Best of Daily Reflections: The Rescue of Ebed-Melech
“Because you trusted me, I will give you your life as a reward. I will rescue you and keep you safe. I, the LORD, have spoken!”
The beginning of Jeremiah 39 tells the sad tale of the fall of Jerusalem. What the Lord had promised for so long finally came true, as the Babylonians broke through the city gates, tore down the walls, burned the buildings, and exiled those who were not killed in battle. The wickedness of Judah finally received its due.
But Jeremiah 39 ends on a curiously positive note. The Lord had given a message to Jeremiah concerning Ebed-Melech the Ethiopian. In this message, God promised to rescue Ebed-Melech, whose name meant “servant of the king,” from the people he feared. Moreover, because Ebed-Melech had trusted God, he would be kept safe even as Jerusalem was sacked (39:15-18).
We know Ebed-Melech from Jeremiah 38. In that chapter, several high-ranking officials persuaded King Zedekiah to have Jeremiah killed. Thus he was thrown into a muddy cistern in order to die from lack of water and food. But Ebed-Melech was a member of the king’s court and intervened on Jeremiah’s behalf. With the king’s permission, the Ethiopian rescued Jeremiah and saved his life. No doubt because of this action, Ebed-Melech made enemies among the Jewish officials, who probably schemed to have him killed. But, through Jeremiah, the Lord vowed to protect Ebed-Melech, both from the Babylonians and from his Jewish opponents.
We know nothing more about Ebed-Melech than what is narrated in Jeremiah 38-39. His situation is reminiscent of that of Rahab, whose unusual faithfulness to God and courageous service to him led to her being spared when the city of Jericho was destroyed (Joshua 2, 6). Both of these biblical figures, who happened to be Gentiles by the way, exemplify bold trust in God and faithful obedience, even at great personal risk. They encourage us to do what is right even when those around us would oppose us. Ebed-Melech and Rahab remind us that faithfulness to God isn’t a matter of race or family or convenience. Rather, it involves personal—and often costly—choices to serve the Lord. Such service will reap fine rewards, sometimes in this life, as in the case of Ebed-Melech and Rahab, and always in the life to come.
QUESTIONS FOR REFLECTION: When have you stood up for what is right even when it was risky? What helps you to serve God when people around you are not doing so, and even when they revile or threaten you?
PRAYER: Thank you, dear Lord, for the example of Ebed-Melech. This minor figure in the Old Testament reminds me of my personal responsibility to be faithful to you in all things, even when it is scary.
Sometimes it seems like my personal actions really don’t matter. With so much going on around me that is contrary to your will, I wonder if my efforts amount to anything. I am sometimes tempted to go with the flow of my culture, rather than to swim against the tide as one committed to you and your ways. Forgive me, Lord, when I fail to do what is right because I’m discouraged or afraid. Help me to honor you in all I do, confident that you see my actions and are glorified by them. Amen.