Peter Misselbrook's Blog
Aug 27 2019 - Jeremiah 38 – Jeremiah thrown into a pit

When the Lord called him to be his prophet – to speak the Lord's words to his people – he had told Jeremiah that his message would stir up opposition and trouble:

Today I have made you a fortified city, an iron pillar and a bronze wall to stand against the whole land – against the kings of Judah, its officials, its priests and the people of the land. They will fight against you but will not overcome you, for I am with you and will rescue you,’ declares the Lord. (Jeremiah 1:18-19)

Jeremiah's ministry provoked opposition, but the Lord promised to be with him and to look after him.

In our last reading king Jehoiakim, a puppet king appointed by Neco king of Egypt, tore up the scroll on which Jeremiah delivered the word of the Lord and burned it in his fire. He would have liked to lay his hands on Jeremiah, but the Lord protected him. We pick up the story today after Zedekiah had been installed as a similar puppet king, but now by Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon (see 37:1): If you will not worship and serve the living God you inevitably become prey to the powers that dominate this present world. The city had been besieged by the Babylonians but they suddenly left when Pharaoh's army marched towards them from Egypt (see 37:5). Babylon and Egypt were engaged in a power battle in which Judah and Jerusalem were caught in the middle.

After the Babylonians left, Jeremiah tried to leave the city but was arrested on suspicion of seeking to defect to the Babylonians. He was imprisoned in a "vaulted cell". After a lengthy period, King Zedekiah sent him a message asking, "Is there any word from the Lord?" Perhaps he hoped that Jeremiah would have a better message now that the besieging Babylonians had withdrawn. Jeremiah's message was uncompromising, "You will be delivered into the hands of the king of Babylon" (37:17), but he added a plea that he be let out of prison. Zedekiah ordered Jeremiah to be released but kept in the courtyard of the guard. This is where today's passage begins.

It was impossible to keep Jeremiah quiet. Now he was under a more lenient house arrest he kept telling all who would listen that the Babylonians would return to besiege the city and destroy it. People should leave the city now and even defect to the Babylonians otherwise they would die.

The king's officials wanted Jeremiah to be put to death and the king allowed them to do as they pleased with him. He was lowered into a well or cistern which had no water but only mud in the bottom – a sign that the city's resources were already running out. Jeremiah sank into the mud.

He must have thought that he would die there, but one of the royal officials, Ebed-Melek, pleaded for him with the king. With the assistance of about thirty men, a rope and some cloths, Jeremiah was hauled out of the cistern and restored to house arrest in the courtyard of the guard. The king again asked Jeremiah what counsel he had from the Lord. He was told he should surrender to the Babylonians so that his life and the lives of all of the court and the residents of Jerusalem might be spared. But Zedekiah failed to listen to Jeremiah. We will take up the sorry story tomorrow.

It is a dangerous thing to ignore the word of God. It is dangerous to ignore God's message of judgment – as King Zedekiah was soon to discover. It is equally dangerous to pay no attention to God's message of salvation – like the inhabitants of Jerusalem failing to turn to the Lord in repentance and prayer. The writer of the letter to the Hebrews tells us that the Lord Jesus is God's final word to us (Hebrews 1:1-2). He then says, "How shall we escape if we ignore so great a salvation?" (Hebrews 2:3).

Lord Jesus, you said that one of the marks of your disciples would be that they listen to your word and follow you. Help us to hear what you are saying to us through your word and by your Spirit and never to turn a deaf ear to you. Help us to be faithful in telling others of your great salvation and never tire of telling them even if they want to ignore what you have to say to them.

Peter Misselbrook