In this sermon, Dan Murray excavates the Word of God through the account of Ebed-Melech rescuing the prophet Jeremiah from the deep, muddy cistern, using a combination of ropes and rags. As Dan points out, there are times when the Bible gives little to no details about something. For example, when Jesus opens the Scriptures to the men on the road to Emmaus, it doesn’t tell you what they were. Here, it goes into all this detail about the ropes and rags, which made Dan think that they’re important.
Without twisting the metaphor or digging too deeply, Dan gives us a profound theory on the significance of the rags and ropes, around the 26-minute mark.
A pit can represent lies, or when we’re in a pit, the enemy bombards us with lies. The rope could represent the truth of God’s Word. We’re sunk into this morass, and we start to wonder about God and ourselves. But the truth of God’s Word brings liberty. And the rags could represent the love and genuine care that we show to people in the process of bringing them out of the pit. Both are really important.
While there are pits where we only need to apply one or the other, but there are some pits where you need both.
In such cases, truth without love brings rope burns. There tends to be a reaction when there’s a lot of truth and not a lot of love. The truth here feels close to being despised for being an idiot. But God does not despise us! More on that below. On the other hand, Love without truth is like seeing someone in a pit and giving them nice padded clothing and pillows for their heads as they can sink to their death. Ebed-Melech is pointing us to a way of helping other people. Speaking the truth in love! That’s how we build each other up.
And sometimes we’re in Jeremiah’s shoes; we’re in the pit! If we’re continually at the top of the pit, it can become a breeding ground for pride and self-reliance. I am always the one to lower the ropes. I am always the hero. This heart position can start eating away at something inside of us; it can become a spiritual cancer.
Therefore, sometimes God gives us Jeremiah’s shoes for our own sake, out of His mercy.
Dan says not to despise your own neediness. “Why shouldn’t I? What if I did stupid things to land in the pit?” Psalm 69:33 says, “For the LORD hears the needy and does not despise his own people who are prisoners.” If He does not despise us, we should not despise ourselves. We will learn to love others while they’re going through their own pit experiences by going through this suffering ourselves; the truths we receive from our own pit experience we will later discover are also for others. Sometimes to build each other up, we must first descend into places that bring about character transformations and a deeper abiding humility.