Shephatiah son of Mattan, Gedaliah son of Pashhur, Jehukal son of Shelemiah, and Pashhur son of Malkijah heard what Jeremiah was telling all the people when he said, 2“This is what the Lord says: ‘Whoever stays in this city will die by the sword, famine or plague, but whoever goes over to the Babylonians will live. They will escape with their lives; they will live.’ 3And this is what the Lord says: ‘This city will certainly be given into the hands of the army of the king of Babylon, who will capture it.’”
4Then the officials said to the king, “This man should be put to death. He is discouraging the soldiers who are left in this city, as well as all the people, by the things he is saying to them. This man is not seeking the good of these people but their ruin.”
5“He is in your hands,” King Zedekiah answered. “The king can do nothing to oppose you.”
6So they took Jeremiah and put him into the cistern of Malkijah, the king’s son, which was in the courtyard of the guard. They lowered Jeremiah by ropes into the cistern; it had no water in it, only mud, and Jeremiah sank down into the mud.
7But Ebed-Melek, a Cushite, an official in the royal palace, heard that they had put Jeremiah into the cistern. While the king was sitting in the Benjamin Gate, 8Ebed-Melek went out of the palace and said to him, 9“My lord the king, these men have acted wickedly in all they have done to Jeremiah the prophet. They have thrown him into a cistern, where he will starve to death when there is no longer any bread in the city.”
10Then the king commanded Ebed-Melek the Cushite, “Take thirty men from here with you and lift Jeremiah the prophet out of the cistern before he dies.”
11So Ebed-Melek took the men with him and went to a room under the treasury in the palace. He took some old rags and worn-out clothes from there and let them down with ropes to Jeremiah in the cistern. 12Ebed-Melek the Cushite said to Jeremiah, “Put these old rags and worn-out clothes under your arms to pad the ropes.” Jeremiah did so, 13and they pulled him up with the ropes and lifted him out of the cistern. And Jeremiah remained in the courtyard of the guard.
Psalm for Today: Psalm 23 on page 72 in Christian Worship
The Lord is my shepherd,
I shall not be in want.
He makes me lie down in green pastures;
he leads me beside quiet waters.
He restores my soul;
he guides me in paths of righteousness for his names sake.
Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death,
I will fear no evil,
for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me.
You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies.
You anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows.
Surely goodness and love will follow me all the days of my life,
and I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever.
Glory be to the Father and to the Son
and to the Holy Spirit,
as it was in the beginning,
is now, and will be forever. Amen.
48“However, the Most High does not live in houses made by human hands. As the prophet says: 49“‘Heaven is my throne, and the earth is my footstool. What kind of house will you build for me?’ says the Lord. ‘Or where will my resting place be? 50Has not my hand made all these things?’
51“You stiff-necked people! Your hearts and ears are still uncircumcised. You are just like your ancestors: You always resist the Holy Spirit! 52Was there ever a prophet your ancestors did not persecute? They even killed those who predicted the coming of the Righteous One. And now you have betrayed and murdered him— 53you who have received the law that was given through angels but have not obeyed it.”
54When the members of the Sanhedrin heard this, they were furious and gnashed their teeth at him. 55But Stephen, full of the Holy Spirit, looked up to heaven and saw the glory of God, and Jesus standing at the right hand of God. 56“Look,” he said, “I see heaven open and the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God.”
57At this they covered their ears and, yelling at the top of their voices, they all rushed at him, 58dragged him out of the city and began to stone him. Meanwhile, the witnesses laid their coats at the feet of a young man named Saul.
59While they were stoning him, Stephen prayed, “Lord Jesus, receive my spirit.” 60Then he fell on his knees and cried out, “Lord, do not hold this sin against them.” When he had said this, he fell asleep.
Gospel Lesson/Sermon Text:
10“Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
11“Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me. 12 Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.”
Introduction: Today, we start by briefly reviewing Jesus’ beatitudes that we’ve looked at thus far. 3“Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. 4Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted. 5Blessed are the meek (gentle), for they will inherit the earth. 6Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled. 7Blessed are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy. 8Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God. 9Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God. Now we come to the final of the beatitudes and the one that has the hardest message: 10Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Today, we see that this is true for a number of reasons
Blessed Are Those Who Are Persecuted…
I. In Deed and Word
II. They are in good company
III. They are blessed now and forever
I. In deed and word
- When we think about persecution, we think of things that happened early on
- However, we need to remember that physical persecution continues to go on
- Christians are run out of villages, their churches are burned, they are imprisoned
- Most sadly, there are many who still lose their lives for the sake of Jesus Christ
- Let us keep all of them in our prayers now and each and every day of our lives
- Jesus here also speaks of those who are verbally abused for the sake of Christ
- This happened to me in the last week as I posted something on a site about death
- I was told that I was believing a fairy tale and that I shouldn’t teach it to children
- This is the sort of thing that believers go through on a daily basis in our country
II. They are in good company
- Jesus told his disciples that their forefathers had done the same to God’s prophets
- We saw an example of that in our first lesson when we saw Jeremiah in the mud pit
- We also saw this in our second lesson as we looked at the stoning of Stephen
- We, of course know how Jesus’ enemies persecuted him and had him put to death
- He told his disciples that if they did that to God’s Son, they should expect the same
- We also know that his enemies verbally harangued him throughout his ministry
- When he did the work of casting out demons, they said he did it by Satan’s power
- All through church history, world governments and false religion attacked believers
- This was something foretold in the book of Revelation: beasts of the sea and earth
- We see this especially in the days of the Reformation: Foxe’s Book of Martyrs
- So we are in good company, but that is not the greatest blessing that we have in this
III. They are blessed now and forever
- The blessing that Jesus pronounces is the same one as the first of his beatitudes
- He tells us that the kingdom of heaven is ours. What does he mean by that blessing?
- He means something for this life and he also means something for the life to come
- Persecution is meant to make people feel small, unimportant and alone in the world
- It is meant to make us feel as if the whole world has abandoned those who suffer
- Jesus wants us to know in this life that we are a part of God’s family right now
- We can always turn to him for help when we have these feelings caused by this
- He is also pointing us ahead to heaven. This is 1 of the signs that we’re going there
- He also means that there’ll be special honor given those who suffer visibly for him
- We have come to the end of our look at the beatitudes, what a joy to sit at his feet
Blest Are the Humble Souls that See, Verse 8:
Blest are the suff’rers who partake
Of pain and shame for Jesus’ sake;
Their souls shall triumph in the Lord,
Glory and joy are their reward.