Today’s read was Jeremiah 37-38, in which our prophet experiences more rejection for his message. He is put in prison for many days until the king decides he wants another audience with him. I suppose Zedekiah thought if he asked Jeremiah enough times, perhaps the word from the Lord would change to his satisfaction! He kept hoping to hear good news, that the Lord was going to relent instead of Jeremiah’s assurance that the city would be overtaken.
There seems to be some respect for Jeremiah on Zedekiah’s part. He has Jeremiah moved from the dungeon to house arrest and directs the guards to give him a loaf of bread daily as long as it is available. Remember, the city is under siege, and famine has begun to set in. Jeremiah, even though he has been an obedient servant, is suffering along with the disobedient and rebellious people. The officials do not like Zedekiah’s leniency, and they kidnap Jeremiah and throw him into the bottom of a cistern, where he “sank down into the mud.” Thankfully, someone reports it to the king, and he is rescued and returned to house arrest in the courtyard of the guard.
Sometime later the king asked Jeremiah again for a word. Jeremiah repeats what he has been saying, encouraging the king to surrender so that he will not die. We see Jeremiah’s heart for his people, as he tells the king, “Please obey the Lord in what I am saying to you, that it may go well with you and you may live.” (38:20)
What would you say to people who harass you and mistreat you and even put you in prison, or throw you into a cistern and leave you to die? Would you care what happens to them? If Jeremiah had responded by human standards, he would have told them what they wanted to hear, that the Babylonians would not win, and that everything was going to turn out well for them in the end. Instead, he maintained the truth, even in the face of undeserved persecution, and not only did he tell them the truth, he told it with compassion, urging and pleading with them because he cared what happened to them.
What a great takeaway for us, as we face resistance in sharing truth from the Bible with our friends, neighbors, co-workers, and family. The gospel story is not good news until it is accepted and believed. It will be rejected, and people want to hear that they are going to be all right just as they are. The reality is, the compassionate thing to do is tell them the truth. Jesus is the only way to heaven; He is “the way, the truth and the life, and no one comes to the Father but through Him.” (John 14:6) If you know the truth, what are you willing to suffer to keep telling it? And if you don’t believe the truth, how much will you suffer before you are willing to accept it?