“But if I say, ‘I will not remember Him Or speak anymore in His name,’ Then in my heart it becomes like a burning fire Shut up in my bones; And I am weary of holding it in, And I cannot endure it.” (Jeremiah 20:9)
Poor Jeremiah! Selected to be a prophet of the LORD, but seldom telling any good news. Most of the time his theme was the deep sinfulness of the people and God’s intention to send them away into exile far from home (Babylon). As God’s spokesman, he counseled surrender to the Babylonians and settle in at the new place you are going to be taken. To say the least, this was highly unpopular and politically incorrect. Apart from Messianic prophecies, the best news Jeremiah got from the LORD to pass on to his generation was that they were going to get to return to their homes in 70 years; that’s a little bit like being told that you’ve been sentenced to 70 years in prison instead of “life”. And Jeremiah got lots of heat for his trouble: derision, mockery, reproach, denouncement. prison, the stocks, a pit, and nearly being left to starve to death.
No wonder he wanted to just stop talking about the LORD and His message! But as Jeremiah considered just shutting up, his heart began to burn like a fire deep in his bones. What was this fire in his bones? It was a hope against all hope that Judah would repent and possibly avoid the punishment the LORD has assigned to them (see Jeremiah 18:1-12). It was a deep desire for his people to avoid the slaughter, the death, and the destruction that was sure to be the result of resisting Babylon and Nebuchadnezzar, whom God had chosen to be His instrument of punishment against God’s sinful people. Because he cared so deeply, because he couldn’t bear the images of his people’s certain destruction, and because repentance was their only hope; Jeremiah could not be silent.
Sharing God’s word today is a little easier (at least in our country, for now), but it still is unpopular in most quarters and about many moral and religious subjects certainly politically incorrect. Speaking God’s word can still attract mockery, reproach, scorn, and denouncement from many — friends, family, and the community at large; and we can be very tempted to just shut up. Indeed some of us have succumbed to the temptation and heed the rule of etiquette to never discussing politics or religion.
But we need fire! Fire in our bones! Where do we find it? The same place Jeremiah found it, in truly caring for the souls of others — the same friends, family, and community at large who scorn the Lord’s will and hold it in contempt.
Care for those souls who are wreaking destruction on themselves through sin in family dysfunction, depression, broken relationships, addictions, crime, violence, guilt, and much more. Those suffering the pain and misery that sin always brings — self-inflicted and inflicted by others.
Care for those souls who will be judged by Christ as unforgiven, unredeemed sinners, who’ll spend an eternity in Hell away from the presence of the Lord through deafness to God’s word and disobedience.
Care, knowing that repentance is their (everyone’s) one and only hope. Repentance in believing in (and confessing) Jesus as the Son of God and our Savior; repentance in turning from our sinful, fleshly ways; and repentance in obedience to Jesus and following Him faithfully.
Please care about the eternal souls of those around you, please stoke the fire in your bones, please never keep silent about the saving and powerful Gospel of Jesus Christ. It is their one and only hope (John 14:6).