Iron Pillar – Internal Strength

Today I have made you a fortified city, an iron pillar and a bronze wall to stand against the whole land.” Jeremiah 1: 18

What exactly do we expect God to do when we are faced with challenges? As faithful Christians, we would normally desire a miraculous rescue from all the troubles with the help of God. Though we cannot deny God’s ability to perform miracles, God’s promise to Jeremiah to make him an iron pillar, points to another way of God helping his people, to deal with life’s problems.

Jeremiah is called to do a difficult and thankless job. He was asked to proclaim about the oncoming destruction of Jerusalem because of the sins of the people. Jeremiah’s situation becomes more complicated and embarrassing later, because other prophets were busy prophesying a message completely opposite to his by saying, “You will not see the sword or suffer famine. Indeed, I will give you lasting peace in this place” (14:13). This makes him appear like a traitor who is neither interested in the welfare of the nation nor his contemporaries. This also puts him at odds with the officials, who begin to think that Jeremiah is trying to create confusion among the people by stirring them up against the king!

But God had foretold Jeremiah at the time of his calling that he would be standing “against the whole land–against the kings of Judah, its officials, its priests and the people of the land” (1:18). Jeremiah was not called to minister with a false hope of success or getting an easy path to traverse, but with the reality of standing up to the opposition to fulfil God’s will in his life. In this mission, apart from the familiar promise that “I am with you and will rescue you” (1:8, 19), God also promises to make Jeremiah “an iron pillar” (v.18).

The iron pillar represents internal strength. God helps Jeremiah in developing this inner strength when he was fulfilling his mission, which was both emotionally draining and physically threatening. Jeremiah needed to be emotionally strong and physically fit. In his mission he had very few friends and he had to face physical threats as well. Jeremiah needed to be like an iron pillar – strong and unaffected by the external threats – in the midst of his tumultuous career as a Prophet of Doom.

There is a fourth century Iron pillar in Delhi, India, which is around 7-meter-high and 6000 kg heavy. An 18thcentury ruler had ordered its destruction. A canon was fired at close range but it failed to do any damage to the pillar, except for causing a mere dent. Unfortunately, its ricochet destroyed the walls of a nearby mosque. So further attempts to destroy it were called off. This is one real life example of how an iron pillar represented internal strength in times of external threat.

In Jeremiah’s career, he stood strong in midst of severe opposition when his own life was under threat. But eventually he fulfilled the will of God in his ministry. This was mainly because of the inner strength God had granted him. When we are faced with challenges in our lives, God strengthens us. We might look for a miraculous rescue, but God is wanting to strengthen each of us like an iron pillar to wither the storm. Sometimes the challenges we face helps us to understand the God-given strength in us, which we would have never known before. So in times of struggle, apart from praying for a miracle, look deep inside for God’s strength, so that you too can overcome life’s challenges through it. Ask God to make you into an iron pillar so that you will be equipped to face the challenges in your path.

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Ancient Wisdom, Modern Dilemmas

by Rev Lai Kai Ming

Readings: Joshua 19-20; Proverbs 14:28-29

READ (verse/s chosen for meditation)
Joshua 20:9
These were the cities appointed for all the children of Israel and for the stranger who dwelt among them, that whoever killed a person accidentally might flee there, and not die by the hand of the avenger of blood until he stood before the congregation.

REFLECT
The Bible provides for accidents, and mistakes. God looks at our intentions. He knows when we mean it, and when we don’t. This ancient rule shows how practical God’s commands were. Provisions were made where accidental murderers could flee to, until a proper trial was conducted. The avenger of blood here probably refers to a close relative of the murdered victim, who was obliged to mete out justice on behalf of the clan. Yes, there must be justice. But mercy prevails.

RELATE
In recent days the 377A debate has ignited again. One reason given for scrapping the law is that it is ancient and therefore outdated. The question is, are all things ancient outdated? C.S. Lewis refers to those who think like this as committing “chronological snobbery”. No one would say that the ancients were wrong about the problem with stealing, murder, or disobeying parents. Yet some today argue for the repealing of the sodomy law because our forefathers were wrong about love and sex. So, is homosexuality a perversion today as it was during Sodom and Gomorrah? Well, yes. But should we consider all practicing gays and lesbians today as criminals of the State? Then how about those who commit adultery and abortion? Surely, these too have practiced perversion, as far as God’s design is concerned.

REST
Lord, grant us wisdom for our times. In our zeal for justice and purity, may we not lose sight of mercy and the power of grace.