In the Korean War during the battle of the Chosin Reservoir, the Marines were cut off behind enemy lines and the Army had written the 1st Marine Division off as being lost because they were surrounded by 22 enemy divisions. The Marines made it out inflicting the highest casualty ratio on an enemy in history and destroying 7 entire enemy divisions in the process. Marine commander, Lewis B. “Chesty” Puller was quoted as saying at the time: “They are in front of us, behind us, and we are flanked on both sides by an enemy that outnumbers us 29:1. They can’t get away from us now!”
Such courage is needed today by men and women called to take God’s words to a skeptical and often hostile secular world. When we are surrounded by critics – will we choose fight or flight as our defense strategy? In today’s passage we see two prophets that had tough messages to deliver: Jeremiah, who had the book of the Bible named after him & Uriah son of Shemaiah, who amounts to a mere footnote in this story (vv. 22-23). Both men deliver their message and have their lives threatened for doing so. Uriah chooses flight. But his instinct to run doesn’t end his story well. King Jehoiakim has him hunted down and then executed.
Jeremiah, however, decides to fight. He proclaims: “The Lord sent me to prophesy against this house and this city all the things you have heard. Now reform your ways and your actions and obey the Lord your God. Then the Lord will relent and not bring the disaster he has pronounced against you. As for me, I am in your hands; do with me whatever you think is good and right.” His courageous stand pays off and he lives to proclaim God’s word another day. (By the way, people often admire someone’s courage even when they don’t agree with their cause.)
Jeremiah is often called the weeping prophet. This declaration makes him the prophet of courage in my book. He may have felt surrounded, but knew the Lord had his back. Jeremiah was promised this when he was a youth. God told him that he would be made “a fortified city, an iron pillar and a bronze wall to stand against the whole land…” The Lord had said: “they will fight against you but will not overcome you…” I guess Jeremiah took God at his word!
What do we face today when we take a stand for the truth? Ridicule? Slander? It seems to me that we sometimes chose flight over fight, when we faced with situations of mere uncomfortability. Where is our courage? Sure, speak with kindness and gentleness… but don’t neglect to speak. And then,… when attacked: Take a lesson from Uriah – don’t be shunned into silence; running is not an option. Secondly, take a lesson from Jeremiah – find an iron backbone and fight with courage.