Summary: This sermon is meant to encourage all the unseen and unknown men and women of God who serve Him faithfully in the midst of difficult circumstances. It is based around an Ethiopian man named Ebed-Melech.
UNSEEN HEROES OF THE FAITH
INTRODUCTION - The world remembered 9/11 last week. That date is firmly etched in the minds of people all over the world as we remember the destruction that was caused. In the midst of all the events that unfolded that day, many men & women stood out and are remembered as true life, flesh and blood heroes. Yes, these were real life heroes, many even giving their lives to save others, quite unlike the ones we see often in the movies and on TV.
Every nation has its heroes in most walks of life and that’s true of my beloved nation Sri Lanka as well. It’s good to remember them with gratitude for the influence they have had in our own nations.
The Bible too has its list of heroes, many of whom are preached about on any given Sunday. Hebrews chapter 11 is often called the who’s who of the heroes of the faith. While many of the well known heroes of the Bible are mentioned in this chapter, verses 33-38 also identifies others whose names are not mentioned. I would like to call them the unseen heroes or unknown heroes of the faith. Although unseen, they were nevertheless effective in the role they played for God.
In this sermon, I would like to speak about one such unseen hero. He was from an Ethiopian background and served in the palace of King Zedekiah, in the time of Jeremiah the prophet. In the story, found in Jeremiah chapter 38: 4-13, Jeremiah is imprisoned in a cistern filled with mud (38:6) by the spineless King Zedekiah (38:5), with the real possibility of having to face death (38:4,6,9). The plot had been hatched through the machinations of some powerful but corrupt Government officials who hated Jeremiah’s prophecies.
When the situation looked precarious for Jeremiah, an unknown hero of the faith who trusted in God, stepped in, and what a difference it made, with Jeremiah’s life being eventually spared! The man’s name was Ebed-Melech.
PROPOSITION: Today, you can be a hero for God (known or unknown)!
I want to share the following 3 reasons why Ebed-Melech turned out to be a hero, and thereafter, speak about the reward he received.
1) HE WAS A HERO BECAUSE HE WAS COURAGEOUS (Jer 38:8-11)
Ebed-Melech decided that he would not sit back and watch the Prophet’s demise. Instead, he had the courage to do something about it. He therefore went on a dangerous mission to the king, to intercede for Jeremiah’s life. Such a mission could have had serious consequences for him, considering that powerful men had been behind the plot. To make matters more complicated, the king gave Ebed-Melech 30 men as a possible security contingent. While this would have brought him protection for the moment, it also made him very visible to his enemies, thus probably endangering his future even more!
One thing was certain. He was not going on a SECRET mission anymore. He was willing to be identified!
The church of today needs men with the courage of Ebed-Melech, who will stand up for the cause of Christ and be identified! Instead of retreating, we need to advance the Gospel no matter what opposition comes against us. We need to speak up, when our voices need to be heard, specifically for the downtrodden and for those who are vulnerable. Being silent could well show a lack of courage. A man of God once said,
“Courage is contagious; when brave men take a stand, the spines of others are stiffened”.
Let us ask God today for the kind of courage we need to overcome all the schemes of the evil one. Like Ebed-Melech, our courage should be based on our trust in God (39:18).
Illustration: The founder pastor of our church, Rev. Colton Wickramaratne was once, many years ago, told by a gang of unbelievers to deny his faith in God. If not, they threatened to throw him into a swirling river nearby. With courage received by the Lord, Ps. Colton refused to deny his faith and the Lord came to his rescue. He is still alive today and serving the Lord as fervently as ever!
2) HIS NAME REFLECTS A SERVANT HEART (Jer 38:7)
The name Ebed-Melech means, ‘The king’s servant’. It seems obvious that this Ethiopian man had served the king with that kind of a servant heart because the king considered his appeal favourably. He clearly respected Ebed-Melech’s judgement.
In the same way, the very actions he took to rescue Jeremiah, at great danger to himself, shows that his heart was in the right place. We will see another aspect of his servant heart in the next sermon point.
Friends, if we are to be heroes for God, we need to ask the Lord to help us have a servant’s heart. Let us not forget that Jesus set the perfect example by washing his own disciples’ feet. Imagine that, the mighty Son of God, washing the feet of Peter & Judas!! He also told them, ‘The kings of the Gentiles lord it over them; … but you are not to be like that” (Lk 22:25-26).