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Expressions from the Heart

Sweet Hour of Prayer: to bless or to curse?


Sweet Hour of Prayer: to bless or to curse? by Julie McAllen

blue blessing and curse

 

Jeremiah’s Prayer

You who know, O Lord,
Remember me, take notice of me,
And take vengeance for me on my persecutors.
Do not, in view of Your patience, take me away;
Know that for Your sake I endure reproach.
Your words were found and I ate them,
And Your words became for me a joy and the delight of my heart;
For I have been called by Your name,
O Lord God of hosts.
I did not sit in the circle of merrymakers,
Nor did I exult.
Because of Your hand upon me I sat alone,
For You filled me with indignation.
Why has my pain been perpetual
And my wound incurable, refusing to be healed?
Will You indeed be to me like a deceptive stream
With water that is unreliable? (Jeremiah 15:15-18)

I love the prophet Jeremiah, the poor guy.

“Take vengeance for me on my persecutors” says the weeping prophet. Have you ever cursed someone in prayer? Doesn’t it seem wrong since we are taught to forgive and pursue peace? But even Jesus didn’t hesitate to denounce some people. He didn’t labor in prayer to bless them or spend all His time counseling those readily recognized as sons of their father the devil. Jesus knew exactly when to curse a sinner and when to bless another. Of course, none of us want to be guilty of denouncing people for whom God wants us to pray or show compassion, but at the same time if we’re called to speak the hard truth we can’t afford to quench the fire of the Spirit.  The discernment we need is to do only what we see our father doing. The perfect son of God had this insight, but Jeremiah, like us, had to learn it through his trials.

When Jeremiah was called at a young age, he basically doubted it. Ya know, “God, I’m not your man.” But God assured him that He would be with Jeremiah and give him words to say in his mission territory which was the people of Judah. Tall task.

Why does God have prophets? Because even as He observes our sins, He loves us and seeks to bring us to Him. Jeremiah was called as a prophet and therefore filled with God’s thoughts toward Judah. The first call to order was to confront their sin. Yes, confront their sin, not pray. Jeremiah is told what to say to them and naturally is not well received. Think about that. God calls this young man to represent Him and continually must reassure him to “have no fear for I am with you” but basically throws him to the lions. He has no friends, no family and no respect from the religious community to whom he is sent. God didn’t just comfort Jeremiah in the absence of finding a wife, He expressly told Jeremiah not to look for one! God WANTED Jeremiah lonely. It kinda makes God look like a big meanie if you ask me. But what would’ve happened to Jeremiah if he had the support of family and community? Perhaps the fiery gift of justice in this prophet would have been quenched by the balance of a close relationship. Imagine Jeremiah about to go out the door to pronounce judgments against Judah and a sweet wife pleading with him to “calm down and be nice.” She might even use the standard blessing verse so many love to quote and tell Jeremiah that God has “plans for welfare and not for calamity to give you a future and a hope ” (Jeremiah 29:11).  It’s rather amusing how often people single out this one verse from the book of Jeremiah to bless a friend when Jeremiah himself did not even have a pleasant life as a favored man of God. The plans God had for Jeremiah brought forth a prayer to curse the people to whom he was sent. Do you ever look at a guy like that and think to yourself, “Dear God, please don’t ever put me in that position. Can I please just have a normal life and I promise I will praise you all my days.” I know I have.

So here is Jeremiah, filled with God’s Holy Spirit and compassion toward Judah. And what happens? The reality check of it hits the prophet first with tears. He weeps and mourns for Judah. Their sin becomes his own sin. Have you ever noticed that among the prophets? They always plead something like Jeremiah’s words at Jeremiah 14:7, “our iniquities testify against us, O Lord, act for Your name’s sake!” The prophet is caught up in God’s concern for Judah at this point. He feels the love of God and His desire for them to return to Him. He is interceding in their behalf with an earnest prayer of repentance as he carries their sin as his own. Wouldn’t God delight in this? You’d think so wouldn’t you? But notice God’s reaction to Jeremiah who was led by God’s Spirit to pray in the first place.

“Do not pray for the welfare of this people” (Jeremiah 14:11)

Huh? I was just as perplexed as Jeremiah who argued with God and defended their waywardness based on the false prophets which misled them. I thought how this relates to my own prayers for those who are misled by false prophets. In prayer I cry the tears of Jesus remembering my own blindness as I ask for his mercy. I cry out that it’s not really their fault, they are in darkness and therefore I intercede. Jeremiah is basically arguing this same point with God. And God remains firm telling Jeremiah to give up these prayers and pronounce judgment not just on the leaders but all the people. I feel Jeremiah at this point. I wonder if Jeremiah saw God as heartless as I did when He said,

“Even though Moses and Samuel were to stand before Me, My heart would not be with this people; send them away from My presence and let them go! And it shall be that when they say to you, ‘Where should we go?’ then you are to tell them, ‘Thus says the Lord:
“Those destined for death, to death;
And those destined for the sword, to the sword;
And those destined for famine, to famine;
And those destined for captivity, to captivity.”’
I will appoint over them four kinds of doom,” declares the Lord: “the sword to slay, the dogs to drag off, and the birds of the sky and the beasts of the earth to devour and destroy. (Jeremiah 15:1-3)

Ouch! God is pitiless toward Judah yet He has called a weeping man to confront them! God’s already appointing them to doom. Does He even desire repentance? It’s almost as if Jeremiah has more love toward Judah than God at this point. What a quandary for the prophet. It could have caused him to see himself as being wiser and more compassionate than God. I’ve no doubt this is what brought him to despair wondering about this God who called him. His own faith was being tested in this awful commission as evidenced in his remorse and regret at ever having been born!

Woe to me, my mother, that you have borne me
As a man of strife and a man of contention to all the land!
I have not lent, nor have men lent money to me,
Yet everyone curses me. (Jeremiah 15:10)

Jeremiah got a taste of what it is to be called by God. He knows what it feels like to be His spokesman and intercessor. And he just wants to die. It’s no fun, it’s causing him such personal pain that he is even willing to give up his relationship with the one who called him. But from the depths of his soul, he remembers how God’s word filled him and gave him joy. He’s not ready to give up on that, but he questions the hand that commissioned him to this indignation and now asks “will you indeed be to me like a deceptive stream with water that is unreliable?” (Jeremiah 15:18)

Whoa.

Can’t you just hear Jeremiah’s bi-polar prayer, “God, I love you so much, I am willing. Send me….. But God… I’m beginning to doubt the words I received. Yes, I ate them with joy, but maybe they are unreliable? How can I possibly be your spokesman when I see only this rotten fruit from my efforts and now you’re even telling me to stop praying for them? I give up.

The prophet was going through the refining fire. The compassion inside this man was now turning to hatred. Jeremiah’s heart became entangled with too much compassion toward a people needing discipline. Where was Jeremiah’s focus? On God or on these people? And this is where God had to step in and remind Jeremiah of his commission as a spokesman.

Therefore, thus says the Lord,
“If you return, then I will restore you—
Before Me you will stand;
And if you extract the precious from the worthless,
You will become My spokesman.
They for their part may turn to you,
But as for you, you must not turn to them.
“Then I will make you to this people
A fortified wall of bronze;
And though they fight against you,
They will not prevail over you;
For I am with you to save you
And deliver you,” declares the Lord.
“So I will deliver you from the hand of the wicked,
And I will redeem you from the grasp of the violent.” (Jeremiah 15:19-21)

God needed a spokesman not a man on his knees crying for himself or a wayward people. So Jeremiah was strengthened for the task and further set apart as a fortified wall of bronze by focusing his attention on the will of God instead of the reaction of those to whom he was sent. And so, after his pity party, Jeremiah again goes out boldly with the word of the Lord. And something new happens.

Do you remember how Jeremiah repented on behalf of his people when he was first sent but God told him to stop praying for them? Jeremiah questioned it but now he is being aligned with God because after his repeated attempts to get Judah to repent, he’s sick of them too. They’ve made their hate of God known as they seek to kill His prophet. And like any human being under such stress, Jeremiah has hit his breaking point and begins his appeal to God, not to save them this time, but to bring His wrath upon them!

“May an outcry be heard from their houses,
When You suddenly bring raiders upon them;
For they have dug a pit to capture me
And hidden snares for my feet.
Yet You, O Lord, know
All their deadly designs against me;
Do not forgive their iniquity
Or blot out their sin from Your sight.
But may they be overthrown before You;
Deal with them in the time of Your anger!” (Jer 18:22-23)

Uh-oh, is Jeremiah sinning by calling down these curses? The Lord does not rebuke Jeremiah in this prayer. Instead, He encourages him to buy an earthenware vessel and smash it before their eyes as a physical illustration for them to see what God is about to do to them. God confirms Jeremiah’s alignment with His will. Jeremiah is now seeing what his father in heaven is doing.

The lesson for us is contained within the model prayer, “let your will be done on earth as it is in heaven.”  We’re here to announce God’s will and not our own. It’s a pleasure to pray blessings over those whom God has asked us to bless, but from the first calling of Jeremiah, God had in mind a curse toward Judah. His will to curse was set in heaven, but He was looking for someone on earth to proclaim it with authority. God was fed up with Judah and took the time to align soft-hearted Jeremiah with His will. Perhaps evil runs rampant because we all too often resist the Holy Spirit in this area. It’s uncomfortable to confront someone with their sin, but by assigning Jeremiah a stiff-necked people to reach, the faithful prophet came to know the joy, the love, the compassion and also the pain of His God. God held back nothing and Jeremiah came to know his God more intimately because of it.

Sweet hour of prayer: to bless or to curse?

Keep yourselves in Gods’ love, Julie

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May 16, 2014 - Posted by | According to Scripture, Expressions | , ,

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