Jeremiah and the Ethiopian: My reflections and lessons

Sometimes back, one of my devotions, I examined the Book of Jeremiah 38:6-13, and God helped me gather several nuggets of wisdom that I feel compelled to share. Before I do that, let us deal with first things first: Who is this man Jeremiah?

When the world-famous Italian painter Michelangelo di Lodovico Buonarroti Simoni painted the Prophet Jeremiah in the Sistine Chapel, he displayed him in a posture of despondency. They say a picture speaks a thousand words and for sure Michelangelo’s picture shows a prophet who has wept for such a long time that he has no more tears to shed. His face is turned to one side as if he had been given a destructive Mike Tyson’s uppercut, followed by Joe Frazier’s lethal left hook, and finally an overwhelming Rocky Marciano’s right-hand hook. His shoulders are bowed forward as if he was carrying all the sins of the Kingdom of Judah. His hand covers his mouth as if he had nothing more to say.

The rabbis call him the ‘Weeping Prophet’ saying that he began lamenting the moment he was born.

Meat and bones now

In Jeremiah 1:5, God says that He is the one who formed Jeremiah in his mother’s womb. So it is theologically sound to tell children that babies come from God. It is not bad science as God uses natural means He designed to plant human life in the womb.

God goes forward to say that He appointed Jeremiah as a prophet before he was born. Here we encounter God’s sovereignty blended with humanity’ free will. ‘What are you saying Allan, Free will?’ Yes, free will! Carefully examine verse 4, ‘The word of the Lord came to me, saying,’ God came to Jeremiah ‘saying’ and not ‘commanding.’ It is a dialogue. Consider verse 6 too, ‘“Alas, Sovereign Lord,” I said, “I do not know how to speak; I am too young.”’ Jeremiah had a choice to either reject the call of God or accept it. Let me not digress further, for we are likely to get into murky waters that will necessitate a chunk of my time. Bottom line is this; there is profound textual and exegetical evidence pointing towards the free will. Disclaimer: I am not, in any way, in the game of deconstructing predestination.

Back to my early last week’s devotions.

I read Jeremiah 38:6-13, as part of my devotions. And as I went through the verses, the following are lessons I gathered.

  1. The success, change, liberation, or victory we experience in life could be a result of an answered prayer of a loved one or even a stranger. Jeremiah’s rescue was as an outcome of Ebed-Melek’s effort and not his own.
  2. We are to stay away from evil plots and actions perpetrated by fellow humans, even if they are close to us. How could Malkijah, the king’s son, allow his cistern to be the place for Jeremiah’s conviction?
  3. We are to pray for others and mind their welfare. It pays to know that God can use our prayers to deliver another person from an abyss. Watch my back, and I watch yours. Pray for your parents, siblings, ministers and leaders, they could be facing battles you hardly know of. Speak up for someone who cannot speak up for themselves. This is what Ebed-Melek did with the Prophet Jeremiah. Get somebody out of the muck. Do not let them wallow in the mire endlessly. They will inevitably fade if you do not do something.
  4. Old rags and worn-out clothes still have a purpose they can serve. Do not listen to people who have written you off as either old or worn-out. Remember, God can still use you to perform an extraordinary thing. God uses both the old and the young, the worn-out and the fresh. He is a God who uses the foolish things of the world to shame the wise; God chose the weak things of the world to shame the strong.
  5. Sometimes, it reaches a point in life when you cannot help yourself, and you need others back. Quit being your own physician and accept help from others who are well-meaning; even if they are Ethiopians/Cushites and not a Jew like yourself.
  6. Silver and gold are necessary but not sufficient for life. Ebed-Melek had to go under the treasury to get rags and worn-out clothes for the assignment he had to undertake. At that point, money – in the treasury – was not that important. Learn to know what is fundamental at different moments in your life. Quit stepping on people and destroying lives in the name of chasing money and fame.
  7. Ebed-Melek was rewarded by God in Jeremiah 39:15-18. No good work done in sincerity and in the name of the Lord God shall go unrewarded.

It is my prayer that God shall continue to speak to you through the Scriptures. Shalom!

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