Week of Monday, February 8 ­– Sunday, February 14
Holy Heartburn – Man as a Defender

If I say, “I will not mention him, or speak any more in his name,” there is in my heart as it were a burning fire shut up in my bones, and I am weary with holding it in, and I cannot.” — Jeremiah 20:9

Ever eaten some spicy food that gave you bad heartburn? I mean your stomach was a raging fire? Yeah, me too. I like hot and spicy foods and have eaten some stuff I wish I hadn’t… and paid for it with some serious heartburn afterward. We can all relate, and thankfully, with some antacids, we get over our heartburn. Well, Jeremiah had a kind of heartburn too. But no matter what he did, he couldn’t get over it.

Just before he spoke about his heartburn, Jeremiah had been flogged with a whip and put in the stocks at the Upper Benjamin Gate, the northern gate of the upper temple court, as a very public punishment for speaking God’s Word. The cost of his faithfulness had probably never been more real than in that moment. With open wounds, black and blue bruises, and public humiliation as a reminder, Jeremiah felt like the Word of God had become “a reproach and derision” to him (20:8), and he just wanted it to end. (Believe me, I know how that feels.) He wanted to be freed up from preaching God’s message because it only led to embarrassment and suffering.

The bottom line is that people needed to hear the Word of the Lord, and God called Jeremiah to give them that Word. In his role as Defender, Jeremiah was trying to protect them from the approaching judgment that was coming because of their sinful pursuit of idols. But his prophesying only got him punished. Like the old saying goes: “No good deed goes unpunished.” But even though speaking God’s words brought such trouble, the price of keeping them to himself was greater. It was like trying to put a lid on a raging fire within him. It hurt more to try to restrain what God had called him to release. If he kept God’s words to himself, he would have to spend his life with an unbearable, holy heartburn.

How many times have you felt that you should share the Word with someone but for one reason or another you decided not to? How did you feel afterward? Maybe like Jeremiah? Rev. D.L. Moody told the story of the crusade he preached in Chicago in 1871 and how he came to the end of his sermon and decided that it was late and he was tired so he did not offer an invitation to receive Christ. That night was when the “Great Chicago Fire” destroyed thousands of buildings and took 300 human lives. Moody said that he always wondered how many of those who died in that fire needed to be shown the way to salvation. Our role as a Defender is possibly the most complex and eclectic role a man is called to.

When we seek to defend people from suffering the consequences of their continued bad choices, we sometimes get burned by the very ones we are trying to help. Their misunderstanding of our intentions often leads to rejection, even mistreatment. That’s what happened to Jeremiah and it can happen to us as well. The temptation is to walk away.

Yet, when we abandon God’s call to defend and protect, the price of our disobedience is always higher. We suffer, and the people God wants us to serve suffer. Obedience to God’s calling to contend for people and defend them is not a pain-free experience. There will be struggle, and yes, maybe even suffering from trying to do right by warning wayward people. But to restrain what God intended to release will leave us with just more heartburn.
  • In your role as a Defender, have you tried to warn a wayward person in your family or among your friends only to be met with rejection? Have you ever thrown up your hands and walked away, but it later caused you emotional “heartburn?”
  • Has the Lord given you a burden, a burning fire for something that you simply can’t not do? What happens when you try to avoid doing it?
  • Ask God for the strength and perseverance to release what God has put in you as a Defender and speak the truth in love to that wayward person in your circle of relationships. It will not only bring relief from that “holy heartburn,” but it might just help someone you care about avoid some harsh consequences.