Today’s reading: Jeremiah 35-37.
“I’ve been faithful to keep God’s word and obey his commands. How did I end up in prison?”
I don’t know if Jeremiah ever said anything like that. I wouldn’t be surprised if he thought it. Then again, he may have been wise and realistic enough to know ahead of time that prison was a likely outcome of voicing God’s judgment on Jerusalem. You and I don’t expect to be jailed for our faith, but in many parts of the world that is a common result. It became a repeated result for Jeremiah. One of the occasions happened during the reign of King Zedekiah. Jerusalem had been under siege by Babylon for some time, but Egypt began to threaten and the Babylonians left Jerusalem to face the Egyptians. During this interlude of peace, Jeremiah decided to visit his home town.
Jeremiah started to leave the city to go to the territory of Benjamin to get his share of the property among the people there. But when he reached the Benjamin Gate, the captain of the guard, whose name was Irijah son of Shelemiah, the son of Hananiah, arrested him and said, “You are deserting to the Babylonians!” “That’s not true!” Jeremiah said. “I am not deserting to the Babylonians.” But Irijah would not listen to him; instead, he arrested Jeremiah and brought him to the officials. They were angry with Jeremiah and had him beaten and imprisoned in the house of Jonathan the secretary, which they had made into a prison. Jeremiah was put into a vaulted cell in a dungeon, where he remained a long time. Jeremiah 37: 12-16
Look at the injustices Jeremiah suffered and notice how little things have changed today.
- Jeremiah was jailed on false charges.
- He was jailed because his captors were angry at him for speaking God’s judgment.
- He was physically abused.
- He was kept in prison a long time, presumably without trial.
All of this happened despite, or perhaps even because of, Jeremiah’s faithful proclamation of God’s word. And Jeremiah lived in a nation that professed belief in Jehovah! We should not be surprised at the abuse Christians are suffering around the world. Jesus warned it would happen. We may experience it in the United States before too much more time passes.
There is one prisoner for the faith I want to lift up before you today. His name is Saeed Abedini. He is Iranian-born, but also an American citizen, and he has been imprisoned in Iran for his work in expanding the Christian church there. This Friday, September 26, marks the second anniversary of his imprisonment. His wife has led an effort to hold prayer vigils across the U.S. and around the world, in support of Saeed, this Friday. Would you make an effort to find one near you and join in prayer for Saeed and all persecuted Christians? You can find a list of the prayer sites at this link.
“If you live in such a manner as to stand the test of the last judgment, you can depend upon it that the world will not speak well of you.” Alistair Begg
“When Christ calls a man, he bids him come and die.” Dietrich Bonhoeffer, The Cost of Discipleship
Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery trial when it comes upon you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you. But rejoice insofar as you share Christ’s sufferings, that you may also rejoice and be glad when his glory is revealed. If you are insulted for the name of Christ, you are blessed, because the Spirit of glory and of God rests upon you. I Peter 4:12-14
“Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” Matthew 5:10