesying:
“Thus says the LORD: ‘This city shall surely be giv- en into the hand of the king of Babylon’s army, which shall take it.’” Therefore the princes said to the king, “Please, let this man be put to death, for thus he weakens the hands of the men of war who remain in the city, and the hands of all the people, by speak- ing such words to them. For this man does not seek the welfare of this people, but their harm.” ...So they took Jeremiah and cast him into the dungeon of Malchiah...and they let Jeremiah down with ropes. And in the dungeon there was no water, but mire. So Jeremiah sank in the mire. (Jeremiah 38:3, 4, 6).
How long the prophet was knee-deep in dungeon mud, the Scripture doesn’t say. But he must have despaired even of life in that dark hole! If it wasn’t for the king’s eunuch, Ebal-Melech the Ethiopian who rescued Jeremiah (see Jeremiah 38:7-13), the prophet surely would have died in that dungeon muck!
- It all happened just as Jeremiah had prophesied!
✡ Jerusalem was taken, sacked, and burned by the Babylonian army! (See II Kings 25:9). ✡ King Zedekiah, the last Judean king, was blinded and exiled to that far away city by the Euphrates River – Babylon! (See II Kings 25:7). ✡ A puppet governor, Gedaliah, was installed over Judah, but was soon murdered! (See Jeremiah 40:7; 41:2). ✡ The few remaining Jews fled to (what they thought was) the safety of Egypt, forcefully taking Jere- miah with them! (See Jeremiah 43:7).
Consider Jeremiah 15:15, 17, and 18 (Good News Bible), the verses surrounding our featured Scripture, Jeremiah 15:16:
LORD, you understand. Remember me and help me. Let me have revenge on those who persecute me. Do not be so patient with them that they succeed in killing me. Re- member that it is for your sake that I am insulted.... I did not spend my time with other people, laughing and having a good time. In obedience to your orders I stayed by myself and was filled with anger. Why do I keep on suffering? Why are my wounds incurable?
Remember Jeremiah 15:16? “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.”
- He was called by the LORD’s name!
- He devoured God’s Word (digested it so he could give it back out)!
And these two things – the very things that brought Jeremiah so much trouble in his life and ministry, were the very things that brought joy and rejoicing to his heart!
What about you? Are you going through trying times when everything and everybody seems against you?
- If you are a Christian, you are called by His name – Christ! You carry the very name of the Savior and Lord of all! That should give you joy and rejoicing!
- Are you reading and studying God’s Word? Are you digesting it? That will give you joy and rejoicing!
I doubt that many of us are facing the hard trials and tribulations that Jeremiah regularly experienced. So if it worked for him to produce joy and rejoicing, it will work for you!
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.