I work with an artist in Costa Rica. I have posted some of his pictures from time to time. He is now illustrating lessons about the prophets in the Old Testament. When the picture of Jeremiah in the muddy cistern arrived, my thoughts immediately went to Psalm 40, where David writes about how God lifted him out of the slimy pit.
Without God, we are all in that slimy pit. There is no way of pulling ourselves out. Someone has to reach down and pull us out. And when a hand is reached down, we have to take it, letting ourselves be pulled out. Jesus is the one who reaches down.
He sets our feet on a rock.
He gives us a new song, a song of praise.
Jeremiah was lowered into the cistern because he spoke God’s word that the city was going to be given into the hands of the army of the king of Babylon. You can read the story in Jeremiah 38. Had it not been for Ebed-Melek the Cushite Jeremiah would have sunk completely into the mud and died.
But 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, 8 Ebed-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.”
10 Then 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.” 11 So 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.
12 Ebed-Melek the Cushite said to Jeremiah, “Put these old rags and worn-out clothes under your arms to pad the ropes.” Jeremiah did so, 13 and they pulled him up with the ropes and lifted him out of the cistern. And Jeremiah remained in the courtyard of the guard.
Some twenty years ago I had the very real experience of God putting a new song in my heart. I wasn’t literally in a muddy cistern; but the circumstances made it feel like our family was sinking into mud. Then, from one day to another, nothing changed, but I had a song of praise in my heart. And I’ve been singing that song ever since.
Look at the picture, imagine the desperate situation of the Prophet, and then consider God’s grace. His love will never let you sink into the slime. But you have to reach out and grab hold of his hand. Wonderful, loving hand of mercy!
God will hear your cry for help. Let him put a new song in your heart.