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Prayers of the Prophets – Lesson 10: Divine Retribution

Then took they Jeremiah, and cast him into the dungeon of Malchiah the son of Hammelech, that was in the court of the prison: and they let down Jeremiah with cords. And in the dungeon there was no water, but mire: so Jeremiah sunk in the mire. –Jeremiah 38:6

Scripture Reading: Jeremiah 20:7-18

What must a man endure for God? Without argument, the prophet Jeremiah suffered physically, emotionally, and spiritually-and he reached a boiling point where he desired for his persecutors (seemingly all of Jerusalem) to be wiped out! Elijah, on the other hand, asked for God to wipe him out! Don’t think for a moment that standing for God comes cheaply. Hebrews 11:35b states: “Others were tortured, not accepting deliverance, that they might obtain a better resurrection. ”

The early church suffered gut-wrenching horrors under the Roman emperor, Nero. One writer accounts, “Huge griddles were made on which they would fry Christians alive. Nero’s entourage also developed the skill of taking knives and filleting the skin off believers in the same way one would skin a pig. With muscles and … blood vessels … exposed, these Christians were thrown in heaps of manure … [further shocking description]. Christians were forced to fight gladiators as ‘sport’ in the Coliseum … At times, they were wrapped in the skins of dead animals and thrown to lions … [or] made to fight to their death with [other] wild beasts.”*

I will write no more-for even worse sickening atrocities were demonically forced upon the church! Yet, by God’s grace, they endured faithfully.

Will God send retribution on persecutors of the righteous? Paul wrote to the Roman church: “Dearly beloved, avenge not yourselves, but rather give place unto wrath: for it is written, ‘Vengeance is mine; I will repay, saith the Lord. Therefore if thine enemy hunger, feed him: if he thirst, give him drink: for in so doing thou shalt heap coals of fire on his head. Be not overcome of evil, but overcome evil with good.” (Romans 12:19-21)

Lesson Questions

  1. What initial encouragement did God give to Jeremiah for his difficult calling? Jer. 1:8-10, 17-19.
  2. How did the people respond to Jeremiah’s prophecies? Jer. 18:18; 11:18-23; 26:10-16.
  3. What was the prophet’s cry of injustice against Jerusalem? Jer. 18:19-20.
  4. What was Jeremiah’s plea for judgment? Jer. 18:21-22.
  5. Contrast Jeremiah’s merciless prayer with the life of Jesus. Jer. 18:23; 11:20; Titus 3:1-7; Luke 9:51-56; John 8:2-11; Luke 23:33-34.
  6. How negatively did Jeremiah come to feel about his life? Jer. 15:10; 20:14-18.
  7. What reassurance did God give to His prophet? Jer. 15:19-21.
  8. What perspective are we to have toward our enemies? Matthew 5:9-12, 43-45.

Life Application

Peter wanted to know how many times he was expected to forgive someone. “Up to seven times?”, he asked the Lord. Jesus replies, “…I do not say to you, up to seven times, but up to seventy times seven” (Matt. 18:21-22). Of course, Jesus was not dispensing forgiveness by legalistic or mathematical formulas. Certainly, Peter was not to “keep score” of the times he’d forgiven up to 490 (70×7)!

Jesus teaches up to practice unlimited forgiveness, using the parable of the servant who was forgiven of his debt, but would not forgive another who owed him much less. Jesus clearly taught that if we would not forgive others their trespasses, that God would not forgive us.

 *Living in the Combat Zone, Rick Renner, [Tulsa: Albury Publishing, copyright 1989], pgs. 14,15.