Pen-Knifing the Word of God

The book of Jeremiah is a very rich and interesting book of study. In Jeremiah 36, King Jehoiakim, the son of Josiah, is now in the fourth year of his reign over the land of Judah. The nation at this particular time is under the influence and power of the Egyptian nation. Jehoiakim was placed on the throne of Judah by Pharaoh as a replacement for his brother. He begins his reign at the age of 25 and reigns for 11 years under the hand of the Egyptians. It is in this situation which we find the events of Jeremiah 36 occurring.

Jeremiah 36 begins with the prophet being called by God to take a scroll, write the things commanded against Israel and Judah for the entire nation to hear, that they might repent (Vs. 1-3). This record extends from the time God first spoke to Jeremiah in the days of Josiah a number of years earlier to the present time

This is yet another effort from God to get Judah to repent and turn back to the Lord. God is waiting with open arms to forgive them of their trespasses if they will only turn to Him and repent of their sins. The times of Babylonian captivity are swiftly approaching for Judah, and God is pulling out all the stops in his attempts to bring them to repentance.

Jeremiah calls Baruch, the son of Neriah, and asks him to write all that Jeremiah dictates to him; Baruch does and the book is completed and ready to be read before the people as God had commanded (Vs. 4). 

The book, or scroll, is read three different times before the conclusion of the chapter. However, none of them will be by Jeremiah. Jeremiah, for one reason or another, has been “shut up” so that he cannot go (Vs. 5).  Because of this, Jeremiah commands Baruch to go in his place and to read the words of the Lord that the people might hear them and God’s command to Jeremiah might be fulfilled (Vs. 6).  Jeremiah’s hope is that, when the people hear the words of the book, their hearts will be turned to the Lord and they will make supplication to Him in repentance.

The first reading of the book is done in verses 8-10 in the court of the house of the Lord on a day of ordained fasting. The second reading takes place in the presence of the king’s scribe and princes, since they want to hear what was read before the people (Vs. 11-19). After sending Baruch away, the princes go in to the king and tell him the words of the scroll. The scroll is fetched and read personally in the ears of the king and all the princes (Vs. 20-23).

The king, upon hearing the first few pages, cuts out the pages and casts them in the fire. Jehoiakim seems to believe that if the pages no longer exist, the words no longer have influence.  There is neither fear of what was written nor attitude of repentance to be found within the king’s court; the only response from the king is to arrest those responsible for its writing: Baruch and Jeremiah (Vs. 26). There are those in the king’s court who beseech the king to refrain from burning the book, instead the king destroys the very words of God.

There are many in the world today who respond to God’s Word in the same way as Jehoiakim. The religious world as a whole has taken the proverbial knife to the word of God and burned that with which they do not agree. They completely disregard such passages as Revelation 22:18-19 and Deuteronomy 4:2 which clearly express the command that no portion of the word of God shall be enhanced, disregarded, reinterpreted, or considered unnecessary. Yet every time someone professes a doctrine contrary to the laws of God, that individual has ignored these commands.

Jehoiakim was guilty, not only of seeking to destroy the word of God, but also of being negligent in his adherence to the words being proclaimed. Instead of his heart being touched by the things stated in the book, Jehoiakim was even more rebellious and encouraged the people of Judah to follow in his footsteps. When man refuses to listen to the word of God and wishes to go about doing his own will, he is guilty of the same negligence as Jehoiakim.

Even with Jehoiakim’s open rebellion against God and His word, God does not allow the king to get in the way of His proclamation.  Jeremiah tells Baruch to write the book again with additions to be presented to Jehoiakim because of his insubordination to God (Vs. 27-32).

Though the king tried to “make the words go away,” God simply told Jeremiah to write them again. Jehoiakim’s actions did not change or prevent the message God revealed to His people. Just as Jehoiakim could not destroy God’s Word, so also today is it always present and available. No work of man has ever been able to squelch the word of God.

Mankind needs to remember the words of Jeremiah 36. God expects man to listen to what has been presented to him. Non-compliance or ignoring those things imparted will never change their truth, impact, or pertinence. Man never has the right to desecrate, whether physically or intellectually, the word God has delivered to them. Doing so only brings condemnation upon that man from the very source he sought to destroy. We must always be thsoe who hold the sword of the Spirit, and not the penknife of destruction.

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