I have two ponds in my back yard. They are old ponds with silty bottoms. To get to the very wonderful and refreshing water for a swim, you have to walk through some very gooey mud. My feet sink down into the mud, sometimes half way up my shin. In this state, it is very hard to keep one's balance. The suction of the goo throws you in directions that do not make sense to your brain. Walking through the mud is necessary to reach the freedom and refreshment of the lake. The only alternative would be for my husband to build a dock extending over the bank, reaching beyond the mud. If I had a dock, I could walk out onto it and jump right into the wonderful water, avoiding the slime.
Jeremiah was the bearer of some hard news. "Don't fight the invaders; instead give in to them and allow yourselves to be captured. Then, and only then, will your lives be spared!"
For telling the truth, Jeremiah gets slung into a cistern with only gooey mud as his sustainance. As he stood in that mud, with no means of escape or rescue, I'm sure he felt a bit off balance. "LORD, I have done your will...why am I being punished."
An unlikely rescuer comes along. A man from Cush. The Cushites were considered a cursed people. If a negative message was to be sent to a king from the battle front, the captain would send a Cushite. Why? Because the people of Cush had very dark skin and from afar, the watchers in the tower could see the black messenger coming and know the news was bad. Yes, unfortunately, prejudice is deeply rooted in our history.
And so, the usual bearer of bad news is the one who rescues Jeremiah from the muddy cistern of despair. He even graciously and gently pads the rescuing ropes with old rags and cloth to keep Jeremiah from being harmed any further.
The mud becomes a symbol for the king. Jeremiah shares with Zedekiah that if he does not listen to God, he will be mocked by women, a huge offense for a man in power. Yes, unfortunately, sexism is deeply rooted in our history.
'They misled you and overcame you—
those trusted friends of yours.
Your feet are sunk in the mud;
your friends have deserted you.'
Feet sunk in mud symbolizes the inability to move forward in power. It is the picture of vulnerability, of being out of balance. God won many battles for his people by allowing enemy chariots to be sunk in mud, leaving them useless in battle.
Why would one wade through mud, only to slip and fall or to become hopelessly entrenched in the mire, when God always provides a dock? God's invitation is this:
I have provided a Way for you which allows you to pass over the miry clay. Why don't you take it and jump into the cooling waters?
Yet, in our stubbornness, many of us choose the dirty and unbalanced way, as if to prove ourselves able to walk where others have failed.
Jeremiah calls out to Zedekiah, "Obey God and live."
Zedekiah says, "I think the mud looks like a better option."