Enduring in Faithfulness
“O Jehovah, are not those eyes of yours toward faithfulness?”—Jer. 5:3.
1. How did Jerusalem’s course contrast with that of Jeremiah?
JEHOVAH asked concerning ancient Jerusalem: “Why is it that this people . . . is unfaithful with an enduring unfaithfulness?” It was because they followed a stubborn course, taking “the popular course, like a horse that is dashing into the battle.” And their fleshly way of viewing things brought calamity, for they ‘did not come to know the judgment of Jehovah.’ (Jer. 8:5-7) In striking contrast Jeremiah endured in faithfulness. For 40 years, until the destruction of Jerusalem, and beyond that time, he continued to fulfill his commission in proclaiming Jehovah’s judgments.
2 It appears that Jeremiah did not know in advance the day or hour that Jerusalem’s destruction would come. But he was aware of the “great pounding from the land of the north”—Babylon. He knew that the executional forces were drawing near, and that God’s judgments were sure. Likewise, Jehovah’s people today see clearly the “sign” of the approach of “a tribulation such as has not occurred from the beginning of the creation.”—Jer. 10:22; Mark 13:4, 19.
3. (a) What have Jehovah’s Witnesses been proclaiming in modern times, and for how long? (b) What have they supplied to their faith?
3 For close to 60 years now, Jehovah’s Christian witnesses have been proclaiming to the nations outside and inside Christendom that this world is in its “time of the end” since 1914, and that the entire system must shortly perish in “a time of distress such as has not been made to occur since there came to be a nation until that time.” (Dan. 12:1, 4) Demonic forces are gathering the nations to Har–Magedon. (Rev. 16:13-16) As the modern-day Jeremiah class proclaim these tidings they endure in faithfulness. To their faith they supply endurance.—2 Pet. 1:5, 6.
4. What is the source of our encouragement, and how is this illustrated at Jeremiah 17:5-8?
4 The Jeremiah class, along with all those newly flocking to the ranks of the Kingdom publishers, need continued encouragement to press on to victory. Jehovah provides just such encouragement. In contrast with the one “who puts his trust in earthling man and actually makes flesh his arm,” those whom Jeremiah pictured put their trust in Jehovah and make him their confidence. They “become like a tree planted by the waters,” so that they can send forth roots to drink in all of Jehovah’s life-giving provision. Neither the “heat” of persecution nor the “drought” resulting from bans and restrictions can make them “leave off from producing fruit.” Like a productive tree, they are “luxuriant” in bringing forth praise to Jehovah. In this, they are “blessed.”—Jer. 17:5-8.
MEETING THE TEST OF ENDURANCE
5. What example of Jeremiah’s endurance should stimulate us?
5 Have some today set their eyes on material goals, rather than on the priceless treasure of Kingdom service? Have some found it hard to endure? Well, remember that, at times, Jeremiah found it hard to endure. He even thought of quitting. But then it was that he found the word of Jehovah to be in his heart ‘like a burning fire shut up in his bones.’ That word impelled him to fight on and to triumph over his enemies. (Jer. 20:9) When we examine some of the problems that Jeremiah grappled with and overcame, surely this should instill in us the desire to endure for the victory!
6. (a) Where did Jeremiah find strength for enduring? (b) In line with Jeremiah’s example, what fellowship should we avoid?
6 Jeremiah was bitterly opposed by his own townsfolk in Anathoth, who told him: “You must not prophesy in the name of Jehovah, that you may not die at our hand.” His own brothers and the household of his father dealt treacherously with him. It seemed that he had enemies everywhere that were calling down evil upon him. (Jer. 11:21; 12:6; 15:10) But Jeremiah found strength for enduring. Where? In prayer to Jehovah, and in realizing the privilege that he had of bearing Jehovah’s name and word:
“Your words were found, and I proceeded to eat them; and your word becomes to me the exultation and the rejoicing of my heart; for your name has been called upon me, O Jehovah God of armies. I have not sat down in the intimate group of those playing jokes and begun exulting.” (Jer. 15:16, 17)
Jeremiah found joy in Jehovah’s words and in bearing His name. He found no pleasure in the empty joking of godless men and wisely avoided their company. Should we do any less?
7. (a) What enabled Jeremiah to accept uncomplainingly his single status? (b) What was Jeremiah’s reaction to Pashhur’s harsh treatment?
7 As a sign that his message was sure, Jehovah commanded Jeremiah not to marry. Thus he would not bring forth children for destruction. He did not complain about his single status, but became absorbed in the work on hand. In time, Pashhur, an official in the house of Jehovah, took offense at Jeremiah’s words, struck him and put him in stocks overnight. But on his release Jeremiah once again fearlessly declared to Pashhur that all Judah would be given into the hand of the king of Babylon.—Jer. 16:1-4; 20:1-6.
8. How did Jeremiah display fearlessness during Jehoiakim’s reign?
8 When wicked King Jehoiakim came to the throne in 628 B.C.E., Jehovah gave Jeremiah a powerful prophecy to pronounce, and again He told him: “Do not take away a word.” So, standing in the courtyard of the temple of Jehovah, Jeremiah spoke all the words that Jehovah had commanded, truly a message of doom for Judah and Jerusalem. What was the outcome? The record answers:
“When Jeremiah had completed speaking all that Jehovah had commanded him to speak to all the people, then the priests and the prophets and all the people laid hold of him, saying: ‘You will positively die. Why is it that you have prophesied in the name of Jehovah, saying, “Like that in Shiloh is how this house will become, and this very city will be devastated so as to be without an inhabitant”?’ And all the people kept congregating themselves about Jeremiah in the house of Jehovah.” (Jer. 26:1-9)
The princes of Judah came to the scene, and the priests and the prophets called for judgment of death. But in a stirring speech Jeremiah made it plain that Jehovah had sent him to prophesy, that he had obeyed Jehovah’s voice and that they would shed innocent blood if they put him to death.—Jer. 26:10-15.
9. (a) Who spoke up in behalf of Jeremiah? (b) Of what recently does this remind us?
9 Then it was that the princes and all the people spoke up on behalf of Jeremiah, saying: “It was in the name of Jehovah our God that he spoke to us.” Certain elders also supported Jeremiah, one of these being Ahikam, the father of Gedaliah. (Jer. 26:16-24) Jeremiah continued, therefore, fearlessly prophesying. This temporary letup in the Judeans’ hounding of Jeremiah reminds us of some relief that came in the experience of our brothers in Malawi. Some recent reports have indicated that many of these have been released from prisons, and have been permitted to return to their homes and cultivate their fields. Some youths who were formerly their persecutors are said even to be studying the Bible with them. However, in other parts of the country, local officials and relatives make it hard for Jehovah’s people to live a normal life. But Jeremiah-like, they continue to endure in their integrity.
THE CONTEST OF THE PROPHETS
10, 11. (a) What prophetic illustration was acted out by Jeremiah and Hananiah? (b) How was Jeremiah proved to be a true prophet?
10 It was also during the reign of Zedekiah that Jeremiah acted out a prophetic illustration. At Jehovah’s direction, he placed yoke bars of wood upon his neck, declaring that Judah and surrounding nations should put themselves under the yoke of the king of Babylon, or receive severe punishment. But the prophet Hananiah removed the yoke bar from Jeremiah’s neck and broke it, declaring that Jehovah would that easily break the yoke of Babylon from off the nations within two years.—Jer. 27:2-15; 28:1-11.
11 Who would win out in this contest of the prophets? Was Jeremiah or Hananiah the true prophet of Jehovah? Jehovah left no doubt as to this when he commanded Jeremiah to prophesy that the yoke bars of wood were to be replaced by bars of iron, and that Hananiah must die within the year. Not only did Hananiah die in the seventh month of that year, but the yoke of Babylon at last proved truly to be a yoke of iron.—Jer. 28:12-17.
12, 13. (a) What modern group acts like Hananiah, and how do they make out? (b) What sustains God’s true witnesses?
12 How like Hananiah are those modern-day false prophets who try to ‘tear down’ the work of Jehovah’s Witnesses with evil intent! Some of these may even have walked with God’s people for a time, but they become disgruntled at not seeing selfish ambitions fulfilled and they return to the very teachings that previously they had vomited out. They preach “through envy and rivalry,” certainly not “through goodwill,” for they have nothing upbuilding to say. (2 Pet. 2:22; Phil. 1:15) They hold forth expectations contrary to the Jeremiah class with respect to the coming of the “great tribulation.”
13 However, just as surely as Jehovah replaced the broken wooden yoke with a yoke of iron, so the “great tribulation” is certain to come at God’s appointed time. And just as surely as Hananiah died under Jehovah’s judgment in that same year, so these opposing prophetic groups must be executed in due time. They are without joy and do not have Jehovah’s spirit or “word” to sustain them.—Jer. 23:16-19; 31:1, 12.
HOLD FAST YOUR CONFIDENCE!
14. (a) Like Jeremiah, what confidence should we display? (b) Why should we be ever on the watch?
14 Like Jeremiah, we should have unshakable confidence in Jehovah’s prophetic “word.” As a token of such confidence, Jeremiah obeyed “the word of Jehovah” in buying a hereditary field in Anathoth, and that just one year before the Babylonian armies moved in to devastate the land! (Jer. 32:8-25) In these final days, we should likewise be confident that Jehovah will fulfill every word of his promise to protect and establish his people. (Jer. 32:38-41) The time for the heavenly assault forces under Christ Jesus to strike is perilously close! It is therefore urgent that we keep ever on the watch, proclaiming God’s “word.”—Mark 13:10, 32-37.
15, 16. (a) What sustained Jeremiah” (b) What problem did Baruch encounter? (c) Jehovah’s warning to Baruch is of what encouragement to us today? (Rev. 2:3)
15 The way was hard for Jeremiah. But his confidence in Jehovah and his loyalty to his commission carried him through. He was able also to encourage his faithful companion, the scribe Baruch, when that one became downcast. After Jeremiah had been prophesying some 20 or 30 years, Baruch declared:
“Woe, now, to me, for Jehovah has added grief to my pain! I have grown weary because of my sighing, and no resting-place have I found.”
But Jehovah conveyed to him through Jeremiah these words:
“‘Look! What I have built up I am tearing down, and what I have planted I am uprooting, even all the land itself. But as for you, you keep seeking great things for yourself. Do not keep on seeking. For here I am bringing in a calamity upon all flesh,’ is the utterance of Jehovah, ‘and I will give you your soul as a spoil in all the places to which you may go.’” (Jer. 45:1-5)
Yes, this faithful servant of God had grown weary with the passage of time. But Jehovah assured Baruch that His due time for ‘tearing down and uprooting,’ His time for bringing tribulation on faithless Jerusalem and Judah was at hand. Though there might be seeming delay, that “calamity” was certain!
16 Jehovah warned Baruch not to return to the worldly, materialistic ways of the Judeans, seeking his own personal advancement. No, his place was to keep serving faithfully beside Jehovah’s prophet. Likewise, in these twentieth-century “final days,” it is no time for any of God’s people to return to this doomed materialistic world. Their proper place is to serve with endurance until at last ‘they receive their soul as a spoil in the realm of God’s kingdom by Christ Jesus, beyond the storm of Har–Magedon.
17. Who were the Rechabites, and what led to Jehovah’s rewarding them?
17 Jeremiah had other friends. These appeared only after many years of faithful service, and by Jehovah’s direction. While wicked Jehoiakim still ruled, Jehovah had Jeremiah bring to the temple the Rechabites, the descendants of Jonadab, who had identified himself as being on Jehovah’s side in the days of King Jehu, some 250 years earlier. (2 Ki. 10:15-17) Jonadab had given his descendants the command that they must drink no wine “to time indefinite.” And now, at the first approach of the Babylonians, the Rechabites had taken refuge in Jerusalem. Jeremiah placed wine before them. But they refused it, in loyal obedience to their forefather, Jonadab. Jehovah then contrasted the disobedience of Judah and Jerusalem with the enduring loyalty of the Rechabites, and declared:
“There will not be cut off from Jonadab the son of Rechab a man to stand before me always.”
Thus the descendants of Jonadab received a grand reward, deliverance during the tribulation on Jerusalem.—Jer. 35:1-19.
18. Who are the modern-day ‘sons of Jonadab,’ and where do they find protection?
18 These Rechabites have their counterpart today—persons of honest heart and right principles, who may even have tried to find escape from these “critical times” in the religious confines of modern “Christendom.” (2 Tim. 3:1) But their real refuge lies in Jehovah’s provision through Christ. He sends to them the modern-day Jeremiah class, with a message that means their salvation. No, the safety of such “Jonadabs” is not to be found in broken-down Christendom, but squarely on the side of Jehovah’s modern-day “prophet.”
19. How should Jeremiah’s stand before Zedekiah encourage us?
19 It was the last king of Judah, Zedekiah (617-607 B.C.E.) that called on Jeremiah to pray to Jehovah on Judah’s behalf. But Jeremiah continued to proclaim the impending destruction of Jerusalem. Later, after being harshly treated and imprisoned many days, he was brought before the king, who asked him privately: “Does there exist a word from Jehovah?” Back came Jeremiah’s forthright answer: “There does exist [a word]! . . . Into the hand of the king of Babylon you will be given!” (Jer. 37:3-17) In like manner, Jehovah’s Witnesses today are forthright in pointing to the divine judgment. They are not interested in interfaith movements or in softening the message proclaimed against Christendom.
20 Because of his persistence in declaring Jehovah’s judgments against the city, Jeremiah was thrown into a cistern, where he sank down into the mire. He seemed doomed to a miserable death. But an Ethiopian eunuch, Ebed-melech, went to the king and pleaded on Jeremiah’s behalf. At the king’s direction, Ebed-melech took 30 men, and by the use of worn-out rags and cloths, they drew Jeremiah out of this cistern and restored him to a place in the Courtyard of the Guard. There he remained until Jerusalem was destroyed and he was set free. But what of Ebed-melech? While Jeremiah was still in the courtyard, the word of Jehovah came to him, saying:
“Go, and you must say to Ebed-melech the Ethiopian, ‘This is what Jehovah of armies, the God of Israel, has said: “Here I am bringing true my words upon this city for calamity and not for good, and they will certainly happen before you in that day. And I will deliver you in that day,” is the utterance of Jehovah, “and you will not be given into the hand of the men of whom you yourself are scared. For I shall without fail furnish you an escape, and by the sword you will not fall; and you will certainly come to have your soul as a spoil, because you have trusted in me,” is the utterance of Jehovah.’”
Thus, when the armies of Babylon came crashing in from the north, Ebed-melech escaped with his life. In modern times, too, there have been many, including even government and prison officials, who have shown kindness to the persecuted witnesses of Jehovah. Later some of these have become Witnesses in line for salvation when the heavenly executional forces of Christ Jesus go into action at Har–Magedon.—Jer. 38:6-13; 39:15-18; Rev. 7:14-17; 16:16.
21. (a) How do modern-day servants of Jehovah compare with those of Jeremiah’s time? (b) In what ways do they show endurance? (Rev. 14:12)
21 It is a joy to note that there are still on earth today persons of the same caliber as Jeremiah, Baruch, the Rechabites and Ebed-melech. The report of the worldwide activity of Jehovah’s Witnesses for their service year of 1977 proves this to be so. True, there may have been some who, becoming tired like Baruch, have turned aside to selfish interests for a time, but these should remember that Baruch, though tested, stayed right there with God’s prophet. Yes, it is worth enduring, with the prospect of everlasting life in view following the “great tribulation.” And may lovers of righteousness of the disposition of the sons of Jonadab and Ebed-melech continue to be found. Great will be the reward to all who diligently exercise faith in Jehovah’s promises, and who endure to the end!
[Picture on page 21]
After Jeremiah was thrown into an empty cistern, Ebed-melech, an Ethiopian, gained the king’s permission to have him rescued; God rewarded this loving deed