Can You Imitate Jeremiah’s Endurance?
“Brothers, take as a pattern of the suffering of evil and the exercising of patience the prophets, who spoke in the name of Jehovah”—Jas. 5:10.
1, 2. Is there a formula by which one can be sure his life will turn out well? Explain.
HOW do you want your life to turn out? Certainly you hope it will have a happy outcome. You want your conduct to merit commendation and to be such that it is of value and results in real benefit to others. But life has many facets and vicissitudes. How can one be sure that one’s life will turn out right? Is there a formula for this that is sure and clear to follow?
2 The unnamed writer of the letter to the Hebrews, generally understood to be the apostle Paul, gives advice in this respect, saying: “Remember those who are taking the lead among you, who have spoken the word of God to you, and as you contemplate how their conduct turns out imitate their faith.”—Heb. 13:7.
3. Whose conduct can we contemplate with benefit?
3 It is as simple as that. Paul speaks here primarily of the apostles, who were taking the lead among the Christians at that time. Today we have men of like faith who have taken the lead among God’s people. So we can observe the faithful men today who take the lead among us, particularly those of the governing body of the “faithful and discreet slave.” (Matt. 24:45-47) In chapter eleven of Hebrews Paul had described the faith of the servants of God in Hebrew times and earlier as examples. We have, additionally, a complete written record of the pattern made by the faithful men of olden times by which to direct our conduct. Therefore, if our conduct does not turn out well it is certainly our own fault. We can make it turn out well if we really want it to.
4. How can we imitate Jeremiah’s faith?
4 Among those who have spoken the word of God to us is the prophet Jeremiah, not by direct speech, but as written in God’s Word “that through our endurance and through the comfort from the Scriptures we might have hope.” (Rom. 15:4) We have quite a complete record of Jeremiah’s life and conduct, which is one of outstanding endurance. If we take our course of conduct and check it against Jeremiah’s under the various circumstances that he faced, we can imitate his faith and achieve the endurance of Jeremiah, which is so much needed in our day.
5. Is following Jeremiah’s pattern of endurance following a man? Explain.
5 We will clearly see, by considering the matter, that Jehovah is the One who gives the qualities and strength to endure. We cannot endure by the guidance of our own wisdom or in our own strength. Neither could Jeremiah. (Jer. 17:9; Prov. 3:5, 6) So to follow Jeremiah’s pattern of faithful endurance is not to follow a man, but is actually an imitation of the faithful pattern of Jeremiah’s life that was produced by Jehovah’s dealings with him. Therefore, we must follow the pattern Jehovah gives and the sources of help he provides in order to endure.
6, 7. What, first, did Jeremiah do, to have courage to endure?
6 Do you have the courage to take up the preaching of the good news of the Kingdom to the people? Jeremiah’s task was very similar. And he did it. How?
7 At the very start he got a clear grasp of his commission. He had to know just what he was to do. Jehovah told him at the start: “See, I have commissioned you this day to be over the nations and over the kingdoms, in order to uproot and to pull down and to destroy and to tear down, to build and to plant.” Do all this! How? Not according to Jeremiah’s own reasonings or words, nor by philosophy or psychology nor by being a social reformer. Neither did he get authorization from the prophets and priests. No, Jehovah said: “Here I have put my words in your mouth,” and “everything that I shall command you, you should speak.”—Jer. 1:7, 9, 10.
8. What was Jeremiah’s first reaction on being called as a prophet, but what gave him courage to go ahead?
8 You may have said: “I like the message of Jehovah’s witnesses, but me—a preacher—never!” Well, Jeremiah at first objected when Jehovah informed him that he was to be a prophet. (Jer. 1:5, 6) Appointed over the nations! What a commission! Jeremiah was a young man at that time, but he felt like a mere boy. He felt absolutely unqualified, and here God told him he must speak to everyone to whom God would send him and, from Jehovah’s words, this evidently included kings. But now he knew he would be speaking God’s own words, and God, who sits so high above the nations that the inhabitants are as grasshoppers, could certainly make Jeremiah’s utterances come true. (Isa. 40:22) Jeremiah could be absolutely confident in everything that he said. What an incentive for endurance!
9. Why can we not excuse ourselves from preaching by saying that Jeremiah was different in that he was called as a prophet by Jehovah?
9 Now, someone may say, “Jeremiah was different from me. He was a prophet, called by God himself.” Is the commission of Jehovah’s witnesses any less definite? God gave Jeremiah his commission, not directly, but through an angel. But to Christians God has spoken by One far greater than angels, giving them their clear-cut commission. Yes, it is “by means of a Son, whom he appointed heir of all things.” “That is why it is necessary for us to pay more than the usual attention to the things heard by us.” (Heb. 1:2; 2:1) It is none other than the Son of God, who has been given the rod of authority over the nations, to “dash them to pieces” like an earthenware vessel, who has said to us: “Go therefore and make disciples of people of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the holy spirit, teaching them to observe all the things I have commanded you. And, look! I am with you all the days until the conclusion of the system of things,” and “this good news of the kingdom will be preached.” It is not our message, but God’s.—Ps. 2:9; Matt. 28:19, 20; 24:14.
10. Would it be easier for Jehovah’s witnesses to endure if they were inspired, as Jeremiah was?
10 Again, one may reply, “But Jeremiah was inspired.” True. Note, however, that the spirit of inspiration was not on Jeremiah at all times; it was only when Jehovah gave him specific messages to deliver. (Jer. 36:1, 2; 42:7) Nevertheless, he was a full-time prophet, going among the people all the time. (Jer. 37:4; 18:11; 7:2; 2:2; 11:2, 6) And besides being a prophet, Jeremiah had another job. He was a priest. (Jer. 1:1) With Jeremiah, as with us, he did not always have a spectacular assignment to perform, but it was an everyday matter of serving God, continuing throughout the daily routine of life. He could have turned away from his commission, becoming a dropout because of the attraction of a life of comfort or materialistic things. It would have been easy for Jeremiah to become weary in well-doing. He had to get up in the morning and be busy about his prophetic duties. He had to perform his priestly services, when on duty at the temple, under an overseer, perhaps one who did not like him. He had to put up with the corruption of his associate priests, their perversion of judgment through bribe-taking, their immorality, and their hatred of Jeremiah for condemning their ways.—Jer. 6:13.
11. How long did Jeremiah prophecy, and what other valuable contribution did he make?
11 Jeremiah’s endurance was lifelong. We must remember that he started prophesying as a young man in the thirteenth year of King Josiah, who began to reign in 659 B.C.E. From 647 B.C.E., then, until the fall of Jerusalem in 607 B.C.E., he continued without letup. (Jer. 25:3; 39:1) How many of us have spent more than forty years in the ministry? Also he devoted considerable time and energy to writing. Besides his scrolls of Jeremiah and Lamentations, Jeremiah is credited with writing the books of First and Second Kings. This required painstaking research, but how valuable it is to us!
12. What enabled Jeremiah to do his work wholeheartedly, and what empowered him to face his opponents without fear?
12 How did Jeremiah maintain a strong heart to perform his work daily, doing it well and without growing weary? Jehovah’s words and spirit sustained him, according to Jehovah’s promise: “I have made you today a fortified city and an iron pillar and copper walls against all the land, toward the kings of Judah, toward her princes, toward her priests and toward the people of the land.” That is why Jeremiah could “gird up [his] hips” and keep busy. Jeremiah knew that he was facing a life-or-death fight, but he also knew that he had the backing of the greatest power in the universe: “Do not be afraid because of their faces,” encouraged Jehovah, “do not be struck with any terror . . . they will be certain to fight against you, but they will not prevail against you, for ‘I am with you . . . to deliver you.’”—Jer. 1:8, 17-19.
ATTITUDE TOWARD COMMISSION
13. (a) Did sheer determination uphold Jeremiah’s endurance, or what? (b) Why did Jeremiah have compassion for the people?
13 It was not altogether courage by which Jeremiah endured, nor was it sheer determination, “gritting his teeth,” as it were. By a thorough understanding of his commission, he realized that his work was not solely destructive, declaring calamity to the nations. It was also to plant and to build up. That part was a joy and a pleasure to him. Determination by itself would not sustain him. He did his work with love and compassion for the people. Jeremiah knew that the people were like sheep with false shepherds. Prophets whom Jehovah had not sent nor spoken to claimed to represent Him and haughtily assumed authority over the people, causing them to misunderstand God and his ways and commands. On these prophets and on the priests a mountainous weight of blame rested, for Jehovah told Jeremiah: “If they had stood in my intimate group, then they would have made my people hear my own words, and they would have caused them to turn back from their bad way and from the badness of their dealings.” (Jer. 23:22) These men were actually the cause of all the trouble on the people. Instead of endurance in God’s way they had instilled in the people an “enduring unfaithfulness.” It became the “popular course.” (Jer. 8:5, 6) Do you see a parallel today?
14. What was it about Jeremiah’s preaching that appealed to sincere ones, and what was the core of Jeremiah’s endurance?
14 Jeremiah wanted the people to hear God’s words and live, not die in Jerusalem’s impending destruction. God had not given him superior understanding merely for his own salvation. It was in order that he could help other sincere ones. Jeremiah’s attitude was reflected in his preaching. Likewise today, people sense our attitude, whether it is just to get the preaching done or is out of love and a desire to help. It is the sincere, loving attitude that draws the “sheep” and that is the real core of our endurance, for, love “endures all things,” and “love never fails.”—1 Cor. 13:7, 8; Matt. 9:36; John 10:2-5.
15. Describe Jeremiah’s concern for the welfare of those to whom he preached.
15 Is your love as strong as Jeremiah’s? His concern for the people was so great that he actually wept over the calamity that was to come upon them. (Jer. 8:21 to 9:1; Luke 19:41-44) He did not let opposition embitter him. Even toward corrupt, cowardly King Zedekiah he was kind as well as respectful. In fact, after Zedekiah had treacherously turned him over to the princes who intended to put him to death, Jeremiah showed real concern for Zedekiah’s welfare, pleading with him to obey the voice of Jehovah in order to continue living.—Jer. 38:4, 5, 19-23.
16, 17. (a) If we weaken from meeting indifference, what can we consider to encourage us? (b) What emboldened Jeremiah to speak freely to the priests and leaders of the people who he knew would very likely oppose him all the more?
16 Does your endurance weaken a little when sometimes you call on those who do not want to hear, house after house? Then think, please, of Jeremiah standing, perhaps, on the Mount of Olives, looking across the Kidron Valley over Jerusalem, contemplating its high walls and the still higher situation of the magnificent temple, knowing that he, a puny man, had to cross the valley into the city. Then he had to call the priests and influential men of the city together at the gateway to the Valley of Hinnom and break an earthenware flask, telling them to their faces that that was the way Jehovah would smash Jerusalem, including their beautiful, imposing temple! Moreover, if Jehovah spared him to escape their wrath there, he was to go on up into the courtyard of the temple itself and declare the coming calamity to the priests, prophets and people.—Jer. 19:1, 2, 10, 11, 14, 15.
17 The common people might listen to Jeremiah. But those priests and leaders—little doubt but that they would only oppose his work more fiercely. What emboldened him to speak to those haughty men? Jeremiah saw the issue. He never lost sight of the fact that more was involved than his personal safety, even more than the lives of the people and the city of Jerusalem. He knew that the name of Jehovah was involved. The judgment against the nation was grievous. He felt sorrow over the degradation to which the Israelites had gone in false worship. Jerusalem was the city of the great King Jehovah God, and the kings of the line of David sat on “Jehovah’s throne” there. (Matt. 5:35; 1 Chron. 29:23) The people had gone so far from the true God that they had set up carved images to insult Him by burning their sons and daughters in sacrifice.—Jer. 7:31.
18. As Jeremiah looked down on the city of Jerusalem, what deplorable sight did he behold, and did he adopt a superior or self-righteous attitude because of this?
18 Jeremiah could see, as he looked down on the rooftops of the city, columns of sacrificial smoke going up and the people, particularly the women, offering up sacrificial cakes and drink offerings to the “queen of the heavens.” This was the detestable sight that Jehovah had to look upon every day. The city that stood for His name, insulting him to the limit! Jeremiah marveled at Jehovah’s long-suffering. He was forced to say, “Surely they are of low class.” (Jer. 5:4; 19:13; 44:15-19; 18:13) Even then, Jeremiah took on himself a share of the displeasure of Jehovah on the nation, saying: “We do acknowledge, O Jehovah, our wickedness, the error of our forefathers, for we have sinned against you. Do not disrespect us for the sake of your name; do not despise your glorious throne.” (Jer. 14:20, 21) He did not have a “holier-than-thou” attitude, but was grateful for Jehovah’s undeserved kindness in using him to help others.
19, 20. How is an understanding of the issue of the sanctification of Jehovah’s name important for us today, and what did Jeremiah say on the subject that encourages us?
19 The understanding of the issue should be a powerful motivating force to Christians today, at a time when clergymen are saying “God is dead,” and turning the people to the idol gods of evolution, nationalism, science and philosophy. For just such a reason Jeremiah wrote, and it strengthens our endurance today:
20 “In no way is there anyone like you, O Jehovah. You are great, and your name is great in mightiness. Who should not fear you, O King of the nations, for to you it is fitting; because among all the wise ones of the nations and among all their kingships there is in no way anyone like you. And at one and the same time they prove to be unreasoning and stupid. . . . But Jehovah is in truth God. He is the living God and the King to time indefinite. Because of his indignation the earth will rock, and no nations will hold up under his denunciation. This is what you men will say to them: ‘The gods that did not make the very heavens and the earth are the ones who will perish from the earth and from under these heavens.’ He is the Maker of the earth by his power, the One firmly establishing the productive land by his wisdom, and the One who by his understanding stretched out the heavens.”—Jer. 10:6-8, 10-13.
21, 22. (a) Was Jeremiah a “superman,” so that ridicule and persecution did not disturb him? (b) What happened to him after he had carried out his mission to break the flask before the priests and older men? (c) What was Jeremiah’s reaction after this, but what did he then do, and what impelled him to continue preaching?
21 Do you at times become discouraged over many rebuffs? Follow Jeremiah’s example for comfort and encouragement. Keep in mind the words of Jesus’ half brother James: “Elijah [the prophet, like Jeremiah] was a man with feelings like ours.” (Jas. 5:17) So just as we are today, Jeremiah was an imperfect man, living among imperfect people, most of whom opposed the truth. Right after the flask-breaking incident Jeremiah suffered the greatest indignities. Not only was his message as delivered in the name of Jehovah ignored, but, symbolic of the greatest disrespect, he was struck by the temple commissioner! This striking may have been a beating with rods, administered at the temple commissioner’s orders. With such a high official taking the lead, the people no doubt felt free to heap jeers, ridicule and abuse on him to their satisfaction. They too may have struck him and spit on him, egged on by the prophets and priests who hated Jeremiah. Then, as if he, Jehovah’s representative, were a criminal, he was put into the stocks. (Jer. 20:1-3) These were probably inside a room or cell at the gate.—Compare 2 Chronicles 16:10; Acts 16:24.
22 The Hebrew word for “stocks” means “twisted, distorted.” They forced a person into a cramped, unnatural posture. After such a night Jeremiah would be bruised and terribly cramped and exhausted, and his spirits were low. He even went so far as to say: “I am not going to make mention of him, and I shall speak no more in his name.” But he did not forsake calling to God for help. In prayer to Jehovah he recounted that he knew that he had been a cause for reproach and jeering because of Jehovah’s name and word and that everywhere there were people talking bad about him, looking for him to make a mistake so that they could get rid of him. In fact, he might easily have died at the people’s hands on that very day. But he saw how Jehovah had been with him as a righteous Judge and Deliverer, and with contentment he rested his case in Jehovah’s hands. And he found it much easier to endure the reproach and suffering than to endure the pressure of Jehovah’s word within him, which impelled him to speak: “In my heart it proved to be like a burning fire shut up in my bones; and I got tired of holding in, and I was unable to endure it.” Has not Jehovah likewise delivered his people in modern times and infused them with zeal by means of his Word and spirit? The history of Jehovah’s witnesses as well as our own personal experiences so testify. (Jer. 20:9-12) Is one not happier enduring reproach than suffering the chastisement of a good conscience trained in Jehovah’s Word?
23. (a) When Jeremiah asked why the wicked prosper, what answer did he get? (b) What lesson should we learn from this, and what truth about God should we keep in mind?
23 At one time Jeremiah asked: “Why is it that the way of wicked ones is what has succeeded, that all those who are committing treachery are the unworried ones? . . . They keep going ahead; they have also produced fruit. You are near in their mouth, but far away from their kidneys [seat of emotion or feeling].” Jeremiah got his answer. Jehovah revealed that he was not with such ones and that he would uproot them from off their ground. Likewise, our endurance rests on the appreciation that Jehovah is also enduring and long-suffering, but that he is watching and he will execute his judgments against those who continue a bad course. Consequently, we should not lose our equilibrium because of others who seem to prosper in a wicked way of life, even if they should make showy claims of serving God. One who wants to please God must realize that God not only is, but that “he becomes the rewarder of those earnestly seeking him.” Endure, and you will be rewarded.—Jer. 12:1, 2, 12-14; Ps. 37:7-9; Heb. 11:6; Gal. 6:9.
24. (a) What should we take into consideration when we read some of the things Jeremiah said when temporarily discouraged? (b) What should we realize when we come into adversity?
24 We should keep in mind the long time period during which Jeremiah served. Then we can understand why he made later statements, such as, “Cursed be the day on which I was born!” If one of us was arrested, beaten, thrown into stocks, arrested again and again, spent several terms in prison, heard ridicule and threats continually, well, we might, over a period of years, utter some fairly bitter complaints. But Jeremiah never charged God with wrongdoing. He realized his insignificance and knew that Jehovah understood his heart in union with Him and had empathy for him. (Jer. 20:14-18; 12:3) It should strengthen us when really discouraging circumstances seem to engulf us. For it was not Jeremiah, but Jehovah who was using Jeremiah, who held him up and invigorated him. It shows that if Jehovah chooses to let us come into adversity he has a purpose in it and, while we may suffer some and wonder why, Jehovah takes the responsibility to give us the added strength to come through with greater happiness afterward.
25. How does Jeremiah’s example help us to see the need of obedience in seemingly insignificant things?
25 At times our willing, quick obedience may be tested. Are we willing to take the time and expend the energy to do something that seems to be a relatively insignificant thing? Perhaps it is calling on scattered addresses of persons who were not home on previous calls. Or it may be making a return visit on those who merely took a magazine. It may be a matter of exerting ourselves regularly to hold a Bible study, or to call on persons needing help. Jeremiah might have complained at the long trip and the seeming insignificance of the matter when he was commanded to take a linen belt to the Euphrates River, a trip of about 300 miles one way, and to hide the belt in the cleft of a crag. Then, after some time he was directed to go back and get it. It was, of course, ruined. ‘Why all this for a mere belt?’ he might have asked. But, instead, he obeyed, and it provided strong testimony and a living picture of Jehovah’s long-suffering with Israel and Judah. It impressed the observers with Jehovah’s determination at last to bring to ruin his nation that he had worn about his hips like a belt for a praise and something beautiful to him, but which had become stubborn and idolatrous.—Jer. 13:1-11.
26, 27. (a) How do some display a weakening of endurance? (b) How does Jeremiah set a pattern for us on this important matter, and how should we view it?
26 Some dedicated witnesses of Jehovah have sought close companionship with those not dedicated and have even become married to unbelievers. The usual excuse for thus ignoring Jehovah’s Word on the matter has been, ‘There’s nobody of my age in the congregation who is eligible.’ Knowing as we do the danger of this course, we recognize in such reasoning a weakening of endurance. Jeremiah’s example helps us also in this respect. In ancient Israel the motivation to marry was in some respects stronger than it is in our present time. Not only was there the same natural desire, but land inheritance and family name were very highly regarded, and the failure to bring forth heirs was considered a calamity. (Deut. 25:5, 6; 1 Sam. 1:5-11) Nevertheless, Jeremiah was given the following command by Jehovah: “You must not take for yourself a wife, and you must not come to have sons and daughters in this place.” Not only, ‘Do not marry an unbeliever,’ but, ‘Do not marry at all!’—Jer. 16:1, 2.
27 Jehovah had his reasons for the command, and he explained them to Jeremiah. Those who would be born at that critical time in Jerusalem’s history would be brought forth only for calamity. Soon Jerusalem would be destroyed and their children would die. Jeremiah obeyed, counting Jehovah’s service and his word of greater importance than even the matter of marriage. He believed Jehovah. In turn, Jehovah strengthened him to endure with a happy outcome. (Jer. 16:3, 4) Living in a much more urgent time than Jeremiah’s, should we not show endurance by obeying Jehovah’s Word, if marrying, to marry “only in the Lord”? Is it not better to wait, if necessary, for Jehovah to provide the things that he knows we individually need for endurance rather than displease him? Consider what Jehovah said to David at 2 Samuel 12:7-9.
28. (a) What associations did Jeremiah value and find? (b) What association was most pleasurable of all, and with what fine company does Jehovah associate Jeremiah?
28 In the matter of associations, Jeremiah watched himself. Primarily, he valued Jehovah’s word. It was his delight and exultation, and it kept him in close association with Jehovah. (Jer. 15:16) To maintain that close relationship with God he avoided association with those who had no interest in Jehovah’s worship and who did not listen to his word so as to appreciate the seriousness of the time in which they were living. (Jer. 15:17) Nevertheless, in spite of the many haters of Jehovah, Jeremiah found good human associates. He had his faithful secretary Baruch. He had some who listened to him, including Ebed-melech the Ethiopian, who saved Jeremiah from the miry cistern. For this Jeremiah had the happy privilege of giving Ebed-melech Jehovah’s promise of safety through Jerusalem’s destruction. Jeremiah found the Rechabites faithful under test, putting to shame the inhabitants of Jerusalem. (Jer. 35:1-19) So while Jeremiah did not have what the Israelites living a “normal life” would consider pleasure, yet he had that most valuable and pleasurable thing, insight and the knowledge of Jehovah, which is actually the greatest joy possible. (Jer. 9:23, 24; 1 Cor. 1:31) And for his faithfulness Jehovah associates him with that great “cloud of witnesses” for whom He has prepared a “city,” his Kingdom government. Jehovah places him among those whose faith we can imitate.—Jer. 36:4-8; 38:7-13; 39:15-18; Heb. 12:1; 11:16.
29. What things did Jeremiah experience that make him a “pattern of the suffering of evil”?
29 Not all of Jehovah’s witnesses have undergone physical suffering for the truth, but many have, some going as far as death. Jeremiah was one that James referred to when he said: “Take as a pattern of the suffering of evil and the exercising of patience the prophets, who spoke in the name of Jehovah.” (Jas. 5:10) Jeremiah was threatened with death by the men in his hometown Anathoth (Jer. 11:21), struck and put in stocks overnight by Pashhur the temple commissioner (Jer. 20:2, 3), seized by the mob of priests, false prophets and the people in the temple and threatened with death. (Jer. 26:8-11) He was held in restraint in the Courtyard of the Guard (Jer. 32:2; 33:1), arrested on the charge of falling away to the Chaldeans when he left Jerusalem to go to his home in the territory of Benjamin; on this occasion the princes struck him and put him into the house of fetters for many days; he had to appeal to the king to avoid dying there; even then he was put in custody in the Courtyard of the Guard. (Jer. 37:11-16, 20, 21) Later he was turned over by King Zedekiah to the princes, who sought to put Jeremiah to death by lowering him into a miry cistern.—Jer. 38:4-13.
30. How did Jeremiah feel at the time when Nebuchadnezzar’s bodyguard led the captives out of Jerusalem?
30 Besides all this, Jeremiah endured the hardships of the Babylonian siege as did the other inhabitants of Jerusalem, good and bad. Finally he was released and his handcuffs removed by the captain of Nebuchadnezzar’s bodyguard at the order of the high Babylonian officials now in charge of the city. Jeremiah loved those people who were now being so miserably mistreated and, more than that, he was so ashamed at the reproach on Jehovah’s name. To think that God’s own house, the temple, and God’s own throne and his name people were besmirched and trampled under the unclean feet of God’s ancient enemy Babylon and the worshipers of the demon god Merodach! He seemed to feel that he ought to go on into exile and suffer with the whole nation, so great was the reproach and disgrace.—Jer. 40:1-5.
31. (a) How did Jehovah show his love even when giving Israel into exile? (b) What happy hope did Jeremiah have at this time?
31 Where did Jeremiah get such love? From Jehovah his God. For Jehovah was full of undeserved kindness in not turning completely away from his people, revealing through Jeremiah that he had not forgotten his covenant nor diminished in his love for his faithful servants Abraham, Isaac, Jacob and David. In this dark day of Israel’s history Jeremiah had a happy hope, for God had inspired him to prophesy a restoration of Israel to Jehovah’s favor after seventy years and, farther into the future than he may have realized, to foretell the making of a new covenant with spiritual Israel.—Jer. 31:31-34.
32. For what reasons was Jeremiah more and more in need of protection as Jerusalem approached her end?
32 Consider now Jehovah’s marvelous maneuverings in protecting Jeremiah. The odds were great against him, especially so as Jerusalem got sicker and sicker until finally the city was desperate due to the siege conditions brought by Nebuchadnezzar. The priests and prophets were Jeremiah’s deadly enemies. The princes, nationalistic in spirit, for the most part hated him, looking on him as unpatriotic and seditious. And one of the most dangerous things that Jeremiah did was to affect the riches of the wealthy and influential ones when he told them to let their Hebrew servants go free, according to God’s law. They at first obeyed, even concluding a covenant in the temple of Jehovah, hypocritically, of course, for when the danger to their city seemed past and they did not think they needed to appeal to Jehovah for help, they broke their covenant and took their Hebrew brothers back into bondage. For this Jeremiah told them that they would be given liberty to the sword, the pestilence and the famine.—Jer. 34:8-22.
33. Why did Jeremiah never feel aloneness, and how did Jehovah show himself close to Jeremiah in everything?
33 Now, as you consider each of Jeremiah’s deliverances, remember that Jehovah is the living God with the same power and care over his people today. In Jeremiah’s trials Jehovah was so close to him that when Jeremiah held to his integrity, Jehovah did not forsake him. Never did he abandon Jeremiah to suffer trials or temptations by himself so that he was not able to bear them. (1 Cor. 10:13) Never did Jeremiah have cause to feel aloneness. Just at the time when Jeremiah needed it most, Jehovah put some fear into Jeremiah’s enemies, some qualm of conscience in those who still had respect for God’s law, or brought forth some right-minded individual, besides using direct angelic protection, as during Jerusalem’s destruction. And now, note in the following enumerated instances, that the margin often seemed to be very narrow, testing Jeremiah’s endurance severely, but the full security of Jehovah was there, nonetheless.
34. What did Jeremiah’s enemies know that held them back, and how have Jehovah’s witnesses been similarly protected?
34 (1) The soulful desire of Jeremiah’s priestly enemies was to kill him, to get him out of the way. But they knew that he spoke Jehovah’s word (in itself a great protection), so they said “Peace!” to him but were watching for him to make the least slip so that they would have a way that they could take revenge on him, still making it look legal. But Jehovah guided him carefully and skillfully, like a “terrible mighty one.” (Jer. 20:10, 11) It makes us think of Jehovah’s guidance of his people by means of his “faithful and discreet slave” in our time. Jehovah’s witnesses’ speaking the truth at all times has disarmed their enemies, keeping them at their wits’ end to find some way to stop the work without violating the laws they use to hold their own society together.
35. What instrument did Jehovah use to protect Jeremiah when he was about to be killed in the temple by the priests and people?
35 (2) Early in King Jehoiakim’s reign Jeremiah was about to be killed by the priests and prophets and their followers, but Jehovah turned the fearful situation into an opportunity for Jeremiah to defend and legally establish his preaching. On this occasion it was the mature reasoning of certain older men of Judah that Jehovah provided to come to his defense. They cited past examples of Jehovah’s dealings, with the result that powerful prince Ahikam stepped in to shield Jeremiah.—Jer. 26:7-24.
36. How did Jehovah rescue him from death in the house of fetters?
36 (3) Jeremiah was imprisoned many days in the house of fetters and would not have lived much longer, but he appealed to King Zedekiah, who, contrary to his unscrupulous, cowardly personality, commanded that Jeremiah be brought into the Courtyard of the Guard, where bread was given him daily. Why would Zedekiah do this? Jehovah’s care for Jeremiah is the only answer.—Jer. 37:18-21.
37. Who became his protection when King Jehoiakim sought to kill him?
37 (4) When Jeremiah and his secretary Baruch were in danger of death from King Jehoiakim after the king had burned Jeremiah’s scroll, Jehoiakim’s men searched for them fruitlessly. The princes had warned them to hide before the scroll was read. But whether the friendly princes continued to help them to hide or not, it was actually Jehovah’s protection, for the record reads: “Jehovah kept them concealed.”—Jer. 36:19-26.
38. What means did Jehovah employ when Jeremiah would have died in the cistern?
38 (5) It was Ebed-melech the Ethiopian, a man of right heart, whom Jehovah prompted to action to deliver Jeremiah from death in the miry cistern. Ebed-melech took thirty men with him because it was a dangerous thing to come to Jeremiah’s assistance. Ebed-melech needed them to block Jeremiah’s enemies from preventing his rescue. And it was none other than Zedekiah who authorized it. Again, was it through Zedekiah’s love for Jeremiah? We can confidently answer, No.—Jer. 38:7-13.
39. How was Jehovah’s hand clearly evident in Jeremiah’s release by the captain of Nebuchadnezzar’s guard?
39 (6) Nebuchadnezzar, world ruler, worshiper of the god Merodach, king of Babylon the longtime enemy of Jerusalem, was moved to command Nebuzar-adan, the captain of his guard, to see that no harm came to Jeremiah! Why? Because Jeremiah had been true in speaking Jehovah’s word, and Jehovah, who can maneuver kings and who does “according to his own will among the army of the heavens and the inhabitants of the earth,” was by his side.—Jer. 39:11-14; 40:1-5; Dan. 4:35.
40. (a) By what means did Jeremiah escape with his life through the siege, fall and destruction of Jerusalem? (b) How did Jehovah show then that he remembered his covenants?
40 (7) Through the terrible destruction of Jerusalem, with no food left in the city, some reduced to the piteous state of eating their own children, the walls finally breached, Jerusalem’s inhabitants slaughtered, King Zedekiah’s own sons killed before his eyes, which were then put out, and the captives led out in chains, Jeremiah survived. (Jer. 19:9; 39:6-9; 52:10, 11) Jehovah’s angels had protected him. Outside the burning city, with the screams of those whom the Babylonians had impaled ringing in his ears, Jeremiah could thank Jehovah for doing what would have been impossible for men to do. He was alive; Baruch had been spared; Ebed-melech was a survivor; honest-hearted Rechabites too were among the living captives. (Jer. 39:16-18; 35:17-19; 45:2, 5) God remembered his covenants with Abraham and David, so that he allowed Jeconiah the son of Jehoiakim (taken to Babylon ten years earlier) to live and become an ancestor of the foster father of Jesus Christ, thereby providing him with the legal inheritance of the throne of David, and he preserved Jehozadak of the high-priestly line of Eleazar and Phinehas.—Jer. 52:31-34; Matt. 1:11, 16; 1 Chron. 6:1-15.
41. After the fall of Jerusalem, why did Jeremiah still need the quality of endurance?
41 Furthermore, after all this, Jeremiah’s prophecies were still not heeded by the few Israelites left in the land by Nebuchadnezzar. Jeremiah was forcibly taken to Egypt. Here he continued to endure, not giving up his prophesying. It still took courage, because he had to declare that they would suffer calamity for trusting in the king of Egypt rather than Jehovah.—Jer. 43:8-10; 44:1, 28, 29.
42. What was one of the very hardest of all the things Jeremiah endured?
42 A thing outstanding about Jeremiah’s endurance was that he experienced Jehovah’s displeasure on Jehovah’s earthly organization. That organization was taken away into exile, its members to become slaves. No longer did Jehovah have a free, independent earthly organization representing him. The city and kingdom that had long been a praise to his name were no more. The kings of the line of David were deposed. (Ezek. 21:25-27) No longer was Mount Zion “the exultation of the whole earth” and a praise to Jehovah’s name, but it was now actually a reproach. (Ps. 48:2; Lam. 1:1, 8) Jeremiah knew that restoration was seventy years away, and that would be long past his life-span. Even this did not ruin Jeremiah’s endurance.—Jer. 25:11, 12.
43. Will Jehovah’s witnesses be faced with the breaking up of Jehovah’s organization as it was with Jeremiah? Explain.
43 Today we do not have to endure such a crushing thing. Jehovah’s organization of his people is unified, enjoying Jehovah’s favor and expressions of his pleasure, and never will it be defeated, nor cast off as displeasing to God. (Isa. 54:7-15) No matter whether we are able to associate regularly with members of the organization and have direct contact with headquarters, or are completely isolated geographically or by reason of persecution, yes, even imprisoned in solitary confinement, we know that God’s organization is still functioning, still praising his name. This makes it much easier to endure.
44. Have Jehovah’s witnesses of modern times undergone a period of similar captivity? Why? And what about the future?
44 Some of the brothers living today did indeed pass through a time, during 1914-1918, when Jehovah was displeased and did allow his organization to undergo captivity to Babylon the Great. Then it was certainly a matter of endurance under heavy stress. The praise given to Jehovah’s name was reduced to a very small voice. The test was strong on each one’s individual integrity. Of course, God did not forsake his faithful ones. He empowered them to endure, and they came out stronger. He restored them in his love and since that time nothing, not even World War II, national revolutions, dictatorships, official bans, mobbing, imprisonings and death to some of its members has slowed down the growth of God’s organization either in quantity or quality. It is this that we have to back up our endurance.
45. (a) Is Jehovah interested in our endurance? (b) What must we do, and what must we realize is the result of losing endurance?
45 So brothers, it is Jehovah who wants us to endure, and he is so concerned that he speaks to us through his Son. (Heb. 1:2) The throne of Jehovah is in the hands of a righteous King forever, and the King Jesus Christ is ruling actively to see that justice is done. All that we have to do is carry out the commission given to us, just as Jeremiah did, and leave the rest to the King. This does not make it a life of ease. Each one has to prove his integrity. It takes dedication and endurance. But happiness will not come by dropping out.
46. Of what can we be sure if we endure?
46 If you endure, you will be happy while doing so, and O how joyful when you reach your ultimate goal! In times of temptation or trial, pray and look for Jehovah’s deliverance. It will not always come in the way you may expect, but it will come, just as it did to Jeremiah. When a task is before you or when you feel discouraged, consider the faith of men like Jeremiah, imitate it, and God, “after you have suffered a little while, . . . will himself finish your training, he will make you firm, he will make you strong.”—1 Pet. 5:10.
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Jeremiah suffered the greatest indignities, including being kept overnight in stocks as if he were a criminal. Yet he endured all the reproach
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Jehovah delivered Jeremiah. When Jerusalem fell, he was released and his handcuffs were removed at the order of the Babylonian officials