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. — Jeremiah 20:2
Khmu Christians in northern Laos often face opposition from the Communist government. Periodically, those who will not abandon their faith are forced to leave their villages, and their property is given to someone else. They must re-establish themselves elsewhere, and sometimes they are not allowed to farm until they pay a fee.
One group of fourteen families had to move in 2003. A year after they relocated, the Communists discovered that the head of their new village cared about these Christians and let them construct a bamboo church. The sympathetic village leader was replaced with one who chose to persecute the Christians. The roof of their church was ripped off more than once, yet they would hold three services a week — even when the roof was damaged.1 They were willing to die for God if necessary, and additional families began choosing to follow the Lord. One evangelist said, “There are so many people wanting to accept Christ, we do not have enough workers to teach them!”2
These people in Laos are choosing to live for God and share Christ no matter what the cost to themselves. Jeremiah also chose to be faithful to God’s call on his life, and he also suffered persecution. Today’s focus verse tells how he was beaten and put in stocks. The situation was difficult enough that Jeremiah purposed not to speak in God’s name any more. However, “his word was in mine heart as a burning fire shut up in my bones” (verse 9) and Jeremiah continued to proclaim God’s message.
Most of us will not face the extreme persecution that Jeremiah or the Christians in Laos have, but we will have an opportunity to choose whether or not we will be fully committed to God. May we ask God to help us have enough love for the Gospel in our hearts that we will stand for Him no matter what the personal cost. The desire to share it will be a “fire in our bones.” Those around us need to hear the message of God’s love.
Chapter 20 concludes the eighth sermon, and contains the response to Jeremiah’s message in the previous chapter about the broken vessel. Jeremiah had given his exhortation to people of high position, both in the valley of Hinnom and then in the Temple, and his words were not well received. This passage contains the first reference in this book to “Jeremiah the prophet,” which shows that people recognized him in that role.
Pashur, who may have been a chief priest, was responsible for Temple security. Verse 2 says Pashur “smote” Jeremiah, which meant he had him beaten, perhaps with thirty-nine or forty stripes, and put him in stocks for the night. Stocks anchored a person’s neck, hands, and feet, and kept the body in a twisted and agonizing position. “The high gate of Benjamin” was a Temple gate — a public place where the people passing by could scoff and jeer at Jeremiah. This is the first mention of Jeremiah’s being physically abused.
When Jeremiah was released, he seized the opportunity to again predict coming judgment. The new name he gave Pashur was Magormissabib, meaning “fear on every side.” Verse 6 implies that Pashur had discounted Jeremiah’s prophecies, probably promising peace. His punishment would be to go into captivity himself and to see it come upon his friends as well. Verse 4 is the first time in the Book of Jeremiah where Babylon is named as the conqueror.
In verses 7-18, a perspective is given that poignantly shows Jeremiah’s pain. He was a sensitive man, and the mockery and ridicule he experienced was difficult for him to endure. The word deceived in verse 7 means “persuaded.” The sense of the passage in verses 7-10 is that God had called Jeremiah to prophesy, even though he did not want to. When he faithfully delivered God’s message of “violence and spoil,” he was rejected and in danger of being killed by the people. Consequently, Jeremiah decided to cease prophesying, but God’s Word was like a fire inside of him, so he began again.
In verses 11-13, Jeremiah remembered that God was with him and would work mightily on his behalf. By verse 13 his faith was strong enough to view God’s deliverance as already done.
Verses 14-18 contain a bitter cry (similar to Job’s expression of anguish) revealing Jeremiah’s wish that he had never been born. This passage contrasts so strongly with the preceding verses that some Bible scholars feel they perhaps should have been recorded between verses 8 and 9. Whether or not that is so, they show the extremity of Jeremiah’s feelings. Yet even when he was wishing he had not been born, he did not turn against or doubt God.
(Hannah’s Bible Outlines - Used by permission per WORDsearch)
II. The pronouncement of judgment against Judah
A. The condemnation of the prophet
8. The eighth sermon: The potter and the broken bottle
b. The significance of the broken bottle
(2) The persecution of the messenger (20:1-18)
(a) The punishment of Jeremiah (20:1-2)
(b) The judgment upon Pashur (20:3-6)
(c) The complaint of Jeremiah (20:7-18)
Do we have the zeal and purpose to take a stand for God, even if it means facing persecution?
1 Persecution Blog, “Khmu Christians in Laos Stand Firm Despite Intense Persecution,” The Voice of the Martyrs, April 9, 2009, https://www.persecutionblog.com/2009/04/khmu-christians-in-laos-stand-firm-despite-intense-persecution.html.
2 Kids of Courage, “2006 Top Ten Bold Believers Stories,” The Voice of the Martyrs, December 2006.