You ever heard the phrase “Don’t kill the messenger”? No one knows exactly where it came from, but it likely stems from a practice that’s been frequently practiced by kings and other officials with a short temper. Someone comes with news you don’t like, and instead of dealing with it, you take your anger out on a convenient target, namely the poor sap who’s in front of you at the moment.
Unfortunately, this has been the all-too-common fate of God’s “mouths” in Israel’s history. Jewish tradition says that Isaiah was sawed in half while hiding in a tree. 1 Kings mentions how Queen Jezebel murdered lots of them. And today’s passage tells us how Jeremiah was treated by Pashhur, the official in charge of the temple. That’s right. Not the king. The man in charge of God’s house had Jeremiah beaten and put in stocks, which was torture in itself.
Just off the top of my head, I see three important lessons for us to take from this.
First and foremost, we need to get used to the idea that the world is A) not going to like our message and B) going to take its anger out on convenient targets, namely us. Jesus himself told us “Remember what I told you: ‘A servant is not greater than his master.’ If they persecuted me, they will persecute you also. If they obeyed my teaching, they will obey yours also. They will treat you this way because of my name, for they do not know the one who sent me." He meant what he said.
Second, and this is a more immediate application for those of us in America, where open persecution is pretty rare: Learn from Pashhur’s mistake. I know that you’re not likely to try to throw someone in prison just because they say something you don’t like. But does Pashhur's spirit motivate you? When a true friend “strikes” you, what’s your reaction? Do you avoid preachers/pastors/teachers who tell you things you don’t want to hear? Get all defensive? Try to find something with which to strike back?
Third, and I almost feel like urging you to tattoo this on your forehead: God’s word will be vindicated in the end. People laugh at his word today, just like they did in Jeremiah’s day. Or—more commonly—they simply ignore it with their lives, whether or not they pay lip service to it.
But in the end, all of it will be vindicated. His warnings towards people who are disobedient and his promised blessings on the redeemed will come true, down to the least stroke of a pen.
Pashhur learned this the hard way. He stands as a negative example for us to look at and say “I sure don’t want to end up like that guy!” History is littered with these fools. Please don’t be one of them.
Father God, when you rebuke me through a friend, I confess my first reaction is to be defensive. Please cure me of that. When a friend strikes me, help me see it as a kindness, not an attack.
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