Three cheers for Ebed-melek
Jeremiah 38: Jeremiah sank into the mud.
Jeremiah’s reprieve from the cistern of Jonathan doesn’t last. He’s more accessible where he’s being kept in the courtyard of the palace guards so people are coming to him to hear the word of the Lord. And that’s just what they hear: being descendants of Abraham doesn’t make them invulnerable. The city’s going to fall and their only hope is to surrender. When community leaders realize what’s happening they go straight to king Zedekiah, insisting that Jeremiah be silenced. Once again the king fails as he washes his hands of the situation, handing Jeremiah over to his enemies. Jonathan’s cistern was at least dry. They put the miserable prophet down in Malkijah’s cistern. There, we’re told, “Jeremiah sank into the mud.” One can only imagine the terror of Jeremiah as his feet touch the mud and he begins to sink. How much mud is there? Will he suffocate, drowning in mud? The Lord, though, hasn’t forgotten his prophet, and the Lord has some loyal people in the city. One of those people is Ebed-melek. When he hears what’s happened to Jeremiah he goes to the king and insists that Jeremiah deserves better treatment. Once again Zedekiah wavers, this time giving permission to Ebed-melek to take some men and get Jeremiah out of that cistern. We don’t know much about Ebed-melek. He was an Ethiopian, an official in the court, and his name means “servant of the king.” This event causes us to wish we knew him better. This man suddenly appears on the scene, is used by God at a critical moment in history, and then moves on, never to be seen again. In the Kingdom there are those who are called to play big roles. Some are like Jeremiah who stays on the center stage of history for decades. (This is just an aside, but we shouldn’t mistake being called to play a big role in God’s plans to mean we’ll always like where that role takes us. Rather, it might be to a terrible place, knee deep in mud.) The rest of us, though, are given supporting roles. It may be that our whole lives will be lived in the background, unnoticed by history. However, we might, at just the right time and place, be given some key lines to say or a fleeting, but important, thing to do. If that’s what God has in mind for me, I hope I can do my job as well as Ebed-melek does in this passage.
Take Away: We may live our entire lives and only be given one, eternal, history making opportunity. Let’s make the most of that opportunity when it comes.
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