Ropes and Rags
Jeremiah 38:7-13
Now when Ebedmelech the Ethiopian, one of the eunuchs which was in the king's house, heard that they had put Jeremiah in the dungeon…

The story is an illustration of the way God saves men. Jeremiah's danger and deliverance were very real. In that dungeon he is, indeed, in "an horrible pit." No hope of escape. No light, no firm standing, every prospect of death, and in no long time either. Would to God that we preachers could see the real danger to which sinners are exposed! Jeremiah was delivered, brought up out of the miry clay. But the prophet's salvation was only a feeble picture of what God's grace does for those who take hold on Jesus. He remained in the courts of the prison. "Whom the Son makes free are free indeed." We who rest in Jesus may walk about the courts of the King's palace.

I. Mark you, HELP ALWAYS COMES FROM ABOVE. Jeremiah found it so. It was useless to try to climb out of the dungeon, it was only to fall deeper into the mire. "Salvation is of the Lord." You cannot save yourself. The effort will only exhaust you. Cry unto the Lord. Say, "O Lord, deliver my soul." He is sure to hear your cry. Ebed-melech is only a very poor picture of Jesus. The Saviour does more than send down a rope. He comes Himself and lifts us up. Although Ebed-melech may be a very poor type of Jesus Christ, he is a very good picture of the style in which one man may help another.

II. HE HAD SYMPATHY. Now, sympathy is the mother of help.

III. EBED-MELECH DID NOT ALLOW DIFFICULTY TO DETER HIM. Some men can work hard so long as there are no difficulties; opposition to them is like a hill on a jibbing horse; they must stop now: they "did not look for this sort of thing, you know." Just so, the eunuch found it was not easy — it never is — to undo wrong. "A stout heart to a stiff brae," is common sense as well as right. If you mean to help others, you will have to pull hard against the stream.

IV. EBED-MELECH TEACHES US TO SPARE THE FEELINGS OF THOSE WE HELP. He lowered down the old rags and clouts he had gathered, and bade the prophet put them under his armpits, so as not to have them cut by the ropes. The rope of deliverance should not cut the flesh of those we save. This is not always thought of. We may wound men in helping them, and they may like the remedy less than the disease. We should think of the feelings, as well as the wants of those we help. Shall we not imitate Him of whom it is said, "He will not break the bruised reed"? When we take the rope, let us not forget the old rags as well.

V. Among the practical lessons of this story, there is the great truth that ONE MAN MAY SET OTHERS GOING. Ebed-melech went to the king for help, and he gave him thirty helpers. In the thirteenth verse, we read, "So they drew up Jeremiah." How many times this happen! Robert Raikes had no idea how many wheels his would set in motion. Muller of Bristol has many imitators, and thousands of orphans are fed and clothed that he will never know of. If you will only begin, others will follow you. Do not wait for others to start with you; be content to go alone. It was David Livingstone that set Stanley and Cameron to work, and the end of that lonely traveller's work will be seen when "a highway shall be there, and the ransomed of the Lord shall return with songs and everlasting joy upon their heads, and sorrow and sighing shall nee away"; but if Livingstone had waited for others, he would have died, in comfort, it may be, but could not have had a grave in Westminster Abbey, nor have set in motion the plans which are sure to issue in Africa's deliverance.

VI. Let, us learn THE VALUE OF DESPISED AND CAST-OFF THINGS. The prudent chamberlain had seen "under the treasury the old cast clouts, and old rotten rags." No one else saw any value in them, but he put them to a good use. What a number of things are cast aside, like these old rags! Do you see yonder woman in such dismay? She has been upstairs looking at some old dresses, and finds that the moth has been there before her, and they are useless. Would it not have been better to have given them to her poor relations, or to that widow who has such difficulty to find clothes for her little ones? Have you not old magazines that would gladden the heart of some of those intelligent paupers who never get any lively reading, or save from ennui some convalescent in the hospital? Look and see what you have "under the treasury."

(T. Champness.)

Parallel Verses
KJV: Now when Ebedmelech the Ethiopian, one of the eunuchs which was in the king's house, heard that they had put Jeremiah in the dungeon; the king then sitting in the gate of Benjamin;

WEB: 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 then sitting in the gate of Benjamin),

Gentleness in Doing Good
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