Many years ago a Seventh-day Adventist minister named W. D. Frazee preached a sermon called
Winners and Losers. In it he went through the lives of various Bible characters, looking at their work and ministry, and then he asked the question regarding each one: Was he a winner or a loser?
For example, he looked at John the Baptist, who lived a lonely life in the wilderness. Though eventually John had a small following, it never amounted to much, and certainly it was not what Jesus, who came later, had. And of course, John lived out his last days in a dank prison where, at times, he was harassed with doubt, finally only to get his head chopped off (Matthew 14:1-12). After recounting all this, Elder Frazee asked:
Was John a winner or a loser?
What about Jeremiah the prophet? How successful was his life? He suffered a great deal, and he wasn’t afraid to whine and moan about it either. With few exceptions, it seems that the priests, prophets, kings, and common people not only didn’t like what he had to say, but also thoroughly resented it. He was even seen as treasonous against his own people. In the end, the destruction and doom that he spent his life warning about came, because time and again the people rejected his words. They threw him in a muddy pit, hoping he’d die there. He lived to see his nation go into a terrible exile while Jerusalem and the temple were destroyed. Thus, from a human perspective, not much went well for Jeremiah. From one perspective, you could argue that he had a fairly miserable life.
- Was Jeremiah a winner or a loser? What are the reasons for the choice you make? If you say he was a winner, what does that tell us about how crucial it is that we not judge reality by the world’s standards? What standards are we to use to try to understand what is right and wrong, good and evil, success and failure?
- In what ways do we see the life and ministry of Jesus prefigured in Jeremiah? What are the parallels?
- Earlier this week we saw the deception of going on with religious worship as usual without a change of heart. What is true grace, in contrast to the cheap, worthless, and even deceptive version of it warned about here?