For I will surely deliver you, and you shall not fall by the sword; but your life shall be as a prize to you, because you have put your trust in Me,” says the LORD.’ “ Jeremiah 39:18
Ever heard of Ebed-Melech? He’s not one of the popular Sunday school stories, but perhaps he should be. He was an official in the court of King Zedekiah. But here’s the thing. He was a Gentile. An Ethiopian. He proved to have far more courage and character than any of Judah’s leadership, and that fact did not go unnoticed by God.
Here’s a quick backstory. Judah was ready to fall to the Babylonians for their persistent and unrepentant idolatry. The fall of the northern kingdom of Israel a century before hadn’t given them pause. In fact, when prophets like Jeremiah warned them of their coming destruction, they instead believed their misfortune was because they didn’t worship idols ENOUGH. Further, they put guys like Jeremiah in prison, or worse.
Zedekiah was the last king of Judah, and he was there because the Babylonians installed him as king. His only power was what the Babylonians allowed, and it wasn’t much. He was not much different from the rest of Judah – he wanted God to bless him, but he had no interest in obeying what God said. God’s message for Zedekiah: Thus says the LORD: ‘Do not deceive yourselves, saying, “The Chaldeans will surely depart from us,” for they will not depart. For though you had defeated the whole army of the Chaldeans who fight against you, and there remained only wounded men among them, they would rise up, every man in his tent, and burn the city with fire.’ “ Jeremiah 37:9-10.
Needless to say, Jeremiah was hated by members of the royal court. They undoubtedly thought the best way to ensure Judah’s (and their own) security was to get as cozy with Babylon as possible. And to shut Jeremiah up. Permanently. They made Jeremiah out to be a traitor who was destroying the morale of the army and the people, and they asked the king’s permission to execute the prophet. Zedekiah said, “Look, he is in your hand. For the king can do nothing against you.” (Jeremiah 38:5) So much for being king.
The court members dropped Jeremiah in a muddy pit with the intent that he die of thirst or exposure or suffocation. Or all three. They weren’t picky.
Enter Ebed-Melech. As soon as he heard about this (38:7) he confronted the king– in front of his court. “My lord the king, these men have done evil in all that they have done to Jeremiah the prophet …” (38:9) And the king, to his credit, gave Ebed-Melech a contingent of thirty men to go pull the prophet out of the hole.
God noticed Ebed-Melech’s courage and gave Jeremiah a message to pass on to him. When the Babylonians came to destroy Jerusalem, Ebed-Melech would be divinely protected.
So why is this obscure story about this little-known guy worth discussing? Everything in Scripture is there to teach us something. This story is no different.
In a nation that has largely abandoned its belief in God, we must exhibit moral courage. Ebed-Melech was not afraid to take an unpopular, risky stand for right.
We must not hesitate to act. Ebed-Melech could not afford to wait a week or a month. Nor could he afford to wait for someone more suited, better positioned, or more qualified to act. Jeremiah’s life depended on it and with the Babylonians returning, Ebed-Melech’s own life depended on it.
We must be prepared to see things through. Ebed-Melech was more than willing to take the thirty men and stay until he was sure the prophet was safe. He wasn’t content to sit in the back and spout off about what should be done or discuss theories. He was ready to get his hands dirty.
- Is there a situation in your life that requires moral courage?
- Is there something you have been hesitating over that you need to resolve to take action?
- Is there something you are resisting getting fully involved in although you have identified a need?
- Do you think God has noticed?
Next week: Obadiah