“I am not a theologian or a scholar,” Elisabeth Elliot once said, “but I am very aware of the fact that pain is necessary to all of us. In my own life, I think I can honestly say that out of the deepest pain has come the strongest conviction of the presence of God and the love of God.”
Pain and suffering were a regular part of the life of Jeremiah. The timeframe in today’s reading is the same as April 19. The Babylonians had temporarily withdrawn from their siege of Jerusalem in order to fight the Egyptians (v. 11). Judah experienced a brief reprieve, during which Jeremiah planned to travel to his hometown care for family business (v. 12). At the city gate, however, he was falsely accused of deserting, arrested, beaten, and imprisoned (vv. 13–15). This might have been due to his unpopular prophecies and advice to surrender rather than resist (Jer. 21:9; see April 13).
King Zedekiah asked Jeremiah privately for a word from the Lord (vv. 16–17), which might have been an implied invitation for the prophet to change his message to gain his freedom. But God had not changed His mind, and Jeremiah remained faithful even under these circumstances. He boldly pointed out the injustice of his imprisonment— he’d committed no crime (vv. 18–19). The king didn’t release him, but perhaps out of guilt he transferred him to a better prison (vv. 20–21).
Suffering and persecution were a theme in Jeremiah’s life. For the true follower of God, suffering and persecution at the hands of the world are inevitable (John 15:18–21).
>> If you’d like to do further study on Jeremiah, we recommend Courage to Stand: Jeremiah’s Battle Plan for Pagan Times by Philip Graham Ryken. He’s also written Jeremiah and Lamentations: From Sorrow to Hope in the Preaching the Word commentary series.
Extended reading: Jeremiah 37–38
Lord, You warned us that we would face troubles in life. We pray that these trials will prove the genuineness of our faith, “of greater worth than gold,” for the praise, glory, and honor of Jesus Christ (1 Peter 1:6–7).