When Jeremiah had come to the dungeon cells and remained there many days, King Zedekiah sent for him and received him. The king questioned him secretly in his house and said, “Is there any word from the Lord?” Jeremiah said, “There is.” Then he said, “You shall be delivered into the hand of the king of Babylon.” Jeremiah also said to King Zedekiah, “What wrong have I done to you or your servants or this people, that you have put me in prison? Where are your prophets who prophesied to you, saying, ‘The king of Babylon will not come against you and against this land’? Now hear, please, O my lord the king: let my humble plea come before you and do not send me back to the house of Jonathan the secretary, lest I die there.” So King Zedekiah gave orders, and they committed Jeremiah to the court of the guard. And a loaf of bread was given him daily from the bakers’ street, until all the bread of the city was gone. So Jeremiah remained in the court of the guard. Jeremiah 37:16-21 ESV
Now there was a man of the Pharisees named Nicodemus, a ruler of the Jews. This man came to Jesus by night and said to him, “Rabbi, we know that you are a teacher come from God, for no one can do these signs that you do unless God is with him.” Jesus answered him, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God.” Nicodemus said to him, “How can a man be born when he is old? Can he enter a second time into his mother’s womb and be born?” Jesus answered, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God. That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit. Do not marvel that I said to you, ‘You must be born again.’ The wind blows where it wishes, and you hear its sound, but you do not know where it comes from or where it goes. So it is with everyone who is born of the Spirit.” John 3:1-8 ESV
Some years ago a man named Brother Andrew visited people and their churches in countries where Christians were persecuted. Many of them didn’t have Bibles, and his work was to secretly bring Bibles to them. When he visited Macedonia, the churches in the villages met after dark in the evening. People came to church by twos and threes so that they wouldn’t attract too much attention, and they carried their lamps low so that no one could see their faces. They knew that if they were recognized by other people they might be reported to the police. It could be dangerous to be known as a Christian or to be seen going to church, so they kept it as secret as they could.
Zedekiah was the king, but he was only a puppet king put on the throne by Nebuchadnezzar, and he was afraid of many things. He was afraid of the Babylonian army that was threatening Jerusalem and he was afraid of the powerful people in his little kingdom. He wanted to know what God’s word was in this difficult time, so he called for the prophet Jeremiah, but he kept their conversation a secret. The word from the Lord wasn’t good news for the king, but he knew it was the truth. He was kind to Jeremiah and, even though he kept the prophet as a prisoner, the king put him in a place where he wouldn’t be abused and made sure he was given bread to eat.
Nicodemus was a religious leader who came to Jesus by night because he was afraid that the other religious leaders would get angry with him for talking to Jesus. Jesus talked to him for a long time and taught him about new life in his kingdom. There are many times and places that people are afraid to come to God and hear his word openly, but God is kind and willing to speak to and bless people who come to him in secret, also. He has both bad news and good news for all people. The bad news is that all people deserve God’s punishment for their sins, and the good news is that Jesus came to die so that all our sins could be forgiven. Jesus stood alone against the forces of darkness and defeated them on the cross, and we can be sure that when times of darkness and fear come, we will never stand along. Jesus will always be with us to help us and give us courage in dangerous times.
Dear Jesus, please be with us and give us courage during difficult times. Amen
Brother Andrew God’s Smuggler London: Hodder & Stoughton, 1968.