Day 159: The Incredible Mercy of God

Jeremiah 38:14-18

Then Zedekiah the king sent and took Jeremiah the prophet to himself into the third entry that is in Yahweh’s house. Then the king said to Jeremiah, “I will ask you something. Hide nothing from me.”

Then Jeremiah said to Zedekiah, “If I declare it to you, will you not surely put me to death? If I give you counsel, you will not listen to me.”

So Zedekiah the king swore secretly to Jeremiah, saying, “As Yahweh lives, who made our souls, I will not put you to death, neither will I give you into the hand of these men who seek your life.”

Then Jeremiah said to Zedekiah, “Yahweh, the God of Armies, the God of Israel, says: ‘If you will go out to the king of Babylon’s princes, then your soul will live, and this city will not be burned with fire. You will live, along with your house. But if you will not go out to the king of Babylon’s princes, then this city will be given into the hand of the Chaldeans, and they will burn it with fire, and you won’t escape out of their hand.’ ”

After years and years of warnings, and after the more recent warnings of God’s prophet Jeremiah, God gives Zedekiah one last chance to save Jerusalem. After all of the anger that God has expressed, He was still willing to accept Judah’s repentance. This is definitely not human behavior and it also demonstrates that “the God of the Old Testament” is far from being mean. What we actually see is a God who desperately wishes He didn’t have to punish His children.

We also experience the challenges that Jeremiah had in his daily walk with God. God had promised Jeremiah that he would not be killed as long as he continued to give out God’s messages faithfully. Even though he knew this, he was still defensive when the king asked Jeremiah for news from God. It could be that Jeremiah was just saying this for the kings benefit, but I think that if it were me, I would have been asking to protect myself and I think that God actually expects this of us. It’s natural and right to do what we can to avoid death! I believe that our avoidance of death is a part of His plan to keep us from it. Even so, we should also keep trusting God’s promises as we do what we can to protect ourselves.

King Zedekiah’s fear of man was evident in his life. He appears to have handed Jeremiah over to be killed when he was afraid of the princes and the military. Now, he’s talking to Jeremiah in secret again. The kings cowardice is in stark contrast to Jeremiah’s bravery, and that continues to play out as we read on. It is very comforting that we have a God who is willing to not give us what we deserve if we are willing to simply start obeying Him again.

Day 158: Ebedmelech the Ethiopian

Jeremiah 38:7-13

Now when Ebedmelech the Ethiopian, a eunuch, who was in the king’s house, heard that they had put Jeremiah in the dungeon (the king was then sitting in Benjamin’s gate), Ebedmelech went out of the king’s house, and spoke to the king, saying, “My lord the king, these men have done evil in all that they have done to Jeremiah the prophet, whom they have cast into the dungeon. He is likely to die in the place where he is, because of the famine; for there is no more bread in the city.”

Then the king commanded Ebedmelech the Ethiopian, saying, “Take from here thirty men with you, and take up Jeremiah the prophet out of the dungeon, before he dies.”

So Ebedmelech took the men with him, and went into the house of the king under the treasury, and took from there rags and worn-out garments, and let them down by cords into the dungeon to Jeremiah. Ebedmelech the Ethiopian said to Jeremiah, “Now put these rags and worn-out garments under your armpits under the cords.”

Jeremiah did so. So they lifted Jeremiah up with the cords, and took him up out of the dungeon; and Jeremiah remained in the court of the guard.

My guess is that there were quite a few Israelis who knew what was done to Jeremiah, but none of them had the nerve to talk to the king about it. This is one of those places in history where God used a foreigner, who also happened to be a servant, to change history by doing something of obvious good. When he saw that Jeremiah had been put in the well and left to die, he took a risk and went to the king. He obviously knew the king pretty well because he appears to have had a sneaking suspicion that the king would not approve of the situation. He turned out to be right and the king ordered Ebedmelech to take 30 men and get Jeremiah out of the well.

Getting Jeremiah out was not an easy operation. Ebedmeleck had to head up an actual project, which included the engineering of a system to successfully extract Jeremiah safely from the mud. Ebedmelech was successful and now his name is forever recorded in God’s word for all eternity. Ebedmeleck the Ethiopian will always be recognized as the man who used his abilities to save God’s servant Jeremiah at the lowest point in his life. It would be safe to assume that Ebedmelech is quite rich in heaven now.

There are many people around us who are experiencing the lowest times in their lives. If we are in a place in which we can help them in some way, it’s in our best interest to do it. One of the most wonderful things about modern technology is that it allows us to access so many people in need. When you couple that with the ability we have in the United States to earn money in a capitalist economy, it gives us an unparalleled opportunity to give directly to those in need. Socialists just don’t have that opportunity and many of the world’s Christians are trapped in socialist countries. Now Ebedmeleck was probably in a pretty nice position if he had access to the king. Even so, it’s hard to imagine a person more trapped than Ebedmeleck the Ethiopian. He was trapped as a servant in a city without bread under siege. The idea of having money was probably laughable, let alone having a good future in this world. I am guessing that Ebedmeleck was given the wisdom to see that what he needed was for God to come through for Him in the future, whatever that might be, and Jeremiah’s words brought that hope to him.