Friday, October 26, 2012

In Times of Trouble ... Day 20

Many years ago he purchased this exquisite bottle for me; he finally gave it to me, bringing it to the TH for my 50th birthday ... 

Last night we studied about Ebed-melech, the latest hero in our series Hidden Heroes of the Bible.

Ebed-melech was a eunuch in King Zedekiah's court. There's some debate as to whether the term eunuch actually means castrated male in various instances where the word is used. However, Keil and Delitzsch's  Biblical Commentary on the Old Testament says this regarding Ebed-melech specifically:

אישׁ סריס .haimer signifies a eunuch: the אישׁ shows that סריס is here to be taken in its proper meaning, not in the metaphorical sense of an officer of the court. Since the king had many wives (Jeremiah 38:22), the presence of a eunuch at the court, as overseer of the harem, cannot seem strange. The law of Moses, indeed, prohibited castration (Deuteronomy 23:2); but the man was a foreigner, and had been taken by the king into his service as one castrated.

From Ethiopia, his appellation means simply "the king's servant" - he was not even called by his own given name! He had lost everything that would identify him from his previous life. Yet he was a loyal and trusted servant to the king.

Chapters 37 and 38 of the book of Jeremiah tell the story. It was this man who rescued Jeremiah from death in the old drying up well that the princes of Israel had thrown him into in retaliation for his prophecy of the trouble that was to befall Israel. To summarize, Ebed-melech had the ear of the King. He had proved himself to be a faithful, competent servant and as a result the King trusted his judgment. So when Ebed-melech went to the King and told him about Jeremiah's plight, the King reversed his earlier ruling and authorized his servant to rescue Jeremiah.

If it hadn't been for Ebed-melech, we might not have had the books of Jeremiah and Lamentations, Dad commented ...

The part of the story that I loved the most, however, is found at the end of chapter 39. What Jeremiah has prophesied is about to come true. Jeremiah himself has been protected; and God sends him to seek out Ebed-melech with a special message from God for him: 

17 But I will deliver thee in that day, saith the Lord: and thou shalt not be given into the hand of the men of whom thou art afraid.
18 For I will surely deliver thee, and thou shalt not fall by the sword, but thy life shall be for a prey unto thee: because thou hast put thy trust in me, saith the Lord.

(The word prey is not the same meaning here as we use it today; it meant prize)

His life was to be spared; but verse 17 was the part that touched me very deeply. "God knows our fears," said Dad softly in our study. Ebed-melech, this man who put on such a brave face and worked so loyally and diligently for his master, must have already experienced what it was like to be taken away from what he knew and valued and to be forced into a life of sterile servitude. He had adapted and adjusted and done what it took to survive; and he succeeded so well that he had carved out quite a nice life for himself under the circumstances. But to have to go through all of that again! He more than most at the King's court would have been aware of the horrors that awaited the person who was seized by the enemy.

God knew it all. And He sent a message through the very person that Ebed-melech had rescued, showing that his faithfulness was indeed to be rewarded. His life would be spared in the time of trouble.

The reason this story is in my Thanksgiving month is kind of small in light of the story of Ebed-melech, but please bear with me!: The day after we had this Bible study I was to drive back to Calgary very early to catch a flight. Dad and I had driven out from Calgary earlier on Wednesday morning and the roads had been fairly slippery in several places, with light blowing snow. We drove in broad daylight, which made it easier. My great fear every winter is losing control of the car on slippery roads - it's happened to me a couple of times, once to the point of totalling my car with treasured passengers inside - and this Thursday morning I was going to have to drive in the dark because of my flight's early departure.

As I was going through the TH getting things ready for Saturday, my eye happened to fall on the blue bottle. I read the tiny sign attached to the stopper - there were instructions on the back of it as well. On impulse I shook the contents of the bottle out onto the table for the very first time. After all, this was a time of trouble for me, so when better to look inside?

The words that flowed out stopped me in my tracks. There were only three, reiterated in different fonts and in different sizes, but one message:

YOU           ARE          LOVED

I knew beyond a shadow of a doubt then that God knew my fear. It was nothing on the grand scale that poor Ebed-melech's had been; but the message seemed to me that just as He had cared for him, He would care for me.

I pulled out of my driveway at 6:15 the next morning with complete peace. I took the same route that Dad and I had driven the day before. And on this side of the highway, there was no ice, no blowing snow.

Thank you, Andy, for purchasing the bottle when you did and for not giving it to me much earlier, at a time when I might have thought I needed it more. Wednesday night was one of the rare times that I truly felt alone; and you were the conduit of this simple, powerful message from God to me. You were my Jeremiah on Wednesday night, for my time of trouble.

One last observation: Fast forward in the Bible to the book of Acts, chapter 8. Philip was directed by God to travel on a certain road. As he did, along came a well-appointed chariot, with a man inside it. Philip could hear that the man was reading from the book of Isaiah, and this is what he was reading:

He was led as a sheep to the slaughter; and like a lamb dumb before his shearer, so opened he not his mouth:
In his humiliation his judgment was taken away: and who shall declare his generation? for his life is taken from the earth.

How the man must have been poring over those words. Did he see some parallel between them and his own life?

Philip was able to explain to him that these words were written by the prophet Isaiah about the Messiah who was to come - who had come, who had been stripped of everything He had on this earth, and who had fulfilled the prophecy.

Philip "preached unto him Jesus." And the man believed and was baptised.

This man, it turns out, was a trusted servant, an officer, of the Queen of his country. He was living in Ethiopia. He was a eunuch.


  1. I love this! So beautiful, in every way, from the exquisite bottle to the even more enduring message inside. Thank you, both.





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