Study 10 EBED-MELECH: A WORK OF RESCUE
(Scripture Portion: Jeremiah 38: 1 – 13)
The prophet Jeremiah was condemned to die (verse 4), and had been confined to prison, which was nothing more or less than a great hole dug in the ground. In this murky dungeon lay the poor prophet of the Lord (verses 6 and 9), and he was even denied food and water (verse 9). When Ebed-Melech, one of the king’s servants, a dark-skinned man of Ethiopia, heard of Jeremiah’s plight he went to the king and pleaded to be allowed to rescue him (verses 8 – 9). The king not only gave his consent, but he commanded him to take thirty other men with him to deliver Jeremiah (verse 10). Ebed-Melech effected the deliverance, and verses 11 – 13 describe his great work of rescue.
In this simple story we have a wonderful picture of the Lord Jesus, who, away back in eternity, seeing that mankind had been plunged into a dark dungeon of death, went into the presence of the King and offered to engage in a mission of rescue – look up Psalm 40: 7 and Revelation 13: 8 – and thus it was that He came down into the prison of our need and, by His sacrificial death and victorious resurrection, made it possible for sinful man to be saved – look up 2 Corinthians 8: 9; Galatians 4: 4 and 1 Timothy 1: 15.
But in this study there is also a most telling illustration of the way in which we, as servants of the King, are to engage in rescue work. Let us see how Ebed-Melech rescued Jeremiah, and how we are to seek and secure the deliverance of poor lost men and women who are imprisoned by sin and Satan – look up John 8: 34 and 2 Timothy 2: 26.
1. Ebed-Melech heard of, saw and felt the seriousness of Jeremiah’s plight.
In verse 7 we are told that he “heard…” This was quite enough to make him “see” (if only in his imagination), and then to “feel” the prophet’s need – look up Lamentations 3: 51 (first phrase). He saw a man starving, sinking and under condemnation. Have you seen the souls of men like this? – look up John 3: 18 and 36; 8: 21-24; Ephesians 2: 2-3 and Revelation 20: 12-15. Do you feel any compassion for the lost – look up Matthew 9: 36? How we need the vision that Ebed-Melech had, for only as we see and feel the need of those who are perishing shall we be concerned for their salvation!
2. Ebed-Melech had an interview with the king.
Verses 7 – 9 tell us this. What an eloquent appeal he made! – and you and I can do the same, for we can come right into the King’s presence and make known our requests to Him, and while we are in His presence He will give us instructions as to how to go about the work of rescue – look up Hebrews 10: 19-20; He will then commission us (verse 10). If you are not burdened for the souls of your loved ones and of others, then seek an interview with the King and ask Him concerning them.
3. Ebed-Melech sought the co-operation of others.
Verses 10 and 11 tell us that on the authority of the king Ebed-Melech did this. We, too, have our King’s authority for seeking the co-operation of others for the great work of soul-winning. There is the co-operation of prayer – look up Matthew 18:19; and there are other practical forms of co-operation, as suggested in Mark 2: 3. If we are really concerned for the salvation of those around us there will be many ways in which we shall seek to secure the desired results – look up Jude 23.
4. Ebed-Melech had faith in the means of salvation.
Look at verse 11 can you not see Ebed-Melech testing the strength of the ropes? We must have absolute confidence in the power of our Saviour, and of the gospel, to save completely all for whose salvation we are working – look up Romans 1: 16 and Hebrews 7: 25. Some Christian workers and preachers seem to have lost faith in the saving power of the Lord Jesus Christ and in the efficacy, today, of the simple and sufficient message of the gospel. They question the strength of the rope!
5. Ebed-Melech showed his love for Jeremiah.
He not only showed it by seeking his salvation – look at verse 11 – but he used ropes and rags, which would prevent the ropes from chafing under his arms. How wonderful! Jeremiah could have been saved without the rags, and yet he was saved so much more “comfortably” with them. If those around us are convinced that we love them they will be easy prey to our soul-winning efforts – look up Mark 10: 21!
6. Ebed-Melech knew how to instruct Jeremiah in the way of salvation.
Read verse 12 and picture the scene. Do you know how to lead a soul to Christ? Can you tell a sinner what to do to be saved? It is as well to be prepared for this great work. Take your Bible and seek to become thoroughly familiar with all the great “salvation” verses. Memorise them with their references, and you may decide to underline them in your Bible and make a quick reference index of them on its inside cover.
7. Ebed-Melech did not rest until Jeremiah was saved.
In the case of the prophet the whole business of rescue did not take long (verse 13), but sometimes it takes a very long time, during which there is need for the exercise of a great deal of patience and wisdom before the one for whose salvation we long is brought to the Lord. Look up Galatians 6:9.
Once Jeremiah was saved, Ebed-Melech faded out of the picture. That is how it should be with the soul-winner – look up Acts 8: 39, and compare John 3: 30.