Ebed-Melech, a servant/slave of Judah’s King Zedekiah, stands tall as an Ethiopian Eunuch, in God’s Story, as told in the book of Jeremiah, chapters 38:7-12; 39:16.
It was a horrible way to live in Jerusalem as they waited for Babylon to break through the gates of the city. Jeremiah, the Prophet, proclaimed truth of the coming fall of the city at every opportunity. Even after being beaten, put in stocks, imprisoned in a vault in a dungeon, Jeremiah wavered not at God’s call on his life.
“I knew you before I formed you in the womb
Before you were born I set you apart;
I appointed you as a prophet to the nations.” (Jeremiah 1:5) NIV
Back to our man of the hour, Ebed-Melech, also set apart for a work of King Zedekiah and another KING…Jehovah God Almighty. Being an Ethiopian meant that Ebed-Melech grew up in the despicable heathen class of cruelty and was not known for good moral character.
But this Ethiopian had a transformed life and consequently, a transformed moral character which was a triumph of grace in the life of God’s Prophet, Jeremiah. I wish I knew how he came to know the Lord as the only true God, in a godless place. Did he secretly listen to Jeremiah preaching, walking with his stick through Jerusalem, railing, and whining about the coming of the Babylonians to destroy Jerusalem? Did he observe Jeremiah being dumped into the dungeon at Jonathan’s prison house? Had he walked by when the stocks next to the temple displayed the emaciated body of Jeremiah? Is that when he believed?
Even though the Eastern Eunuchs were known to be pitilessly cruel people, who delighted in horror rather than honor, to wound rather than heal, one of their race came to be known in the Holy Writ as” Ebed-Melech, the man who was a credit to his class.” ( Herbert Lockyer)
Ebed-Melech watched as cruel men lowered Jeremiah the Prophet of God into the cistern which, empty of water, held only mud. Did he listen as the Prophet cried out for mercy or did he hear nothing but his tears as he weakly thrashed about in his muddy grave?
BUT, Ebed-Melech risked his own life, went before King Zedekiah to beg for Jeremiah’s life. Granted that favor, he went about doing something that only the compassionate, thoughtful person would do. He sought out old rags and discarded clothing, tore it into strips and took it along with the rope to rescue Jeremiah, Why the rags? To cushion the ropes under his arms as they pulled him bodily out of the mud in that cistern.
That very ‘over the top’ act of mercy rips my heart apart. The tenderness of God through the hands of a slave reminds me so of those who have lovingly and compassionately gone the extra mile in pulling me out of the mud and the muck so many times in my life. It reminds me of my Mother, who was a “Practical Nurse”, an LPN, as they were known, back in the day. She always knew just what ‘rag’ to put under the ropes of another’s suffering, whether physically or emotionally or spiritually. She could be Ebed-Melech, servant of the Most High God.
Others in my life that I cannot name have shown me the meaning of Ebed-Melech, the man who surely was superior to his surroundings. Those who have risked their own reputations to stand for what is right, putting others who claimed the Name to shame. Some who had the courage of their convictions and risked it all to help another that was floundering, or stuck in the stocks of life’s unfair circumstances. It’s amazing how God can use the amazingly weak things in life to accomplish His perfect plan. O how thankful I am for those in my life who had the faith in God to live it out daily in front of me, cushioning the ropes that tear the skin from life’s brutal suffering.
And now for ‘the rest of the story’:”Go and tell Ebed-Melech, the Cushite, ‘this is what the LORD ALMIGHTY, the God of Israel says: I am about to fulfill my words against this city through disaster, not prosperity. At that time they will be fulfilled before your eyes. BUT I will rescue you on that day, declares the LORD; you will not be handed over to those you fear, I will save you; you will not fall by the sword but will escape with your life, because you trust in me, declares the LORD.’” (Jer. 39:16-18) NIV
O, thank you, LORD, for the Ebed-Melech’s in my life. May I be an Ebed-Melech and soften the ropes under the arms of others along this earthly path….