“For the word of the Lord has become for me a reproach and derision all day long. If I say, ‘I will not mention him, or speak any more in his name,’ then within me there is something like a burning fire shut up in my bones; I am weary with holding it in, and I cannot.
—Jeremiah 20: 8b-9
The prophet Jeremiah wasn’t the kind of guy you would invite to your Christmas party. While you noshed on your shrimp canapé he would query you as to whether the shrimp was farm raised, sustainable, and were the workers in the processing plant paid a just wage? To warn of the approaching Babylonian captivity he walked around Jerusalem with a wooden yoke around his shoulders, and when “the powers that be” smashed it, he returned wearing an iron one.
Jeremiah couldn’t help himself, because he had been scorched by Holy Fire. He couldn’t escape from speaking truth to power even when it meant public ostracism and universal reproach by his fellow citizens.
The fire in his bones was the same Holy Fire that burned in Moses’s thorn bush without consuming it. No, Jeremiah couldn’t help himself because he knew far too much about God. He knew God didn’t just shed light, but was Light. God didn’t just demand justice, but was Justice. God didn’t just offer love, but was Love. And God was not just any love, but Holy Love, the love that will not let us go.
And so Jeremiah was condemned to a life of painful truth telling, of being a killjoy and a public joke while speaking God’s hard word on behalf of God’s people.
Such passion for God, this burning of Holy Fire, is seldom seen, but we see it here in Jeremiah. And we see it again when Jesus prays in the Garden of Gethsemene, and again when he offers his enemies forgiveness while nailed to a Roman cross.
Prayer: Forgive us, Eternal One, for taking you so lightly. Scorch us into passion for your Word and for you.