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Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Critical Crossroads - Jeremiah 15.16


Critical Crossroads

“Your words were found, and I ate them,
and your words became to me a joy and the delight of my heart,
for I am called by your name, O LORD, God of hosts” (Jeremiah 15.16).

God’s daughters and sons may well find themselves in tight places, difficult spaces, and hard races, and wanting to put words to their anguish; and that’s where we find Jeremiah in this passage where he is at a critical crossroads.

My first three points are primarily to give you the texture and atmosphere of this passage. But I am going to land on v.16 toward the end, which is where I’m going.

Grievance (15.10-18): Jeremiah has a problem. He’s the bearer of bad news; in fact his whole ministry has been and will be characterized by the shape of condemnation, correction, confrontation and conflict. His life is being threatened (Chapter 11 and 20); his friends are few; his “pulpit” will be taken away; and his reputation railed against. The vast majority of his fellow “prophets” are promising that Judah can live the high-life now (“They have healed the wound of my people lightly, saying, ‘Peace, peace,’ when there is no peace” 6.14); and that the people of Judah have a divine right to expect health, wealth, wellbeing and happiness (“Do not trust in these deceptive words: ‘This is the temple of the LORD, the temple of the LORD, the temple of the LORD’” 7.4). That makes Jeremiah the odd-man-out! The pressure is such that he is near an emotional break down. He is bemoaning that fact that he has even been born (15.10) for such a time as this. Yet God keeps dragging him along the thorny path of being the bearer of bad news (15.11-14). And so he’s ready to turn in his ordination certificate and call it quits (15-18). This is his grievance.

Guidance (15.19a): Yet God beckons him to repent, “If you will return, I will restore you…” (19a). The LORD gives Jeremiah the opportunity to recommit himself to his God-given task and to the God of his task. Jeremiah is at something of a critical crossroads in his life, and the LORD guides him to choose the right path.

Resilience (15.19b-21): But see here how the LORD is not promising him a happy-clappy existence of treasure and triumph. Instead, he promises him resilience in the face of more adversity; a resilience that will keep him from giving in to the cultural and social pressures to comply and compromise (19b); a resilience that will leave Jeremiah standing when everything else has collapsed (20-21). [Daniel 1-6; Hebrews 5.7-10. Not delivered from trial, but delivered through. The pattern of death and resurrection – into fiery furnace, out alive; into lions’ den, out alive…]...

So, this is the texture and atmosphere of this scene – Jeremiah is at a critical crossroads.

Relish (15.16): As disappointing and disconcerting as all of this might be to us – here is a prophet about to quit and throw in the towel – nevertheless there’s something smack-dab in the middle of Jeremiah’s grievance that should catch our attention and give us some hopeful pause. It’s verse 16. Here is the vessel by which God has been delivering and will deliver sustenance to Jeremiah to help keep him holding on, even when it is only by faith’s splintered fingernails: God’s word. The very bad news Jeremiah delivered was also peppered with good news that kept him from coming completely unraveled.

  • Eater of the Word – Like a few of the other prophets – Ezekiel and John in Revelation – Jeremiah found the words of God nourishing, edible, and appetizing.
  • Relisher of the Word – Even though there was a bitterness to the words of God, a distasteful side, yet the prophet relished God’s speech, his revelation. In savoring these words he found liberty to voice his grievances because he knew this God better than many. He came to know who God is and how God is, so that in his critical crossroads, he could voice his “but I don’t get it, LORD?! How can this be? How could you do that?” It was from the intimacy that rose up from eating the word of the Lord that he found the ability to be honest with God, “for I am called by your name, O YHVH, God of hosts!”


It just may be that you are at a critical crossroads in your life or situation. You may well feel like throwing in the towel because there’s just too much pressure. The cracks are forming along your life, and chips are starting to flake off. Or it may be you’re not at a critical crossroads just yet. But the likelihood is that stormy days may well lie ahead; especially if you stick to God’s Law and Gospel guns. Whichever the case, be an eater of the word; let God’s speech and revelation become “a joy, and the delight of your heart.” Relish what he says, savoring it, rolling it around on the tongue of your heart and soul, because you are called by his name. Through his speech and revelation we come to know him more fully; we come to love him more dearly; and we come to follow him more nearly; day by day. And knowing him and knowing how he is can keep us glued together; or glue us back together.


Be eaters of the word before you come to the critical crossroads, and even when you’re standing in those crossroads.

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