“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.