Jeremiah 20:7-18 (ESV)

O Lord, you have deceived me,

and I was deceived;

you are stronger than I,

and you have prevailed.

I have become a laughingstock all the day;

everyone mocks me.

[8] For whenever I speak, I cry out,

I shout, “Violence and destruction!”

For the word of the Lord has become for me

a reproach and derision all day long.

[9] If I say, “I will not mention him,

or speak any more in his name,”

there is in my heart as it were a burning fire

shut up in my bones,

and I am weary with holding it in,

and I cannot.

[10] For I hear many whispering.

Terror is on every side!

“Denounce him! Let us denounce him!”

say all my close friends,

watching for my fall.

“Perhaps he will be deceived;

then we can overcome him

and take our revenge on him.”

[11] But the Lord is with me as a dread warrior;

therefore my persecutors will stumble;

they will not overcome me.

They will be greatly shamed,

for they will not succeed.

Their eternal dishonor

will never be forgotten.

[12] O Lord of hosts, who tests the righteous,

who sees the heart and the mind,

let me see your vengeance upon them,

for to you have I committed my cause.

[13] Sing to the Lord;

praise the Lord!

For he has delivered the life of the needy

from the hand of evildoers.

[14] Cursed be the day

on which I was born!

The day when my mother bore me,

let it not be blessed!

[15] Cursed be the man who brought the news to my father,

“A son is born to you,”

making him very glad.

[16] Let that man be like the cities

that the Lord overthrew without pity;

let him hear a cry in the morning

and an alarm at noon,

[17] because he did not kill me in the womb;

so my mother would have been my grave,

and her womb forever great.

[18] Why did I come out from the womb

to see toil and sorrow,

and spend my days in shame?

A prayer of Jeremiah. Not exactly a happy smiley, “I know God loves me” kind of prayer. Many Christian people will try to change Jeremiah’s opening words of his prayer in Jeremiah 20 into something that is good and right and commendable. But they are not. He is charging the God who cannot lie – with lying. Perhaps this goes back to 15:20 where God promised him that he would be as a fortified wall who would prevail when he was opposed by the people. Jeremiah does not feel like a fortified wall in the least. He feels like a defeated, beaten, deserted, faithful one whom God has forgotten. He is wrong in thinking that God has forsaken him. But he is right to express what he is feeling.

Would you dare pray like Jeremiah prayed while still obeying your call and maintaining your faithfulness? While Jeremiah wrongly accused God of deception, he kept calling on God for help and continued to pray. He did not stop giving the Word of God and he kept enduring the opposition from those he spoke to. He feels like quitting (see verse 9), but he cannot. He knows his call and he experiences the power of the Word of God in his life, even while he is perplexed and angry and coming up with conclusions that are not right.

Several lessons from this. 1) When it seems to us that God has not been truthful in what He has said in his Word, we need to be honest enough to admit it. God knows how you are feeling. You cannot think that God is deceiving you and then pray as if you are thinking otherwise. God knows what you are thinking and feeling. The solution to the problem of thinking that God is not treating us according to His promises is not to try to pretend that we think He is. It is wrong to charge God with wrong doing. But it is also wrong to lie to Him. Jeremiah admits to God that his circumstances are making him question God (verse 10). You will not find the solution to your dilemma regarding the faithfulness of God in your calamity if you do not call out to God because of it. This is what Jeremiah is doing. He prays about the way that he feels. He does not try to fool himself and God into thinking that he does not feel that way. Ask God your questions without stating that He has made a mistake.

2) As Jeremiah’s prayer progresses his attitude changes. By the time we get to verse 11 he has changed from charging God with deception to proclaiming that in the midst of his struggles, God is with him as a warrior and he knows that since God is with him his enemies shall not prevail. Jeremiah would not have had this change of heart and attitude if he had not gone to God with his complaint. He went to God with his heart laid bare and God gave him the assurance that his assessment was wrong. He had not deceived him. He gave Jeremiah the confidence to know that God is true and not a liar. God is for him and not against him. It is while Jeremiah is praying that the truth of this comes home to him.

3) Jeremiah comes to see that God has been testing him (verse 13). God makes great promises to His children but He does not fulfill them all immediately and the things that happen to us between the giving of the promise and the receiving of the things promised can be very testing. God is not interested in having followers who only follow when everything goes their way. He wants faith in the midst of trouble, opposition, pain and questioning. Jeremiah has it. Even when he charges God with deception he is talking to God. It is a prayer. How many so called believers just give up on God and never talk to Him again? Not Jeremiah. He passes the test and continues to call upon his God.

4) Jeremiah’s prayer turns into a call for people to sing praises to the Lord (verse 13). He speaks about God delivering the needy. This, no doubt is reference to himself. This is hope in the future. Jeremiah has not been delivered yet. But he now has the sure hope and confidence that he will be. He no longer thinks God has lied to him. He now believes that while his life is a misery there can real joy in it because God’s promises are not all fulfilled now and they are not to be seen as merely giving a prosperous, trouble free life now. He can now tell others that this God, whom he formerly accused of lying, should be praised. He is suffering, but he now has joy in the midst of it.

5) Realizing that God does keep His promises and that this life is going to be full of trouble does not keep Jeremiah from still struggling with all the pain he is being called to endure. This prayer of Jeremiah’s ends with a quite depressing statement that he is sorry he was ever born. Confidence in God and knowing that God is in control of even the bad things and that the promises of God may take a while to be fulfilled do not stop Jeremiah from feeling horrible. This is a great truth that we need to learn. You can cry over your struggles and still have a faith in God that is strong. Far too many Christians equate faith with a “stiff upper lip, grin and bear it” attitude. There is none of that in Jeremiah. He repents before God. He trusts God. He calls on others to praise God. And he wishes that he were never born. How unimaginably gracious God has been to keep this prayer of Jeremiah’s in the Scriptures for us. It is real. It is powerful. It is for us. It is very helpful and it directs us to how we should be praying even when we think, wrongly, that God has dropped the ball. Go to the God who is always faithful. Acknowledge His wisdom and grace and let Him know how you feel.

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