Scripture reading – Jeremiah 19; Jeremiah 20

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Jeremiah was a spectator on his first visit to the “potter’s house” (Jeremiah 18:3-4). On his second visit, the prophet was a customer, for the LORD told him to “get a potter’s earthen bottle” (Jeremiah 19:1).

Jeremiah 19

Jeremiah purchased a clay bottle (Jeremiah 19:1). Then he summoned the elders of Jerusalem (the civic leaders and priests) to meet him in “the valley of the son of Hinnom” (Jeremiah 19:1-2). That valley was infamous for idolatry, and most notoriously, it was there where the people sacrificed their sons and daughters, which was prohibited among God’s people (Jeremiah 19:3-5).

The Valley of Slaughter (Jeremiah 19:6-9)

Condemning the wickedness of the people, Jeremiah declared, “the valley of the son of Hinnom” would be known as “the valley of slaughter” (Jeremiah 19:6). That valley would be the site of mass killings as the army of Babylon laid siege to Jerusalem. The bodies of the dead would lay mutilated and unburied on the ground and become carnage for birds and beasts (Jeremiah 19:7-8). The suffering and hunger of the city would be so great that starving men and women would turn to cannibalism (Jeremiah 19:9).

A Symbol of God’s Judgment: Breaking the Clay Vessel

A Symbol of God’s Judgment: Breaking the Clay Vessel (Jeremiah 19:10-15)

To announce God’s judgment, the LORD instructed Jeremiah to “break the bottle in the sight of the men” (Jeremiah 19:10).  The shattered clay vessel that could not “be made whole again” was a powerful object lesson. It was a prophetic reminder that God would break Judah because of the people’s sins (Jeremiah 19:11). So many would perish that eventually, there would be “no place to bury” the bodies (Jeremiah 19:11). Indeed, the name of Jerusalem would become “Tophet,” meaning “garbage dump” or pile of ruins (Jeremiah 19:12).

Departing from his confrontation with the city’s elders, Jeremiah made his way to the Temple, where he declared in the court: “Thus saith the Lord of hosts, the God of Israel; Behold, I will bring upon this city and upon all her towns all the evil that I have pronounced against it, because they have hardened their necks, that they might not hear my words” (Jeremiah 19:15).

Jeremiah 20

Rather than repent of their wickedness, Jerusalem’s elders were enraged with Jeremiah. One named “Pashur,” the son of the chief priest and a Temple guard, beat Jeremiah and put him in stocks in the prison (Jeremiah 20:1-2).  Rather than silence the prophet, the persecutions emboldened him to prophesy against Pashur and identify Babylon as the nation the LORD would send to slay and take the people captive (Jeremiah 20:3-6). 

Jeremiah’s Response to Persecution

Jeremiah’s Response to Persecution (Jeremiah 20:7-10)

Jeremiah boldly declared the Word of the LORD and warned the people God’s judgment was imminent. Yet, we are also reminded the great prophet was human and prone to struggle with insecurities and discouragements that plague all who serve the LORD (Jeremiah 20:7-18). In the dungeon’s darkness, the prophet began questioning his call to ministry (Jeremiah 20:7). In private, he struggled with the personal attacks and injustices he suffered (Jeremiah 20:8). 

Jeremiah’s state became so pathetic that he determined to resign as God’s prophet (Jeremiah 20:9). Sensing the prophet’s discouragement, his enemies defamed him. They accused him of wrongdoing (Jeremiah 20:9).  Even his friends and family (“all my familiars”) opposed him (Jeremiah 20:10). 

Jeremiah’s Prayer and Confidence (Jeremiah 20:11-13)

Jeremiah wrestled with mood swings like all men, but when his thoughts and meditations turned to the LORD, his passion for serving Him was restored (Jeremiah 20:11-13).  With his faith renewed, he became confident that the LORD would vindicate Him (Jeremiah 20:11-12). So, Jeremiah’s despair turned into songs of praise (Jeremiah 20:13).

Closing thought

Every believer can identify with Jeremiah’s doubt and discouragement. I know that trials and sorrows often follow on the heels of spiritual victories. While I do not enjoy trials, I have learned that God is faithful and will take me through troubles and distress (1 Corinthians 10:13). In the words of Nehemiah:

“The joy of the LORD is [my] strength!” (Nehemiah 8:10)

Copyright © 2024 – Travis D. Smith 

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