Peter Misselbrook's Blog
Aug 26 2019 - Jeremiah 36 – The king and the scroll

Jeremiah was given a message from the Lord for the people and leaders in Jerusalem. But he had been banned from going to the temple – his words had already upset the leaders in Jerusalem. So Jeremiah recruited a man skilled in reading and writing, and dictated to him all that the Lord had told him to say. As Jeremiah dictated, so Baruch the scribe wrote what he said in a scroll. The purpose of this whole exercise was to persuade the people to turn to the Lord. The Lord told Jeremiah, "Perhaps when the people of Judah hear about every disaster I plan to inflict on them, they will each turn from their wicked ways; then I will forgive their wickedness and their sin" (v.3). The Lord longs to rescue his people from judgment – if only they will turn to him (see Matthew 23:37).

When Jeremiah and Baruch had finished recording the word of the Lord on the scroll, Baruch is told to go to the temple on a fast day when people, not only from Jerusalem but also from the surrounding towns, are gathering there. Baruch is to read out the words of the scroll to them.

Word is soon sent to royal officials telling them of Jeremiah's words being read out in the temple. The royal officials, "Elishama the secretary, Delaiah son of Shemaiah, Elnathan son of Akbor, Gemariah son of Shaphan, Zedekiah son of Hananiah" (v.12), sent for Baruch and had him read to them the words the Lord had given to Jeremiah. As soon as they had heard it they were afraid and said, "We must report all these words to the king" (v.16). But first they told Baruch that he and Jeremiah should go into hiding. They obviously knew how the king would react to the words.

When the king was told of the scroll he ordered it be fetched and for Jehudi, one of his officials, to read it to him and to his officials. King Jehoiakim was sitting before a brazier as it was winter time. We read that, "Whenever Jehudi had read three or four columns of the scroll, the king cut them off with a scribe’s knife and threw them into the brazier, until the entire scroll was burned in the fire" (v.23). Elnathan, Delaiah and Gemariah were horrified and vainly urged the king not to burn the scroll (v.25). They recognised that the words it contained were neither those of Baruch nor of Jeremiah who had dictated them but of the Lord their God. The king called for the arrest of Baruch and Jeremiah but was unable to lay his hands on them because, "the Lord had hidden them" (v.26).

The Lord then told Jeremiah to take another scroll and, using Baruch, write on it all that was written in the first one. Furthermore he was to send a personal message to the king:

This is what the LORD says: you burned that scroll and said, ‘Why did you write on it that the king of Babylon would certainly come and destroy this land and wipe from it both man and beast?’ Therefore this is what the LORD says about Jehoiakim king of Judah: he will have no one to sit on the throne of David; his body will be thrown out and exposed to the heat by day and the frost by night. (vv.29-30).

The king will need to learn in the most awful way that he could burn God's word and seek to kill his messengers, but he could not prevent the word of the Lord from being fulfilled. The Lord had longed for his people to listen to his word, turn to him in repentance and prayer that he might save them. But, like Pharaoh, many years before, the king had hardened his heart against God's word.

We live in a world where many seek to tear up God's word and sit in judgment over the words the Lord has spoken. They may mock the Bible's message and destroy Bibles; they may imprison and even kill Christians, but they cannot prevent God's word from accomplishing all that God has purposed. That was the lesson the Lord was teaching the king in the days of Jeremiah. That is the lesson that the world should have learned through the death of the Lord Jesus Christ.

Thank you Lord our God that your purposes cannot fail and that your deepest longing is to save men and women from judgment and disaster. We love your word and place our trust in your promises. Continue to work out your purposes to save through us.

Peter Misselbrook