Summary: A look at an Ethiopian Eunuch named Ebed Melech, who received his life "as a prize" because he trusted God. Jesus says if we live our lives focused on our own desires and plans, it will come to utter nothingness and death, but if we will trust Him and
EOLS: Jesus says if we live our lives focused on our own desires and plans, it will come to utter nothingness and death, but if we will trust Him and give our life to Him, we will see the true, best life that God has prepared for us.
Then Jesus said to His disciples, "If anyone desires to come after Me,
let him deny himself, and take up his
cross, and follow Me.
For whoever desires to save his life will lose it,
but whoever loses his life
for My sake will find it.
For what profit is it to a man if he gains the whole world, and loses his own soul? Or what will a man give in exchange for his soul?
In my latest journey through the Old Testament, I found myself gripped by a simple story of a shadowy character, briefly mentioned by the Prophet Jeremiah in the chronicle of the sad final days before the Babylonian Captivity.
The shadowy character was a foreigner named Ebed-Melech, the slave of King Zedekiah during those terrible trying days as the Babylonian war machine approached. Ebed-Melech was an Ethiopian eunuch. We don’t know a lot about him, but what we are shown is an amazing and instructive picture. It gripped my heart and I found tears in his story. I have returned to Jeremiah’s brief telling of his story again and again, and I find myself challenged by it to emulate this otherwise very common man who lives among very uncommon heroes of faith in the hall of Holy History.
Ebed-Melech had likely been captured, perhaps as a very young man as a spoil of war or in some political exchange. He had been castrated, forever branding him as an enslaved one. He had no chance to marry, raise a family or build a business. Ebed-Melech’s future had been decided by an ancient and barbaric practice, his hopes and dreams had been subjugated to the desires and whims of the royal class. He was bought, sold, traded and bartered like cattle. Eunuchs were considered to be “safe” from political ambition because they could not father children, and were often used as personal servants of the king. They were considered expendable because they had no family ties or history, and could be killed and replaced with no problem.
Ebed-Melech was a well-trusted and well-liked man who had the ear of the King himself. From the movies, I think of him as a towering man with bulging muscles ripping through glistening ebony skin, with a huge cutlass on his belt!
We find this loyal eunuch at a critical point in the story of God’s people. The winds of war are very near. Judgment is about to fall upon Jerusalem.
There was a man who was known as the “weeping prophet” and his name was Jeremiah. For years he had cried in the streets by the Spirit of God about the coming wrath of Jehovah upon Judah. He would weep and beg God’s people to turn to Him. As the wrath of God approached from Babylon, Jeremiah began to wail and implore the King and his subjects to surrender to Nebuchednezzar and God’s plan so that their lives might be spared.
Ignoring the warnings, Judah readied its battle apparatus as the most powerful army on earth, empowered by God’s sovereign will to exact His just judgment made its way towards the City of Jerusalem.
Jeremiah’s warnings placed him in great danger. King Zedekiah, a wicked and perverse man finally allowed his princes to cast him into a deep pit full of mud where sank into the mire. Can you imagine being in utter darkness? The stench was unbearable. Every breath must have been labored and painful as his tortured body was suspended in the most vile mixture of soil, excrement, decaying animals…he was literally dying in a vile, horrific cesspool.
As Jeremiah lay in the pit, slowly dying and forgotten, left to starve because there was no more bread in the city- the Eunuch heard of his plight. Ebed-Melech knew Jeremiah, and had likely been privy to his ministry as he had cried in the streets and prophesied by the Spirit of God.
Somewhere along the way, God had touched the heart of this foreign slave, and He knew that Jehovah was the One True God. He had heard and responded to the Word of the Lord. God’s man was in grave danger, and Ebed-Melech, the King’s personal servant whose life was considered highly expendable, knew what he had to do.
He could have been decapitated by an executioner almost instantly. He could have been consumed in a furnace and no one would have ever known or cared. The only thing that Ebed-Melech had was his own life to give. If he kept his mouth shut, he would continue in his royal position as Zedekiah’s personal servant. Yet if he obeyed the voice that he heard inside, instant death was a likely result.