Jeremiah 20

DateVersionReading Plan
@July 12, 2023ESV (2016)ESV Prophets Plan 2023


  • Jeremiah persecuted by Pashur


The chapter opens with Pashur the priest placing Jeremiah in the stocks after hearing his Prophecies against Judah. Upon release, Jeremiah tells Pashur that his name will be changed to Terror on Every Side (Jer. 20:3), he will be carried captive to Babylon (Jer. 20:4) and that he and his house will die there by sword (Jer. 20:6). This is a bold proclamation by Jeremiah having just been released from confinement.

The remainder of the chapter (Jer. 20:7-18) is Jeremiah speaking to God about his plight as God’s messenger. He first accuses God of deceit in Jer. 20:7, which many have tried to soften by by translating “deceived” as “enticed” or “persuaded”. Jeremiah thought God had twisted his arm into a prophetic ministry where he would be made a laughingstock among his contemporaries.

In Jer. 20:9, we see that despite his burdensome assignment, Jeremiah was incapable of keeping contained the message that the Lord had given him to deliver. He confesses that if he withheld mention of the Lord, “there is in my heart as it were a burning fire shut up in my bones, and I am weary of holding it in”. Such an obedience was Jeremiah’s that God spoke through him without encumbrance or filter.

But this is not easy for Jeremiah as the rest of the chapter conveys. Jeremiah speaks to his conflicting emotions, on the one hand praising God for his deliverance (Jer. 20:13) but on the other cursing the day on which he was born (Jer. 20:14). He questions God and why he had to “come out from the womb to see toil and sorrow, and spend my days in shame?” (Jer. 20:18).


It is hard not to feel the weight of Jeremiah’s demanding prophetic obligation in this chapter. He was commissioned to deliver a harrowing message and even if he tried holding it back, it would burn within him like a fire in his bones. There is a crucial parallel to draw here as we look to our modern context as Christians witnessing to the world.

Reading about Jeremiah’s stressful but faithful ministry, we are inevitably confronted with the question…Are we so filled with love for our Lord that it actually pains us not to speak of Him? And if not, what would it take to become so impassioned? What fears are we harboring that restrict us from a full and free declaration of salvation through Christ? Ugh. My heart weighs heavy with conviction even as I write this. Fear of rejection, retribution, condemnation?…guilty. Lord, help me. Release me from the bondage of fear. Help me to be bold. Help me to have a fullness of you that overflows into the hearts of everyone around me.

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