Now Shephatiah the son of Mattan, Gedaliah the son of Pashhur, Jucal the son of Shelemiah, and Pashhur the son of Malchiah heard the words that Jeremiah was saying to all the people: “Thus says the Lord: He who stays in this city shall die by the sword, by famine, and by pestilence, but he who goes out to the Chaldeans shall live. He shall have his life as a prize of war, and live. Thus says the Lord: This city shall surely be given into the hand of the army of the king of Babylon and be taken.” Then the officials said to the king, “Let this man be put to death, for he is weakening the hands of the soldiers who are left in this city, and the hands of all the people, by speaking such words to them. For this man is not seeking the welfare of this people, but their harm.” King Zedekiah said, “Behold, he is in your hands, for the king can do nothing against you.” So they took Jeremiah and cast him into the cistern of Malchiah, the king’s son, which was in the court of the guard, letting Jeremiah down by ropes. And there was no water in the cistern, but only mud, and Jeremiah sank in the mud. Jeremiah 38:1-6 ESV
Deliver me from my enemies, O my God;
protect me from those who rise up against me;
deliver me from those who work evil,
and save me from bloodthirsty men.
For behold, they lie in wait for my life;
fierce men stir up strife against me.
For no transgression or sin of mine, O Lord,
for no fault of mine, they run and make ready.
Awake, come to meet me, and see!
You, Lord God of hosts, are God of Israel.
Rouse yourself to punish all the nations;
spare none of those who treacherously plot evil. Psalm 59:1-5 ESV
In the United States, people who are in prison are sometimes put into what is called solitary confinement. This means that a person is put into a small cell by him or herself, and not allowed to come out or to see anyone except maybe for one hour a day for exercise or a shower. People in solitary confinement aren’t allowed to do the work that other prisoners do, or take classes, or even sometimes to read books or listen to the radio or watch TV. People are put into solitary confinement for a number of reasons, sometimes because they don’t behave well in prison, or sometimes because prison guards become angry with them and want to give them extra punishment. When people are kept in solitary confinement for a long time, they often have some terrible problems with their minds and with their health. Many people want to have prisons stop using solitary confinement or to cut down on its use.
When Jeremiah was in prison, many of the leaders of the people were very angry with him because of the way he kept saying that God’s judgment was falling on them and that Jerusalem would fall to the Babylonians. He had been saying that if people would surrender to Nebuchadnezzar’s army, they would live. Some powerful men decided that they wanted Jeremiah to be punished, and so they took him out of prison and lowered him with ropes into a cistern, which was a pit for storing water. The cistern was running dry, so there was only mud at the bottom, and Jeremiah sank into the mud. It was a way to give Jeremiah even more punishment than being in jail, but if they left him in the cistern for a long time he would have serious problems with his health and would probably die. Jeremiah suffered terribly because of his enemies who didn’t want to hear God’s words to them.
Jesus also suffered terribly because some people became angry with him and didn’t want to hear the words God had sent him to say. They had him beaten and whipped and put on a cross, where he died a horrible death. But God worked through Jesus’ suffering and death to bring us all back to himself. Because of Jesus, God forgives our sins every day and calls us his own people. If we ever suffer the way Jeremiah did because of our love and loyalty for Jesus, he will be with us to help us. The Lord will never leave us alone, but will keep us as his people now and forever.
Dear Heavenly Father, please help us when we are in trouble, and give us your strength and courage always. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.