What magical sounds, sights, or smells transport you back to your childhood? When I hear the words, “Once upon a time,” I’m instantly a child again. I love story; it captures elusive truth and hands it to me so I can carry it close to my heart.
Once upon a time the prophet, Jeremiah, dared to tell a terrible truth. Judah, his homeland, was at war with Babylon.
“Babylon is going to win this war,” Jeremiah proclaimed in a message from God. “Everyone who stays in Jerusalem will die, but those who leave and go over to the Babylonians will live.”
What? Defect to the enemy? Traitor! That’s how many people branded Jeremiah. His wasn’t a message any red-blooded patriot wanted to hear.
Some politicians who were members of the royal family were outraged. “Kill Jeremiah,” they said to King Zedekiah. “He’s bad for morale. He’s weakening the military and the people with his words.”
“Do what you want.” The king shrugged. “I’m not strong enough to stand against your wishes.”
The politicians wanted Jeremiah dead, but they didn’t want to murder him outright. That wouldn’t look good, and they didn’t want blood on their hands. So, they lowered him with ropes into a deep, narrow cistern where he sunk in mud. He could die a slow and painful death from exposure or starvation there, but they hadn’t exactly murdered him themselves, had they?
Shivering and miserable, stuck in mud and his own filth, unable to climb out of the pit, Jeremiah began the slow process of dying. What would claim him first, starvation or exposure? No wonder Jeremiah’s nickname was “the weeping prophet.”
What had he done to earn such terrible suffering? He’d told a hard truth God had instructed him to tell. He hadn’t liked sharing it; Jeremiah loved his country and wanted it to prosper as much as the next patriot. Now he was dying in agony, forgotten by God and man.
Or was he? God never forgets, and God always has a man.
Ebed-Melech, an Ethiopian servant, was God’s man.
Bravely, he told the king. “Those princes of yours have done a wicked thing. Jeremiah is starving to death.”
The easily influenced king said, “Take thirty men with you, and get Jeremiah out of that pit before he dies.”
It wouldn’t take thirty men to pull one emaciated prophet from a pit; the men were for protection.
Ebed-Melech grabbed some ropes and old rags and hurried to the pit.
Someone defined compassion as “your pain in my heart.” Ebed-Melech felt compassion. He must have imagined what it would feel like to be in so much pain, half starved, and then hauled up by ropes. How could he make it easier for Jeremiah?
“Put these rags under your arms so the ropes don’t cut into your skin,” he called down to Jeremiah. Then they hauled Jeremiah up to safety.
Wanted: Kindness and old rags.
It seems that kindness felt but not acted out turns to callousness. We see and hear of so much need, so much agony in the world around us. People are suffering in pits of pain, mentally, physically, emotionally. We hear it on the news; we read it on Facebook.
What would Ebed-Melech do? We might want to haul everyone out of pits; that we cannot do, but a little kindness goes a long way to someone suffering. I think old E.M., if he were alive today, would find a way to send a rag even if it were just by a card or a name breathed in prayer. And if he could do more, he would do that too.
I love story, and Paul Harvey’s “The Rest of the Story” was one of my favorites. What was the rest of the story for E.M.? Jerusalem did fall to Babylon, just as Jeremiah had said, but God spared E.M.’s life. You can read about it in Jeremiah 39:15-18.
Ebed-Melech wasn’t even his real name; those words just mean “servant of the king.”
Once upon a time, there was a nameless man, who did a great deed of kindness with a heartful of courage and a handful of old rags. I bow to you, E.M. We desperately need more of you in the hurting story our world is writing today. May your tribe increase!
by Donna Poole, Lickley Corners Baptist Church, Pittsford, Michigan
Donna Poole has served for many years with her pastor-husband John at Lickley Corners Baptist Church in Pittsford, MI. The MARBC family has been praying for Donna as she continues treatments to deal with Stage 4 lung cancer. Donna is a prolific writer who shares often about the life she and John share as a pastoral couple in rural Michigan. Her new book, "If the Creek Don't Rise" has recently been released for purchase on Amazon. It is the second part of a two volume set titled, "Life at the Corners." The first book in the set, "Corners Church," is also available on Amazon books.
[Click here to see Donna Poole's books at Amazon](https://smile.amazon.com/Creek-Dont-Rise-Donna-Poole/dp/B08R8ZDFN5/ref=sr_1_1?crid=2EQQIYAFCG0GF&dchild=1&keywords=if+the+creek+dont+rise+donna+poole&qid=1614637747&sprefix=If+the+Creek,aps,188&sr=8-1)
The MARBC is a regional partner with the General Association of Regular Baptist Churches.
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