Faithlife Sermons

When Terror Is on Every Side

Sermon  •  Submitted
0 ratings
If you’ve ever felt backed into a corner with a difficult decision then you understand at least a little bit of Jeremiah’s predicament.
Jeremiah 20:1 CSB
Pashhur the priest, the son of Immer and chief official in the temple of the Lord, heard Jeremiah prophesying these things.
Jeremiah’s words had reached the very top levels and now there was no way out. Jeremiah could stop prophesying and feel the wrath of God or he could press on and feel not just the wrath of the people but the wrath of the government.
And even though one choice is obviously worse than the other, either way Jeremiah was in a terrible place.
There was terror on every side. Disobeying God would lead to terror but...

Trusting God Leads to Terror

If you’ve ever made what you know is the right decision based upon God’s word then you probably also know that the right decision doesn’t always bring immediate peace and comfort.
Many times trusting in God makes life more difficult for you as it did for Jeremiah.
Jeremiah 20:8 CSB
For whenever I speak, I cry out, I proclaim, “Violence and destruction!” so the word of the Lord has become my constant disgrace and derision.
Jeremiah’s message was a message of bad news. He was his day’s version of the 6 o’clock news on steroids. All he talked about was the corruption of the people, violence and destruction, and how there was going to be plenty more if the people didn’t assume responsibility and repent.
Of course, Jeremiah could have taken a friendlier tone, which would have been much better for him personally, but that’s not the message God had placed on his heart.
Jeremiah 20:9 CSB
I say, “I won’t mention him or speak any longer in his name.” But his message becomes a fire burning in my heart, shut up in my bones. I become tired of holding it in, and I cannot prevail.
The meaning here isn’t that Jeremiah was eager to deliver God’s word of judgment. Jeremiah was in fact reluctant to tell people the truth, but it was what he had to do.
So he couldn’t hold back from telling people God’s bad news anymore than he could fight against a raging inferno in a dry, parched land.
Now, notice that it is God’s message that must be spoken. In doing so, people might label us liberal or conservative, or some other name, but if we’re being faithful with the word of God, then we’ll be on the right side no matter what other’s say.
So Jeremiah was right in pointing out the sins of God’s people—it’s what he had to do. But God’s people didn’t take his words seriously.
Jeremiah 8:11 CSB
They have treated the brokenness of my dear people superficially, claiming, ‘Peace, peace,’ when there is no peace.
In other words they didn’t accept that they were the broken ones. They could see the brokenness in everyone else, but not in themselves.
They didn’t want to acknowledge that their primary problems were internal not external.
I think if they had had social media and the Internet back then I’m sure they would’ve used it to make ridiculous memes about how bad the Babylonians and the Assyrians were. I’m pretty sure there would have been plenty of distorted cartoons with Jeremiah’s face on them going viral.
You see, when a message is proclaimed that contradicts what we believe about ourselves at a fundamental level people tend to push back against the one delivering the message and that messenger needs to be prepared to receive terror from every side.
In John 16:32 Jesus explained just prior to his crucifixion that his disciples would face great persecution. Then Jesus says a remarkable thing in verse 33.
John 16:33 CSB
I have told you these things so that in me you may have peace. You will have suffering in this world. Be courageous! I have conquered the world.”
In other words, don’t be surprised when you suffer for Christ’s sake.
Take courage because despite our weaknesses, and our inability to even be completely faithful, remember that our ultimate peace isn’t based upon us conquering the world, but on Jesus who has conquered it!
See, the Jews wanted to conquer the world their own way. They wanted to declare peace when there wasn’t any peace apart from acknowledging their own guilt and trusting in Jesus.
The Jews were delusional about the reality of their situation but telling them they were delusional came with terrible price for Jeremiah to pay...
Jeremiah 20:2 CSB
So Pashhur had the prophet Jeremiah beaten and put him in the stocks at the Upper Benjamin Gate in the Lord’s temple.
In other words, they tortured Jeremiah. They put him on the rack, which is what the word “stocks” means, and twisted his body until he screamed in pain.
Mercifully, the torture didn’t last forever.
Jeremiah 20:3 CSB
The next day, when Pashhur released Jeremiah from the stocks, Jeremiah said to him, “The Lord does not call you Pashhur, but Terror Is on Every Side,
It’s interesting that Pashhur means “fruitful on every side” but God changed his name to match what he had become and also as a sign of the terror his people would receive.
And then in verses 4-6 God goes on to describe the terror Pashur and all the people of Israel would receive at the hands of the Babylonians.
They would be killed by the sword. They would be kidnapped and led off to Babylon along with all of the nation’s wealth. God says he was going to make them “a terror to both themselves and those they love.”
But this section isn’t just about national suffering it’s also about Jeremiah’s personal suffering and there are several lessons we can learn from Jeremiah about what to do when it seems terror is on every side personally.


Jeremiah prayed about the danger he was in. He said to God,
Jeremiah 20:10 CSB
For I have heard the gossip of many people, “Terror is on every side! Report him; let’s report him!” Everyone I trusted watches for my fall. “Perhaps he will be deceived so that we might prevail against him and take our vengeance on him.”
Apparently the people had heard what Jeremiah called Pashur and now they were using his words against him. Like children on the school playground, “We’re not the Terror, you are!”
What do you do? Lash back? No, you pray.
But notice this isn’t a great prayer of faith. Instead Jeremiah is venting his frustrations as a broken man who is hurt to the depth of his soul.
Jeremiah 20:7 CSB
You deceived me, Lord, and I was deceived. You seized me and prevailed. I am a laughingstock all the time; everyone ridicules me.
Jeremiah took his frustrations—his sufferings—to the Lord. The people were gossiping behind his back, calling him names, making fun of him, and Jeremiah blamed God.
He was the brunt of everyone’s jokes and it was all God’s fault, which was at least partly true because Jeremiah was just trying to do what God wanted him to and what had it gotten him? Tortured and friendless. He was a laughingstock.
The lesson here is don’t keep your sufferings to yourself. Verbalize them to God. This is what Job did when he lost his family (Job 3). It’s what Elijah did when people were seeking to take his life (1 Kings 19:4). It’s what David did when Saul was hunting him in the wilderness (Psalm 57). It’s what Jonah did in the belly of the great fish (Jonah 2). And it’s what Jesus did on the cross when He paid for sins he did not commit. In Matthew 27:46 even Jesus cried out “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”
So take your sufferings to God in prayer the way Jeremiah did.


We should worship and praise God even when we suffer. Jeremiah might not have been “feeling it” which probably explains why his worship is so short. But in verse 11 he confesses his faith.
Jeremiah 20:11 CSB
But the Lord is with me like a violent warrior. Therefore, my persecutors will stumble and not prevail. Since they have not succeeded, they will be utterly shamed, an everlasting humiliation that will never be forgotten.
A confession of faith is a summary of what we believe. It’s a reminder for ourselves and others of what is true and they are especially important when we aren’t “feeling it.”
So Jeremiah confesses what is true as a part of his worship. And in verse 12 Jeremiah prays for help.
Jeremiah 20:12 CSB
Lord of Armies, testing the righteous and seeing the heart and mind, let me see your vengeance on them, for I have presented my case to you.
Jeremiah prays for God’s help because he realizes only God can set things right. Vengeance belongs to the Lord, in his timing, in his way and whenever we pray it is a reminder of who’s in charge—so important to focus on when we are suffering.
And in verse 13 he sings...
Jeremiah 20:13 CSB
Sing to the Lord! Praise the Lord, for he rescues the life of the needy from evil people.
Worshiping may seem like the last thing we want to do when we’re suffering but it is the thing we need to do most of all.
When we feel like we’re all alone in our suffering that’s the time we especially need to be reminded of what we believe and that God will always keep his promises.
So, keep confessing, praying, and singing to God.

The Last Word

Now if God’s word was left up to me to write I probably would have ended right there with that positive note. But Jeremiah’s story doesn’t end on a positive note in chapter 20.
Instead, it ends with this depressing thought...
Jeremiah 20:14–17 CSB
May the day I was born be cursed. May the day my mother bore me never be blessed. May the man be cursed who brought the news to my father, saying, “A male child is born to you,” bringing him great joy. Let that man be like the cities the Lord demolished without compassion. Let him hear an outcry in the morning and a war cry at noontime because he didn’t kill me in the womb so that my mother might have been my grave, her womb eternally pregnant.
These verses are pretty depressing but even so there is an upside. The positive spin on this is that the Bible acknowledges the ups and downs of following Christ. So take heart.
One minute Jeremiah is on top of the world praising God but the next he’s deep in a pit of despair wishing he’d never been born.
I think that pretty much sums up our life. One moment we’re up, the next we’re down because even though we are called saints in Scripture we are also still sinners. Even though all of our sins are forgiven we still sin.
So, one moment we can be singing praises to the Lord, and the next we can say things like verse 18...
Jeremiah 20:18 CSB
Why did I come out of the womb to see only struggle and sorrow, to end my life in shame?
Now, it’s not that Jeremiah had a death wish but he’s questioning the point of all the struggle and sorrow. Nobody listened to him. He didn’t have any friends. Everyone made fun of him and even God seem to approve of His shame.
Maybe you question your calling or even your salvation. Well, you’re not alone but the good news is we don’t get the last word on that. God does.
God’s last word for Jeremiah is actually one of the first words he ever spoke to him.
God says in Jeremiah 1:5...
Jeremiah 1:5 CSB
I chose you before I formed you in the womb; I set you apart before you were born. I appointed you a prophet to the nations.
So, never forget that God has also chosen you before you were born. His good promises for you aren’t rooted in your present circumstances but they go back even before the beginning of time.
And listen to what God says of our salvation in Ephesians 1:4...
Ephesians 1:4 CSB
For he chose us in him, before the foundation of the world, to be holy and blameless in love before him.
Maybe we’re wondering what’s the point of it all. Well, here’s the point: We were chosen to be holy and blameless in love.
In other words God’s working out his plan in you to make you holy and loving.
Ephesians 2:10 CSB
For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared ahead of time for us to do.
See, the grace of God always has the last word. Our suffering. Our present circumstances don’t have the last word. The grace of God always has the last word.
Related Media
Related Sermons