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Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Old water pump
An old water pump on a farm about 1/2 mile from our home

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"Lessons From A Cistern"

"Then the king commanded Ebed-Melech the Cushite, 'Take thirty men from here with you and lift Jeremiah the prophet out of the cistern before he dies.' So Ebed-Melech took the men with him and went to a room under the treasury in the palace. He took some old rags and worn-out clothes from there and let them down with ropes to Jeremiah in the cistern. Ebed-Melech the Cushite said to Jeremiah, 'Put these old rags and worn-out clothes under your arms to pad the ropes.' Jeremiah did so, and they pulled him up with the ropes and lifted him out of the cistern" (Jeremiah 38:10-13).

While I was growing up in Missouri my parents were good about visiting my grandparents regularly.  Following each long trip from Belton to Harwood my sister Genelle and I would jump out of the car after we pulled up to my grandparent's little white frame house and race over to the pump in front of it. We would vigorously pump the handle several times until water surged out of the spigot.

However we knew not to drink the unhealthy water since it was merely runoff which had gathered in a shallow cistern. I never did get to see what that cistern looked like down inside, but I know I wouldn't want to be trapped in it!  But today we will look at a famous Bible character who was intentionally imprisoned in a cistern. The story is found in 
Jeremiah 38:1-13.

King Zedekiah was certainly not favorably disposed to the prophet Jeremiah, viewing him as a pest with his discouraging, negative prophetical pronouncements (Jeremiah was merely proclaiming the truth).     Jeremiah summed up the king's attitude this way, “If I tell you the truth, you will kill me. And if I give you advice, you won’t listen to me anyway".

At one point Zedekiah had Jeremiah brought to the palace where he asked him privately, "Is there any word from the LORD?"  "Yes," Jeremiah replied, "you will be handed over to the king of Babylon." Now that's a bold, truthful prophet!

The officials viewed the prophecies of Jeremiah to be demoralizing to the remaining soldiers who fought in this war.  In retribution, and with the king's consent, wicked men lowered Jeremiah down into an empty cistern to torment him.  It wasn't his first time to be held captive as Jeremiah had been whipped, imprisoned, put in stocks and ridiculed (Jeremiah 20).

In each of these instances he was finally released but here he is once again held in seclusion which would render his prophecies silenced and seemingly powerless. It would also lead to his eventual death as they withheld food from him while he sunk deep into the mud-filled cistern.  Talk about claustrophobia! One thing the evil captors could not do was keep Jeremiah from praying to God for release from his miserable captivity.

Jeremiah being lifted out of cistern
God had not forgotten nor forsaken Jeremiah. He began to nudge Ebed-Melech the Cushite to intercede for Jeremiah.  It couldn't have been easy, probably causing Ebed-Melech to lose some sleep over the matter.  He's one of those obscure Bible characters whose brief story in Scripture is so easy to pass over as we read the narrative portions of God's Word. Ebed-Melech means "servant of the king".  He was a Cushite, which means he came from the region of present-day Ethiopia and was likely a black man.

Risking his life he approached the king and appealed for Jeremiah's rescue.  The two-faced king granted permission and and also sent thirty unnamed men to assist
Ebed-Melech in lifting Jeremiah out of the cistern.  (I certainly wonder why he sent these 30 men!)

A small detail in the rescue itself catches my attention and is the source of today's encouraging challenge.  Note the consideration of Ebed-Melech in taking along old rags and worn-out clothes to pad the rope.  Anyone who has ever held onto rope or been lifted with a rope knows how it can burn and cut deep into the skin if not padded. 

We aren't told how long Jeremiah remained in the well but being deprived of sunshine and food his skin was even more sensitive to ropeburn.  What a kind act of consideration at such a time as this!  Later after Jerusalem fell captive to the Babylonians Ebed-Melech received a very encouraging word of hope through Jeremiah's prophecy (39:15-18). 

Figuratively speaking, is there someone you know that needs a rope pull; someone sinking at the bottom of a muddy, stinky cistern?  Ask God how you can be part of His rescue plan for this discouraged individual. Make sure you take along some "padding" to make the rescue less painful.

Be encouraged today,

Stephen & Brooksyne Weber

Daily prayer:  Father, we are so grateful for the rope holders who've helped pull us out of despairing situations.  Those who have given us an uplifting message, interceded in prayer on our behalf, given of their time and expertise to help us in our dilemma.  We too want to be a rope holder and offer a word of encouragement, be a listening ear, and extend tender compassion and mercy to one in need.  Help us to be Your hand extended to those in need we pray.  Amen.

Stanley M. Horton

Today's study and the less familiar passage I drew from brings to mind Stanley Horton, one of my professors in Bible College. He has an amazing grasp of Scripture and I recall once going to his office with a question concerning another obscure passage in which I didn’t know the Scripture reference. However in describing my question he immediately knew the Scripture reference and provided a satisfactory explanation to my question. Dr. Horton
is now 92 years old and still studies the Bible daily, writes and teaches Bible students all over the world.

Personal note: The next couple of weeks we will be on vacation. We still plan to prepare daily encouragement messages, but not necessarily daily.

Today's Suggested Music and Supplemental Resources
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(In some cases you may also need to click again to start the song.)

Today's message brings this song and evangelistic resource to mind:

"Love Lifted Me"  Video  Gaither Homecoming These people sure enjoy singing!

"A Man Fell Into A Hole"  Video  A Living Parable illustrating salvation. A very touching presentation!

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Scripture references are from The Holy Bible: New International Version. © 1984 by International Bible Society; NEW AMERICAN STANDARD BIBLE®, Copyright © 1995 by The Lockman Foundation, New King James Version (NKJV) Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. and the King James Version.

Personal Mission Statement: "I am created by God to bring Him glory. Through God's Son Jesus Christ I have been redeemed and I make it my life's goal to please the Lord. My mission in life is to honor God through my faith and obedience and to prepare myself and all whom I may influence for eternity."

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