The word of the LORD came to Jeremiah while he was shut up in the court of the guard: “Go, and say to Ebed-melech the Ethiopian, ‘Thus says the LORD of hosts, the God of Israel: 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.’” [Jeremiah 39:15-18 ESV]
Jerusalem was besieged by Nebuchadnezzar’s army and faced certain destruction. Part of the siege was a man-made famine designed to starved people into submission. No one was exempt from famine. Even those who loved God, who had taken refuge in Jerusalem, felt the effects of the siege and famine. Hunger, compounded by fear, wore out all found within the walls. Desperation, anger, hopelessness wearied the mind, the heart, the body, sapping all strength. Nebuchadnezzar’s victory and Jerusalem’s defeat were a foregone conclusion. Jeremiah witnessed and recorded all of the suffering and destruction experienced by the people of Jerusalem.
Throughout, Jeremiah delivered God’s message to the kings, the officials, and the people of the land. He was imprisoned, beaten, starved, feverish and sick, and still he was compelled by his God to speak, even when he did not want.
Not all of his words were judgment against the people. Some of his words were comforting. Not many.
There were people in Jerusalem, in Judea, who had not rebelled against God. One clan, the Recabites, had come into Jerusalem, finding temporary refuge behind its besieged walls. Their tradition of obedience extended hundreds of years. They were a Godly people. Their Godliness was an indictment against the godlessness of their fellow countrymen. God blessed them for their faithfulness [See Jeremiah 35].
In a fit of anger the king of the Northern Kingdom heard the words of Jeremiah and had him thrown in a muddy cistern. At the bottom the mud, like quicksand, would eventually swallow him, a slow, hopeless and lonely death. A Cushite, and Ethiopian called ebed-melech, who loved God, courageously went to the king and petitioned for Jeremiah’s life.
Ebed-melech had no name. He is called servant (ebed) of the king (melech). There may have been many ebed-melechs. This one took 30 other servants and pulled Jeremiah out of the mud. God honored this man, giving him his life. He would have to endure siege, the hunger and danger and fear. He would carry nothing with him when all was done. But he would not die. “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” [Jeremiah 39:18 ESV]. God promised him peace in the midst of destruction.
Another man, Baruch, the servant and scribe of Jeremiah, was as hated by the king and officials as Jeremiah. He was not a prophet but one who accompanied the prophet. His prayer to God showed the weariness and emotional distress of being so close to death from all sides.
The word that Jeremiah the prophet spoke to Baruch the son of Neriah, when he wrote these words in a book at the dictation of Jeremiah, in the fourth year of Jehoiakim the son of Josiah, king of Judah: “Thus says the LORD, the God of Israel, to you, O Baruch: You said, ‘Woe is me! For the LORD has added sorrow to my pain. I am weary with my groaning, and I find no rest.’ Thus shall you say to him, Thus says the LORD: Behold, what I have built I am breaking down, and what I have planted I am plucking up–that is, the whole land. And do you seek great things for yourself? Seek them not, for behold, I am bringing disaster upon all flesh, declares the LORD. But I will give you your life as a prize of war in all places to which you may go.” [Jeremiah 45:1-5 ESV]
God guaranteed his life. God did not guarantee prosperity or safety from war or plenty of food, but life. Our lives belong to God to do with as He pleases. It pleases God to make peace with us and bring us into His rest for eternity. Right now may count for eternity but what is promised for eternity can never be discounted by right now.
In the midst of war He is our peace.