Endurance is not a common quality. Many people lack the long-term commitment, caring, and willingness that are vital to sticking with a task against all odds. But Jeremiah was a prophet who endured.
Jeremiah’s call by God teaches how intimately God knows us. He valued us before anyone else knew we would exist. He cared for us while we were in our mother’s womb. He planned our life while our body was still being formed. He values us more highly than we value ourselves.
Jeremiah had to depend on God’s love as he developed endurance. His audiences were usually antagonistic or apathetic to his messages. He was ignored; his life was often threatened. He saw both the excitement of a spiritual awakening and the sorrow of a national return to idolatry. With the exception of the good king Josiah, Jeremiah watched king after king ignore his warnings and lead the people away from God. He saw fellow prophets murdered. He himself was severely persecuted. Finally, he watched Judah’s defeat at the hands of the Babylonians.
Jeremiah responded to all this with God’s message and human tears. He felt firsthand God’s love for his people and the people’s rejection of that love. But even when he was angry with God and tempted to give up, Jeremiah knew he had to keep going. God had called him to endure. He expressed intense feelings but saw beyond the feelings to the God who was soon to execute justice but who afterward would show mercy.
It may be easy for us to identify with Jeremiah’s frustrations and discouragement, but we need to realize that this prophet’s life is also an encouragement to faithfulness.
Strengths and accomplishments
Wrote two Old Testaments books, Jeremiah and Lamentations
Ministered during the reigns of the last five kings of Judah
Was a catalyst for the great spiritual reformation under King Josiah
Acted as God’s faithful messenger in spite of many attempts on his life
Was so deeply sorrowful for the fallen condition of Judah that he earned the title “Weeping Prophet”
Lessons from his life
The majority opinion is not necessarily God’s will
Although punishment for sin is severe, there is hope in God’s mercy
God will not accept empty or insincere worship
Serving God does not guarantee earthly security
Relative: Father: Hilkiah
Contemporaries: Josiah, Jehoahaz, Jehoiakim, Jehoiachin, Zedekiah, Baruch
“O Sovereign Lord,’ I said, ‘I said, ‘I can’t speak for you! I’m too young!’ The Lord replied, ‘Don’t say, “I’m too young,” for you must go wherever I send you and say whatever I tell you. And don’t be afraid of the people, for I will be with you and will protect you. I, the Lord, have spoken!” (Jeremiah 1:6-8).
Jeremiah’s story is told in the book of Jeremiah. He is also mentioned in Ezra 1:1; Daniel 9:2; Matthew 2:17; 16:14; 27:9. See also 2 Chronicles 34-35 for the story of the spiritual revival under Josiah.
During one of the bleakest moments in Jeremiah’s life, God demonstrated his power by providing help from an unexpected source. Ebed-melech, a high-ranking African official in Zedekiah’s court, risked his career and perhaps his life to rescue Jeremiah from a muddy cistern. This unsung Ethiopian represents a crowd of quiet heroes throughout Bible history who showed real courage and character. He made the most of his position in life by using it to serve God.
Spineless King Zedekiah had agreed to let Jeremiah’s enemies arrange for the prophet’s death. Though he had previously consulted with Jeremiah and even arranged for less harsh imprisonment, Zedekiah wavered under pressure. When certain influential voices demanded Jeremiah’s life, Zedekiah offered no resistance. The plan involved lowering Jeremiah into an empty cistern and leaving him to die of starvation.
Ebed-melech’s response shows us a radical and almost reckless pursuit of justice. He appealed directly to the king who was holding court in a public place. His boldness prodded Zedekiah to reverse his previous decision. Ebed-melech took the king’s men, gathered the padding and ropes he would need, and hauled the shivering and slimy prophet out of the pit. The picture wasn’t pretty, but the mission succeeded. Jeremiah later had the privilege of informing his Ethiopian rescuer that God would keep him safe during the fall and destruction of Jerusalem.
In whatever place you find yourself in life, continually ask God to help you see and respond to needs that you are uniquely placed to meet. Like Ebed-melech, you may experience fear along the way. But better to fear and act anyway than to live with the disappointment that fear prevented you from serving God and his people.
Strengths and accomplishments
Took Jeremiah’s case before the king and secured his rescue
Organized the extraction of the prophet from the quagmire-filled cistern
Received God’s guarantee of safety during the Babylonian destruction of Jerusalem
Lessons from his life
The places we serve in life can often provide us with unique opportunities to serve God and his people
We can trust God and act in spite of our fear
God does not forget those who take a stand for him
One bold person’s actions may stem a tide of evil
Where: From Ethiopia, lived in Judah
Occupation: Palace official in Judah
Contemporaries: Jeremiah, Baruch, Zedekiah
“Because you trusted me, I will give you life as a reward. I will rescue you and keep you safe. I, the Lord, have spoken” (Jeremiah 39:18)
Ebed- melech’s story is told in Jeremiah 38-39.