Treasures from Gods Word: Ebed-melech- An Example of Bravery and Kindness
Jeremiah 38:4-6 – Zedekiah gave in to fear of man
Zedekiah failed by giving way to fear of man in allowing injustice to be meted out to Jeremiah, when it was within his power to stop it. How can we benefit from Zedekiah’s bad example? Psalm 111:10 says that “The fear of Jehovah is the beginning of wisdom”. So the key is, who do we want to please the most?
It is a human tendency to fear what others may think. As a result sometimes it is tempting to abdicate our responsibility for making our own decisions to others because we fear what they might say or do if we made our own decisions. Even in the first century there were problems in the early Christian congregation when some prominent Jews tried to insist on their own view (not supported by scripture) that all Christians should be circumcised. However we should note the response by the early congregation after much discussion. Acts 15:28,29 shows that to avoid burdening their fellow brothers with many rules they merely reiterated the important necessary things. Anything else was up to the conscience of the individual Christian.
Today we still have the clear scriptural commands and principles for the important things, but the majority of areas have been left to our Christian conscience. Areas like whether to have further education and what type or whether to get married or have children or what type of career to pursue. However fear of man could lead to us complying with views which have no scriptural basis in the hope that in doing so we will have approval from those to whom we listen such as the governing body and \ or elders and others. However love of God would impel us to make these decisions for ourselves based on our understanding of the scriptures as we are responsible individually before God. Today many elderly witnesses regret not having children (which is not a scriptural requirement, but a matter of conscience) because they were told not to because Armageddon was very near. Many find themselves unable to provide adequately for their families (which is a scriptural requirement) because of obeying a man-made rule not to educate themselves more than the minimum legal requirement (which is not a scriptural requirement) again because Armageddon was very near.
Jeremiah 38:7-10 – Ebed-melech acted bravely and decisively to help Jeremiah
Ebed-melech bravely went to the king and boldly pointed out the wickedness of the men who had condemned Jeremiah to a slow death in the muddy cistern. It was at no little risk to himself. Likewise today it takes courage to warn others that the Governing Body has made serious mistakes in many of its teachings, especially when they publish preemptive counsel for our fellow brothers to ignore all such comments. For example, the July, 2017 Watchtower, p. 30, under “Winning the Battle for Your Mind” says:
“Your defense? Be determined to stick to Jehovah’s organization and loyally support the leadership he provides—no matter what imperfections may surface. [bold ours] (1 Thessalonians 5:12, 13) Do not be “quickly shaken from your reason” when faced with what appear to be damaging attacks by apostates or other such deceivers of the mind—however plausible their charges may seem. [bold ours, ‘however true their charges may be’ is the inference] (2 Thessalonians 2:2; Titus 1:10)“.
Effectively they are strongly advising our fellow Christians to bury their heads in the sand. The attitude is like the sentiment found in the world: “My country, right or wrong”. The scriptures make it clear many times over that we have no obligation to follow a wrong course simply because those in authority say so, whoever they may be. (Bible examples like Abigail and David come to mind.)
Jeremiah 38:10-13 – Ebed-melech demonstrated kindness
Ebed-melech showed kindness in using rags and cloths to lessen any chafing and the hardness of the ropes as Jeremiah was pulled out of the suction of the muddy cistern. Likewise today, we need to show kindness and care to those injured and hurting, maybe because of unjust treatment meted out by judicial committees to minors who, because of sexual abuse by fellow congregation members, no longer wish to remain part of the congregation with the unpunished paedophile. Those elders who claim they cannot help because of the ‘Two Witness rule’, invalidate God’s word by their claims, thereby bringing Jehovah’s name into disrepute. Rather than God’s word, it is their personal interpretation that imposes the problem. All true Christians should endeavor to show Christ-like kindness to all.
Digging for Spiritual Gems (Jeremiah 35 – 38)
Jeremiah 35:19 – Why were the Rechabites blessed? (it-2 759)
Jesus stated in Luke 16:11 that “the person faithful in what is least is faithful also in much, and the person unrighteous in what is least is unrighteous also in much.” The Rechabites had been faithful to their forefather Jonadab (who assisted Jehu) who had commanded them not to drink wine, build houses, sow seed or plant, but remain living in tents as shepherds and like alien residents. Even when instructed by Jeremiah, Jehovah’s appointed prophet, to drink wine they politely refused. As Jeremiah chapter 35 shows this was actually a test from Jehovah and he expected them to refuse as shown by how he instructed Jeremiah to use them as an example of faithfulness as a contrast to the rest of the Israelites who were disobedient to Jehovah.
Why could they refuse a command from God’s prophet and still be blessed? Was it perhaps because this instruction from Jeremiah went beyond his God-given authority and entered the area of personal choice and responsibility? They therefore had a right to obey their personal conscience on the matter, rather than Jeremiah. They could have reasoned, ‘it’s only a small thing to disobey our forefather and drink some wine especially as the prophet has told us to’, but they did not. They were indeed faithful in what is least and therefore Jehovah deemed them worthy to survive the coming destruction as a contrast to the unfaithful Israelites. These unfaithful ones, despite repeated warnings, had not turned back from their wrong course, directly disobeying Jehovah’s laws as written in the Law of Moses.
As Paul warned the early Galatian Christians in Galatians 1:8, “even if we [the apostles] or an angel out of heaven [or even a self-proclaimed governing body] were to declare to you as good news, something beyond what we [the apostles and inspired bible writers] declared to you as good news, let him be accursed.” Paul also warned us in verse 10, “or am I seeking to please men? If I were yet pleasing men, I would not be Christ’s slave”. Therefore, we need to be faithful to and please Christ rather than men whatever they may claim.
Digging Deeper for Spiritual Gems
Time Period: Start of reign of Zedekiah
- (17-19) Jeremiah questioned by Zedekiah secretly. Points out that the prophets who foretold that Babylon would not come against Judah had all disappeared. He had told the truth.
This is the mark of a true prophet as recorded in Deuteronomy 18:21, 22. What about the failed predictions of 1874, 1914, 1925, 1975 and the like? Do they match up to the mark of a true prophet, one with Jehovah’s backing? Do the ones making these predictions clearly have Jehovah’s spirit or a different kind of spirit? Are they not the presumptuous ones, (1 Samuel 15:23) pushing ahead as they try to ascertain something that according to Jesus, the Head of the Christian Congregation, it ‘does not belong to us’ to know (Acts 1:6, 7)?
Summary of Jeremiah 38
Time Period: 10th or 11th Year of Zedekiah, 18th or 19th Year of Nebuchadnezzar, during siege of Jerusalem.
- (1-15) Jeremiah put in cistern for prophesying destruction, rescued by Ebed-melech.
- (16-17) Jeremiah tells Zedekiah if he goes out to the Babylonians, he will live and Jerusalem will not be burned with fire. (destroyed, devastated)
- (18-28) Zedekiah secretly meets Jeremiah, but being afraid of the princes, he does nothing. Jeremiah is under protective custody until the fall of Jerusalem.
In Zedekiah’s 10th or 11th year (Nebuchadnezzar’s 18th or 19th), near the end of the siege of Jerusalem, Jeremiah told the people and Zedekiah that if he surrendered he would live and Jerusalem would not be destroyed. It was emphasized twice, in this passage alone, in verses 2-3 and again in verses 17-18. Go out to the Chaldean’s and you will live, and the city will not be destroyed.
The prophecy of Jeremiah 25:9-14 was written (in 4th Year of Jehoiakim, 1st Year Nebuchadnezzar) some 17-18 years before the destruction of Jerusalem for the final time by Nebuchadnezzar in his 19th year. Would Jehovah give Jeremiah a prophecy to pronounce when there was no certainty it would be fulfilled? Of course not. That would mean Jeremiah could have been labelled a false prophet if Zedekiah and his princes decided to comply with Jehovah’s commands. Even up to the very last moment, Zedekiah had the option to avoid Jerusalem being devastated. The organization claims these 70 years (of Jeremiah 25) relate to Jerusalem’s desolation, however a careful reading of the passage indicates it relates to servitude to Babylon, and hence covers a different period of time to the period of devastation. In fact, Jeremiah 38:16,17 makes it clear that it was rebellion against this servitude that brought on the siege and destruction and devastation of Jerusalem and the remaining cities of Judah. (Darby: ‘if thou wilt freely go forth to the king of Babylon’s princes, then thy soul shall live, and this city shall not be burned with fire; and thou shalt live and thy house (offspring)’)
Gods Kingdom Rules (kr chap 12 para 9-15) Organized to Serve the God of Peace
Paragraph 9 makes a very true statement. “Any structure of order that does not have peace as its foundation will sooner or later collapse. In contrast, godly peace promotes the kind of order that lasts.”
The problem is that, contrary to the claim “that our organization is guided and refined by the God who gives peace”, we do not find peace in our congregations. What is your experience? Is there truly God-given peace in the congregations? Over the years I have visited many, many congregations both locally, around my country and abroad. Those that truly have peace and are happy are rare exceptions rather than the rule. The problems range from snide remarks made from the platform at individuals in the audience, to an obvious reluctance on the part of the audience to answer up in Watchtower Studies relating to elders, or obvious cliques. The spirit of ambition and desire for prominence and power is also rampant. Sadly, as paragraph 9 states, such structures ‘will sooner or later collapse’ leaving brothers and sisters searching for answers.
Paragraph 10 refers to the box “How the Manner of Oversight improved”. Reading through this box we have to ask the question: “Why, if the Holy Spirit was on the governing body of the time, was the correct arrangement not arrived at during the first attempt?” Five major changes alone are mentioned between 1895 and 1938. On average a change every 10 years. When we read the scriptures of the development of the early Christian congregation, nothing like this occurred.
In paragraph 11 we learn that in 1971 the Governing Body discerned that there should be a body of elders instead of one elder. The claim is made that they realized that Jesus was guiding them to make improvements in the organizational structure of God’s people. Yes, read that again, after reading the box referred to under “1895 – All congregations are instructed to choose from among themselves brothers who can serve as elders”. The structure had come round a full circle, from elders to one man and back to elders again. This time it was with a slight tweak. Now the governing body appointed the elders instead of the congregation. Fast forward to September 2014 another variation, the Circuit Overseer would appoint the elders. (The more cynical among us would suggest that this wasn’t so much as getting closer to the 1st Century model of appointments, but removing the organization from any legal culpability for appointing elders who were child molesters and the like.)
Paragraph 14 reminds us that “Today the coordinator of a body of elders views himself, not as the first among equals, but as a lessor one”. If only that were true. Many COBEs I know of were originally congregation servants, became presiding overseers, and are now still COBEs and still have the mental attitude that the congregation belongs to them.
Paragraph 15 contains the claim that elders are very conscious that Jesus is the Head of the congregation. Not only is Jesus, as head of the congregation, a rarely expressed idea in the literature of recent years, but also to all intents and purposes, the elders are the heads of the congregation, with some deference to the governing body. In my experience many elders meetings are not opened with prayer.
Good point Rufus. We did not like it at the time, but it is very obvious that turning over the ownership of Kingdom Halls has meant that local congregations have completely lost control over their own local hall for meetings. No matter how much the individuals put in to finance a hall locally, it can be taken away, leaving the need to travel further and (probably eventually) at more inconvenient meeting times, as well as losing the local presence which can attract new ones in their area.
The greatest change of all in the elder/congregation arrangement has recently happened, and it is as yet unspoken and unspeakable. Congregations, with their legal property deeds and bank accounts, have been swept by edict from the “Governing Body” into an ecclesiastical hierarchy similar to the Catholic Church, even to Babylon the Great herself. Elders who presided over congregations of ordained ministers (remember that part) now find themselves legally disavowed from the rights of clergymen as regards their own duties toward the flock. (In fairness to the law, most have done little to educate themselves, to be well-trained and qualified for… Read more »
One of my early epiphanies was realising that the elder arrangement,while good in some respects,is not what was in place during the 1st century. The position of elders is advisory,not executive,elders have no rights whatsoever to tell congregants what they should or shouldnt do,never do you read of the apostles or even Christ himself,telling the congregation they should be loyal to them. The role of elders was to teach,upbuild,never to judge or govern in any way,so while there may be whole souled elders,the structure they serve under is corrupt and steps over the bibles guidelines on their proper role,the fact… Read more »
It seems to be throughout most of Israel’s history, those in positions of oversight be it Kings or whomever, never listened to the true prophets God sent. How sad for the nation. Je·hoiʹa·kim burned up the scroll so as not to listen to what Jehovah had to say. It is no surprise the GB does not want anyone telling them to change polices, doctrines and so forth. The Pope and the leadership of any major religion does not want anyone telling them different, how sad for those that follow. It will never stop truth from prevailing. I should have left… Read more »
Thanks Tadua-Great review of the bible chapters in Jeremiah. I had the same thought about Zedekiah. That he was a bit of a coward.But, then I imagined myself in a Crisis Situation and would I behave in a similar vein. I would hope so. There are times when it’s wise to be silent. However there are times to speak up as well. With regards to the Elder arrangements, from talking to Elders who were presiding over the Congregation prior to 1971, instead of being a smooth transition many elders weren’t that excited about the change. It was a real shift… Read more »