Suffering for Truth

KEY VERSE: “Blessed are they which are persecuted for righteousness sake.” —Matthew 5:10

SELECTED SCRIPTURE: Jeremiah 37:1-38; 38:4-13

THERE can be many reasons for enduring persecution, but the only ones that will result in blessings from the Lord are those which have a righteous cause. Because of his faithfulness in speaking out for God, the Prophet Jeremiah was severely persecuted. A record of this is written in the 38th chapter of his prophecy.

God had said that the kingdom of Israel would fall to the threatening Chaldean armies. This message Jeremiah relayed to the king who was very unhappy with the report. Zedekiah apparently had somewhat of a liking for the prophet, but not his prophecy, and as a result shut him up many days in a dungeon to coerce him into agreeing with his other advisers who were saying God would protect Jerusalem. But Jeremiah remained steadfast in his faithfulness to what God had said.

Certain of the court princes, realizing that his counsel to surrender to the Babylonian king could well “weaken the hands [morale]” of the people, urged the king to have Jeremiah put to death. Influenced by their wicked advice, the weak king turned the prophet over to them and gave permission to do whatever they thought necessary. Whereupon they cast him into a cistern expecting to let him die there. The Lord, however, provided a way of escape through an officer of the palace.

The Apostle Paul, in the 11th chapter of Hebrews, reminds us that persecution and hardship was common during that age among those who were, like Jeremiah, willing to endure terrible physical pain and even death, because they shared the cause of a “better hope” spoken by God. They all died not having received the promise, but looking for blessings to come in a future age.

The transition of God’s dealings from that long-ago age into the present Gospel Age did not alter the validity of our text. Jesus said, “In the world ye shall have tribulation: but be of good cheer; I have overcome the world.” (John 16:33) As appraised by human wisdom, it would seem that the world had overcome Jesus. Certainly he was cruelly put to death by selfish human elements of the religious world of his day. But in this experience Jesus was the real overcomer. Because he knew it was his Father’s will that he should die as the Redeemer of the fallen and dying race, he surrendered to his enemies and continued to love them even though they put him to death.

As throughout the age many of the faithful followers of the Master were persecuted, so too during the present harvest period at the end of the age those who have espoused the cause of truth and faithfully let their light shine have often found themselves the targets of those who, under the influence of the “god of this world,” oppose the light bearers.—II Cor. 4:4

To a considerable extent, however, the position of religion and the world has changed during the last sixty or seventy years. While the fundamentalists are still quite outspoken in their opposition to present truth, the modernistic viewpoint is one of indifference to all doctrinal viewpoints. Besides, the theory of religious liberty and tolerance is stressed so much these days that it has led to a large degree of freedom for those who are active in proclaiming the Gospel of the kingdom. Just as the Lord held back the opposition in Corinth because he had “much people” in that city to be reached and served by the brethren, so too now the church, for the most part, would seem to be living under similar circumstances.

On the whole, at the present time the Lord’s people are remarkably free from persecution. But there is no need to conclude that this is due to lack of faithfulness in proclaiming the truth. Neither is it necessary to wonder whether or not the Lord’s people have been sufficiently outspoken, or condemnatory, in their manner of witnessing. The real reason is, it seems to us, that the Lord had a work to be accomplished through a widespread witness of the truth which could not be done if he permitted the forces of opposition against the truth to have their way.

Let us, then, utilize our present favorable opportunities and use every privilege we have of proclaiming “good tidings of good.” If we do this, like Jeremiah we will find that even now, in this quiet and favorable time, the truth is not popular.

Dawn Bible Students Association
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