This word came to Jeremiah from the Lord. Jeremiah 36:1
In the early nineteenth century, Thomas Carlyle gave a manuscript to philosopher John Stuart Mill to review. Somehow, whether accidentally or intentionally, the manuscript got tossed into a fire. It was Carlyle’s only copy. Undaunted, he set to work rewriting the lost chapters. Mere flames couldn’t stop the story, which remained intact in his mind. Out of great loss, Carlyle produced his monumental work The French Revolution.
In the waning days of ancient Judah’s decadent kingdom, God told the prophet Jeremiah, “Take a scroll and write on it all the words I have spoken to you” (Jeremiah 36:2). The message revealed God’s tender heart, calling on His people to repent in order to avoid imminent invasion (v. 3).
Jeremiah did as he was told. The scroll soon found its way to Judah’s king, Jehoiakim, who methodically shredded it and threw it into the fire (vv. 23–25). The king’s act of arson only made matters worse. God told Jeremiah to write another scroll with the same message. He said, “[Jehoiakim] 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” (v. 30).
It’s possible to burn the words of God by tossing a book into a fire. Possible, but utterly futile. The Word behind the words endures forever.
What has caused you or those you know to ignore the words of God? Why is it vital for you to submit to and obediently follow what He’s instructed?
Father, help me to take Your words to heart, even if they’re difficult to hear. Please give me a heart of repentance—not defiance.
King Jehoiakim’s rejection of the words of God demonstrated by his reckless burning of Jeremiah’s scroll wasn’t an isolated event. The prophet Jeremiah had touched a nerve in a land once entrusted to a nation of freed slaves. Since the days of Moses, there’d been a humane law in Israel requiring Hebrew slaves to be freed after seven years (Exodus 21:2). But this law had long since been ignored by wealthy land owners accustomed to living off the backs of a captive and oppressed workforce (Jeremiah 34:8–17). Their social privilege made it easy to ignore a troublesome prophet who claimed to speak the word of Israel’s God (37:1–2). According to Jeremiah, a looming Babylonian invasion was the inevitable corrective. What even Jeremiah couldn’t foresee, however, is that the flagrant burning of a scroll would foreshadow something far more horrific—a literal rejection and crucifixion of Jesus, the living Word of God.