Recently, a really heroic act was posted on the internet showing four men rescuing an elderly woman from a burning car. They each take on a frightening moment, risking their very lives, to save another human being. Just a few weeks prior to this, a police officer performed a similar deed by rescuing a young man from a burning vehicle. I truly believe that if we looked hard enough, we would see these acts of unselfish charity performed every day amongst people who cherish and honor human life. I still remember one of the most remarkable acts of love for fellow human beings. It was the day after my birthday, January 13, 1982, when an Air Florida 737 crashed into the Potomac river in Washington D.C., killing 72 of the 79 souls aboard and 5 people in vehicles on the bridge it struck before entering the river. One of the seven passengers who survived the crash was Arland Williams. Known as the “sixth passenger,” Williams survived the crash, and passed lifelines on to others rather than take one for himself. He ended up being the only plane passenger to die from drowning. John 15:13 Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends.
In the days just before Jerusalem fell to the Babylonians, the prophet Jeremiah was arrested and brought before King Zedekiah. Zedekiah implored Jeremiah to tell him of God’s vision for Jerusalem. Jeremiah tells him all that will befall him and all the inhabitants of the city. At first Zedekiah does nothing to Jeremiah. However, at the bequest of his evil councilors, Zedekiah allows Jeremiah to be lowered into a gloomy cistern that has no water save for a deep, thick mire of mud. Jer 38:6 So they took Jeremiah and cast him into the cistern of Malchiah, the king’s son, which was in the court of the guard, letting Jeremiah down by ropes. And there was no water in the cistern, but only mud, and Jeremiah sank in the mud. How horrible and frightening this must have been for the man of God, to be treated in such ill fashion, especially after proclaiming the truth to the King who requested it. Jeremiah would at some point later recall this experience as we read of it in Lam. 3:52-55 “I have been hunted like a bird by those who were my enemies without cause; (53) they flung me alive into the pit and cast stones on me; (54) water closed over my head; I said, ‘I am lost.’ (55) “I called on your name, O LORD, from the depths of the pit.
With the Babylonians at the very gates of the city and scarcely no food to be found, what doom it must have been for Jeremiah, literally buried alive in mire, left to die a slow and agonizing death. Who would take such a risk to save him, when there was no time but to even save oneself from the wrath of King Nebuchadnezzar? However, we read of a brave soul, whose name is Ebed-melech, the Ethopian, a eunuch who served in the court of King Zedekiah. Ebed-melech left the palace and sought out the king and boldly approached him, pleading for the life of Jeremiah. He even went so far as to proclaim that the action taken against Jeremiah was evil and they must not let him die in that horrible place. Zedekiah allowed Ebed to rescue Jeremiah and authorized men to help in the effort. Because of his bravery and trust in God, Ebed-melech is also spared from the impending doom of Jerusalem. Jer. 39:16-18 “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. (17) 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. (18) 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.'”
The four men who rescued the woman from the burning car said they were not heroes. They each proclaimed they were only doing what they hoped any human being would have done for them.
There are plenty of humans around us who are deep in the mires of life, seemingly helpless in a pit of despair and gloom. Maybe we should, like Ebed-melech, trust in the Lord, and help raise them out of their abyss. We, too, will then be spared from the wrath to come.