Magor-Missabib is a member of almost every Baptist church. He appears to be omnipresent. You will know him when you see him. He is a political opportunist who exists with the primary goal of hurting other people. He has developed to an art taking little truth content and twisting it into a bodacious untruth. He has few positive accomplishments and seems to cherish above all else his remarkable ability to disrupt, disturb, and destroy. Oh, yes, and you will find his story in Jeremiah 20. Pashhur the son of Immer, a priest in Israel, is his name in this passage. He resented Jeremiah. We cannot know why, but we could hazard a guess. Whenever someone wanted to know what God said, he had little interest in most of the priests, but everyone wanted to hear from Jeremiah of Anathoth. For whatever reason, Pashhur was one of those little men to whom the general public would listen for awhile.
Pashhur struck Jeremiah and had him bound in stocks. The next day, Pashhur brought Jeremiah out of the prison. The prophet had a Word from God. “You shall no longer be known as Pashhur but as Magor-Missabib,” which means, “terror on every side.” Magor-Missabib would be taken against his will as a captive to Babylon where he would die. Opposition to Jeremiah was not a salubrious long-term investment.
Another man named Pashhur arises in Jeremiah 21 and 38. He has the same name and the same game. We are not informed of how things panned out for him, but the assumption is that few, and especially not Jeremiah’s critics, fared well with the arrival of Nebuchadnezzar. Both of the men named Pashhur engendered a following among the confused and frightened Israelites. There are two lessons to learn from these accounts.
God’s people decline or prosper in direct relationship to the platform that they offer to men like Pashhur. Such characters are prominent throughout the Bible. He is Korah opposing Moses (Num 16). He is Shimei cursing David (2 Sam 16). He is Haman seeking the destruction of Mordecai (Esth 3). He is Judas betraying our Lord (Matt 26). He is Alexander the coppersmith attempting to cause trouble for Paul (2 Tim 4). God’s justice is seldom swift. But it is certain. God’s people can join Pashhur in his inevitable destruction, or they can heed and respond to Jeremiah’s prophecy.
Why does God’s judgement tarry? Consider the grace of God. While we might be moved to resent Pashhur, such is not the way of God who “is not willing that any should perish.” God’s longsuffering provides salvation to any who will repent. Can you honestly say that your preference for your enemies is that they be forgiven? Can you look beyond the prevarications disseminated against you, the hurt hammered into your family, the upheaval engendered in your church? Can you say with consummate trust in the goodness and justice of God that you love Pashhur and all who choose his way? Would you rejoice in their redemption more than in their destruction? In fact, can you be heart-broken over their destruction? Can you desire their redemption more than anything?
But, someone objects, Pashhur deserves God’s justice! You must not comprehend the hurt to Jeremiah. You do not adequately assess the damage Pashhur has inflicted upon the prophet by his misleading innuendos and narratives. This charge is to forget that you, too, deserve only the justice of God. It is to overlook that your own happy relationship with God is the result of the mercies and grace of God has poured out upon you.
The day has arrived for the church to stand for the Word of God and reject the counsel of Pashhur. But this courage must be infused with compassion for Pashhur, and the prayer in the hearts of you and me must be that Pashhur might be saved. This choice means to wait on the justice of God until every opportunity is extended to Pashhur to repent.