Vol. 8, No. 11
~ Page 9 ~
God "knew" Jeremiah (1:5) before he was born (c. 642 B.C.) and had something he wanted Jeremiah to do all of his life, even in his old age. Admirably the "weeping prophet" (Jeremiah 9:1) kept "nothing back" in his preaching "the word of Yahweh" (Jeremiah 42:7-10), but his listeners did not like his preaching.
The listeners kidnapped him, and forced him to accompany them to Egypt (Jeremiah 43:1-7). There, "according to Christian tradition, he met a martyr's death, being stoned by the Jews, who resented his faithful reproofs" (J.R. Dummelow, A Commentary on the Holy Bible, p. 454). Yes, even on the last day of his life, with rocks coming from angry people, Jeremiah showed that he believed the Lord has something for every faithful person to do, even to his last breath.
Paul, like Jeremiah, though he was a prisoner under house arrest "for two whole years" (A.D. 61-62, Acts 28:30-31), with the left hand of a soldier chained to his right hand (Conybeare and Howson, Life of Paul, II, p. 394; Ephesians 6:20), knew that Lord had something for him to do every day: "I face a dilemma, desiring to depart and be with Christ, which is far better, but to remain in the flesh is more pressing" (Philippians 1:23-24).
Later, on death row in Mamertine Prison in Rome (A.D. 67-68), Paul still knew that he should be busy every day in the Lord's work. There he wrote a letter to "Timothy, my beloved child" (2 Timothy 1:2). I know that Timothy treasured every word in that letter that had come from his imprisoned father "in the gospel" (Philippians 2:22). In that letter to Timothy, Paul, knowing that Timothy lived in Ephesus where also had lived Paul's good friend Oneisiphorus, Paul wrote a two-sentenced prayer: "May the Lord grant mercy to the house of Oneisiphorus, because he often refreshed me, and was not ashamed of my chains. . . . May the Lord grant that he may find mercy from the Lord in that day" (2 Timothy 1:16, 18).
Even in prison on death row Paul made good use of every day. Though he was Spirit inspired (1 Corinthians 2:13), and in prison was finishing his 13th New Testament book, he asked Timothy, on the 400 mile trip from Ephesus to Rome, to stop by Troas and pick up Paul's "scrolls and parchments" (2 Timothy 4:13). Though Paul was a man "of much learning" (Acts 26:24), the indication is that he still wanted to study, and the inference is the "scrolls and parchments" were copies of Old Testament books. If the inference is correct, then Paul was determined to continue being a daily Bible reader as long as he lived, and he would have agreed with Job's statement: "I have treasured the words of his mouth more than my necessary food" (23:12).
What can I do? Today? One time "David was greatly distressed" (1 Samuel 30:6). What did David do? "David strengthened himself in Yahweh his God" (1 Samuel 30:6). In like manner, each Christian, even in physical and mental decay, is exhorted to be "strong in the Lord, and in the power of his might" (Ephesians 6:10).
What can I do? Today? Jonathan knew that "David was greatly distressed" (1 Samuel 30:6). Though Jonathan and David were not blood kin, "Jonathan loved" David "as his own soul" (1 Samuel 18:1). On one occasion, when David was hiding "in the wilderness" (1 Samuel 23:14) to escape Saul's soldiers, Jonathan went alone into the wilderness, found his friend and "strengthened his hand in God" (1 Samuel 23:16). Many Christians, knowing of someone in distress, have sent cards, or phoned, or have gone in person, causing troubled people "always" to "rejoice in the Lord" (Philippians 4:1).
Yesterday in gone forever. Tomorrow may never come. What can I do? Today? I have never seen a mule smile, but I know what the smiles of those I meet do for me! A person with a frown would be lying to write: "Most gladly, therefore, I glory in my weakness, . . . because when I am weak, then am I strong" (2 Corinthians 12:10).
On his own, not by Spirit inspiration, Paul had to "learn" (manthano, learn "through experience or practice" (B-G-D, p. 490) that a Christian never complains: "I have learned to be contented regardless of my circumstances" (Philippians 4:11).