(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 prophet” because 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 growling!
- 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:
Romans 8:35-39; Hebrews 13:5
✞ ...promises to provide for our needs! (
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-
✞ ...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!