Angry Jeremiah

By Rev. David Wilson Rogers |  June 21, 2014

            Sometimes being faithful to God, heeding God’s word, and diligently carrying out the ministry of Jesus Christ is the most horrible experience a Christian can have. When seeking to do the right thing by the power of one’s faith in God, faithful Christian action may completely clash with established assumptions, entrenched expectations of what is proper and appropriate, and deeply-held emotional passions that will not accept the alternative messages of the faithful.
            Jeremiah knew this reality and he suffered miserably for it. Jeremiah was not sent out to preach to the heathens or those outside of God’s covenantal care. He was not interested in recruiting new believers into the security of the faithful. Rather, Jerimiah was called by God to bring a strong word of repentance to the faithful of Israel—a word that they did not want to hear.
            When confronted with news that we are wrong, that we must abandon our flawed assumptions, that somehow we are not as innocent or blameless as we would like to believe, this information will certainly create a bit of negative resistance. Even within the church, we can be lured into a sense of false certainty and shallow assurance that we will be just fine simply because we have Jesus and our familiar ways of worshipping him so the evils of the world will not impact us, let alone serve to correct us. Yet, when they do, we will push back—even against the prophet from God who brings the message.
            This is what Jeremiah experienced. God called him to preach a message of hope and transformation. God put words in Jeremiah’s mouth so that the people would know the looming disaster in their future. God wanted the people to repent, turn away from their destructively comfortable and essentially self-serving religious faith, and begin the hard work of truly honoring God. Predictably, the people rejected the message, they rejected Jeremiah as a valid or authentic messenger, and made the prophet the laughing stock of the community. Jeremiah, rather than respected as God’s faithful servant, was ridiculed for being nothing more than a ridiculous crazy person and fool.
            In response to this complete rejection by his own people, Jeremiah cried out to God in an act of resolute faith. He gets mad at God, accuses God of manipulating him, intentionally and maliciously hurting him, and carelessly abandoning him to the cruelty of the people. The angry tirade against God was powerful and very bitter.
            This story, told in the 20th Chapter of Jeremiah, demonstrates that it is alright for us to get angry at God. The Creator of the Universe and Author of all Life, including ours, is perfectly capable of taking our most bitter anger. If that were not the case, what does that say about God? Yet more importantly, God affords us the opportunity to vent our anger safely and faithfully.
            Jeremiah was beaten down because he had followed God’s will and God’s people hated him for it. Jealousy, arrogance, and a general unwillingness to face the difficult truths all contributed to their hateful rejection of Jeremiah’s important message. The toxic infusion of such hatred was more than Jeremiah could bear. Out of his deep faith in God, he releases it. Jeremiah then concludes his angry lecture with a statement of praise and affirmation that glorifies God.
            A healthy faith is one that can talk back to God in loving trust that God will always be bigger than our anger. Like Jeremiah, it may mean the difference between faithfully carrying out God’s will, even when it is difficult or unpopular, or loosing ourselves in the bitterness and vile poison of our own sense of anger, disappointment, or indignation.