He looked up, and all he could see was a circle of blue. He looked down and watched the mud squish between his toes. And he wondered how he had ended up at the bottom of a pit hated by the very people he wanted to save.

His name was Jeremiah, and he was not a bullfrog. No, he was a prophet.

Does anyone remember the Psychic Readers Network Back in the 90’s? They did infomercials on late-night TV promoting people like Miss Cleo. And, for a fee, Miss Cleo would supposedly predict if you would be lucky in love or lucky in the lottery.

Jeremiah wasn’t a prophet like that. He was a prophet of God. He didn’t tell people what they wanted to hear; instead, it was his job to proclaim the word of God for people to hear and to warn them of the consequences of not listening.

He was just a young man when God called him to this task. His father, Hilkiah, was a priest, and for a while, it looked like Jeremiah was destined to follow in his footsteps.

Being a priest wouldn’t have been a bad life.

In Israel, being a priest meant that you and your family were provided for. Your chores would have entailed the reading and interpretation of God’s word, preparing and making the sacrifices.

As well you would have to be a presence around the temple. Even though it was no longer central to the faith of the people of Israel, the priests were expected to be there and do priest-type things.

So, really, Jeremiah’s entire life was planned out for him, but then God stepped into his life and informed him that he wanted Jeremiah to be his spokesman.

Jeremiah’s first thought was, “Me?” And so, he did what most of us do when God asks us to do something. He made excuses.

In his case, in this particular instance, he just told God that he was too young. Who would listen to him? He was practically a kid.

But God wasn’t about to take no for an answer, so Jeremiah had one of two options. He could be obedient, or he could be disobedient. There really wasn’t much middle ground for him to waffle in. It’s the same today. Jeremiah’s time was 2600 years ago; he lived 600 years before the Messiah would come, and yet today, those who follow God have the same two options: obedience or disobedience.

And Jeremiah had been obedient to the call of God upon his life, and Jeremiah had preached the message that God wanted him to preach, and now Jeremiah was standing in the bottom of a pit looking up at the blue sky overhead, wondering where he had gone wrong. Have you ever been there? The bottom of the pit? Looking up? Wondering how your world had fallen out from beneath you?

This summer, many of you have found yourself in a pit looking up. Maybe when your house burned to the ground, or maybe it wasn’t that big of a loss, but after being evacuated, you returned home and found your fridge and freezer full of rotten food.

Or maybe you dodged the fire only to end up as a flood victim, and you spent most of your summer tearing up flooring and gyprock. Or maybe one of the seven funerals we conducted at Cornerstone since December was for your loved one.

If there was a scripture to hang onto for the first part of 2023 it would have to be, Isaiah 43:2 When you go through deep waters, I will be with you. When you go through rivers of difficulty, you will not drown. When you walk through the fire of oppression, you will not be burned up; the flames will not consume you.

Or maybe your pit has nothing to do with the fires—floods and funerals of 2023.

Maybe your pit was a health problem. You noticed a lump or had a pain in your chest, and bang, the next thing you knew, you were at the bottom of the pit.

Or an economic problem, one day, you are happily and gainfully employed, and the next day, you discover that your company has expanded your employment opportunities.

Maybe it has to do with relationships, a marriage gone sour—a spouse who cheated on you or children who are alienated.

Or maybe it’s a spiritual struggle. For whatever reason, it seems that you are going through a dry spell in your relationship with God, and your prayers go no further than the ceiling.

You know what I mean, you’ve been there. And that’s where the hero of our story found himself, at the bottom of the pit.

The book of Jeremiah is the 24th book in the Bible and the 2nd book in the section we refer to as the Major Prophets.

Now, the term major has nothing to do with the importance of these books; instead it is reflective of the length of the books. These books are considerably longer than the books that make up the Minor Prophets. There are 52 chapters in the book of Jeremiah, and the longest of the minor prophets only has 14. Hosea and Zechariah.

The author of this book is named, Jeremiah, who was a prophet. He dictated the prophecies, and his aide Baruch wrote them down. As I mentioned earlier, this book was written about 600 years before the birth of Christ, between 626 and 585 B.C. Like Isaiah, Jeremiah was calling the people of Israel to repentance.

Jeremiah was born in a small village about an hour’s walk from Jerusalem. He was called as a young man to speak for God. During his lifetime, Jeremiah saw Israel turn from God and in turn, it was defeated internally by immorality and externally by military might. He saw Jerusalem captured and pillaged and its residents forced into slavery or exile. And still, they ignored Jeremiah’s warnings and pleas to turn back to God.

Now, the problem with being a prophet is that it doesn’t necessarily make you the most popular kid on the block. You see, the prophet’s message is not one of motherhood, apple pie and lower taxes. Prophets preach turn or burn messages; prophets don’t preach feel-good sermons. Joel Olsten is not a prophet. As a matter of fact, a prophet would starve to death as a TV preacher.

After one particular sermon that Jeremiah preached, the powers that be decided that he wasn’t doing a great deal for public morale, and so they decided to do something about it.

Now in our church tradition, if you don’t like the preacher, you vote him out. Obviously, it was a different time and different place because they threw him into an empty cistern, which is like a well. It wouldn’t have been right for them to kill a prophet of God, but if he was at the bottom of a well without food and starved to death, then whose fault was that?

Jeremiah’s not the only person to end up at the bottom of a pit; in the bible, we see a couple of other instances. Remember Joseph, of the coat of many colours fame, was thrown into a pit by his brothers, and Daniel was tossed into the Lion’s Den, which was just a big pit with lions.

And people end up in pits for various reasons. I believe that Joseph ended up in a pit because he was acting like a jerk toward his older brothers. And I mean that in the nicest possible way. Joseph was his father’s favourite son, and it’s true that God had revealed to Joseph through dreams that he would end up in a position to rule over his brothers. But did he really have to rub their noses in that knowledge continually?

And Daniel was in a pit because he was obedient to God. The law of the land said he wasn’t to pray, and he responded with “I must pray,” and pray he did. And as a result, he was thrown into a pit full of lions.

Jeremiah was in a pit for proclaiming the word of God. I’ve known pastors through the years who have been forced to leave their church because people were upset with their preaching. Hasn’t happened to me, but we have had people leave Cornerstone because they didn’t like the message.

And as things continue to change in society, there will be pastors who will face criminal charges for preaching the truth of the bible.

And you know what it’s like to look at the world from the bottom of a pit. Maybe it was your fault, and maybe it wasn’t, but that doesn’t change the fact that the bottom of the pit is not a nice place to be. And so this morning, we are going to look at some of the things you can learn from the bottom of the pit.

When you’re in the pit, 1) You Learn to Look Up. When you are in a pit, the best view is often up. You can look at the mud at the bottom of the pit, but that’s just plain depressing. You can focus on the stark, barren walls that are devoid of a foothold, and that is discouraging. And looking up can help you see a lot of things.

It helps you to see God. The prophet reminds us in Isaiah 40:26 Look up into the heavens. Who created all the stars? He brings them out like an army, one after another, calling each by its name. Because of his great power and incomparable strength, not a single one is missing.

You know, too often, God is an afterthought in the good life. When everything is going well, you have a great job, healthy kids, and a loving spouse, and you kind of figure that you deserve it.

After all, you are a nice person, and you’ve worked hard. And God doesn’t really enter the picture. Oh, you might say grace before your meals. God is great, God is good, and we thank him for this food. Amen.

When the pastor is praying, we try to pray as well. I mean, that’s only right. Unless, of course, you’re reading the Penn of Denn or thinking about what you are going to do after church or wondering how much longer the pastor will be.

But when things take a turn for the worse, you lose your job. Your kids get sick or your marriage starts to fail. Then it’s a whole new kettle of fish, a horse of a different colour, you know what I mean.

Then you have God on speed dial. “Hello God, help, my little boy is sick.” “Hello God, help, I just got fired.” “Hello God, help, we’re having problems in our marriage.”

Sometimes it takes a turn for the worse in order for us to discover the truth that David.

acknowledged in Psalm 121:1–2 I look up to the mountains— does my help come from there? My help comes from the LORD, who made heaven and earth!

And so, if being in the pit teaches us to rely on God then it’s a cheap lesson.

But looking up also causes us to see beyond the present reality to a preferred future.

It’s easy when you are in the pit to look around at the dark walls and the murky bottom and think this is it. It will never get any better. I might as well just give up and die. The health care system is the pits, so my child won’t get the care he needs; the economy is the pits, and I’ll never get another job and don’t even get me started on my spouse.

But if you look up, you see the blue of the sky above. You can look beyond the bottom of the pit and beyond the walls and see where you could be and should be. Visualize what it will be like to be out of the pit, walking around enjoying the sunshine and getting on with life.

You can’t dwell on the negative forever. Well, actually, you can. I’ve met people like that, and you end up a negative, bitter old man or old lady, regardless of your age.

A pastor friend of mine was telling me about a person in their church, and he said, “If the angel Gabriel came down, they’d put on dark glasses and shoot him for a crow.”

John A. McDonald, our first Prime Minister, said, “When fortune empties her chamber pot on your head, smile and say, We are going to have a summer shower.”

So, when you find yourself down, Look Up!

Paul says something similar but with a little more finesse in Philippians 4:8 And now, dear brothers and sisters, one final thing. Fix your thoughts on what is true, and honorable, and right, and pure, and lovely, and admirable. Think about things that are excellent and worthy of praise.

Look Up

When you are in the pit, 2) You Learn to Look Down There are worse places to be than at the bottom of the pit. When you look down and see the ground, let it remind you that you are still on the right side of the grass.

I tell people that when you look in the mirror in the morning and there’s someone looking back, that’s not a bad way to start the day.

There used to be an ad on the radio that drove me nuts, it was for a local pump company, and it said something like: What’s worse than discovering you have no water? And I told Angela that I’m going to make a whole list of things that are worse than discovering you have no water, and every time the ad comes on, I’ll just call them and say something like “finding out you have cancer.” “Being fired,” “Being poked in the eye with a sharp stick,” “having your house burn down, your car stolen, and your spouse leaving you.”

There’s always something worse. It’s like the man said, “I was sad because I had no shoes until I met a man who had no feet.” Of course, you could always borrow his shoes. He’s not going to need them.

This is one of my favourite illustrations, as I’m sure you realize. Matthew Henry was an English preacher and Author in the late 1600s. One day, while travelling, he was robbed, and I love what he wrote in his journal concerning his misfortune: “I thank Thee first because I was never robbed before; second because although they took my purse, they did not take my life; third, because although they took my all, it was not much; and fourth because it was I who was robbed, and not I who robbed.”

Remember, it could always be worse.

Let’s pick up the story where we left off, Jeremiah 38:7–10 But Ebed-melech the Ethiopian, an important court official, heard that Jeremiah was in the cistern. At that time the king was holding court at the Benjamin Gate, so Ebed-melech rushed from the palace to speak with him.  “My lord the king,” he said, “these men have done a very evil thing in putting Jeremiah the prophet into the cistern. He will soon die of hunger, for almost all the bread in the city is gone.”  So the king told Ebed-melech, “Take thirty of my men with you, and pull Jeremiah out of the cistern before he dies.”

When you are in the pit, 3) You Learn Who Your Friends Are or who they aren’t.

And while Jeremiah’s in the pit, wondering if anyone cares, there is someone who is going to bat for him.

Embed-Melech, a high official in the court, hears what had happened to Jeremiah and goes to the king and says you can’t allow this to happen, and the King arranges for Jeremiah to be pulled from the pit. It’s when you are down that you find out who your friends really are.

The philosopher William Nelson wrote: You’ll Always Have Someone  
And if you ever find That fate is unkind, An’ the devil starts takin’ his dues.
When your fair weather friends, Leave when fair weather ends,
There’ll be someone waiting for you.

And it’s disappointing to find out who doesn’t stick with you, but at least you know where you stand. But it is so refreshing to know that there are people who will stick with you through thick and thin. Cicero said, “Friends are proved by adversity.” and Euripides (yur rip e dees) said “Friends show their love in times of trouble…” and Jim Baker “When I went to prison, I didn’t lose any friends, I just found out who my friends really were.”

And if there are no friends waiting for you at the top of the pit, keep in mind Jesus’ words in John 15:15 I no longer call you slaves, because a master doesn’t confide in his slaves. Now you are my friends, since I have told you everything the Father told me.

And the promise of Romans 8:38–39 And I am convinced that nothing can ever separate us from God’s love. Neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither our fears for today nor our worries about tomorrow—not even the powers of hell can separate us from God’s love. No power in the sky above or in the earth below—indeed, nothing in all creation will ever be able to separate us from the love of God that is revealed in Christ Jesus our Lord.

I don’t know what your pit might be, but I know your God. And remember what the Bible says in Hebrews 13:5 God has said, “I will never fail you. I will never abandon you.”

And in Deuteronomy 31:6 So be strong and courageous! Do not be afraid and do not panic before them. For the Lord your God will personally go ahead of you. He will neither fail you nor abandon you.”

And the promise in 1 Kings 6:13 (God Said,) “I will never abandon my people. . . “

1 Chronicles 28:20 Then David continued, “Be strong and courageous, and do the work. Don’t be afraid or discouraged, for the Lord God, my God, is with you. He will not fail you or forsake you. He will see to it that all the work related to the Temple of the Lord is finished correctly.

You get the picture. God didn’t forget Joseph when he was in the pit, he didn’t forget Jeremiah when he was in the pit, he didn’t forget Daniel when he was in the pit, and he won’t forget you no matter how dark your pit seems.

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