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July 2, 2017

Sermon Jeremiah 38:1-13 . . . “People to meet in heaven:  Ebed-Melech”

“People to meet in heaven:  Ebed-Melech”

Jeremiah 38:1-13

Grace to you and peace from God our Father and from our Lord and Savior Jesus.

Edward Aloysius Murphy, Jr., was an American aerospace engineer back in the mid-1900s.

He was born in 1918, the eldest of five children.  And after he graduated from the Military Academy at West Point, he became a pilot and served in India, China and Burma.  When the war was over, he worked in research and development at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base in Dayton, Ohio.

And while he was there working on a high-speed rocket sled, (to better understand the force of gravity on a human body), a technician accidentally connected all of the sensors the wrong way.  That’s when Murphy said, “If there are two ways to do something, and one of those ways will result in disaster, he’ll do it that way.”

Later that day, a friend quoted him to say, “Whatever can go wrong, will go wrong.”  And that was the beginning of Murphy’s Law

Need some examples?  Imagine you’re sitting in eight lanes of bumper-to-bumper traffic, when you notice that all of the other lanes are moving.  So you change lanes.

And sure enough, just as soon as you change lanes, that’s when the cars in your new lane come to a dead stop, and every other lane on the highway gets moving!  Murphy’s Law.

Imagine you’re typing an important document on your computer and you haven’t saved it for the past twenty minutes.  Guess what happens?  Murphy’s Law.

Or imagine you’re holding a slice of toast, butter side up, and you drop it.  Guess on which side it’ll land?  Murphy’s Law.

His law has even given birth to other “laws,” like Murphy’s corollary, “Left to themselves, things tend to go from bad to worse,” and Murphy’s philosophy, “Smile, tomorrow will be worse.”

If anyone ever suffered from Murphy’s Law, it was a prophet named Jeremiah. 

Turn with me to page 845, as I read the words of our text.  I’ll start where it says, “Jeremiah Cast into the Cistern,” chapter 38, verse 1:  “Now Shephatiah the son of Mattan, Gedaliah the son of Pashhur, Jucal the son of Shelemiah, and Pashhur the son of Malchiah heard the words that Jeremiah was saying to all the people, ‘Thus says the Lord:  He who stays in this city shall die by the sword, by famine, and by pestilence, but he who goes out to the Chaldeans shall live.  He shall have his life as a prize of war, and live.  Thus says the Lord:  This city shall surely be given into the hand of the army of the king of Babylon and be taken.’  Then the officials said to the king, ‘Let this man be put to death, for 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.’  King Zedekiah said, ‘Behold, he is in your hands, for the king can do nothing against you.’  So they took Jeremiah and cast him into the cistern of Malchiah, the king’s son, which was in the court of the guard, letting Jeremiah down by ropes.  And there was no water in the cistern, but only mud, and Jeremiah sank in the mud.”

We’ll stop there for just a moment.

Some six hundred years before Christ, in a little town called Anathoth, just northeast of Jerusalem, a prophet named Jeremiah was born.  And when he was just a boy, God called him to follow Him.  He said:  “Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, and before you were born I consecrated you; I appointed you a prophet to the nations.”  And for the next forty years, over the reign of five different kings, Jeremiah faithfully preached the word of the Lord.

He said:  “The Lord is the true God; He is the living God, the eternal King.  When He is angry, the earth trembles; the nations cannot endure His wrath.”  He said:  “When He thunders, the waters in the heavens roar.”  And he said:  “Blessed are those who trust in the Lord, whose confidence is in Him.”

But in spite of the countless words he spoke and prayers he prayed, the people refused to listen.  It was as if he were talking to a brick wall.

Even worse, in chapter 37, men beat him and threw him into prison where he stayed, the Bible says, “for many days.”

But for some, even that wasn’t enough.  As it says in verse 6, they took him and threw him into a cistern, a deep, dark, twenty-foot hole in the ground.  And he sank in the mud.

That’s when, all of a sudden, out of the blue, we meet a man named Ebed-melech, a man we want to meet in heaven.

Who was he?  Look at verse 7.  It says he was an “Ethiopian, a eunuch who was in the king’s house.”

What’s an Ethiopian?  It means he came from the country of Ethiopia on the eastern edge of Africa.

And he was a eunuch.  What’s a eunuch?  Let’s just say he probably wouldn’t have any children of his own any time soon.  But since he was a eunuch, he was also a close, trusted confidant of the king.

Even more, we know his name--“Ebed-Melech.”  It’s a name that meant, “servant of the king.”

So what did he do?  Look at verse 7:  “When Ebed-melech the Ethiopian, a eunuch who was in the king’s house, heard that they had put Jeremiah into the cistern—the king was sitting in the Benjamin Gate—Ebed-melech went from the king’s house and 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.’”

In other words, he said, Jeremiah’s in trouble!  He’s trapped deep in a hole in the ground, stuck in the mud with no food and no water.  And he has only days, if not hours, to live!  So I beg you, dear king, please let me go and save him.

You know what King Zedekiah could have said?  He could have said, “That prophet Jeremiah has been a problem from day one, and, as far as I’m concerned, goodbye and good riddance.  And while I’m at it, I may as well throw you into that cistern too!”

But that’s not what he said.  Look at verse 10:  “Then the king commanded Ebed-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.  And Jeremiah remained in the court of the guard.”

Can you picture Jeremiah in the bottom of that cistern, stuck in the mud?  All around him was deep darkness.  High above him was a small circle of light.

When, all of a sudden, in the midst of his deep darkness, his rescuer finally came.  And of all people, it was a fellow servant, a slave who risked his own life to save him, a man full of love and compassion.

Sound familiar?  It should.  For that’s exactly what our Savior Jesus has done.  

Just like Jeremiah, we too are stuck in the dark dungeon of death, the muck and mire of sin.  That’s what Paul wrote to the Romans:  “All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.”  And he wrote, “There is no one righteous, not even one.”

But God didn’t lower some rags and a rope to save us.  He lowered His Son, His own “Ebed-Melech,” His “Servant of the King.”

As Paul wrote to the Philippians:  “By taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men…He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to death—even death on a cross.” 

And He lifted us up by His grace.

And because He did, we too can reach out to those around us, to rescue those in trouble, to speak for those who cannot speak for themselves, to be, in our place and time, an “Ebed-melech,” a “servant of the King.”

Once, a Chinese student came to Christ.  This is the reason he gave.  He said, “I was sinking deeper and deeper in a miry pit, and all of my efforts were to no avail.  Then I looked up and saw a face look down in the well at me and said, ‘My child, I am Confucius, the father of your country.  If you had obeyed my teachings, you would have never landed where you are now.’  Then he waved his hand and left saying, ‘If you ever get out of this well, be careful to follow my teachings.’

“Then Buddha came and looked into the well and said, ‘My child, you must quit the condition in which you find yourself.  Relax, fold your arms and meditate.  Soon you will find Nirvana, which is the peace we all desire.’

“I called out:  ‘Father Buddha, if you would help me out of this well, I could follow your teachings, but I cannot in this horrible place.  Please help me!’

“Then another Man came.  His face reflected sorrow and suffering.  He came down into the well and He pulled me out.  He gave me dry clothes, and said to me:  ‘Follow Me, for I will never leave you nor forsake you.’

Then the student said, “That man was Christ, and that’s why I became a Christian.  He descended into the depths where I was.  He saved me with His own hands, and I will follow Him.”

As David once wrote in Psalm 40:  “I waited patiently for the Lord; and He turned to me and heard my cry.  He lifted me out of the slimy pit, out of the mud and mire; He set my feet upon a rock and gave me a firm place to stand.”

 

We thank You, dear Savior, for a man named “Ebed-melech,” a man we someday want to meet in heaven.  Help us to reach out to others as You have reached out to us.  This we ask in Your name.  Amen

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