Jeremiah 38:1-28: God Imparts Courage To Those Who Have Faith

God Imparts Courage To Those Who Have Faith

Jeremiah 38:1-28                                                                               Kevin E. Jesmer

Key Verse 38:20                                                                                  3-25-18

“They will not hand you over,” Jeremiah replied. “Obey the Lord by doing what I tell you. Then it will go well with you, and your life will be spared.”

Dear Lord Jesus, thank you for your abundant grace on my life. I am blessed because of your presence with me. Help me to learn many truths from the Book of Jeremiah. Help me to discover guidance, hope, strength and inspiration in your words. Keep me grounded in your words. I pray in Jesus’ name. Amen!

Part 1: God Grants Courage To Act (1-13)

Verses 1-13, “Shephatiah son of Mattan, Gedaliah son of Pashhur, Jehukal son of Shelemiah, and Pashhur son of Malkijah heard what Jeremiah was telling all the people when he said, 2 “This is what the Lord says: ‘Whoever stays in this city will die by the sword, famine or plague, but whoever goes over to the Babylonians will live. They will escape with their lives; they will live.’ 3 And this is what the Lord says: ‘This city will certainly be given into the hands of the army of the king of Babylon, who will capture it.’”

4 Then the officials said to the king, “This man should be put to death. He is discouraging the soldiers who are left in this city, as well as all the people, by the things he is saying to them. This man is not seeking the good of these people but their ruin.”

5 “He is in your hands,” King Zedekiah answered. “The king can do nothing to oppose you.”

6 So they took Jeremiah and put him into the cistern of Malkijah, the king’s son, which was in the courtyard of the guard. They lowered Jeremiah by ropes into the cistern; it had no water in it, only mud, and Jeremiah sank down into the mud.

7 But Ebed-Melek, a Cushite, an official in the royal palace, heard that they had put Jeremiah into the cistern. While the king was sitting in the Benjamin Gate, 8 Ebed-Melek went out of the palace and said to him, 9 “My lord the king, these men have acted wickedly in all they have done to Jeremiah the prophet. They have thrown him into a cistern, where he will starve to death when there is no longer any bread in the city.”

10 Then the king commanded Ebed-Melek the Cushite, “Take thirty men from here with you and lift Jeremiah the prophet out of the cistern before he dies.”

11 So Ebed-Melek took the men with him and went to a room under the treasury in the palace. He took some old rags and worn-out clothes from there and let them down with ropes to Jeremiah in the cistern. 12 Ebed-Melek the Cushite said to Jeremiah, “Put these old rags and worn-out clothes under your arms to pad the ropes.” Jeremiah did so, 13 and they pulled him up with the ropes and lifted him out of the cistern. And Jeremiah remained in the courtyard of the guard.”

Jeremiah was faithful to his mission, preaching a very unpopular message that God had given him. He did not hold back. He spoke clearly and boldly of God’s way of salvation. He knew that there were those who were listening who would be very angry about his message. Angry enough to have him imprisoned and executed. But he placed all of his hope, faith and trust in God. God flooded his heart with courage. He stood there and preached God’s message to the people.

Jeremiah’s preaching sounded seditious to the officials. He advocated surrender to the Babylonians. He was not politically motivated. He only wanted the people to know the way by which they could be saved.  He was God’s servant and his message was God’s word of salvation for the nation.

But some officials felt that his message was doing damage to “the cause”. Look at verse 4 again, “Then the officials said to the king, ‘This man should be put to death. He is discouraging the soldiers who are left in this city, as well as all the people, by the things he is saying to them. This man is not seeking the good of these people but their ruin.’” They were determined to stop Jeremiah from preaching once and for all. Because of his unpopular message, they got permission from the king and Jeremiah was thrown in a large cistern and left to die.

I am really impressed by Jeremiah’s faith. I need this boldness to speak the truth and tell people the only way to be saved from sin, through faith in Jesus and his Gospel. It is the fear of rejection that stops us. We don’t want to be seen as extreme or intolerant. In some countries a preacher can be executed. It takes real faith to stand up as a servant of God. “Lord, grant me the faith and confidence to hold out the Gospel to a world that does not want it.”

Jeremiah was in a very tight situation to say the least. He was put into a cistern where he would die of starvation. He was facing a very prolonged death. I can’t even imagine the dread that he felt there at the bottom of the deep cistern.

But God still had plans for Jeremiah. God was going to work through him powerfully. Jeremiah may have thought that it was the end for him. But for God it was the beginning of a brand-new chapter in his life and ministry.

God sent someone to save Jeremiah. He was saved by a Cushite, Ebed-Melech, a man who feared God. Ebed could not accept the fact that Jeremiah was put away to die. God moved in his heart and planted faith and courage to go to the king and ask permission to pull Jeremiah up out of the cistern. God blessed this man’s efforts and a team of men padded some ropes and pulled Jeremiah out of the cistern. God rescued his servant. God is our faithful friend. We can entrust our lives to him. He can act in any situation to save us.

God chose to work through Ebed. He was a Cushite, a Gentile African. God worked through him, to save Jeremiah. God can work through anyone he chooses. Even today we need to open our eyes to see who God is working through. It could be an immigrant from a different race. This causes us to stop and consider how we should react to the present immigrant crisis we are experiencing in the USA.

There is one common denominator between Jeremiah and Ebed. They were not afraid to do the right thing in the face of opposition. Jeremiah was not afraid to preach before the officials. Ebed was not afraid the ask the king for permission to rescue Jeremiah even before the eyes of those who put him in the cistern.  Whether they were just courageous men, or God made them courageous, I don’t know. I would tend to say, God made them courageous and they acted in faith. I pray for the same courage to stand as a Christian in this generation.

Part 2: The Agony Of A Person Without God’s Courage (14-28)

Verses 14-28, “14 Then King Zedekiah sent for Jeremiah the prophet and had him brought to the third entrance to the temple of the Lord. “I am going to ask you something,” the king said to Jeremiah. “Do not hide anything from me.”

15 Jeremiah said to Zedekiah, “If I give you an answer, will you not kill me? Even if I did give you counsel, you would not listen to me.”

16 But King Zedekiah swore this oath secretly to Jeremiah: “As surely as the Lord lives, who has given us breath, I will neither kill you nor hand you over to those who want to kill you.”

17 Then Jeremiah said to Zedekiah, “This is what the Lord God Almighty, the God of Israel, says: ‘If you surrender to the officers of the king of Babylon, your life will be spared and this city will not be burned down; you and your family will live. 18 But if you will not surrender to the officers of the king of Babylon, this city will be given into the hands of the Babylonians and they will burn it down; you yourself will not escape from them.’”

19 King Zedekiah said to Jeremiah, “I am afraid of the Jews who have gone over to the Babylonians, for the Babylonians may hand me over to them and they will mistreat me.”

20 “They will not hand you over,” Jeremiah replied. “Obey the Lord by doing what I tell you. Then it will go well with you, and your life will be spared. 21 But if you refuse to surrender, this is what the Lord has revealed to me: 22 All the women left in the palace of the king of Judah will be brought out to the officials of the king of Babylon. Those women will say to you:

“‘They misled you and overcame you— those trusted friends of yours. Your feet are sunk in the mud;  your friends have deserted you.’

23 “All your wives and children will be brought out to the Babylonians. You yourself will not escape from their hands but will be captured by the king of Babylon; and this city will be burned down.”

24 Then Zedekiah said to Jeremiah, “Do not let anyone know about this conversation, or you may die. 25 If the officials hear that I talked with you, and they come to you and say, ‘Tell us what you said to the king and what the king said to you; do not hide it from us or we will kill you,’ 26 then tell them, ‘I was pleading with the king not to send me back to Jonathan’s house to die there.’”

27 All the officials did come to Jeremiah and question him, and he told them everything the king had ordered him to say. So they said no more to him, for no one had heard his conversation with the king. 28 And Jeremiah remained in the courtyard of the guard until the day Jerusalem was captured. This is how Jerusalem was taken:”

The king was overcome by a spirit of cowardice. You get a glimpse of this in the first part. When the officials came to ask permission to arrest Jeremiah, the king acquiesced and gave permission saying, “He is in your hands,” King Zedekiah answered. “The king can do nothing to oppose you.” (5). The king could do something to oppose them. He is the king. But he just failed to get involved. He allowed evil men to arrest and throw a man of God into a prison.

The king was scared again. And he acted out that fear. He called Jeremiah secretly and asked him what to do. Jeremiah again said, “Surrender, and your life and the city will be spared.” He was true to the original message. Jeremiah is acting in the courage that God gave him.

The king was afraid of the Jews that had gone over to the Babylonians. Maybe the ones that actually surrendered, would treat the king badly because he and his officials were arresting and beating anyone who tried to go over to the Babylonians.  He was in a difficult spot. He was afraid to surrender, and afraid not to surrender. He was afraid that someone would find out about his conversation with Jeremiah. This king was helpless. He was suffering, inwardly. The words written by William Shakespeare are true. “Cowards die a thousand deaths.” This king was dying a thousand deaths in his mind and heart.

We all need a large dose of courage from God. Lack of courage makes us suffer so much. “What about this? What about that?” It never ends. It leaves us impotent and useless…really.  The good thing is that we don’t have to conjure that courage up ourselves. We don’t have to be born with it. It comes from God. It is his gift to those who follow him in faith. Faith is the opposite of fear. “Lord, I have no courage. On my own I tend to sit on the fence. But, Lord, I pray that you may impart me with your courage so that I may serve you and follow you.”

Prayer: “Lord, I cannot walk in this world without your courage. Impart your courage in my heart so that I may serve you. “

One Word: With God’s courage we can serve him in the face of opposition.

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