‘Then the word of the Lord came to Jeremiah’ – we read this sentence time and time again throughout the book of Jeremiah. He was a prophet chosen by God to be one and so we are not taken by surprise when we come across those words.
But Jeremiah was after all a man, who although chosen by God, equipped and strengthened by Him to be His prophet (Jeremiah 1:9-10, 17-19), he experienced very human struggles, fears and emotions. The challenge to be strong and stay obedient to God despite the fear within when the people got hostile. The struggle to not despair and lean towards giving up when the people refuse to repent and continue to carry on in their idolatry. He did very much have his moments where he wanted to give up doing what God was asking of Him (Jeremiah 15).
Jeremiah was guided by God to proclaim that the nation of Judah would suffer famine, foreign conquest, plunder, and captivity in a land of strangers. His message of doom did not sit well with his hearers and as a consequence he underwent quite a lot of difficulties.
Jeremiah chapters 36 to 39 details some of the persecution Jeremiah faced. While we read through these four chapters, we can easily see Jeremiah’s suffering as a running thread through them.
In addition, what we also get to read is the consistency and continuity with which Jeremiah always communed with God.
There are at least six instances in these four chapters where we read that the word of the Lord came to Jeremiah.
Jeremiah 36:1 “In the fourth year of Jehoiakim son of Josiah king of Judah, this word came to Jeremiah from the Lord”
Jeremiah 36:27 “After the king burned the scroll containing the words that Baruch had written at Jeremiah’s dictation, the word of the Lord came to Jeremiah”
Jeremiah 37:6-7a “Then the word of the Lord came to Jeremiah the prophet”
The above mentioned three times that Jeremiah received a word from God was just prior to him being arrested and put in prison and although not yet in prison we read in chapter 36 that he hid so that King Jehoiakim could not arrest him. Let’s read on.
Jeremiah 37: 16-17 “Jeremiah was put into a vaulted cell in a dungeon, where he remained a long time. Then King Zedekiah sent for him and had him brought to the palace, where he asked him privately, “Is there any word from the Lord?” “Yes,” Jeremiah replied, “you will be delivered into the hands of the king of Babylon.”
Prior to this above verse, in verses 11-14, we get to know that he was falsely accused and arrested, beaten and put in the dungeon where he remained a long time. And in the dungeon, he continues communing with God and he receives a word from God for king Zedekiah.
In Jeremiah 38:6 we read that Jeremiah was put into a cistern “So they took Jeremiah and put him into the cistern of Malkijah, the king’s son, which was in the courtyard of the guard. They lowered Jeremiah by ropes into the cistern; it had no water in it, only mud, and Jeremiah sank down into the mud.”
He was later taken out of the cistern and placed in the courtyard of the guard, it was not as harsh a place as the dungeon and the cistern but he was still a prisoner.
We read on that King Zedekiah (Zedekiah was king now and he reigned in place of Jehoiachin, son of Jehoiakim, (Jeremiah 37:1)) seeks to know if there is a word from God and before Jeremiah speaks, he says in Jeremiah 38:15 “Jeremiah said to Zedekiah, if I give you an answer, will you not kill me? Even if I did give you counsel will you not listen to me.”
To which king Zedekiah swears an oath that he would not kill Jeremiah or hand him over to those that seek to do so (Jeremiah 38:16) and then Jeremiah shared God’s word with Zedekiah, Jeremiah 38:17 “Then Jeremiah said to Zedekiah, “This is what the Lord God Almighty, the God of Israel, says”
We get a clear picture that Jeremiah lived with a constant possibility of his life being taken. With such a possibility looming over him, he did not turn away from God or allow his circumstances to become a barrier in his time with God.
We read on in Jeremiah 39:15 “While Jeremiah had been confined in the courtyard of the guard, the word of the Lord came to him”
Be it the depths and darkness of the dungeon, the pit of the cistern or the guards prison, he receives God’s word and continues to be His servant, fulfilling his role and purpose as God’s prophet no matter the situation he found himself to be in. His communing with God was not dependent on his emotions and fears but instead continued despite them.
How did Jeremiah press through? – He cried out to God in his distress, allowing God to meet him where he was at and minister to him (Jeremiah 11:18-23,12:1-4, 15).
For us: May we take our emotions and our struggles to God, keeping our focus on God rather than the situation so that we remain tethered to His word, promises and the hope we have in Him. Our God is steadfast and faithful.
Is our devotion, worship and our hearts posture towards Him consistent through our own personal pits and prisons? Do we in all circumstances pursue Him, stay focused on Him and quiet our hearts and minds to hear from Him.
Through each and every situation Jeremiah faced, God continued to use him as a prophet. We are reminded that God can use every situation in our lives for His plans and purposes. May we be aware of that, and through every valley, fix our eyes on Jesus, pursue Him, seek to hear from Him and pray that we remain obedient, grow spiritually and can be used by God for His kingdom purposes.