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The Ethiopian Eunuchs

What individual comes to mind when you hear the words “Ethiopian eunuch”? For most of us, that would be the man Philip evangelized in the Gaza desert during the eunuch’s return trip from Jerusalem (Acts 8:26-40). Luke was careful to tell us that he held a position of great authority under Candace, queen of the Ethiopians, as the one who had charge of all her treasure; but omits his name. What seems important to Luke is that the eunuch—a Gentile foreigner outside the Jewish fold—was on the RECEIVING end of soulsaving good news delivered by the man of God. The man in whom a queen had placed her absolute trust in things material is now portrayed as entrusting his own eternal soul to the King of kings—a fiduciary act of the highest order!  

But there is another Ethiopian eunuch in scripture that was on the GIVING end of good news where the man of God was concerned. The man of God was Jeremiah. The eunuch’s name is Ebedmelech, which means “royal servant” or “servant of a king” (Jeremiah 38:1-13). The context in which we find this man involves the unpopular preaching of Jeremiah regarding the capture of Jerusalem and the destruction of its inhabitants by the king of Babylon’s army, which had surrounded and besieged Jerusalem. Death was an inevitable outcome for anyone who resisted the Chaldeans, and the Lord would bring it to pass.  

In a meeting with king Zedekiah, the princes of Israel argued that the negative preaching of the prophet was demoralizing the military, weakening the citizenry, and hurting the country. In their mind, these were crimes worthy of death. King Zedekiah—a gutless milk toast of a leader—offered no defense for the prophet, but rather abandoned him to their will. So they cast Jeremiah into a miry dungeon void of food and water. The Bible tells us “they let down Jeremiah with cords” and “so Jeremiah sunk in the mire” (38:6). It was just a matter of time before he starved to death.  

There are two points to be made before we zero in on Ebedmelech. First, we are facing a similar situation in America at this hour. It seems that with every passing week, some element of our judiciary is sanctioning and or legalizing immorality and wickedness. The day is fast approaching when the man of God who excoriates homosexual sin (or any sin for that matter) from the pulpit, and links that sanction to the judgment of God, will be guilty of a criminal act punishable by fines and imprisonment. Why? Because his “hate speech” and “homophobic diatribes” are hurting the nation! The church spiritually virile enough to support the preaching of biblical purity will face the same punitive fines and forfeit their favorable tax status. Once that happens, church revenues in the form of tithes and offerings will be subject to federal taxes. Our government has already demonstrated that it has no qualms about seizing the property of churches that refuse to comply.  

Secondly, there is a message in the mire. The fact that Jeremiah sank suggests a 50-50 mix of water and dirt. In other words, Jeremiah was surrounded by water unfit for human consumption. Likewise, the water of the Word of God, if mixed with and diluted by philosophy, humanism, and politically correct content, is just as unfit for spiritual consumption. It causes in those churches that embrace it that same “sinking” effect that Jeremiah experienced.  

On Sunday, December 8, 2003 my wife and I decided to attend the morning worship service of the National City Christian Church in Washington, D.C. across from the hotel where we were staying. We are Baptists by conviction, but it seemed innocuous enough for one Sunday. All was well until we saw the listing for “Gay & Lesbian Fellowship” in the bulletin. We exited that miry pit in less than two minutes. 

Now Ebedmelech, one of the eunuchs in the king’s house, heard about Jeremiah, and pled his case before the king. He was bold enough to accuse the princes of doing “evil” to the prophet. Jeremiah had been sentenced to death by starvation since the siege had left “no more bread in the city” (38:9). Ebedmelech persuaded the king to flip-flop on his policy of abandonment. The king commissioned thirty servants to assist Ebedmelech with the successful rescue effort. Jeremiah was sunk by the cords of malice, but saved by the cords of mercy (38:13). This time it was the man of God who was on the receiving end of life-saving good news delivered by an Ethiopian eunuch! Do you suppose God remembered the courage and kindness of Ebedmelech when he dispatched Philip to the Gaza desert?   

Ebedmelech’s reward for befriending the prophet was the preservation of his own life (39:15-18). Although fearful of the circumstances, he was nonetheless faithful to God. The Lord said to him: “I will surely deliver thee…thy life shall be for a prey unto thee: because thou hast put thy trust in me” (39:18). Translation: The Chaldeans will destroy Jerusalem and kill its inhabitants, Ebedmelech, and I will bring my words to pass. But I will preserve your life!  

My friend, if and when God’s heavy hand of judgment falls upon America, believers in the Lord Jesus Christ may well consider themselves blessed indeed to walk in the shoes of this Ethiopian eunuch!


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