Jeremiah 36 gives us a detailed picture of how God’s words given to Jeremiah and written down by Baruch are preserved. These words are ruthlessly rejected and apparently destroyed by King Jehoiakim. This comes at a critical point in Judah’s miserable final years before exile as Judah faces judgement through the instrumentation of the Babylonians. But, the King’s rejection of God’s Word is not the end of the story – for the king is to be punished and God’s words are to be re-written. This is a great account of the triumph and preservation of God’s Word.
Read Jeremiah 36 (The Whole Chapter!)
This text has all sorts of details, lessons, and applications. I want to focus specifically on what we can learn about the Word of God itself. It is very important to have a firm belief and an accurate understanding of the nature of God’s Word. This Word is not man’s attempt to understand the supernatural. This Word is God’s special revelation concerning Himself and what He wants mankind to know. This Word has also been preserved so that we can read, hear and respond to God’s saving and sanctifying Truth.
God’s people had lost their way. They had broken the covenant that God had made with them. A good indication of our relationship with God is how we listen and respond to God’s Word. Jeremiah’s ministry was very difficult because the people did not respect His message, His message that He received from the Lord. We can learn a lot about how we should and should not respond to God’s Word by studying this chapter together.
God Himself is the author of these words. Yes, Jeremiah is the instrument used, the prophet. But, the text tells us of specific words given by God at a specific time. These words were to be written down. Not just some of the words were to be written down, but all the words that God had revealed to Jeremiah over many years. So, these first few verses give us insight into the origins of the prophecy we are reading when we read Jeremiah. There could not be a clearer explanation and affirmation of the divine origin of this powerful prophetic book. Do we really consider the words of Scripture to be the words of God Himself? This chapter should help to confirm our belief in the divine origin of the words of Scripture.
This prophetic word had a unique purpose at that time. This was God’s Word “against Israel and Judah” (2). But, even with impending judgement on the horizon, there are three aspects of God’s Word that need to be recognized. First, God’s Word is revelation. God is revealing the disaster that is around the corner. This is a purpose of God’s Word in and of itself. God’s Word communicates truth. It tells us what was, it tells us what is, and it tells us what will be depending on His people’s response. We need revelation, and that is exactly what the Word of God is. It is God’s revelation of what He wants us to know.
God’s Word enables repentance. It enables repentance in that it gives God’s people the opportunity to get right with Him and avoid the terrible future that He reveals. God is speaking to His people in order that they will repent. This repentance will lead to the forgiveness of their “iniquity and their sin.” Jeremiah presents God’s case against His people in his prophecy, but it is important to see this context for God’s Words. Revelation can lead to Repentance, which will result in Forgiveness. It is an act of God’s mercy that He would continue to speak to His stubborn rebellious people, giving them the opportunity to repent and return to Him. When God’s Word convicts us and calls for a change in our lives, this is an indication of God gracious purpose to draw us closer to Himself.
There is variety in God’s Word. But, God’s Word is always purposeful (Isaiah 55:10-11) and it is profitable (2 Timothy 3:16-17). And we are to be responders, doers of God’s Word, not just hearers. This was the case for God’s people in Jeremiah’s day, and it is true today. When God’s people hear the Word or read the Word, three questions may help us hear and respond to what God is saying? There are other questions, of course, but these three questions flow out of these early verses in Jeremiah 36.
Revelation – Repentance – Promise
This is a very interesting section of the chapter and a lot is taking place. What is revealed is a continued failure to personally repent upon the hearing of the words of the Lord. Besides a few who seemed to honor the Word of God (vs. 25), the overall picture is a lack of serious repentance on the part of those who hear. This was a serious failure on the part of the leadership and the majority of God’s people.
Notice that Baruch was obedient and read the “words of the Lord” (vs. 8-10, 15). The words were first read to the people, and then to a group of officials (vs. 8-19). Yes, there was fear and they told Baruch to hide. But, despite the affirmation by Baruch that these were the dictated words of Jeremiah, their main concern was to take these words to the King.
The climax of this section is when one of the king’s servants reads the scroll to the king. As the columns are read, the king cuts them off the scroll and burns them in the fire in the firepot (vs. 23). What an attempt to destroy the abiding permanent Word of God! The text stresses that the king did this without fear, nor did his servants express repentance or sorrow (vs. 24).
Furthermore, the command was given to “seize” Baruch and Jeremiah. So, not only was God’s Word rejected, but the messengers were to be punished.
You may wonder about the point that I am making related to these verses. In light of the whole passage, I am making a positive point based on the wrong responses to God’s Word. We need to make sure that we respond appropriately to God’s Word in contrast to what takes place in these verses. This is a realistic account of limited response, worried response, and total rejection of God’s Word. And this rejection was done without respect and fear. These words from God were purposed to bring about revelation-repentance-forgiveness, but instead, the reading of the Word of God was met with total rejection. Indeed, the king sought to destroy the Word of God.
Do not be surprised if we see the same types of wrong responses to God’s Word today. It is easy for people to read words or hear words read and not to take them seriously. Worse than that, many people inwardly or outwardly reject the Scriptures. They may not literally shred the pages of the Scriptures and burn them in the fire, but they may disregard or disagree with what the Bible says. Furthermore, people have in the past and will in the future discount the Scriptures altogether. Certainly, there will be those who actually seek to destroy the Scriptures and/or persecute those who believe them.
These wrong responses remind us that the Word of God is worthy of our hearing, our utmost attention, and our response in faith and obedience. How we receive and respond to the Word of God matters greatly. And when it comes to the gospel and the message of salvation, the receiving or rejecting of the Word is a matter of eternal life or eternal death.
King Jehoiakim did not respect the authority of God’s Word; he rejected God’s word and he was judged because of that. God’s Word predicted his downfall and it was accomplished according to God’s Word. God’s Word is truth. What God’s Word promises will be fulfilled. This does not only apply to good promises of blessing, but also promises of consequences and judgement. The king was to pay a price of judgement for his actions and his rejection of God’s Word.
We must remember that:
Its precepts are true, its promises are reliable, its judgments are to be avoided, and its message is to be embraced. In this passage the pronouncement given becomes true. But, the same can be said for the blessings and assurances that it gives us as believers.
We can be confident that God will act according to His Word. Do you remember the account of God’s promise to Abraham that Sarah would have a child? In Genesis 21:1, the text simply says, “The Lord visited Sarah as he had said, and the Lord did to Sarah as he had promised.” What a clear illustration of God acting according to His Word. Sarah did conceive and bore a son. This happened as God said it would and God did what He said He would do. We can be confident that God will act according to His Word.
Think about what we would have missed if verse 32 did not take place. Think about what we would have missed if Jeremiah’s prophecy had not been passed down to us, or any book of the Bible. But, God’s authoritative Word has been presevered for us, His word is permanent and victorious. The king would be judged for his rejection of God’s Word. God’s Word was not destroyed. God saw to it that what was destroyed was replaced and words were added (vs. 32). This gives us a vivid specific picture of how God watches His Word and makes sure of its continuance and permanence.
Praise God for His Word! Praise God for the preservation and permanence of His Word. We must hear the call to read, to teach, and to preach that Word. We must honor the Word of God by hearing, believing and obeying God’s Word. We must devote time to listen to the Word of God and to respond as the Lord directs. We must be aware that there will be those who do not listen and even seek to destroy God’s Word. When they refuse to listen and when they disregard God’s Word they do so to their own detriment.
God cares about His Word. God preserves His Word. God uses His Word to reveal Himself, to give us truth to save and sanctify, and to keep us from disaster and destruction. We must listen and obey His Word. We must be those who share His Word to fulfill the purposes of God and to bring His glory. In the end, His Word will be victorious.