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 dishonour
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.
Cursed be the day
on which I was born!
The day when my mother bore me,
let it not be blessed!
Cursed be the man
who brought the news to my father, saying,
‘A child is born to you, a son’,
making him very glad.
Let that man be like the cities
that the Lord overthrew without pity;
let him hear a cry in the morning
and an alarm at noon,
because he did not kill me in the womb;
so my mother would have been my grave,
and her womb for ever great.
Why did I come forth from the womb
to see toil and sorrow,
and spend my days in shame?
This passage brought to my mind a shaft of sunlight breaking, for a moment, through a storm which then rages on.
I will first consider verses ten and fourteen to eighteen – the storm – and will then consider the whole passage together. In each case, I will offer two reflections.
As we attend to this passage, we may perhaps find an invitation to attend to those around us in distress – even when that distress disturbs us, manifesting, perhaps, in expressions of fear, suspicion, anger or despair. Here in scripture we find these experiences faced steadily and openly: the Word of God does not turn away.
In Jeremiah’s suffering we might also see the nearness of the crucified Christ, in whose body human pain met – and was transformed by – the life of God.
Perhaps we will find here an invitation to recognise the deep faith that can underlie a person’s distress and even apparent despair. I might compare this to the heartbeat that can be heard only when the storm quietens, or the sun at noon that is only hidden, and not put out, by the storm clouds.
And finally, reflecting on Jeremiah’s song of praise (verse 13), we might wish to give thanks for the praise that God makes possible for us in the midst of fear.
The featured image is “Sunlight on a Stormy Sea” (1640) by Bonaventura Peeters I. As a painting in the National Maritime Museum, it is licensed for public use.