There are a fair number of Hebrew names in the book of Jeremiah, but not many of them amount to much. (We may make exceptions of Baruch and Jeremiah himself.)
Then there is Ebed-melech. Not even a member of the ethnic people of God, but an Ethiopian and a eunuch to boot, he organized an effort to free the prophet from the dungeon at considerable risk to himself (chapter 38). Like Esther after him, he dared to go and speak to the king himself on Jeremiah's behalf-Jeremiah, the most unpopular man in all Israel at the time. Having extracted Zedekiah's permission, he rounded up 30 men and lots of rags and yanked Jeremiah out of a pit and certain death.
In chapter 39, as the nation of Israel is about to be wiped off the plate by her covenant God, the Lord-whose messages until now were mainly aimed at nations and populations-sent this message to a single individual, hand-delivered by a prophet:
"Behold, I will fulfill my words against this city for harm and not for good, and they shall be accomplished before you on that day. But I will deliver you on that day, declares the LORD, and you shall not be given into the hand of the men of whom you are afraid. For I will surely save you, and you shall not fall by the sword, but you shall have your life as a prize of war, because you have put your trust in me, declares the LORD" (39:16-18).
It is instructive to me that God does not say to Ebed-melech that He is saving him "because you were courageous and did this and that and got Jeremiah out of the pit." As wonderful as those actions were, the Lord is saving him because his heart trusts Him. This is both an insight into Ebed-melech and into God's thinking.
In chapter 38, we read nothing about Ebed-melech putting his trust in the Lord. We see only a man who is busy obtaining an audience with the king and gathering men and looking for rags and organizing a pulley system at the well. We see nothing of his heart (though an astute man might infer or guess that he is trusting God). It is delightful to me to discover in the next chapter that all along God was quite tuned in to Ebed's heart more than his actions. God was looking at the depths that lay underneath the outward actions.
That gives me so much joy. It tells me that God's eye is a penetrator of externals. That works both ways, of course: It can be a good thing or a bad thing. But I am more encouraged than worried. This anecdote about Ebed-melech tells me that in the course of human daily activity, where there are always two things going on-the outward action and the inner disposition of the heart toward God-God's main focus is on the latter.
This tells me that even if I make mistakes, or misjudgments, God strains to see deeply whether there is a quality of trust in Him, even in that mess. He is not so interested in the empirical actions as the trust issue. He will overlook a multitude of mess-ups. He scours the planet looking for someone to trust Him. And that works out just fine with me, because it is exactly what I want to do.
To hear commentaries by Andrée Seu, click here.