Jeremiah has been speaking God’s words of judgment. Those who hear his words are not happy and make him a prisoner for it.
When we read about Jeremiah being in prison earlier, I assumed it was by order of the king. I suspected that Zedekiah has him put there. Today I learned different. It isn’t the king that commits Jeremiah to prison but it is one of the guards at the gate.
So, WHY is Jeremiah imprisoned? Not for the words he spoke but for trying to get to his ancestral homeland; to the land of Benjamin. Jeremiah was leaving the city because he KNEW it was going to be burned to the ground. The people still REFUSED God’s calls. The guard accused him of deserting to the enemy. And it didn’t matter how much Jeremiah protested his innocence or explained his actions.
Jeremiah didn’t only get thrown in prison but he was beaten first. The officials either believed the guard over Jeremiah or they saw a way to punish him for the words he shared. And this prison was abysmal! Who knows how many other ‘possible defectors’ were in there too.
I’m more inclined to think the guard and the officials figured they could shut Jeremiah up by putting him in prison. They may have believed Jeremiah would even change his prophecy when he saw his life threatened. Nope. Didn’t happen.
King Zedekiah KNEW where Jeremiah was, or he easily found out when asked about him. Jeremiah was brought out to stand before the king, not for punishment but for the hope that God had given him some new word to share. Is it possible that the king shared the opinion that Jeremiah would change his words after being in prison? Or was he genuinely hoping the Lord had spoken a new word to Jeremiah?
God had spoken. But the message hadn’t changed. Zedekiah would be taken to Babylon and Jerusalem would be in flames. Jeremiah could have lied and told the king what he wanted to hear, to protect himself. But he would NOT change a single word from the Lord.
After delivering this news to the king, Jeremiah entered a plea for his own life. “What have I done that is worth being imprisoned for? I have wronged no one! I have only shared the words God has given me concerning this place. PLEASE don’t send me back to that ‘hell hole’ of a prison for I will surely die there if you do.”
Something I hadn’t noticed before is that Jeremiah says the king put him in prison, not the officials or the guard. “What wrong have I done to you or your servants or this people, that you have put me in prison?” (verse 18b, emphasis added). Jeremiah blamed Zedekiah for his predicament and appealed to him for relief. I believe he knew that NOTHING happened without the king’s knowledge or approval. And Jeremiah was right.
King Zedekiah released Jeremiah from the abysmal prison but didn’t let him go free. Instead, Jeremiah was imprisoned in the court of the guards where he would remain until Jerusalem fell. Zedekiah also provided for Jeremiah. He made sure he was fed daily, until all the bread was gone from the city. It wasn’t a lavish meal but it was enough to sustain him and more than most had.
Thinking about Jeremiah’s situation revealed a couple of blessings that could have been missed. The first blessing is that Jeremiah was free to interact with anyone who came into the court of the guards. He would continue to urge the people to turn back to their Lord from this place. Who knows how many lives he touched!
The second blessing is that Jeremiah didn’t have to face the severe famine that the rest of the people did. The king set his rations and commanded that he be given them without fail. As long as there was still bread, Jeremiah received his portion of it.
Strange as it may seem, God took care of Jeremiah by having him in prison. I wonder if he would have had bread in the land of Benjamin if he had gone there. He certainly wouldn’t have had any more opportunities to speak with the king or be heard by the people of Jerusalem. God kept him right where He needed him to be by allowing man to have a hand in the process.
God sometimes does the same with us. Bringing us to places that we would rather not be so that we can reach those we wouldn’t otherwise be able to. He certainly brought Jesus and His disciples to uncomfortable places to reach even a single soul. The story of the man in the tombs and the pigs is one example that immediately comes to mind. For the sake of one man, He came. And who knows the influence, because of his testimony, that he had on the whole area!
Father God, I don’t always like the places I have to go but VERY FEW of them could be compared to the place where Jeremiah was sent. I’m sure You noticed I said “very few” instead of “none”. There were a few places I have been in that felt like a prison. They weren’t really prisons but they were where I needed to be at the time. They were places where I could be safe and learn from You. Thank You for being with me in those dark places. AND the not so dark places too! You NEVER lose sight of Your children.