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Fire in the Belly

November 3, 2013

“Cry of the Prophet Jeremiah on the Ruins of Jerusalem” by Ilya Repin, State Tretyakov Gallery, Moscow (PD-ArtlPD-AGE-80)

Do a search on the idiomatic phrase “fire in the belly” and you will find synonyms like “ardor,” “ambition,” “motivation,” and “drive.”

We all know what the phrase means in the context of politics. “He does not have the necessary fire in the belly” refers to a certain strength of character and commitment; a desire to succeed despite obstacles, despite pain, despite unscrupulous tactics by an opponent.

Interestingly, Wiktionary uses the following sentence to illustrate appropriate use of the term:  “I felt no conviction of a burning sincerity, of that fire in the belly which made some of the wilder nonconformist parsons of my youth appear almost incandescent.”

That is not a bad description of Jeremiah, the nonconformist prophet, almost incandescent with conviction.  Jeremiah has, also, been called the “weeping prophet,” since he agonized over Judah’s sin and God’s impending judgment.

The prophet was deeply ambivalent about the tasks God set for him, and the message God gave him to convey.  Jeremiah did not keep his reluctance to himself.  He complained repeatedly to God, openly expressing his doubts and anxieties.  As a result, Jeremiah’s relationship with God was not only frank, but profound.

But His word was in my heart like a burning fire shut up in my bones; I was weary of holding it back, and I could not” (Jer. 20: 9).

Lord God, we grieve for our society, and the evil we see around us.  We long for a deep and personal connection with You, but fall at times into empty rhetoric, in an effort to sound more exalted than we are.

You are the Almighty.  You know our imperfections, even those we would hide from You.  Let Your word fill our hearts like a burning fire.  Let it fill our very bones and pour out, so that there is no holding it back.

Help us to plead Your cause, to spread the truth, that we may make a difference to this fallen world.



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