Tunnel #4 Bitterness in the Dark Tunnel

The Confessions of Jeremiah
Lesson 4
Bitterness in the
Dark Tunnel
Jeremiah 18:18-23
1. Tracing Jeremiah’s movements through the dark
tunnels of his ministry makes us uncomfortable.
Too often his ugly thoughts in those moments of
depression reflect times in our lives when we have
felt the same way.
2. We come now to the fourth personal crisis in
Jeremiah’s life.
This is perhaps his most bitter outburst against his
New Plot
18a They said, "Come, let's make plans against Jeremiah;
1. Already in 11:19 Jeremiah became aware that
his opponents were devising plans against
a. The language makes clear that opposition to
Jeremiah was not a knee-jerk, irrational,
emotional reaction to the prophet’s hardhitting sermons.
b. The evil plans made against Jeremiah
parallel the evil plans made in resistance
to Yahweh in v 12.
c. The Judeans showed their opposition to the
message from God by plotting against the
messenger (v 18a).
18b for the teaching of the law by the priest will
not be lost, nor will counsel from the wise, nor the
word from the prophets.
2. The aim of the plot was to protect sources of
man-made wisdom (v 18b).
After all, they had the priests, the wise men
and other prophets (cf. Ezek 7:26).
a. Instruction, counsel, and the prophetic
word were three modes of
communication that had been taken
over by pretenders who had no divine
1) The plotters feared that, if left alone,
Jeremiah might gain popular support.
2) The regular leaders of the nation might
lose their positions of influence.
b The priests were responsible to give
instruction based on the Law of Moses.
c. The wise men of the Bible were religious and
moral teachers.
1) Ahithophel and Hushai were prominent
members in the court of David.
2) Some of the wise men of ancient Israel,
being gifted by the Holy Spirit,
produced the wisdom literature of the
Old Testament.
3) The wise men in Jeremiah’s day had
become worldly wise.
They were strictly political counselors
who judged matters purely from the
standpoint of probability, not faith.
d. Prophets were to deliver to the people the
message that was revealed to them by
God from time to time.
1) Jeremiah constantly was at odds with the
2) These men had not received a heavenly
3) They had not received genuine
revelations from God.
4) They were mere professionals.
They maintained their positions by
giving oracles that were pleasing both
to the general populace and the rulers.
18c So come, let's attack him with our tongues
and pay no attention to anything he says."
3. The enemies planned to make lying
accusations against Jeremiah.
a. By twisting his words they hoped to turn the
masses against the prophet.
b. Perhaps they hoped to lay the groundwork
for legal action as well.
c. Clearly they planned to kill him (cf. v 23).
d. This plot seems to be more widespread than
the plot that Jeremiah faced from family
and friends in Anathoth in chapter 11.
A Complaint
19 Listen to me, O LORD; hear what my accusers are
1. The text does not indicate how Jeremiah
became aware of the new plot against him.
a. When he heard what his enemies had
planned for him the prophet cried out to
God (v 19).
b. He asked Yahweh to take note of the threat
against his messenger.
20a Should good be repaid with evil? Yet they have dug a
pit for me.
2. Jeremiah mentioned three grounds for his
complaint (v 20).
a. First, the plot was unfair.
Jeremiah had done good to the Judeans by
boldly proclaiming the truth about what
the future held for Judah.
b. Second, the plot was unscrupulous.
Borrowing the terminology from the
Psalmist Jeremiah cried, “they are
digging a pit for my soul” (Ps 57:6; 35:7).
Jeremiah senses legal entrapment or worse
in the offing.
20b Remember that I stood before you and spoke
in their behalf to turn your wrath away from them.
c. The third ground for Yahweh’s intervention
was Jeremiah’s intercessory prayers.
1) In 15:15 Jeremiah asked God to remember
him. Now he asked Yahweh to
remember his ministry of intercession.
2) He had wept for his people; he had
interceded for them at the throne of
3) He was the only true friend that Judah
4) When the people should be honoring him
for what he had been doing they were
instead plotting against him.
21a So give their children over to famine; hand
them over to the power of the sword.
1. Therefore has the connotation of “under these
circumstances” (v 21a).
2. Jeremiah prayed that the sons of his enemies
might experience famine—that they might
be delivered over to the power of the sword,
i.e., violent death.
21b Let their wives be made childless and
widows; let their men be put to death, their young
men slain by the sword in battle.
3. Jeremiah prayed that the wives of his enemies
will become childless and widows (v 21b).
Death, as in 15:2, probably refers to pestilence.
4. Jeremiah also asked that the young soldiers be
thrust upon the sword until their life-blood
had been poured out.
22a Let a cry be heard from their houses when you
suddenly bring invaders against them…
5. The cry is one of distress; it is a cry for help (v
Jeremiah prayed that the homes of his enemies
might be plundered by a troop of soldiers.
Narrative Prayer
22b for they have dug a pit to capture me and
have hidden snares for my feet.
He described to Yahweh the situation
as he perceived it
1. Digging a pit is a metaphor for plotting evil.
Snares are bird traps.
a. Narrative prayer does not aim to inform God
of something about which he is unaware.
b. Rather, the petitioner describes his
predicament to God in order to request
divine intervention.
23a But you know, O LORD, all their plots to kill me.
2. You know was a statement of praise and of
profound trust in Yahweh.
a. Jeremiah was always confident of Yahweh’s
awareness of any situation (cf. 17:16).
b. In v 18 the enemies alluded to the counsel of
the wise; but here the counsel was
against Jeremiah. They want him dead.
c. Perhaps that was the advice that these
enemies were receiving from their “wise
More Imprecation
23b Do not forgive their crimes or blot out their sins from
your sight. Let them be overthrown before you; deal with
them in the time of your anger.
1. Jeremiah asked God not to pardon the men
who were plotting against him.
a. Such a prayer is rare in the Old Testament,
but not unique (cf. Neh 3:37).
b. Jeremiah did not want God to ignore or
forget about the vicious plots of his
c. Stumble at the very least means to fail in
their plot.
It implies being humbled, broken, and
brought to ruin.
d. Jeremiah wanted God to deal with his
enemies in the time of divine anger, i.e.,
to show them no mercy.
2. Several points need to be considered in
interpreting this difficult prayer.
a. First, the imprecation is not hurled at the
nation as a whole, but at those enemies
who plotted Jeremiah's death.
b. Second, “the prophets were neither
vegetables nor machines, but men of like
passions with ourselves” (G.A. Smith).
c. Third, this outburst does not represent
Jeremiah at his best.
It is uttered in a moment of exasperation.
d. Fourth, the anger of the prophet was
aroused, not so much because he
personally was being attacked; it was
because God was being rejected in the
person of his prophet.
e. Fifth, the particular blasphemy that the
enemies hurled at Jeremiah was that his
prophecies had not been fulfilled.
Jeremiah was calling upon God to execute
those threats that he so boldly had
f. Sixth, the prophet did not pray for these
hardened people because Yahweh
already had indicated his unwillingness
to forgive.
g. Seventh, precedents for such prayers of
imprecation can be found in the Psalms.
Jeremiah may have been borrowing the
language of the Psalms in formulating
this prayer.
1. So we see in this “confession” how ugly
spiritual depression can get.
2. We also see the need for Jesus’ teaching
about praying for your enemies.
3. How did Yahweh respond to Jeremiah?
a. God gave him a mission to perform (19:1).
b. Sometimes the key to getting out of
spiritual depression is to immerse
ourselves in the work of the Lord.