Today: [Jeremiah 20] Jeremiah Suffers Torture. Have you ever been tortured? Maybe not physically but mentally or emotionally? When undergoing great stress we find out what is in us. In this chapter Jeremiah comes to the end of himself and calls God a deceiver. He has been beaten and humiliated by a high ranking priest. His friends are looking the other way. His heart is torn and his mind is stressed to the breaking point. Have you been through this? We can learn from Jeremiah many lessons about how to (and how not to) conduct ourselves during such difficulties.
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[Jer 20:1-18 KJV] 1 Now Pashur the son of Immer the priest, who [was] also chief governor in the house of the LORD, heard that Jeremiah prophesied these things. 2 Then Pashur smote Jeremiah the prophet, and put him in the stocks that [were] in the high gate of Benjamin, which [was] by the house of the LORD. 3 And it came to pass on the morrow, that Pashur brought forth Jeremiah out of the stocks. Then said Jeremiah unto him, The LORD hath not called thy name Pashur, but Magormissabib. 4 For thus saith the LORD, Behold, I will make thee a terror to thyself, and to all thy friends: and they shall fall by the sword of their enemies, and thine eyes shall behold [it]: and I will give all Judah into the hand of the king of Babylon, and he shall carry them captive into Babylon, and shall slay them with the sword. 5 Moreover I will deliver all the strength of this city, and all the labours thereof, and all the precious things thereof, and all the treasures of the kings of Judah will I give into the hand of their enemies, which shall spoil them, and take them, and carry them to Babylon. 6 And thou, Pashur, and all that dwell in thine house shall go into captivity: and thou shalt come to Babylon, and there thou shalt die, and shalt be buried there, thou, and all thy friends, to whom thou hast prophesied lies. 7 O LORD, thou hast deceived me, and I was deceived: thou art stronger than I, and hast prevailed: I am in derision daily, every one mocketh me.
In this chapter, we are introduced to a man by the name of Pashur. There are actually three men named Pashur that figure into the Jeremiah narrative, all of them persons who worked very closing with the priests and the high priestly family during Jeremiah’s time. This Pashur is the deputy high priest who does not care for the words of Jeremiah and has him smitten and put in stocks to publically humiliate him at the gate of Benjamin before the temple. What can we learn from this incident?
First of all, Pashur is a very interesting name, and given the high positions of the men bearing this name, it tells us something of the character of the leadership of the temple at this time. Pashur is not a name of Hebrew origin. Pashur is a name of Egyptian origin. This first Pashur is the son of a high ranking priest, yet this priest didn’t find any of the names of great Israelites to his liking for his son so he names him after an Egyptian fashion. In so doing he has condemned his son to carry out his life in defense of what is at enmity against God. We need to exercise wisdom in naming our children. For instance the name Cassandra. It is a verbally pleasing name that trips off the tongue, but the meaning of the name is “prophet of doom”. Now, not to disparage anyone named Cassandra but if you are naming a child and realize the name has a negative connotation perhaps you might stop to consider. Pashur is an Egyptian name but what does it mean? Pashur means “freedom”. What a great name. That’s good right? Not necessarily.
Remember that the priestly culture at this time was very syncretic. The priests erected images of Egyptian gods in the temple for the purposes of showing the Egyptians (whom they wished to defend them against the Babylonians) that they were cosmopolitan in their belief system. They ordered the doors taken off the temple in order to show that they were open and inclusive. Again there is proof that Pashur was a common name among the families of the priesthood, particularly those in high ranking positions. Why would they be prone to do this? Because they are asserting their “freedom” to dismiss traditional, and God ordained standards of worship, veneration of Jehovah, and holiness to embrace pagan ideals and practices. In effect they were claiming they were “pashur” or free to worship Baal, and Ashteroth and Molech right alongside Jehovah and held themselves exempt from any criticism for doing so.
It is no wonder then that Pashur “struck” Jeremiah as verse 2 tells us, which actually infers that he had Jeremiah arrested and beaten with 40 stripes of a whip before throwing him into the stocks. Why? Because Jeremiah was reproving the nation and the priesthood for exercising the freedoms they held dear. What about today? In our own culture, “freedom” has become synonymous with individualism and in the extreme with licentiousness. Because we live in a free society people are told they are free to choose their gender, their sexual orientation, free as well to live lives that recognize no higher ethic than self-realization, self-interest and self-gratification without any fear of consequences or responsibility to anyone other than themselves.
Even in church culture, this “pashur” or freedom influence the people of God at the highest levels of leadership. Where do you see this? As in the case of Pashur, look at the children of our spiritual leaders? Have you ever seen a pastor’s son or daughter being indulged or excused over things that others are strictly disciplined for? I’ve seen daughters who became pregnant all but removed from the church for the scandal of it, but when that same pastor’s daughter turned up pregnant it was swept under the rug while a hasty marriage is arranged that all the congregation is expected to rejoice in. I’ve seen pastor’s children shielded from exposure and censure when they committed crimes worthy of imprisonment but other children in the church and their families sharply dealt with for much lesser infractions. This would not be worth mentioning except for the fact that it is more than an anecdotal occurrence, but rather evidence of elitism in spiritual leadership that holds themselves aloof from standards that they enthusiastically apply to lesser members of the believing community.
8 For since I spake, I cried out, I cried violence and spoil; because the word of the LORD was made a reproach unto me, and a derision, daily. 9 Then I said, I will not make mention of him, nor speak any more in his name. But [his word] was in mine heart as a burning fire shut up in my bones, and I was weary with forbearing, and I could not [stay]. 10 For I heard the defaming of many, fear on every side. Report, [say they], and we will report it. All my familiars watched for my halting, [saying], Peradventure he will be enticed, and we shall prevail against him, and we shall take our revenge on him. 11 But the LORD [is] with me as a mighty terrible one: therefore my persecutors shall stumble, and they shall not prevail: they shall be greatly ashamed; for they shall not prosper: [their] everlasting confusion shall never be forgotten. 12 But, O LORD of hosts, that triest the righteous, [and] seest the reins and the heart, let me see thy vengeance on them: for unto thee have I opened my cause. 13 Sing unto the LORD, praise ye the LORD: for he hath delivered the soul of the poor from the hand of evildoers. 14 Cursed [be] the day wherein I was born: let not the day wherein my mother bare me be blessed. 15 Cursed [be] the man who brought tidings to my father, saying, A man child is born unto thee; making him very glad. 16 And let that man be as the cities which the LORD overthrew, and repented not: and let him hear the cry in the morning, and the shouting at noontide; 17 Because he slew me not from the womb; or that my mother might have been my grave, and her womb [to be] always great [with me]. 18 Wherefore came I forth out of the womb to see labour and sorrow, that my days should be consumed with shame?
Jeremiah, beaten, battered and humiliated has had enough. He is an open reproach and the only thing he can see that his ministry has accomplished is his own personal ruin. He is defamed, his family is a pariah and in spite of it all there is nothing positive happening among the people as a result of his prophesying. He could probably have held up under this abuse had he seen some outcome. Unfortunately because his words have been little received among the people he finds himself at the end of his patience.
In verse 7 he accuses God of deceiving him. What an accusation. Satan’s name means deceiver. Jeremiah is accusing God of being a deceiver after the fashion of Satan himself. We might think we would never do this but that is the end result when we attribute to God that which originates with Satan. Theologians and grief counselors do this all the time when they say that God gave someone cancer, or allowed a family member to die an untimely death due to some “higher purpose”. I recently heard a well known minister preach that God creates “designer hells” for his people to go through in order to bring about His higher purposes. This is attributing the works of Satan to God and is very close to blasphemy yet the minister received the applause of the congregation for making the statement!
Jeremiah is exhausted. His emotions are strained to the breaking point. He can’t tell his friends from his enemies anymore. He feels like even those closest to him have sold him out. In his prayers, he can only see God as the “Terrible One” and asks if he is going to suffer – at least let him see vengeance on his enemies. Have you ever felt relieved when your enemies suffer? This is a very dangerous sentiment. It is a fact that God will fight against our enemies but we must never forget that Jesus told us to love our enemies and do good to them that despitefully use us. That can be very difficult when undergoing great trials and affliction because of our enemy’s wrongdoing.
The chapter ends with Jeremiah cursing the day of his birth. He wishes that his mother’s womb would have been his grave. What can we say of this? Jeremiah has an opinion! Yet Jesus said in Matt. 7:1 to judge not lest we be judged… That word judge means to have an opinion. Sometimes even in great trials and difficulties we just need to exercise ourselves to be silent within our hearts and wait on God to bring us through to a different outcome. This is “having done all” just to stand – lest we sin with our mouths and make difficult situations even worse.
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