Jeremiah 20:7, “O LORD, thou hast deceived me, and I was deceived: thou art stronger than I, and hast prevailed: I am in derision daily, every one mocketh me.”
Most modern translations will say that the Lord deceived Jeremiah. Some will say he was misled, others that he was seduced, persuaded or enticed. The word used here in the Hebrew is pititani which comes from the root word patah which means to allure, persuade, seduce, entice and deceive. The word patah is repeated twice in the passage. Jeremiah accuses the Lord of deceiving him and he was deceived. If a translation chooses the word seduced then they will follow with the same word that he was seduced.
As there is such a wide range of meaning to patah there is nothing written in stone that says that we should render patah with one particular English word and that you must use the same word when it is used later, even if in the same sentence. It is really the context that will guide you into which English word to apply. There is really no reason you could not render this as, you deceived me and I was seduced or you could say you seduced me and I was deceived. Both could be correct yet both convey something a bit different.
In the Aramaic the word means to be spacious, open and abundant. In the Arabic the word has the idea of someone in the prime of life. The origin of this word patah does not carry the idea of deception but of simple mindedness, lacking in judgment. A young person feels he can go out and change the world. As he gets older he begins to realize how lofty his expectations were.
Perhaps what is going on here is not so much that Jeremiah feels God did a number on him, but that God led him to believe he was something special, one in million, called to do a great work. He started out but the deception came from himself, believing he was going to do it all and then when he ended up in prison he realized he had deceived himself that he was really no different than anyone else and he wasn’t that knight in shinny armor that he thought he was.
Actually, the word you or thou in you have deceived me is not in the Hebrew. It is merely implied. Literally you would say, “Oh Lord, I am deceived. The first time patah is used in this verse it is in a Hiphal form. He is saying, “Oh Lord, I was caused to be deceived. The second time the word is used it is in a Niphal form. Thus we could render this as, “Oh Lord, I was caused to be deceived and I deceived myself.” When we examine the Semitic root of this word I believe Jeremiah is not really accusing God of deception. But rather he is saying that in his youthfulness he was caused to be seduced into believing that he could do great things, but he only deceived himself.
Obviously Jeremiah’s walk with God is much closer than the walk I have with God and yet I am not for a moment going to think God deceived me. However, I have no problem believing that I often deceive myself. In my anxiousness to serve God, to please God I venture out on faith, believing God has called me to do something and I fall flat on my face.
History is littered with the dry, sun baked bones of Christians who have stepped out on faith and found themselves face down in the mud. In their own patah (deception) they knew they had a call of God on their lives but they recklessly pursued their mission picking up every off colored stone as a confirmation from God.
I once knew a pastor who had a call on his life. I could sense it and feel it in this man. When I would pray with him it was like the heavens opened. He had a genuine love for God and prayerfully considered every decision he made. He believed God had called to develop a retreat center where world renowned Christian leaders would come and hold conferences. This retreat center would have conference rooms, a large auditorium, class rooms, a dining room and a beautiful campus. This center would also house a Christian school and eventually a Bible College.
Prophets from all over came and prophesied over him that he would receive three million dollars to build this retreat center and he began to build his staff and started seeking funding. The funds started to come in and when he saw an old high rise building go on the market he jumped at the chance to purchase it. This building was really not suited at all for what God called him to do, but he figured in faith God would work that out. The money was coming in but it was not enough so he secured a heavy mortgage to purchase the building. At the rate the funds were coming in he could have had the entire amount in about three years and would never have had to take out a mortgage. But then that high rise would have sold and he would lose his chance for a great opportunity to fulfill God’s call on his life. This was, after all, God’s work and he was called and the sooner he got this retreat center up and running the better.
Eventually, this building proved to be a money pit, totally inadequate for a conference center and in a couple years he and his church were forced into bankruptcy and the bank foreclosed on the building. This pastor resigned his position with the church and moved away. I heard that two years later God took him home. About the same time a major corporation that had built a beautiful corporate office building equipped with an auditorium, classrooms, conference rooms and a beautiful ten acre campus went bankrupt and was forced to sell this property which was located just a couple miles away from this church for three million dollars.
God did not deceive patah this pastor, God’s call was real and God had a wonderful plan. But this pastor allowed this calling to deceive him, this pastor deceived himself and jumped ahead of God. Had he waited for God’s timing and not his he would have carried out God’s plan for a beautiful conference center.
Perhaps that is why God has called me to the Catskills. Like other Christians, I feel a sense of calling, a purpose. But I am getting older, there is not much time left I feel I must jump in there and get things moving. Yet as I drive through the Catskills, relaxing and not thinking about any calling I start feeling a sense of anxiousness, I start feeling like I should be doing something to get this calling on the move, yet God is saying, “Relax, it is my plan, not yours, let me accomplish it in my own time. Right now let’s just enjoy our time together and not think about the complexities involved in fulfilling my plan, don’t jump ahead of me.”
So I begin another day of my silent retreat here in the Catskills, accomplishing absolutely nothing in fulfilling God’s plan in my life, just wasting another day. It is just God and I enjoying the moment. The future, well that will take care of itself. The only thing that is important is just this moment, God and I together, that is all that matters in this world.
God called me to the Catskills to prevent me from making the same mistake Jeremiah and my pastor friend made. We know we have a calling but we begin to deceive patah ourselves in trying to bring it about in our own way and in our own time. Jeremiah is there to remind me and you that such a move could put you right into a pit.