The View From the Palace Prison

Daily Reflection / Produced by The High Calling
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So King Zedekiah commanded that Jeremiah not be returned to the dungeon. Instead, he was imprisoned in the courtyard of the guard in the royal palace. The king also commanded that Jeremiah be given a loaf of fresh bread every day as long as there was any left in the city. So Jeremiah was put in the palace prison.

Jeremiah 37:21

Jeremiah 37 offers a glimpse of the prophet’s around 597 B.C.. Babylon already held sway over Judah politically, even as it laid siege to Jerusalem. Moreover, King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon had appointed Zedekiah as a puppet king over Judah. During this time, the army of Egypt came from the south to threaten the Babylonians. So, for a time, the Babylonians withdrew from their siege of Jerusalem. This gave the Jews false hope of deliverance. But, as usual, Jeremiah proclaimed the sorry news of Jerusalem’s imminent fall.

When Jeremiah attempted to leave the city to attend to some personal matters, he was arrested as a defector to Babylon (37:13). He was beaten and imprisoned in “a dungeon cell, where he remained for many days” (37:16). Later, King Zedekiah summoned Jeremiah, who once again delivered his bad news to the king. The prophet implored the king not to send him back to his dungeon cell. Oddly enough, the king, who was not fond of Jeremiah, agreed, and had him imprisoned in the palace. “The king also commanded that Jeremiah be given a loaf of fresh bread every day as long as there was any left in the city. So Jeremiah was put in the palace prison” (37:21).

You know your life isn’t going well when your promotion is from a terrible prison to a better one, with the promise of fresh bread to eat each day. I wonder how Jeremiah felt about his predicament. After all, he had been serving the Lord faithfully for three decades. Along the way he had put up with all measure of abuse because of his dire but truthful message. Then, as a result of his efforts, he found himself imprisoned with nothing more than bread to eat . . . and this was a step up from where he had recently been.

Jeremiah 37 doesn’t tell us how the prophet felt about his situation. It doesn’t contain any lament to God. But I wonder if Jeremiah felt the kind of despair and disappointment that I would surely have felt if I were in his situation. Or, did he feel a sense of rightness that comes when we know that we’re serving the Lord faithfully, no matter what the cost? How did Jeremiah view his life from the perspective of the palace prison? Was he glad for his recent upgrade out of the dungeon? Did his daily bread satisfy him? Or did he feel restless, even resentful?

Scripture does not allow us to answer these questions definitively. But it does remind us that our calling is to be faithful, even if our faithfulness becomes costly. What we do know about Jeremiah is that he never compromised in telling the truth, even when that truth got him in a mess of trouble. May we be just as faithful in our lives as we share and stand for God’s truth.

QUESTIONS FOR REFLECTION: How would you have felt if you had been in Jeremiah’s situation? Have you ever been treated poorly because of your faithful witness to the Lord? What helped you to persist in saying or doing what was right?

PRAYER: Gracious Lord, the events of Jeremiah 37 remind me of how much I want to be treated well in this life. I don’t want my service to you to end in pain and sacrifice. I’m not even sure how I’d respond if I were in Jeremiah’s situation, knowing my tendency to complain and feel sorry for myself.

Nevertheless, I thank you for Jeremiah’s faithfulness. His example encourages me to ask you for the strength to serve you well, no matter the cost. May I focus on living for the praise of your glory in all things, not on the benefit for me in serving you.

I am also reminded to pray today for those who are imprisoned because of their faithful witness. In so many places of the world today, thousands of my brothers and sisters are incarcerated because they have proclaimed and lived your truth. Comfort them, Lord. Reassure them. May they be well treated, even in prison. And may they be released so that they might serve you with greater freedom. Amen.

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