Sat, 17 August 2019
(Jer.38:4-6,8-10; Ps.40:2-4,14,18; Heb.12:1-4; Lk.12:49-53)
“Though I am afflicted and poor,
yet the Lord thinks of me.”
Persecution is necessarily a part of every Christian’s life. Not many of us will struggle “to the point of shedding blood” as has Jesus, as has Paul, as have all the apostles; and not many of us will be thrown into muddy cisterns as is Jeremiah… but all will remain “afflicted and poor” in their striving against sin and have to endure “opposition from sinners” as they grow in holiness before their Lord and God. Jesus is anguished at the baptism He must endure in carrying the cross of division set in opposition to the forces of sin in this world, and so all who call themselves Christian take this same cross upon their shoulders. If we do not suffer for the faith, we must question whether we have become lukewarm and worthless, but to be spit from the mouth of God.
Division must necessarily come as we follow in the steps of Jesus, “the leader and perfecter of faith.” As the princes of the people were set against Jeremiah for his prophesying in truth against the nation, spelling out the danger it faced for its sin, so opposition will come to us even from friends and family as we seek to draw closer to Jesus; for the world is set in opposition to the cross, and any who yet cling to it and its sin will inevitably be insulted by our resistance to its ways. And so persecution comes to those who remain faithful to the ways of Christ.
But your hearts should not be troubled, brothers and sisters, for though the world of sin encompasses us now and often closes in, we indeed have a “great cloud of witnesses” surrounding us with their protection. As Jeremiah had Ebed-melech to intercede with the king to draw him from the muddy mire, so we have Jesus now to intercede with the Father for us to lift us out of the dark cistern that is the world. And not only Him do we have at our side, but all those who have suffered with Him – all the saints and all the martyrs, all the apostles and prophets – who stand at His side in the heavenly kingdom and with Him reach down to assist us.
So fear not, little ones, remember Jesus: “For the sake of the joy that lay before Him, He endured the cross, despising its shame.” He “has taken His seat at the right of the throne of God” and we shall soon join Him there with all His angels and saints if we but endure the persecution with Him now a little while. The Lord thinks of those who are afflicted and poor. He blesses their sacrifice and makes it fruitful (by which we may draw even sinners unto Him). Continue ever to run the race of faith.
O LORD, lift us up from the pit
and baptize us with your fire.
YHWH, opposition from sinners we must indeed endure if we are to be called by the Name of your Son. The Cross we must carry through this world if we are to come to where Christ is at your right hand. If we are lowered into a muddy cistern, what should that matter to us, as long as we ourselves are not guilty of sin.
Should we not take great strength in the suffering of Jesus and all those who have followed Him so faithfully to the Cross? Have they not proven that you come, O LORD, to save those who cry out to you? We shall be delivered even from death by the grace upon your Son, and so why should we fear the shedding of our blood?
Your sword of truth cannot but divide the evil from the good, those who look to you from those who take their refuge in the things of this earth. Let your fire come, dear God, and burn away all sin from our midst, that all your afflicted and poor may rise from the ground blessed.