Standing on the Word of God
Most Christians believe that the Word of God is what holds us together. Its teachings and doctrine unify God’s church about who God is and what he’s doing. It tells us what’s important, and it hasn’t changed, nor will it ever. Most Christians agree with this.
So why are there so many polarizing issues in the church right now? It’s not just that liberals and conservatives are divided from each other, but the division seems to exist among liberals and among conservatives.
For example, evangelical, conservative Christians (who all believe in the inerrancy of Scripture, the Trinity, the bodily resurrection of Jesus, etc.) are becoming more and more divided over issues of systemic racism, abusive authority, immigration, helping the poor, abortion, and even over what defines a woman.
So now we don’t just have different denominations of churches with different doctrinal beliefs, but we’re starting to see, within the same denominations, pro-mask, and anti-mask churches, woke and anti-woke churches, pro-trump and anti-trump churches, and more.
Common sense tells us that as our nation becomes more polarized, so will our churches. So what can we do about it? For one thing, we can become more prepared. We can become more prepared to take a stand on what Scripture teaches and not be swept up in the cultural and political rhetoric. Since God’s word will always win out in the end, we need to ensure we’re aligned with Scripture, not necessarily with the left or the right.
The truth of God’s word never being extinguished is what chapter 36 of Jeremiah is about. Jehoiakim, a powerful king, tried to destroy God’s word, but he failed. Others in the past have tried, and many more in the future may try to silence God’s word, but they will never succeed. Chapter 36 is about writing, receiving, rejecting, and preserving God’s Word. So let’s get into it.
Writing the Word
First of all, in verse 2, these are God’s Words. For 21 years, God had been speaking to Jeremiah:
Jeremiah 36:2 CSB
Take a scroll, and write on it all the words I have spoken to you concerning Israel, Judah, and all the nations from the time I first spoke to you during Josiah’s reign until today.
The fact the Bible consists of God’s words is also confirmed in 2 Peter 1:20-21, which says,
2 Peter 1:20–21 CSB
Above all, you know this: No prophecy of Scripture comes from the prophet’s own interpretation, because no prophecy ever came by the will of man; instead, men spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit.
God may use the personality, experiences, and writing style of authors but the ultimate inspiration is entirely his, which is why the Bible is the final authority when Christians disagree. When we aren’t sure what is right or wrong, God’s word settles the argument.
Secondly, notice God’s primary purpose in writing his words down. Jeremiah 36:3 gives us God’s goal:
Jeremiah 36:3 CSB
Perhaps when the house of Judah hears about all the disaster I am planning to bring on them, each one of them will turn from his evil way. Then I will forgive their iniquity and their sin.
God’s purpose was to convince his people to turn from their evil ways. His goal was for them to wake up and repent after hearing about the disasters God was planning to bring on them.
Are there disastrous times ahead for the church? Probably. So what should we do? First, turn to God’s word and repent. God’s word isn’t meant to be used to further divide us into smaller factions but for us to unite in repentance.
The horrible, prophetic words in Jeremiah of coming judgment are meant to bring God’s people to their knees in repentant prayer. For example, Jeremiah 36:7 says hopefully,
Jeremiah 36:7 CSB
Perhaps their petition will come before the Lord, and each one will turn from his evil way, for the anger and fury that the Lord has pronounced against this people are intense.
So, again, the purpose of the Bible isn’t primarily to confirm our rightness. It’s to bring us to our senses and show us how desperately we need the grace of God.
Receiving the Word
The temple was where the people received the word. But as we’ve seen in previous chapters, most people were too busy with life or didn’t care enough to go to the temple to hear God’s words.
There was one notable exception, however—Micaiah. Micaiah set an excellent example of how everyone should receive God’s word. The hearing came first, then sharing, and last, fearing.
Hearing God’s word comes first, as it says in Jeremiah 36:11.
Jeremiah 36:11 (CSB)
Micaiah son of Gemariah, son of Shaphan, heard all the words of the Lord from the scroll.
Micaiah listened to all of God’s word. In other words, he didn’t walk out or doze off in the middle of hearing and miss the context. He heard it all.
Related to this, I’ll say that’s why preaching through entire books of the Bible is so important. Some pastors prefer to preach about topics, and that’s not necessarily wrong. Still, it can become a problem when congregations fail to hear the whole counsel of God and instead only get a pastor’s favorite parts. The entire Bible is God’s word, so we need to read and study all of it, not just our favorite parts.
OK, first comes hearing, and then comes sharing. Jeremiah 36:13 says:
Jeremiah 36:13 CSB
Micaiah reported to them all the words he had heard when Baruch read from the scroll in the hearing of the people.
Micaiah wasn’t content to just hear God’s words for himself; he passed them on. He told the other officials and eventually told the king himself. And, notice that he didn’t just summarize God’s word for them. Verses 13 and 16 say he reported all the words to them.
So there’s hearing and sharing, and the last category of receiving God’s word is fearing. Jeremiah 36:16 says:
Jeremiah 36:16 CSB
When they had heard all the words, they turned to each other in fear and said to Baruch, “We must surely tell the king all these things.”
When Baruch and the other officials heard God’s word and that he was angry with their sinfulness, they responded with appropriate fear. So see, it’s not enough to hear God’s word; we must fear it, too.
In other words, we must pay attention to all the warnings and then do something about them. What’s that? We must repent! Remember, the purpose of Scripture is to encourage us to turn from our evil ways and trust in Jesus, who died on the cross. So, if we aren’t being led to turn from our evil ways, then we aren’t reading Scripture right.
Micaiah set an excellent example for us to follow. He heard, shared, and feared God’s word, but King Jehoiakim did the opposite. He rejected it.
Rejecting the Word
King Jehoiakim didn’t want to hear God’s word at all. He didn’t share it, and he didn’t fear it. Instead, Jehoiakim tried to destroy God’s word. Jeremiah 36:21-23 describes Jehoiakim’s rejection of God’s word with this vivid scene:
Jeremiah 36:22–23 CSB
Since it was the ninth month, the king was sitting in his winter quarters with a fire burning in front of him. As soon as Jehudi would read three or four columns, Jehoiakim would cut the scroll with a scribe’s knife and throw the columns into the fire in the hearth until the entire scroll was consumed by the fire in the hearth.
Here’s the scene: Jehudi, the king’s officer, was reading God’s word one page at a time, but before he could finish the page, Jehoiakim would cut it off and throw it into the fire. And Jehoiakim kept doing this until the whole scroll was burned.
King Jehoiakim didn’t fear God’s Word as he should have. Jeremiah 36:24 says he didn’t become terrified or tear his clothes. Instead, he was casual and nonchalant about it all.
This is shocking to think about—Jehoiakim had access to the very words of God, and yet he threw them into the fire because he didn’t care what God had to say! So, likewise, Jeremiah 36:25 says, even though many of his officials urged him not to burn the scroll, he wouldn’t listen to them.
So Jehoiakim was living in sin, yet he was perfectly content with himself. Although, of course, it’s a sin to not read God’s word at all, it’s a greater sin to read it and not let it change our hearts, which I think Jehoiakim was most afraid of. He was afraid that if he read it, he’d find out he was wrong and have to change.
So, are we more like Micaiah or Jehoiakim? Are we hearing, sharing, and fearing God’s word, or are we rejecting it, maybe not by burning it, but by refusing to let it change us?
OK, we’ve talked about writing the word, receiving the word, and rejecting the word. And now let’s discuss,
Preserving the Word
Over the years, many enemies of the Bible have tried to destroy it, but none of them have been successful, nor will any of them ever be. That’s because the Word of God is indestructible and will always be preserved. For example, Jeremiah 36 says,
Jeremiah 36:27–28 CSB
After the king had burned the scroll and the words Baruch had written at Jeremiah’s dictation, the word of the Lord came to Jeremiah: “Take another scroll, and once again write on it the original words that were on the original scroll that King Jehoiakim of Judah burned.”
Men can’t permanently destroy the words of God because God will just have them written out again. So when Jeremiah and Baruch wrote the words again, they didn’t have to worry about remembering every last detail because the Holy Spirit remembered everything.
Jeremiah 36:32 CSB
Then Jeremiah took another scroll and gave it to Baruch son of Neriah, the scribe, and he wrote on it at Jeremiah’s dictation all the words of the scroll that Jehoiakim, Judah’s king, had burned in the fire. And many other words like them were added.
Included in version 2 was the story of Jehoiakim and his rejection of God’s word, along with this warning:
Jeremiah 36:30–31 CSB
Therefore, this is what the Lord says concerning King Jehoiakim of Judah: He will have no one to sit on David’s throne, and his corpse will be thrown out to be exposed to the heat of day and the frost of night. I will punish him, his descendants, and his officers for their iniquity. I will bring on them, on the residents of Jerusalem, and on the people of Judah all the disaster, which I warned them about but they did not listen.
Of course, the line of David didn’t come to a complete end, but Jehoiakim’s son Jehoiachin didn’t rule very long, either. He only ruled for about three months before he died, and his uncle took over.
See, nothing can destroy the word of God. It may be rejected or ignored, but it will always be preserved. And God’s church will never be destroyed, even if we see more division in the future. So let’s become more passionate about listening to, fearing, and sharing God’s word than ever before.
As it says in 1 Peter 1:24–25, “The grass withers, and the flower falls, but the word of the Lord endures forever.”