Jeremiah has been through a lot. He has been obedient to God. He has done everything he was told to do and say. Now, he is paying the price for it. But something happens. Depression grabs hold of Jeremiah and he regrets the day he was even born. If you are in ministry or are a Christian who has ever been depressed, this chapter of Jeremiah will likely speak volumes to you and hopefully bring you great comfort.
In this chapter we meet Pashhur, a priest, who was also chief governor in the house of the Lord (the Temple in Jerusalem). He decided he didn't like all the things Jeremiah was hearing from God, so he struck Jeremiah and placed him in the stocks overnight. This was quite possibly the worst decision Pashhur ever made in his life.
Jeremiah was born a priest, but consecrated by God before his birth to be His prophet (Jeremiah 1:5). He was known as the son of Hilkiah, not only to distinguish him from others of the same name, but to prove that he was of priestly origin. He came from the priestly town of Anathoth, a name meaning, “answered prayers.” So to have Pashhur, the priest who was also chief governor in the house of the Lord, commit such an act against him, was unheard of, because Jeremiah’s heritage itself designated him as one set aside for God. In other words, he had a holy calling. For Pashhur to attack one of God's prophets so publically not only showed his pride in his position, but his total disrespect for God. As far as he was concerned, Jeremiah wasn’t “towing the line” so to speak, and he deserved to be publically humiliated. Instead, Jeremiah while in the stocks, received yet another word from the Lord. This time for Pashhur, "You shall go to Babylon, and there you shall die, and be buried there, you and all your friends, to whom you have prophesied lies" (Jeremiah 20:6). Jeremiah was called by God to speak for Him and was punished for it by those who “thought” they represented God. Little did they know how far away from God they really were.
God defends Jeremiah for Pashhur’s mistreatment of him. Yet, Jeremiah doesn’t see it that way and falls into a great depression. He accuses God of deceiving him or “persuading” him to pronounce judgments upon Judah which has resulted in him being persecuted. He says in Jeremiah 20:7 that “everyone mocks him.” Like those who suffer from depression, Jeremiah goes from praising God to cursing the day he was born. He has been humiliated by suffering the shame of spending a night in the stocks in a very visible place for all to see (Jeremiah 20:2). He has spent the night mourning his choices in life (something Pashhur was hoping he would do) and yet even though he was persecuted in this way, and even though he thought it would be better if he’d never been born, he still praised God in the midst of it.
This chapter is perfect for pastors, missionaries, or any Christian proclaiming the Word of God today, who are becoming discouraged or facing outright persecution because of it. It shows, very clearly, that the truths Jeremiah had to proclaim were not welcome in a society that believed itself to be in the “right”. In today’s politically correct world we can take courage from this chapter to be faithful to God when He calls us to speak, no matter what the consequences might be.
We live in a volatile society where just stating your opinion (let alone speaking God’s word) can get you in trouble. Christians, for the second year in a row, were the most persecuted faith group on the planet and we know this is going to get worse. Today, spend some time thanking God, as Jeremiah did in the midst of his depression, and take comfort in the fact that God is on your side.