Looking Down or Looking Up! Jeremiah 38:6

(All Scripture is from the New King James Version unless otherwise indicated)

No, that is not a rendering above of the prophet Jeremiah sunk in the mud! And that covering this man’s face and clothes is snow and ice, not mud! But, if you can imagine the white as brown, this is what Jeremiah must have looked like when he was in that muddy-bottom cistern – covered with muck and mud, and with an utterly defeated and weary look on his face!

Here is the verse that describes the prophet’s predicament, Jeremiah 38:6:

     So they took Jeremiah and cast him into the dungeon of 
     Machiah the king’s son, which was in the court of the 
     prison, and they let Jeremiah down with ropes. And in 
     the dungeon there was no water, but mire.  So Jeremiah 
     sank in the mire.

He’s called the weeping prophetbecause of so many tears he shed over the hardness of his fellow Jews’ unrepentant hearts! (see Jeremiah 9:1; 13:17; 14:17; 16:17; Lamentations 2:11). He must have also shed a few tears in the muddy-bottom cistern – tears for himself as well as those who would so reject God’s word and persecute His prophet!

He was called of God to be His prophet, the spokesman of אֵל שָ דַּי (El Shadai), the All-Powerful or Almighty God! And seeing that the LORD was All-Powerful and All-Mighty, Jeremiah had a choice: he could either look down, or he could look up!

  • If he looked down…
     ✡   ...he would see his beaten, bruised, and bloodied 
         body! It says in Jeremiah 38:4 that he was given 
         into the hands of...

              ...the princes [who] said to the king “...
              let this man be put to death, for...he weak-
              ens the hands of the men of war who remain 
              in this city, and the hands of all the peo-
              ple, by speaking such words to them. For 
              this man does not seek the welfare of this 
              people, but their harm.” 

And King Zedikiah caved to their appeal (see Jeremiah 38:5), for Jeremiah had been loudly telling his fellow Jews:

         “Thus says the LORD: ‘He who remains in this city 
         shall die by the sword, by famine, and by pesti-
         lence; but he who goes over to the Chaldeans shall 
         live....’ Thus says the LORD: ‘This city shall 
         surely be given into the hands of the king of 
         Babylon’s army, which shall take it.’” (Jeremiah 
         38:2, 3).

The princes knew Jeremiah would die in that cistern! That was their goal! So we can postulate that the prophet was soundly beaten before he was lowered into that muddy cistern!

     ✡   …he would see mud (mire)! How deep this mire was 
         we don’t know. It was deep enough for the prophet 
         to sink in, but not so deep that he couldn’t still 
         have the use of his hands (see Jeremiah 38:12). We 
         are just told, “…Jeremiah sank in the mire.” The 
         Hebrew word for mire is טיט (pronounced teet, and  
         meaning, “sticky…mud or clay), Strong’s Hebrew 
         Dictionary. The cistern was originally dug to hold 
         water, but apparently was now out of use. Such an 
         unused hole in the ground would be a convenient 
         place to dump garbage! So the mire into which Jer-
         emiah sank could very well have been a mixture of 
         mud and rotting garbage!
     ✡   ...he would see himself facing starvation and 
         death! He would starve because “...there [was]
         ...no more bread in the city.”(Jeremiah 39:9).  
         But, even if there was bread in the city, the 
         prophet’s enemies had no intention of giving 
         him any food!  Remember, they had said to the 
         king, “...let this man be put to death...” 
         (Jeremiah 38:4).  And the prophet’s stomach was


  • If he looked up…
     ✡   ...he would see a bit of blue sky, perhaps clouds, 
         or stars at night!  And he would also be reminded 
         of the God who created the sky, the clouds, and 
         the stars! (see Genesis 1:1-25).  

     ✡   ...he would be reminded that the highest creation 
         of God was human beings!  And they were precious 
         to Him, even being made in His very image! (see 
         Genesis 1:26-30).  Jeremiah, knowing the Hebrew 
         Scriptures, also might have recalled to mind Psalm 
         116:15, “Precious in the sight of the LORD is the 
         death of His saints.”  And as I pointed out at the 
         beginning, Jeremiah was the prophet of אֵל שָ דַּי (El 
         Shadai), the All-Powerful or Almighty God, who pro-
         mised to take care of him! (see Isaiah 46:3, 4).

     ✡   ...he would soon see God’s provision of rescue 
         in the person of “...Ebed-Melech the Ethiopian
         ...[who] spoke to the king, ‘...these men have 
         done evil...to Jeremiah...he is likely to die 
         from hunger in the place where he is....’” (Jer-
         emiah 38:8, 9). So this Ethiopian eunuch, with 
         the help of thirty men, rescued the prophet (see 
         Jeremiah 38:10-13). And “...Jeremiah remained in 
         the court of the prison until the day that Jeru-
         salem was taken.” (Jeremiah 38:28).

What does this all mean for us?

  • We can look down…
     ☹   ...and see the mess of our restricted lives in 
          the midst of this pandemic, counting those who 
          are sick and those who have died – some very 
          close to us! 

     ☹   ...and count the businesses that have failed and 
          are failing every day!  And this has become an 
          economic tragedy for so many owners and employees! 

     ☹   ...and be in fear of what it will mean that the 
          national debt is reaching 28 trillion dollars (at 
          the time of this writing), and increasing at a 
          rate of one million dollars every 23 seconds (one 
          billion dollars every six and a half hours, or 
          one trillion every 9 months!)

     ☹   ...and see the national division in politics, 
          race, and income, more of a divide and hatred 
          than we have ever seen in our lifetimes!

     ☹   ...and be frightened by the mob violence often 
          fomented by police brutality!

     ☹   ...and be scared of rising foreign powers, the 
          growing access to nuclear weapons, and the con-
          tinuing threat of terrorist activity!

…and on, and on, and on!


  • We can look up to God who…
     ✞   ...will be with us forever! (see Matthew 28:20; 
         Romans 8:35-39; Hebrews 13:5). 

     ✞   ...promises to provide for our needs! (see Psalm 
         33:18-21; Matthew 6:31-33; Philippians 4:19). 

     ✞   ...will see us through our troubles! (see John 16:

     ✞   ...strengthens us, and even carries us when we 
         feel we can no longer continue! (see Isaiah 40:
         28-30; 46:3, 4). 

     ✞   ...through the Apostle Paul tells us, I can do all
         things through Christ who strengthens me.” (Philip-
         pians 4:13). 

     ✞   ...has provided for us an indescribable place in 
         His eternal heaven! (see John 14:1-3; Romans 12: 
         I Corinthians 2:9; II Corinthians 12:4).

So, as Jesus said in Luke 21:28, “…look up, and lift up your heads, because your redemption draw near.

Look up, not down!