Isn’t it illuminating where your mind takes you in a lock-down? Mine keeps returning to a little story tucked away in the back-chapters of, of all places, the book of Jeremiah.
“The weeping prophet” had a tough gig. Jeremiah was tasked with calling for repentance before an idolatrous nation as the great juggernaut of Babylon loomed over them. The forceful prophet soon got under the skin of an entitled and obdurate court. Princes threw him into the miry well in the court of the prison, where he sunk down to die. Things were grim indeed. Enter, Ebedmelek.
Who, you ask? Well you might, as Ebedmelek is not a well-known name among the famous heroes, but he should be. If anybody ever showed real courage and personal conviction when the chips were down, he did. With no stake in the fight and nothing to gain. this Ethiopian eunuch dared to confront the king and request permission to rescue the prophet.
Ebedmelech went forth 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; and he is like to die for hunger in the place where he is: for there is no more bread in the city.
Then the king commanded Ebedmelech the Ethiopian, saying, Take thirty men with you, and take up Jeremiah the prophet out of the dungeon, before he dies. Jeremiah 38:8-10
Once Ebedmelek had rescued Jeremiah, God responded with lightening swiftness to his bravery.
Meanwhile the word of the Lord had come to Jeremiah while he was shut up in the court of the prison, saying, Go and speak to Ebed-Melech the Ethiopian, saying, “Thus says the Lord of hosts, the God of Israel: Behold, I will bring My words upon this city for adversity and not for good, and they shall be performed in that day before you. But I will deliver you in that day, says the Lord, and you shall not be given into the hand of the men of whom you are afraid. 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 39:16-19
I love this story. It speaks to my heart about how our very big, powerful God is watching the smallest of actions, the minutia of everyday life. His eye really is on the sparrow. In the midst of sweeping saga, impending doom, intrigue at the court and enemies besieging, the actions of one man arrest the Lord’s attention.
The parallels right now are uncanny. We’re besieged by forces beyond our control, seemingly helpless to affect anything important in our sequestered state. We’re hardly functioning at a basic level let alone positioned for exploits! Who are we to do anything extraordinary? What can be done?
Take a leaf out of the book of Ebedmelek. He didn’t let the barrage of evil and confusion keep him passive. Political correctness did not paralyze him. Fear for his own safety didn’t stop him. He had an opportunity and he refused to stay neutral. Incidentally, Ebedmelek actually means “servant of the king”. First and foremost, who are we really serving? What is it costing?
The upside of really bad circumstances is that sometimes, we have nothing to lose. We may as well be audacious, make the big statement, red-line the machinery, because the smartest move is simply to take the chance. Conscience demands it. There’ll never be a moment so ripe for deep and serious interaction with those around us we cannot usually touch. The opportunity to take a strong, uncompromising stand which refuses to abandon the things we truly believe. Just as the lepers, (2 Kings 7:3-11), caught outside Samaria when the Syrian army surrounded it, decided they might as well chance surrender in the camp of the enemy than starve outside the city, sometimes, we’ve got to let go of safety. In the end, their courage saved everyone.
As Christians, we’re really trying to walk in humility, consideration for others, and obedience to authority, but the danger is to fall into a toothless religious conformity. It’s too tempting to keep your head down and stay quietly under the radar. Let the prophet die! Stay out of it!
The Lion of Judah is still roaring, so let that summon your courage. Somewhere between the senseless insurrection of storming the Capitol and sitting helplessly on our hands, we’ve got to find our righteous call to action.
Open to me the gates of righteousness; I will go through them, and praise the Lord. Psalm 118:19
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