There was a time in ministry to a church that my husband, the pastor, got very ill. I took him to the doctor who sent him right to the hospital for what was expected—a bad gall bladder that was going to have to be removed. While waiting for my husband’s surgery, I called the chairman of the board of the church to tell him what was going on so he could pray with us and have others pray with us. The chairman’s first response was, “So, he can’t preach Sunday?” “Do you know who can preach for him?” This response did not encourage me in my time of need. As a full time person in ministry myself, I did find someone to preach for them while I waited and watched over my husband in his time of need.
Sadly, I can take to heart the predicament of Jeremiah and understand how he must have felt when King Zedekiah brought him out of the dungeon where he was unfairly placed to ask, “So, is there a Message from God?” instead of “how are you and how are you doing?”
If you are in ministry now or in the past, I know you will understand. At times we do feel taken advantage of for who we are; but consider their perspective for a moment and be encouraged by the real truth of who you are in Jesus. Work hard, praying in Jesus Name, to avoid dwelling on the first responses from the people you serve. Think about it, while Babylonians are doing exactly what God told His people would happen, the people recognize Jeremiah as one who talks and listens to God.
Are we known as one who talks and listens to God? If we are, then praise God!
Jeremiah 37, The Message
In an Underground Dungeon
1-2 King Zedekiah son of Josiah, a puppet king set on the throne by Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon in the land of Judah, was now king in place of Jehoiachin son of Jehoiakim. But neither he nor his officials nor the people themselves paid a bit of attention to the Message God gave by Jeremiah the prophet.
3 However, King Zedekiah sent Jehucal son of Shelemiah, and Zephaniah the priest, son of Maaseiah, to Jeremiah the prophet, saying, “Pray for us—pray hard!—to the Master, our God.”
4-5 Jeremiah was still moving about freely among the people in those days. This was before he had been put in jail. Pharaoh’s army was marching up from Egypt. The Chaldeans fighting against Jerusalem heard that the Egyptians were coming and pulled back.
6-10 Then Jeremiah the prophet received this Message from God: “I, the God of Israel, want you to give this Message to the king of Judah, who has just sent you to me to find out what he should do. Tell him, ‘Get this: Pharaoh’s army, which is on its way to help you, isn’t going to stick it out. No sooner will they get here than they’ll leave and go home to Egypt. And then the Babylonians will come back and resume their attack, capture this city and burn it to the ground. I, God, am telling you: Don’t kid yourselves, reassuring one another, “The Babylonians will leave in a few days.” I tell you, they aren’t leaving. Why, even if you defeated the entire attacking Chaldean army and all that was left were a few wounded soldiers in their tents, the wounded would still do the job and burn this city to the ground.’”
* * *
11-13 When the Chaldean army pulled back from Jerusalem, Jeremiah left Jerusalem to go over to the territory of Benjamin to take care of some personal business. When he got to the Benjamin Gate, the officer on guard there, Irijah son of Shelemiah, son of Hananiah, grabbed Jeremiah the prophet, accusing him, “You’re deserting to the Chaldeans!”
14-16 “That’s a lie,” protested Jeremiah. “I wouldn’t think of deserting to the Chaldeans.”
But Irijah wouldn’t listen to him. He arrested him and took him to the police. The police were furious with Jeremiah. They beat him up and threw him into jail in the house of Jonathan the secretary of state. (They were using the house for a prison cell.) So Jeremiah entered an underground cell in a cistern turned into a dungeon. He stayed there a long time.
17 Later King Zedekiah had Jeremiah brought to him. The king questioned him privately, “Is there a Message from God?”
“There certainly is,” said Jeremiah. “You’re going to be turned over to the king of Babylon.”
18-20 Jeremiah continued speaking to King Zedekiah: “Can you tell me why you threw me into prison? What crime did I commit against you or your officials or this people? And tell me, whatever has become of your prophets who preached all those sermons saying that the king of Babylon would never attack you or this land? Listen to me, please, my master—my king! Please don’t send me back to that dungeon in the house of Jonathan the secretary. I’ll die there!”
21 So King Zedekiah ordered that Jeremiah be assigned to the courtyard of the palace guards. He was given a loaf of bread from Bakers’ Alley every day until all the bread in the city was gone. And that’s where Jeremiah remained—in the courtyard of the palace guards.
WHAT DO WE LEARN—HOW DO WE RESPOND?
Jeremiah was known and trusted as one who prays to God and God listens. What a high calling with great responsibility! He was known AND trusted for real, honest truth telling. Jeremiah’s messages from God were paramount to anything else Jeremiah did. Jeremiah teaches us in ministry today that God is the one and only we please. God is the one we go to first and continuously. God is the one who ultimately cares, provides, and protects us while making a way for us as we serve Him.
To abide in God and God in us while preaching and teaching the Good News of the salvation Jesus has provided for us it our top priority. Nothing else matters! I am humbled more by what God has given us to be, say and do than what people carelessly say and do to us. If we can think this way and really internalize this truth then we are maturing in His service.
Prophets down through the ages knew the cost of telling the truth and not being received well from truth telling. John, the Baptist, the prophet who “prepared the way” for our Lord and Savior, knew and understood this well. They were beaten, jailed, mocked, and used for others’ gain for power.
I laugh at the memory of my own personal experiences now and remember how plenty of friends outside the church along with our immediate family came to our aid. God takes care of his servants. He always has and always will.
Jesus was betrayed, stripped, humiliated, beaten and then hung on a cross for telling the Truth as well as dying for our sins, taking the punishment we should have had. So, any God messages in us? Absolutely, until the day Jesus bring us home, we tell His story of salvation for His glory and our gain of life forevermore with Him! Can I get an amen? Yes!
You encourage us today! You are so good at lifting our thoughts. Your Word is truly a light for my path and a source of seeing Truth rise above the darkness of the world. I’m yours. I will always be yours. Thank you for choosing me to serve in Your Kingdom. Thank you for opportunities to tell others about you, for that is the ultimate calling and commission from you. Continue to transform me to be all you created me to be then do.
In Jesus Name, For Your Glory, Amen