The Rewards of Faithfulness: Jeremiah's Prophetic Journey Revealed

14th Sunday after Pentecost - 9/3/2023 | Jeremiah 15:15-21 ESV

Does It Pay to Be Faithful?

Let's embark on a journey through the profound verses of Jeremiah, the revered prophet of the LORD, specifically exploring chapter 15, verses 15-21. But before we dive into the text, let's unravel the intriguing background of this remarkable prophet.

Jeremiah: The Unique Priest-Prophet

Jeremiah occupied a unique position as the son of Hilkiah, a priest. This lineage bestowed upon him the dual titles of priest and prophet, affording him unparalleled access to influential circles within Jerusalem, including the inner court of the king. This privileged status, while aiding his ministry, also made him a prime target for personal attacks from those who felt threatened by his prophetic message.

God's Call to Jeremiah

The LORD's divine call beckoned Jeremiah during the 13th year of King Josiah's reign when he was still a young man. Initially hesitant, Jeremiah cited his youth and lack of eloquence as excuses to avoid his prophetic duty. However, the LORD swiftly dismissed his reservations, affirming, "Before I formed you in the womb, I knew you, and before you were born, I consecrated you; I appointed you a prophet to the nations." With this divine mandate, Jeremiah submitted to God's will, serving as the LORD's prophet throughout the reigns of Jehoahaz, Jehoiakim, Jehoiakim, and Zedekiah, the final Davidic kings of Judah before the Babylonian exile.

Jeremiah's Ministry: A Call for Faithfulness

Jeremiah's ministry was characterized by the delivery of stern messages of divine judgment and condemnation against idolatrous and disobedient rulers of Judah, as well as the wayward people of Judah and even neighboring pagan nations.

Predictably, Jeremiah found himself at odds with the political and social norms of his time. Kings perceived him as a threat to their authority, while many leaders and the general populace regarded him as an impediment to conventional wisdom. Efforts were made to silence him, and he frequently faced imprisonment. People mocked and despised him, presenting an immense personal challenge to remain faithful to his divine calling.

The Dilemma of Faithfulness

Jeremiah's experiences invite us to ponder whether faithfulness is truly worthwhile. Does staying true to the LORD God and His Word yield rewards?

Authentic faithfulness is undeniably demanding. It continually tempts us to compromise God's commands, rationalize our sinful behavior, or renege on promises made during our Confirmation. It is often easier to conform to the world's values than to adhere to God's unconventional wisdom. Striving to live in a way that pleases God often results in criticism and ridicule from those around us. When we boldly proclaim God's truth in the face of falsehoods, we might be accused of being judgmental, legalistic, or out of touch. Why, then, should we stand up for God's truth when the disobedient and unbelieving seem to enjoy honor, success, and an easier life? Does faithfulness genuinely pay off?

Jeremiah's Prayer: A Cry for Recognition

Our text features Jeremiah's heartfelt prayer—or more accurately, his heartfelt complaint to God—and the LORD's response, assuring us that faithfulness will indeed yield significant rewards.

Jeremiah begins with a threefold plea: "O Lord, you know; remember me and visit me, and take vengeance for me on my persecutors. In your forbearance, take me not away; know that for your sake I bear reproach."

Let's delve into Jeremiah's first plea: "O Lord, you know." In his frustration, Jeremiah acknowledges that the LORD is already aware of his complaint, sparing him from elaboration. This isn't laziness on Jeremiah's part; rather, it recognizes that God comprehends our situations better than we do. God doesn't have blind spots when it comes to His people. Expressing our circumstances to the LORD serves as a therapeutic exercise for us; He already knows and has allowed them to occur.

Jeremiah's Petitions: A Cry for Divine Presence and Protection

Jeremiah's next plea is for God to "remember" him, essentially asking God to be present in his life, vindicating him against his enemies, and removing their harmful influence.

Simultaneously, Jeremiah prays, "In your forbearance, take me not away." This forbearance, indicating God's long-suffering, can be exasperating for believers being harassed by the wicked. It may seem that God is more patient with the wicked than with His faithful followers. The faithful may cry out, "Don't let me suffer because of your patience with the wicked! Remember, I'm enduring this mistreatment because I'm trying to remain faithful to Your Word!"

Jeremiah's Profound Commitment to Faithfulness

Jeremiah proceeds to recount his faithfulness to the LORD. He declares, "Your words were found, and I ate them, and your words became to me a joy and the delight of my heart, for I am called by your name ('The LORD establishes'), O Lord, God of hosts. I did not sit in the company of revelers, nor did I rejoice; I sat alone, because your hand was upon me, for you had filled me with indignation."

If Jeremiah indeed lived as he professes here, he exemplified faithfulness to his calling. God's words were his sustenance and delight, his source of joy. Proclaiming these words to others brought him joy, even though it meant isolation and rejection by his peers. He stood apart from worldly revelry, refusing to participate in activities that contradicted God's will. His faithfulness led to loneliness and isolation, as his peers shunned him.

The Challenges of Faithfulness

Being faithful to the LORD's Word doesn't necessarily guarantee a life of ease and merriment. Jeremiah's decision to abstain from worldly revelry isolated him, making him an outcast. Similarly, those who faithfully follow God's Word may find themselves alone, shunned by others who reject their values.

However, it's crucial to recognize that the LORD never promises His faithful servants a life devoid of discomfort. Baptism doesn't come with a "get out of jail free card" or a guarantee of a trouble-free life. Jesus himself proclaimed, "If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me."

Jeremiah's Moment of Despair

At this point in the text, Jeremiah reaches a low point. His resilience wanes as opposition and persecution take their toll. In his misery, he laments, "Why is my pain unceasing, my wound incurable, refusing to be healed? Will you be to me like a deceitful brook, like waters that fail?"

It can be challenging to understand why the Lord allows His faithful servants to suffer for doing what is right. We may feel as though we're approaching the stream of God's grace and love, only to find it dried up and gone. Wounds remain unhealed, pain persists, and insults and criticisms continue from those who oppose and despise us.

The LORD's Unwavering Promise

Just when Jeremiah is on the verge of despair, questioning the point of faithfulness, the LORD responds: "If you return, I will restore you, and you shall stand before me. If you utter what is precious, and not what is worthless, you shall be as my mouth. They shall turn to you, but you shall not turn to them. And I will make you to this people a fortified wall of bronze; they will fight against you, but they shall not prevail over you, for I am with you to save you and deliver you, declares the Lord. I will deliver you out of the hand of the wicked, and redeem you from the grasp of the ruthless."

The Divine Affirmation: Faithfulness Pays Off

God's response is a resounding affirmation: "Being faithful does indeed pay off!" The LORD doesn't promise His Jeremiah's fame, love, or a peaceful life free from opposition. Instead, He unequivocally states that there will be opposition. This is a given. Even Jesus, the Word of Truth incarnate, faced opposition and was ultimately crucified. Anyone who faithfully proclaims and adheres to His Word should expect nothing less.

The Promise of Divine Presence and Protection

However, what the LORD does promise to those who remain faithful, who return in repentance from uttering worthless complaints and self-pity to proclaiming the precious Word of the LORD, is His unwavering presence. He will establish them as His spokespersons, like a wall of fortified bronze. In other words, God, who endured the shame and scorn of the cross to set His servants free from sin, death, and the devil, will ensure that no one can overpower, outsmart, or silence His faithful servants. It won't be God's servant who crumbles before those who oppose them or succumbs to the world's philosophies. Instead, the LORD will use His faithful servant to persuade others to embrace the truth, leading them to repentance and faith.

The Ultimate Promise of Deliverance and Glory

Furthermore, faithful servant need not fear their enemies or be overwhelmed by suffering. God promises to deliver His faithful servants, to save and redeem them from the ruthless grasp of the wicked.

How magnificent this promise is! While we may be determined to remain faithful to the LORD and His Word at this moment, we must also acknowledge the reality that the world, our sinful nature, and the devil will relentlessly try to lure us back into unfaithfulness. We have witnessed it happen to the most faithful of God's saints, and we have experienced it in our own lives countless times.

Yet, we have God's unwavering promise: "I will be with you." This promise is not contingent on our faithfulness; rather, it's unconditional. As Jesus proclaimed, "I have come for the sick (the weak), not the well (the strong)." He died for sinners, for those like us who have strayed from faithfulness more times than we care to admit. His blood was shed for the unfaithful, the immoral, and the most wretched and evil among us.

The Assurance of God's Unchanging Love

Scripture assures us that God is slow to anger and abounds in steadfast love. He doesn't deal with us as our sins deserve; instead, He removes our transgressions far from us (Psalm 103). The apostle Paul reminds us that "if (we) are faithless, he remains faithful—for he cannot deny himself" (2 Tim. 2:13). Through the pastor's lips, God comes to us in the Holy absolution, saying, "I forgive you all your sins." He regularly offers His body and blood in the Holy Supper, given as a sacrifice for our sins, to atone for our transgressions. He never leaves us to wallow in unbelief and impenitence due to our unfaithfulness.

The Ultimate Reward of Faithfulness

So, does faithfulness pay off? Perhaps not necessarily in financial or worldly comfort, but certainly, it pays off in the sense that God, as our faithful servant, blesses our witness, both in words and deeds, enabling us to withstand opposition and bear eternal fruit in the lives of others. Moreover, our faithfulness leads to the ultimate reward of enjoying God's deliverance and glory. Continuing in unfaithfulness only leads to impenitence, unbelief, and separation from Christ. However, even those struggling to remain faithful to Jesus Christ and His Word have His promise, a promise that assures us, "Remain faithful unto death, and I will give you the crown of life" (Rev. 2:10). This, indeed, makes faithfulness worthwhile. Amen

More 2023 Pentecost Sermons

Relevance of the Church

The Power of Humble Faith

Faith through Christ's Presence

Spiritual Nourishment in Christ

A Pearl of Great Price


Sermons from Trinity Lutheran Church in Miles City, MT