Now the word of the LORD came to Jeremiah, while he was shut up in the court of the prison, saying,…
It is strange that, amongst all the tracts and biographies and scriptural stories which the press sends forth, one never meets the name of Ebed-melech the Ethiopian. It shows that Scripture history is either little read or little understood. It makes one doubt whether those whom either the world or the Church is admiring be those whom He that looketh not on the outward appearance, and seeth not as man seeth, will delight to honour in the day when He maketh up His jewels. Although, for aught we know, he never was a member of any church upon earth, being a poor heathen, brought from a land that the light of God's revelation had never reached, he is held up in the Book of God to our admiration and imitation, in contrast with the whole Church and nation that was in covenant with God in ancient times; and even under the New Testament, if we honoured saints at all, his name should hold a conspicuous place in our calendar of worthies and illustrious confessors of the faith, for he was, like ourselves, a Gentile man, and it was by faith he obtained a good report from God Himself. Jerusalem was to fall, but Ebed-melech the Ethiopian would stand in the evil day. As he had delivered the prophet from his dungeon, and from the cruelty of the princes his persecutors, and the danger of a horrible death, he himself would be delivered in the day of danger, and the men of whom he was afraid would not have it in their power to take his life, or injure a hair of his head. God would be his saviour, and shows him beforehand the certainty of his salvation.
I. WHAT A BLESSED PROVIDENCE IS THAT OF GOD, OVER THE LEAST AS WELL AS THE GREATEST MEN AND THINGS, ESPECIALLY OVER THE GOOD WITHOUT RESPECT OF PERSONS.
1. No one is forgotten before God, and nothing that concerns the least left out of the regard of the Father of all. The one who was the object of special care to the God of Israel, the Lord of hosts, in the day of Israel's final overthrow, was one of these who were least regarded by men upon earth, a slave, a eunuch, an Ethiopian, an uncircumcised heathen, an alien from the commonwealth of Israel, a stranger to the covenant of promise. Who then is forgotten by the God of Israel?
2. God is far from confounding the righteous with the wicked in His judgments.
3. So far from confounding the righteous with the wicked, God contrasts them with one another. What brighter display of Divine righteousness can there be than the salvation of the least of saints in the midst of the destruction of a whole nation, or church of sinners, like the Jews here, or like Christendom, to whose doom we are to look forward?
II. WHAT ENCOURAGEMENT TO THE LOWLIEST TO WORK OUT THEIR SALVATION WITH CHEERFULNESS AND PATIENCE, AS WELL AS WITH FEAR AND TREMBLING, AFTER THE EXAMPLE OF EBED-MELECH THE ETHIOPIAN!
1. Why are such actions as this of Ebed-melech those which in the sight of God are of great account? Because they are acts of self-denying love and self-sacrifice; because they are thus, God Himself in the text expressly says, the fruits of a living faith in God.
2. It is not his circumstances that prevent any man from becoming great before God, great as Ebed-melech, for it is not his circumstances that prevent any from becoming good, from having the same character, and manifesting in his place the same heroic and holy spirit.
3. Woe to us if we are not like Ebed-melech in unselfishness, or in self-denying love, the fruit of faith! Church membership, Church privileges, Church knowledge and advantages of whatever kind, what will they prove but the condemnation of those who are not like Ebed-melech in character?
III. WHAT BLESSED HOPE FOR THE FUTURE DOES EBED-MELECH BRING TO MANY OF WHOM THE WORLD IS NOT WORTHY, AND WHO ARE BY THE WORLD AND BY THE CHURCH UNKNOWN!
1. Kindness to those whom the world despises, or the worldly and ungodly church reprobates or persecutes, is not the least part of the duty of Christians, or those who would be saved in the day of wrath, like Ebed-melech.
2. How different is public opinion in a corrupt church or age from the judgment or truth of God!
Parallel VersesKJV: Now the word of the LORD came unto Jeremiah, while he was shut up in the court of the prison, saying,