Jeremiah 37:11–17; 38:4–6, 14–18comment (0)
August 23, 2012
By Kenneth B.E. Roxburgh
Related Scripture: Jeremiah 37:11–17; 38:4–6, 14–18
Bible Studies for Life
Chair and Armstrong Professor of Religion, Samford University
Persevere in Obedience
Jeremiah 37:11–17; 38:4–6, 14–18
Popularity in ministry is not always a sure sign of God’s blessing. Sometimes we can become obsessed with having a larger and larger gathering of people in worship. Although this is often seen as a clear indicator of God’s blessing, it was not the case with people like Jeremiah or even the early Baptists in New England in the 17th century. They, like Jeremiah, knew what it was to experience rejection, persecution and loss of livelihood. Indeed, in Jeremiah’s case we only know of two people who continued to be his friends during his ministry: Baruch his scribe (36:14; 45:1–5) and Ebed-melech the Cushite (38:7–13; 39:15–18).
Persevere When Attacked (37:11–17)
Jeremiah, however, remained dutiful in his discipleship. In Jeremiah 37 we find him locked up in a prison and in the following chapter he is thrown into a cistern filled with mud and grime, all with the intention of tempting him to give up. He is even charged with treason — with attempting to leave the city and become a spy for the Babylonians. We see how Jeremiah will never give in to pressure to compromise when he is brought before the king and asked what the future holds. Without blinking an eye he replies, “You will be handed over to the Babylonians.” His honesty and integrity led the king to protect him from his enemies. It may not always be clear, but Jeremiah discovered that faithfulness to God is the best policy and that the grace of God will keep us safe.
Persevere When Others Waver (38:4–6)
One of the harder aspects of Jeremiah’s ministry was the loneliness he encountered. He often felt that he alone was true to his calling. Following a period of protection by the king, even Zedekiah gave in and allowed the prophet to be handed over to his enemies who dropped him into a cistern. The Scriptures tell us that the cistern “had no water in it, only mud, and Jeremiah sank down into the mud.” We can only imagine what thoughts were running through his mind and what fears and doubts were filling his heart since no words are recorded. His prayers to God are silently offered and, as in our situation, heard and answered by the One who rules over all things.
Persevere Through Obedience to God’s Word (38:14–18)
It only took the courage of one man — Ebed-melech, a Cushite, probably from the upper Nile region of Egypt and someone who was not even an Israelite — to speak courageously to the king and plead for Jeremiah’s life. It took 30 men to eventually lift him out of the mud and bring him to safety. Who knows what one word, spoken with courage and conviction, can do to bring about change.
Once again Jeremiah was brought before the king, and once again he refused to water down the message God had given him. The prophet knew that only if the king listened to and obeyed God’s message that came through him would judgment be averted. The whole passage reminds us once again that we are never to sugarcoat the message of the gospel. Furthermore, we must never expect everyone to respond positively to the message we proclaim. The nation did not listen to Jeremiah’s final message and the city fell to the Babylonians. Zedekiah had been offered hope by Jeremiah but he did not listen, and chapter 39 tells us that instead of experiencing mercy he saw his sons killed before he was led into captivity and blinded by the Babylonians.
There is nothing capricious or arbitrary about the holiness of God. He is never spiteful or vindictive. He is never unpredictable. His wrath is His settled, unremitting antagonism to evil in all its forms and manifestations. R.W. Dale, the British Congregational theologian of the 19th century, once said, “It is partly because sin does not provoke our own wrath, that we do not believe that sin provokes the wrath of God.”
Jeremiah had a full understanding of God’s character — His holiness, wrath and mercy — and he preached all aspects of this to his generation.