Jeremiah 35 & 36
We sure could use a few more Jeremiahs today! He was quick to follow God’s instructions, and he boldly spoke God’s truth even when it was quite unpopular. And, he didn’t quit!
At the time of the events of Jeremiah chapter 36 the prophet had already been preaching to his Jewish brothers and sisters for over 20 years – warning them again and again of God’s displeasure and the coming wrath if they don’t repent and turn from their wicked ways. Over and over again he has urged the people, the kings, the priests to stop sinning and return to God. But as a nation, they don’t get it. They revel in their freedom, follow after the gods of their neighbors and fall further and further from what God designed them to be – His chosen people who love Him and follow Him and are blessed by Him.
The 20 plus years of preaching hasn’t turned the hearts of Judah back to their Creator. Maybe if it was ALL written down – would the people listen then? God tells Jeremiah to write down all the sermons he has ever preached – every word that God has given him from the very start of his ministry. God said, “Perhaps when the people of Judah hear about every disaster I plan to inflict on them, each of them will turn from his wicked way; then I will forgive their wickedness and their sin.” (Jeremiah 36:3 NIV). Even though God hates the sins of His people He still loves them and wants to give them another chance to come back to Him. And so a great project begins. Jeremiah dictates as his scribe Baruch writes it all down. Perhaps the people will listen. They spend over a year writing – God has said a lot. How will the people respond to this book that lays it all out?
Since Jeremiah’s unpopular (but very Godly) message has already had him personally banned from the temple, Baruch is sent to read God’s words through Jeremiah to the people. One who hears it, Micaiah, realizes the importance of what has been written and he arranges a reading of it with some of the royal officials. “When they heard all these words, they looked at each other in fear” (Jeremiah 36:16) and they arrange for the king himself to hear the words on the scroll from Baruch, Jeremiah, and ultimately God.
Here’s the king’s chance. He can hear God’s word and repent and lead the nation into a time of Godly reformation, thus saving them from God’s wrath at the hands of the Babylonians – just as his father Josiah had done years ago. But King Jehoiakim thinks he knows better. His arrogance and hardened heart don’t crack. Instead, as the scroll is read to him in his chambers, he cuts it apart and burns God’s word, piece by piece.
Can you imagine the anger and defeat and perhaps fear Jeremiah and Baruch may have felt when they heard the fate of their scroll – God’s words? To know the utter disrespect they (and their God) had received – and how their work was violated and destroyed. And they didn’t even have a copy saved on their hard drive. Totally lost. Over a year’s work, gone. But, God’s Word stands forever (Isaiah 40:8). So, when God tells Jeremiah to write it all down again – with an extra word for Jehoiakim – Jeremiah and Baruch get to work – and the second work is completed, more impressive than the first. And perhaps much of what we read today in the book of Jeremiah comes from this second labor of love and obedience and great persistence.
God’s Words are priceless. Some will hear and respond and pass it on. Like Jeremiah they are motivated to live by, love and share God’s words in order to save themselves and their hearers (1 Timothy 4:16). But others will scoff, show no fear and even seek to destroy it. It does not change the supreme importance and value of the words – or the God who spoke them. Nations, kings, priests, people; past, present and future will be judged by how they respond to God and His Word. The king who brazenly cut apart and burned the scroll paid with his life – and his children and country suffered mightily for it as well. Jeremiah and Baruch had far from an easy life – but they didn’t give up. They kept at it – writing, sharing, reading, speaking and living God’s Word. They persistently worked striving to help save those in danger of experiencing God’s wrath. Will you stand with them today and be a Jeremiah?
Sorry we were late in sending today’s devotion out.