The Unenviable Job of a Prophet

There are so many blessings to following the Lord. There is forgiveness, peace, joy, fellowship, hope for eternity, and so much more. But the truth is, following God is hard, sometimes very hard.

One person who understood this point very well was Jeremiah the prophet. Jeremiah saw miracles from God. Jeremiah had the word of God to communicate to the people around him. But Jeremiah had it hard. The people who lived around Jeremiah were not following God. And the people really did not like it when Jeremiah prophesied that God would bring judgment on the land by allowing the Babylonians to conquer Judah.

Look at this passage where Jeremiah laments his difficult position.

Jeremiah 20:7–11 – 7 O LORD, you have deceived me, and I was deceived; you are stronger than I, and you have prevailed. I have become a laughingstock all the day; everyone mocks me. 8 For whenever I speak, I cry out, I shout, “Violence and destruction!” For the word of the LORD has become for me a reproach and derision all day long. 9 If I say, “I will not mention him, or speak any more in his name,” there is in my heart as it were a burning fire shut up in my bones, and I am weary with holding it in, and I cannot. 10 For I hear many whispering. Terror is on every side! “Denounce him! Let us denounce him!” say all my close friends, watching for my fall. “Perhaps he will be deceived; then we can overcome him and take our revenge on him.” 11 But the LORD is with me as a dread warrior; therefore my persecutors will stumble; they will not overcome me. They will be greatly shamed, for they will not succeed. Their eternal dishonor will never be forgotten.

Jeremiah declares that he feels deceived. Of course God has not deceived anybody, but Jeremiah is unhappy about the hardship he is facing. Jeremiah has the word of God. But as he communicates that word, the people attack him. Jeremiah has a message of life for the people. The people reject that message and then turn on Jeremiah, attacking the messenger. And, at times, Jeremiah just wants to quit.

But verse 9 tells us that Jeremiah can’t quit. When he tries to remain silent, he feels like he could explode. Jeremiah says, “there is in my heart as it were a burning fire shut up in my bones, and I am weary with holding it in, and I cannot.” Jeremiah wishes he could stop. He would like a nice, easy, soft life. But Jeremiah cannot have it.

This brings also to my mind the story of John Calvin. Calvin wanted very little more than to live a simple life of study. But he could not. Calvin, in passing through Geneva, was approached by the leader of the church in that city, a man named Guillaume Farel. Farel made it clear to Calvin that Calvin’s genius for theology and for organization was needed in Geneva, and Farel would pray that Calvin would have no peace if he did not do what he should to help. Calvin wanted nothing more than to travel on to Strasbourg, but he feared the curse of God pronounced by Farel, and so stayed and worked in Geneva. The work was hard. The people were often unappreciative and even hostile. Eventually the city banished Calvin and Farel, but then brought them back.

Calvin’s life of preaching and teaching was hard, and I wonder if he would not have spoken like Jeremiah did in our passage. In truth, I think many a pastor would tell you that we have days when we feel like Jeremiah. It would be easier not to confront people with their sin. It would be easier not to warn the culture around us of the judgment of God. It would be easier not to call people to repentance. It would be easier not to tell someone they are unqualified for the ministry they want to do. It would be easier not to tell someone that their doctrinal claims are unbiblical.

But the truth is, the Lord is great. The Lord’s word is perfect. And the ministry of communicating the truth of God to people, whether they be welcoming or hostile, is a privilege and an honor. The true follower of God will have a fire in his or her bones that will not go out until we tell people the truth, even if that telling costs us.

Hardships Are Calls

What should we do when we face pain? There are lots of reasons, after all, that hardships may come into our lives. This is a hard and broken world. Sometimes we do things to mess up our own lives. Sometimes things happen to us that we did not contribute to at all. And often, these are hard things to interpret.

In Job’s experience, as an example, he faced major hardship, but he had done nothing wrong to deserve it. God had a particular plan to accomplish for his own glory, and Job was part of that. The blind man in John 9 was born blind in order that the glory of God might be revealed. Esther was pulled from obscurity into a throne room for, as she was told, “such a time as this.”

But what are we to do with hardships? Is there anything we should assume that God wants us to do with them? I think we may see something in Amos 4. The passage is a little scary. After all, God is talking to a very rebellious people. But there is still something for us there.

The people of Israel had refused to return to God. Through this chapter, God had told the people that he had sent several hardships their way. But in each of them, the nation refused to turn to him. And God has a response because of that refusal;

Amos 4:11-13

11 “I overthrew some of you,
as when God overthrew Sodom and Gomorrah,
and you were as a brand plucked out of the burning;
yet you did not return to me,”
declares the Lord.
12 “Therefore thus I will do to you, O Israel;
because I will do this to you,
prepare to meet your God, O Israel!”
13 For behold, he who forms the mountains and creates the wind,
and declares to man what is his thought,
who makes the morning darkness,
and treads on the heights of the earth—
the Lord, the God of hosts, is his name!

Stop and see that ending. It is scary. God says that he sent them through some hard times. But they refused to let their pain cause them to return to the Lord. And then God said, because they would not repent and return, they were to prepare to meet their God. Judgment was coming.

Now, do not misunderstand me, I am not suggesting that all our hardships have the same causes or the same purposes. But I will say this, no matter what our hardships, each of them should call us to turn to the Lord. Whether our hardships are chastening for our sin or trials for our sanctification, they should still cause us to turn to the Lord. We can always repent a little more. We can always see our need for God a little more. We can always recognize that he is holy, and we need his grace a little more.

Are you facing pain? I’m sorry if you are. None of us like hardships. But can I call upon you to turn to the Lord? Whether you have been super-noble or quite dodgy, your hardship should remind you that you cannot stand on your own. You need God’s help. You need God’s mercy. You need to remember that this world in its fallen state is not your home. You need eyes on heaven, eyes on eternity, eyes on Jesus. Let a hardship, any hardship, be a reminder to return to the Lord.