When Jeremiah had come into the dungeon house and into the cells, and Jeremiah had remained there many days, then Zedekiah the king sent and had him brought out. The king asked him secretly in his house, “Is there any word from Yahweh?”
Jeremiah said, “There is.” He also said, “You will be delivered into the hand of the king of Babylon.”
Moreover Jeremiah said to king Zedekiah, “How have I sinned against you, against your servants, or against this people, that you have put me in prison? Now where are your prophets who prophesied to you, saying, ‘The king of Babylon will not come against you, nor against this land?’ Now please hear, my lord the king: please let my supplication be presented before you, that you not cause me to return to the house of Jonathan the scribe, lest I die there.”
Then Zedekiah the king commanded, and they committed Jeremiah into the court of the guard. They gave him daily a loaf of bread out of the bakers’ street, until all the bread in the city was gone. Thus Jeremiah remained in the court of the guard.
God really hates lies. He even calls it out as a major reason for His punishments in the book of Revelation. Here’s what He says:
But for the cowardly, unbelieving, sinners, abominable, murderers, sexually immoral, sorcerers, idolaters, and all liars, their part is in the lake that burns with fire and sulfur, which is the second death.”
You could say that Jeremiah was now in a sort of Hell on earth situation. He had spent many days in a dungeon during a time when no one had food. I doubt very much if he had eaten at all while sitting in the dark and cold. When the king took him out to talk with him about his visions for the future, Jeremiah still didn’t lie. He had to tell the king that he was going to be taken by the Babylonians. I think that most people would lie in this situation in order to get out of suffering, but an honest man doesn’t do that. There’s a worse place than any place here on earth and that is Hell and Jeremiah was obviously aware of what would happen to him should he ever fail to tell the truth about what God said. You can contrast his behavior with that of the king. The king wouldn’t even talk to Jeremiah openly but talked to “him secretly in his house.” In a sense, the king was lying by his behavior, just to protect his reputation.
Even though Jeremiah was obedient, starving to death in a dungeon was a horrible thing. Even though he had to tell the king the truth, he reasoned and pleaded with the king to be allowed to not die in the dungeon. I would like to take this opportunity to talk about suffering a bit more because I think that those who don’t suffer that much sometimes act like it’s a good thing that we should somehow enjoy. It is true that suffering for the Lord is always good, but Jeremiah demonstrates the wisdom in choosing to do what we can to stop suffering, even for the Lord. Jeremiah didn’t want to suffer if he could avoid it and he asked God’s representative of the evil government of his time if he would allow him to not go back. Remember, God had told Jeremiah that He would be with him and protect him, yet God had allowed Jeremiah to end up starving to death in a dungeon. It really wasn’t adding up. God chose to require that Jeremiah ask to be taken out of the situation and God arranged that this condemned king would choose to remove Jeremiah from the dungeon and feed Him instead.
Could it be that God wants us to ask Him to remove our suffering? I believe He does. That doesn’t mean that all of our suffering will be removed, but I do believe a great deal of it will be. Jeremiah demonstrates this but so did Paul. He asked God that his “thorn in the flesh” be removed. In that case God gave him the grace to overcome it without removing it, but Paul still asked repeatedly. Even Jesus asked to be removed from some of His suffering if it was God’s will. Jesus had to go through the whole thing for us. I think that’s why God wants us to ask. Jesus already went through the fire for us. I think that God desires to take take some of that fire from us when we ask. So I believe that when we are suffering, we should ask God to take us out of it, even if that suffering has served a good purpose in our lives.