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Thursday, June 18, 2020
Today’s Scripture Reading | Jeremiah 20:7–13
O Lord, you have enticed me, and I was enticed; you have overpowered me, and you have prevailed. I have become a laughingstock all day long; everyone mocks me. For whenever I speak, I must cry out, I must shout, “Violence and destruction!” For the word of the Lord has become for me a reproach and derision all day long. If I say, “I will not mention him, or speak any more in his name,” then within me there is something like a burning fire shut up in my bones; I am weary with holding it in, and I cannot. For I hear many whispering: “Terror is all around! Denounce him! Let us denounce him!” All my close friends are watching for me to stumble. “Perhaps he can be enticed, and we can prevail against him, and take our revenge on him.” But the Lord is with me like a dread warrior; therefore my persecutors will stumble, and they will not prevail. They will be greatly shamed, for they will not succeed. Their eternal dishonor will never be forgotten. O Lord of hosts, you test the righteous, you see the heart and the mind; let me see your retribution upon them, for to you I have committed my cause. Sing to the Lord; praise the Lord! For he has delivered the life of the needy from the hands of evildoers. (NRSV)
Many people believe that the saying “Don’t shoot the messenger” traces its origin to the play Antigone, written by Sophocles around 440 BC: “For no man delights in the bearer of bad news.” Shakespeare, Oscar Wilde, and Mark Twain all wrote about the messenger bearing bad news who then takes the brunt of the recipients’ displeasure at hearing it.
It seems Jeremiah—and probably many prophets for that matter—certainly knew what this felt like. Jeremiah had the word of God in his heart. God compelled him to speak the truth to his people; to warn them of some pretty serious consequences of their actions during a time of great turmoil. And they didn’t like it! Jeremiah complained to God that even his own friends were out to get him.
How often do we shy away from the truth because we don’t want to hear it? Even worse, how often have we lashed out at the messenger? It’s not hard to look around us during this time of turmoil and see examples of people speaking truth to power being viciously attacked in social media and sometimes even being physically attacked and killed.
God may be asking us to look out for opportunities where we can interrupt injustices like hate and systemic racism. It may not feel good, and we may not like it. And like Jeremiah, we may ask God “why me?” And also like him, we can “sing to the Lord; praise the Lord! For he has delivered the life of the needy from the hands of evildoers.”
God of truth, help us not to lash out at the messenger. And when you call on us to be the bearer of the truth, stand by us and give us strength. Amen.
Written by Anthony Hipp, Member of Fourth Presbyterian Church
Reflection and Prayer © Fourth Presbyterian Church
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