Experiencing, and Overcoming, Emotions in Ministry

May 14, 2019 at 2:05 pm | Posted in Jeremiah | 4 Comments
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In the Book of Jeremiah we see that the Lord often expressed His anger through Jeremiah. No doubt there were times when Jeremiah worked up quite a bit of righteous anger himself.

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

The people hardening their necks was reminiscent of Moses’s encounters with Pharaoh, who had hardened his HEART against God and His Word. We use the term “hard-headed” to describe someone as stubborn, but in ancient times the neck was used in this context in order to illustrate the idea of a refusal to turn the head, and therefore the vision, from a direction and a destination that an obstinate person had determined to go. The reference to hardened necks may have also carried the connotation of carrying heavy objects – especially large jars or containers of water – on the tops of people’s heads. As Christians, we don’t want to be “stiff-necked” to the point that we can’t repent or be called away from sinful paths, but neither do we want to be swiveling our heads around to look at every worldly distraction.

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.

Jeremiah 20:1

Pashur was assistant to the High Priest, and security officer for the Temple.

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

He had Jeremiah arrested and beaten, probably administering the beating himself, and then put Jeremiah into a body-twisting and body-cramping device overnight, as a form of punishment/torture and humiliation, since this was done in public, near the Temple.

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.

Jeremiah 20:3

The nickname that God told Jeremiah to give to Pashur meant “Terror on Every Side” or “Terror All Around,” because Pashur and his friends would experience total terror during the coming invasion. Having turned their backs on God, they would not face judgment merely in front of them, but from every angle. Their true God deserting them in response to their desertion of Him, they would be attacked from every side. I wonder if Pashur just ignored this warning, or if he started jumping at his own shadow.

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. 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.

Jeremiah 20:4-5

In these verses Babylon is specifically identified for the first time as the invader from the north.

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.

Jeremiah 20:6

There were times when Jeremiah’s mouth was like a fire escape: his words seemed to come running out naked because there was a fire inside of him! He was bold and vengeful in making this insult to Pashur, but now we find him alone with God again, swept up in his emotions, hurting and humiliated, and dangerously challenging God. Most commentaries at this point refer to the “sensitive nature” of Jeremiah, but, although he WAS very emotional, and even prone to violent mood swings, he lived ABOVE his moods, riding them out rather than sinking down and letting them carry him away. He still obeyed. He still did his duty – despite his FEELINGS. People like this are some of the people I admire most in ministry. They are not necessarily gifted preachers or charismatic leaders or even generous givers or people with special gifts for reaching out to help those who are hurting. But they are the ones that persevere – regardless of how they FEEL.

Corrupt Curving off Course

November 3, 2015 at 11:06 am | Posted in Exodus | 7 Comments
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And the LORD said unto Moses, Go, get thee down; for thy people, which thou broughtest out of the land of Egypt, have corrupted themselves:

Exodus 32:7

God was not disowning the people, nor putting the blame for their behavior on Moses, but He was distancing Himself from their behavior. He was angry with them, not with Moses. They were acting like the children of men, not the children of God, and God made that clear in His description of them as He spoke to Moses.

Unlike Pharaoh, whose heart, we were told, was specifically hardened by God, these people had corrupted “themselves.” God is no less sovereignly in control here, but He is giving us a glimpse into His feelings about this affair – which will become even more obvious.

They have turned aside quickly out of the way which I commanded them: they have made them a molten calf, and have worshipped it, and have sacrificed thereunto, and said, These be thy gods, O Israel, which have brought thee up out of the land of Egypt.

Exodus 32:8

“Turning aside from the way” is a key phrase because it reminds us that Jesus is the Way and He is a way. God led these people in one direction, and here they had “turned” from following Him. They did not view their movement as a “U-turn” – although they had tried to do that before in wanting to go go back to Egypt – but you don’t have to do a complete 180 to displease God. Any direction other than “His Way” is a path that leads to destruction. We need to keep our eyes on Jesus, the way that little kids need to keep their eyes on Dad so they don’t wander off in a dangerous crowd of people.

And the LORD said unto Moses, I have seen this people, and, behold, it is a stiffnecked people:

Exodus 32:9

“I have seen” is another example of anthropomorphism. “Stiffnecked” is what we would call “hard-headed” or stubborn. In an agrarian society, the neck is a better example of stubbornness than the head because of the way farm animals will balk at turning, or the way people who carried things on their heads or shoulders all day would feel at night. As Christians, we need to be keeping our necks loose – looking up to God in prayer and faith, looking down at the Bible, and looking around at others who might need help.

Hard-Headed

February 28, 2014 at 11:06 am | Posted in Common Expressions | 4 Comments
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My wife’s mother, who has been married to the same man for almost fifty years, gives this marriage advice: “If you want your marriage to work, you must be hard-headed about the right things.” Generally speaking, the expression “hard-headed” means stubborn. I think what she means, though, is that when times get tough in your marriage, you need to be downright stubborn about keeping the vows you made before God, and committing to stay together and work through the difficulties, no matter what.

I could not find the expression “hard-headed” in the Bible, but I did find a reference to hardening of the face.

A wicked man hardeneth his face: but as for the upright, he directeth his way.

Proverbs 21:29

This kind of hardening is not good. It refers to stubbornness that ignores wisdom. It is the outward result of the inner hardening of the heart.

The hardening of the heart is a process, and a head is hardened by repeated stubbornness. The hardening of the heart involves both our own wills and God’s will, and a hard head is the result of God finally reinforcing what we want to think, anyway. The hardening of a man’s heart occurs when God gives him over to his own way. A hard-headed man can’t “change his ways,” because they’re his ways, not God’s ways. The hardening of a person’s heart negates that person’s warning system. It keeps him from seeing the danger in the direction he’s “heading” (no pun intended). A hard-headed person is sometimes called a dullard. He’s sleepy and lulled into a false sense of security. When someone is hard-headed, he is unable to see the danger which is abundantly clear to others. Don’t be hard-headed when it comes to sin and disobedience. The only thing hard about a believer’s head when it comes to sin should be his helmet.

And take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God:

Ephesians 6:17

O that my ways were directed to keep thy statutes!

Psalm 119:5

Who is as the wise man? and who knoweth the interpretation of a thing? a man’s wisdom maketh his face to shine, and the boldness of his face shall be changed.

Ecclesiastes 8:1


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