The Bearer of Bad News
Read Jeremiah 7:23-24 (ESV)
But this command I gave them: “Obey my voice, and I will be your God, and you shall be my people. And walk in all the way that I command you, that it may be well with you.” But they did not obey or incline their ear, but walked in their own counsels and the stubbornness of their evil hearts, and went backward and not forward.
Have you ever had to be the bearer of bad news? How did you feel about being the messenger? How was the message received?
Most people don’t enjoy being the bearer of bad news. We cringe thinking about how we might offend someone. We worry the recipients might fly off the handle and “shoot the messenger.” But quite often, the things that are so hard to say really need to be said. We have to speak God’s truth out of love even if it breaks our hearts and upsets the recipients of the message.
That scenario sums up the ministry of the prophet Jeremiah. In the first chapter of Jeremiah, God called Jeremiah to prophesy coming judgment against the people of Judah because they had forsaken Him. God warned Jeremiah that the people won’t necessarily appreciate his message, but that God would always be with him: “They will fight against you, but they shall not prevail against you, for I am with you, declares the LORD, to deliver you” (Jeremiah 1:19).
Jeremiah began his ministry in 627 B.C. when Josiah, the last of Judah’s good kings, brought spiritual revival and reformation to the people. But it was downhill from there. After King Josiah was killed, Jeremiah ministered to the people of Judah through four apostate kings. But the people repeatedly refused to listen to his warnings to repent and turn back to God. Instead, they persisted in their idolatry and immorality, much to the heartbreak of Jeremiah. Because of this, he prophesied that Jerusalem would be invaded and conquered by the Babylonians where they would be captives for 70 years.
Declaring the coming judgment of his people didn’t bring him any pleasure and he grieved for his people. “My joy is gone; grief is upon me, my heart is sick within me…Oh that my head were waters, and my eyes a fountain of tears, that I might weep day and night for the slain of the daughter of my people!” (Jeremiah 8:18, 9:1). For this reason, Jeremiah is often called the “weeping prophet.”
But Jeremiah didn’t just nurse a broken heart. He faced real opposition from his own people. His message was definitely not a popular one. False prophets contradicted his message and gave the people false assurances. He was beaten, imprisoned, and received death threats. Despite all of this, Jeremiah faithfully proclaimed the truth from God for at least 40 years. Why? Because he loved his God and he loved his people. He wanted to see them repent, turn back to God and be saved.
Even though Jeremiah’s message from the LORD was mostly doom and gloom, God did proclaim some hope through him. That hope is our Scarlet Thread of redemption woven throughout the bad news. In chapter 23, Jeremiah declared that a Shepherd and a Righteous Branch was coming—clear foretellings of the Messiah!
“Then I will gather the remnant of my flock out of all the countries where I have driven them, and I will bring them back to their fold, and they shall be fruitful and multiply. I will set shepherds over them who will care for them, and they shall fear no more, nor be dismayed, neither shall any be missing, declares the LORD. Behold, the days are coming, declares the LORD, when I will raise up for David a righteous Branch, and he shall reign as king and deal wisely, and shall execute justice and righteousness in the land. In his days Judah will be saved, and Israel will dwell securely. And this is the name by which he will be called: ‘The LORD is our righteousness’” (Jeremiah 23:3-6).
Like Jeremiah, none of us want to be the bearer of bad news. None of us want to be the recipient of bad news either! But we can learn some important lessons from Jeremiah. If we are watching people we love head down a path of certain disaster, it is our job to warn them. We are supposed to lovingly tell them God’s truth and urge them to repent and return to the Lord. Likewise, if someone who loves us is telling us God’s truth, we should listen, even if it isn’t what we want to hear. All of us must repent from our sins and turn to follow the good Shepherd. If we don’t, we are also doomed to judgment and will remain captive to our sin. Let’s heed God’s words in today’s verses, obey His voice, and walk in His ways. We are His people, and He is our God.
Lord, I confess that sometimes it is hard to faithfully declare Your Word in a world that doesn’t want to listen. But give me courage so that fear of opposition will never shut me up from speaking Your truth and warning others to repent. Likewise, help me be humble enough to listen to those who lovingly speak hard truths into my life as well. I want to obey You and walk in Your ways. Amen.
~ Pastor Nat Crawford
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