Today I would like to dig into a small sample from the Word of the Day. Tucked away amidst the story of a raging war that was poised and destined to break through Jerusalem’s gate, we find the prophet Jeremiah. He has been given a word for the people of God. It’s a word that if followed will save their very lives, however, it’s not a word that is welcomed by many of them. The Chaldean’s are breathing down their necks and God has sent word to His people through the prophet Jeremiah, that the Chaldean’s will win this war. He strongly suggests to them that they surrender themselves to the Chaldeans as prisoners of war in order to save their lives. If they don’t surrender, the Chaldeans will conquer the city, kill those inside it and burn it down to the ground.
Like I said, not many people were very happy with what Jeremiah had to say about the war. Eventually it got to the point where several princes got tired of hearing him tell the people to surrender to the Chaldeans. So they went before the king and told him that
“he is weakening the hands of the soldiers who are left in this city, and the hands of all the people, by speaking such words to them. For this man is not seeking the welfare of this people, but their harm.” (38:4)
To which the king replied, “Behold, he is in your hands, for the king can do nothing against you.” (38:5) In other words, do whatever you want to him, I’m not going to stop you. (He was probably tired of hearing the doom and gloom message too.)
So these princes took Jeremiah and lowered him into a cistern that had a good amount of mirey mud in the bottom of it.
And this is where I must pause for a brief moment in order to breathe and turn our gaze to the present. Our world has grown suddenly dark and frightening and altogether different than it was just a few short years ago. And besides that, even on a personal level, we can completely relate to this poor prophet. He is simply doing his job. Faithfully relaying a painful message to the people he loves for the God he worships and what does he get in return? They don’t listen and they throw him into a pit where he sinks down into the mud. Lovely. Talk about gratitude! He’s trying to save their lives and they throw him into a pit.
I’m fairly positive that there is at least one element to this story that you can relate to. We’ve all been the messenger of bad news at some point in our lives. It’s not fun. But that doesn’t make it any less necessary. And yet once that message is delivered who is it that usually bears the brunt of the reaction? The messenger.
I’m also fairly positive that some of you out there can relate to feeling like you’ve been thrown in a pit where you’re sinking into the mud hopeless, helpless, and left to die of starvation. But this is where the story really gets good.
Enter Ebed-melech the Ethiopian, a eunuch who was in the king’s house. He had heard that Jeremiah had been put into the cistern and was apparently outraged enough about the treatment of God’s messenger that he decided to do something about it. Now here I have to point out, this man was a foreign slave in the king’s house. He was not a man of position, nor a man of wealth, power or influence. At that time, for a servant to go to the king uninvited most likely spelled out instant death in most circumstances. But this wasn’t most circumstances. This foreigner was about to march himself right up to the king and tell him that what he had just allowed these men to do was wrong and he knew it. Ebed-melech, placing his own welfare aside,
“said to the king, ‘My lord the king, these men have done evil in all that they did to Jeremiah the prophet by casting him into the cistern, and he will die there of hunger, for there is no bread left in the city.’ Then the king commanded Eded-melech the Ethiopian, ‘Take thirty men with you from here, and lift Jeremiah the prophet out of the cistern before he dies.’ So Ebed-melech took the men with him and went to the house of the king, to a wardrobe in the storehouse, and took from there old rags and worn=out clothes, which he let down to Jeremiah in the cistern by ropes. Then Ebed-melech the Ethiopian said to Jeremiah, ‘Put the rags and clothes between your armpits and the ropes.’ Jeremiah did so. Then they drew Jeremiah up with ropes and lifted him out of the cistern.” (Jeremiah 38:8-13)
Some scholars believe that Jeremiah wrote Lamentations 3:52-65, I’ll let you be the judge:
“I have been hunted like a bird by those who were my enemies without cause; they flung me alive into the pit and cast stones on me; water closed over my head; I said, ‘I am lost.’ I called on your name, O LORD, from the depths of the pit; you heard my plea, ‘Do not close your ear to my cry for help!’ You came near when I called on you; you said, ‘Do not fear!’ You have taken up my cause, O Lord; you have redeemed my life. You have seen the wrong done to me, O LORD; judge my cause. You have seen all their vengeance, all their plots against me. You have heard their taunts, O LORD, all their plots against me. The lips and thoughts of my assailants are against me all the day long. Behold their sitting and their rising; I am the object of their taunts.”
If you look up Lamentations chapter three you will also find these words a few paragraphs earlier:
“Remember my affliction and my wanderings, the wormwood and the gall! My soul continually remembers it and is bowed down within me. But this I call to mind, and therefore I have hope:
The steadfast love of the LORD never ceases; His mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness. ‘The LORD is my portion,’ says my soul, ‘therefore I will hope in Him.’ The LORD is good to those who wait for Him, to the soul who seeks Him. It is good that one should wait quietly for the salvation of the LORD. It is good for a man that he bear the yoke in his youth.” (verses 19-27)
Yes my friend, “God is not unjust so as to overlook your work and the love that you have shown for His name in serving the saints, as you still do.” (Hebrews 6:10) Just like God saw Jeremiah having been thrown into that pit, He sees you having been thrown under that bus. He is, has been and always will be the God who sees. He knows the troubles you’ve seen because He has been right there with you in them all! And just like in Jeremiah’s case God sent help from the unlikeliest of sources; your help is on the way as well.
Ebed-melech took great care in delivering Jeremiah from that pit. He went so far as to even fetch some royal rags to cushion Jeremiah’s already sore arms and sides from the rough rope with which they were using to deliver him. God didn’t just deliver Jeremiah; he delivered him in style and with great care and tenderness. Ebed-melech’s actions showed such compassion and love for this man of God that it’s hard to believe that he was a non-believer…. or was he? God even had the king send with Ebed-melech THIRTY men to draw him out of the cistern. There is no way that it took all thirty of them to get one tiny man out of a cistern. Even in this God shows His tendency toward providing an abundance of help in the salvation of one of His loved ones.
Our God is a God who loves and cares for us so much that He doesn’t just deliver us from the pit; He joins us in it until help shows up from above.
You’re never alone my friend. He loves you too much for that. Fear not, for “behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age”. (Matthew 28:20)