Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Are we afraid of ridicule and rejection?

“So the officials took Jeremiah from his cell and lowered him by ropes into an empty cistern in the prison yard. It belonged to Malkijah, a member of the royal family. There was no water in the cistern, but there was a thick layer of mud at the bottom, and Jeremiah sank down into it.

But Ebed-melech the Ethiopian, an important court official, heard that Jeremiah was in the cistern. At that time the king was holding court at the Benjamin Gate, so Ebed-melech rushed from the palace to speak with him.  “My lord the king,” he said, “these men have done a very evil thing in putting Jeremiah the prophet into the cistern. He will soon die of hunger, for almost all the bread in the city is gone.” Jeremiah 38:6-9 NLT

The Scriptures tell us to think about Jesus and what He did for us.  Jesus was separated from God the Father, so that we would not have to be. Jesus went into the fires of hell, so that we would not have to go. Jesus paid for all the wrong that we have done so that we would not have to pay. It’s only when we see things from eternity’s perspective that we can begin to understand what God is doing.

I can imagine as they lowered Jeremiah into the pit, Jeremiah is preparing to either die of starvation or of some disease he might get from whatever else is down there with him. He has no friends who would speak up on his behalf.  Like Paul, he could say, no one spoke up on my behalf before they threw me into this pit.

But we should never forget, we do not know who God has placed in the right place to make a difference on our behalf. I do not know how he got there but there was a man, a Cushite from Africa, who was an official in the royal palace. This man’s name is Ebed-melech. He is a man of integrity and obviously one who loved the Lord.

Now when he hears about Jeremiah being put in the cistern, he knows that he is putting his life on the line if he tries to get involved to get Jeremiah out. But this man is willing to speak up, when everybody else kept their mouths closed. He goes and tells King Zedekiah, “These men have acted wickedly in what they did to Jeremiah. They have thrown him into the pit where he will surely starve to death.”

Now because Ebed-melech was willing to speak up, he gave the king enough courage to stand up to the other leaders. This brother did not care who they were. He called them wicked men because their actions were wicked. Now before, the King had told those wicked men, “I can do nothing to oppose you.” But now that Ebed melech was willing to speak up, the king spoke up and said, take 30 men from here with you and lift Jeremiah the prophet out before he dies. You need to speak up in order to give someone courage to speak and do the right thing.

Ebed-melch went and found some old rags and let them down with ropes to where Jeremiah was. Jeremiah’s skin was already becoming raw under the arm pits. Ebed-melech told Jeremiah to put the clothes around him under his arms so that they could pull him up out of the cistern.  As the men pulled Jeremiah one way, the mud tried to pull him back the other way. They finally got him to the top and held him in the courtyard.  He looked an absolute mess and smelled even worse. But he still is willing speak up for the Lord. He was held as a prisoner in the courtyard until the Babylonians entered the city.

But Jeremiah kept on speaking up for the Lord. God looked with favor on Ebed-melech for his willingness to speak up.  He told Jeremiah, say to Ebed-melech, “I am about to bring disaster on this city and you will see it before your eyes, but I will rescue you on that day and you will not be handed over to those you fear. I will save you and you will escape with your life, because you trust in Me.”

If Ebed-melech had not been willing to risk paying the price of speaking up, he would have been slaughtered by the Babylonians when they captured the city. But God intervened on his behalf.

Friends what position has God placed you in where you need to speak up, but you continue to be silent?

Are we afraid of losing a friendship, a job, a position?

Are we afraid of ridicule and rejection?

Ultimately whether or not we speak up, will be dependent on just how much we trust God to handle our lives after we are faithful to Him.

Jeremiah’s life lets us know, it’s not going to be easy, but Jesus assures us, but it will be worth it.

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