Better Unborn

Scripture Focus: Jeremiah 20:7, 14, 18
7 You deceived me, Lord, and I was deceived;
    you overpowered me and prevailed.
I am ridiculed all day long;
    everyone mocks me.
14 Cursed be the day I was born!
    May the day my mother bore me not be blessed!
18 Why did I ever come out of the womb
    to see trouble and sorrow
    and to end my days in shame?

Reflection: Better Unborn
By Erin Newton

Thank God for raw emotions in the Bible. Jeremiah has suffered greatly because of the message to his fellow people. He has called out their sin and they have sought his life in return. He curses his own birth.

Jeremiah’s complaints are sprinkled with positive exaltations of God. He calls God a mighty warrior who thwarts the plans of the wicked. He raises the exhortation to praise God and sing to him. But within the next few words, the prophet returns to wishing he had never been born.

Job also declares that people “are of few days and full of trouble” and asks God to look away and leave them alone (Job 14.1-6). Ecclesiastes states that the dead are better off than the living (Ecc 4.1-3).

We often think that being a Christian means we are constantly at peace with how God works in our lives or that we have some sort of impervious happiness. Neither of these things are true.

Psalm 42 provides another insight into the emotional ups and downs in suffering. The psalmist declares that “tears have been my food.” Then he remembers the joy of festivals. But the depressive thoughts continue, “Why, my soul, are you downcast?” The psalmist tries to counsel himself, searching for the cause of the sadness and trying to cheer himself with thoughts of God.

Neither Jeremiah nor the psalmist ends with a convincingly cheerful attitude. The psalmist repeats the searching question of his downcast soul and affirms that he will continue to hope in God. Jeremiah, too, ends with wishing he had never been born yet admits that even if he tried to withhold God’s message, he would not be able to contain it.

We will face times of pain, grief, and sorrow. It is a lie to think that we shouldn’t wrestle with the pain or disappointment of how our lives are going. It is normal to feel ready to give up, regret answering God’s call, and wish we could go where no one can reach us.

However, we see their example of perseverance. They are sad but they continue. The psalmist vows to keep hoping. Jeremiah continues to share God’s message. No one suffers alone. We are called to bear one another’s burdens. We all feel like Jeremiah at one point or another. Reach out to your friends. Help one another remember the Lord and cling to hope.

Divine Hours Prayer: The Refrain for the Morning Lessons
Let not those who hope in you be put to shame through me, Lord God of Hosts; let not those who seek you be disgraced because of me, O God of Israel. — Psalm 69.7

– From The Divine Hours: Prayers for Summertime by Phyllis Tickle.

Today’s Readings
Jeremiah 20(Listen -3:07)
1 Thessalonians 5(Listen – 2:37)

This Weekend’s Readings
Jeremiah 21(Listen -2:35)2 Thessalonians 1(Listen – 1:52)
Jeremiah 22(Listen -5:07)2 Thessalonians 2(Listen – 2:32)

Read more about From the Belly of the Beast
Sooner or later we all experience the belly of the beast—sinking in the darkest hole of our lives…

Readers’ Choice is Coming!
We need to know your favorite posts from the past 12 months. Even if all you have to say is, “It blessed me,” share it with us and we’ll share it with others.

Trapped by Being Offended

Scripture Focus: Mark 6.4
A prophet is not without honor except in his own town, among his relatives and in his own home.

Jeremiah 20.1-2
When the priest Pashhur son of Immer, the official in charge of the temple of the Lord, heard Jeremiah prophesying these things, he had Jeremiah the prophet beaten and put in the stocks.

Mark 6.27-28
So he immediately sent an executioner with orders to bring John’s head. The man went, beheaded John in the prison, and brought back his head on a platter.

From John: This repost from 2018 is even more relevant today. When anyone today challenges us, our first instinct has become offense. Any prophet, preacher, politician, scientist, or fellow believer becomes a threat to us if they present evidence contrary to what is comfortable for us to believe. We marginalize them, attack their reputation, redraw our ideological lines to exclude them, and refuse to listen or to judge what they say.

Reflection: Trapped by Being Offended
By John Tillman

Our readings today bring us a theme of three prophets whose offensive messages caused them to be rejected: Jesus, Jeremiah, and John the Baptist.

Nazareth’s residents “took offense” at Jesus. The Greek word translated as “offense” is skandalizó and it implies the idea of a trap that one falls into or is ensnared by.

There’s no gunshot like conviction,
There’s no conscience bulletproof,
There’s no strength like our own weakness,
There’s no insult like the truth. — Charlie Peacock

Stumbling into the trap of offense leads to a pattern that we can learn from. All three of these prophets experienced this pattern in some way. If we find ourselves in one of these steps, we need to prayerfully evaluate our hearts to see if we are trapped by being offended.

Step one: Minimize the prophet’s message based on his or her family background, age, race, gender, or history.
Focus on the prophet and magnify any flaw. Jeremiah was a young, unpatriotic upstart. Jesus was an out-of-wedlock, scandalous, small-town kid from a flyover state from which nothing good could come. John was an extremist and was politically insensitive.

Step two: Publicly censure the prophet, inviting shame, scorn, and sometimes violence.
Jeremiah was held in stocks in the Temple. The purpose of such a punishment is to shame and humble an enemy; to make him or her powerless, allowing verbal and physical attacks. This practice is common today. We still love shaming and stoning people. We just mostly do it digitally through social media.

Step three: Conspire with the powerful to have the prophet silenced.
John’s attack on Herod’s incestuous marriage brought him into political crosshairs and set in motion an illegal conspiracy to have him killed. Jesus also was the victim of conspiracy, leading to his shaming, humiliating death on the cross. Jeremiah was tortured many times. The Bible doesn’t record his death, but according to traditional sources he was eventually stoned.

With the exception of Herodias, all of the people who tortured and killed the three prophets we read of today thought they were doing God’s work—disposing of troublemakers.

This should shock us into inner evaluation of ourselves and our motives. Why are we offended? Can we turn our offense and the offender over to God? We must always be cautious and prayerful when we take offense at a prophet.

Divine Hours Prayer: The Greeting
You are my hope, O Lord God, my confidence since I was young. — Psalm 71.5

– Divine Hours prayers from The Divine Hours: Prayers for Summertime by Phyllis Tickle

Today’s Readings
Jeremiah 20 (Listen – 3:07) 
Mark 6 (Listen – 7:23)

This Weekend’s Readings
Jeremiah 21 (Listen – 2:35) Mark 7 (Listen – 4:28)
Jeremiah 22 (Listen – 5:07) Mark 8 (Listen – 4:29)

Read more about Avoiding Haman’s Petard
Haman’s path to hatred was hatched based on an action which he interpreted as disrespect.

#ReadersChoice is time for you to share favorite Park Forum posts from the year. What post helped you pray more frequently?