The year is 605 BC, the year of the Babylonian invasion by Nebuchadnezzar into the nation of Judah. This was the first of three invasions until Jerusalem was captured, the nation destroyed, and the majority of the people are carried away into captivity. Jehoakim is the king of Judah at this time and God is going to give his prophetic message one more time to warn his people of the coming invasion and destruction.
Reasoning For God’s Word (36:1-3)
God tells Jeremiah to take a scroll and write on it all the words that he spoke to him. There are two reasons that God gives why God’s message needed to be given and recorded. First, God says, “so that every one may turn from his evil way” (36:3). God wants to inform the people of their sins. God does not want to surprise his creation with judgment. God does not want to conceal his laws so that judgment becomes a surprise. He wants people to know the laws. People need to be informed of their sins. Second, God gives his word so that the people can turn from their evil ways and he can forgive them. God’s word is so that people will turn from their evil ways and God can forgive them. God does not want to judge people for their sins. If he did, he would not have sent his Son to die for our sins so that we could be forgiven. The purpose of God’s word is to save. This means we need to know God’s word and should want to know God’s word because these are the words of life, to keep us from judgment for our sins. God is teaching us how to turn from our evil ways.
Proclaiming God’s Word (36:4-12)
Further, God wants his word proclaimed. Jeremiah instructs his scribe, Baruch, to proclaim the word of the Lord from this scroll in the hearing of the all the people in the house of the Lord. He was to go to the temple and read God’s word. Jeremiah selected a day of fasting, when the people would be assembled at the temple. He did not wait for when few people would be there, but when the most people could be there. Not only this, he was to read God’s word in the hearing of all Judah. Make sure that all the people as they come out of the cities are hearing the word of the Lord. This is why we teach the word of the Lord. This is why the word of the Lord is read. People need to hear the word of God so that they will turn from their evil ways and God will forgive them. We live in a time when the world tells us to keep our beliefs to ourselves. They tell us to keep quiet about God. Do not mention Jesus. Keep your religion to yourself. But we cannot do this! We must proclaim the word of the Lord, not only in this building, but outside of this building because God wants people to hear his words, turn from their evil ways, so that God can forgive them. God cannot forgive until people turn from their sins. But people will not turn from their sins until they have heard God’s word. This is why we have our community groups, so that you will invite your friends to come learn the word of God and so that you will know the word of God to teach them. This is why we meet together to study and discuss God’s word. We are to be teachers of the words of God. We are to be proclaiming the very oracles of God. We are lights in this dark world by opening our mouths and spreading the message of salvation from sins.
Not only this, but the need for the proclamation of God’s word is why we need to have verse by verse and chapter by chapter teaching and preaching from God’s word. There is a need for expository preaching and teaching. God’s word is the revelation of God that has the power to turn our hearts so that God can forgive us. We would be not only remiss, but derelict in our duties if our Bible classes were not studies directly from God’s word. I would be failing as a proclaimer of God’s word if my teaching is not from the very words of God. Any sermon that does not open God’s word and declare the very words of God is human wisdom, human knowledge, and is a failure. My words do not have the power to transform and save. God’s words have the power to transform and save. We want God’s word. It is God’s word that must be proclaimed. Nothing more and nothing else. Open the word of God and learn what it has to say. It is the only way to know God’s will. It is the only way that hearts will be turned to the Lord.
So Baruch does just as he was instructed. Verse 8 tells us that Baruch did all that he was instructed. He wrote God’s word on the scroll and proclaimed it in the temple of the Lord. Verse 9 tells us that nearly one year has gone by and Baruch is still preaching to the people. He is still reading God’s word to the people as they come out from their towns for fasting to the Lord. The likely reason for this fasting is because now the Babylonians have already invaded. The Babylonians have already destroyed many cities and have likely already taken people captive. Baruch is still reading the very words of God as said through the mouth of Jeremiah. What will be the reaction of the people to the proclamation of God’s word?
Receiving God’s Word (36:13-19)
Verses 14-15 tell us that the officials of the city asked Baruch to read the scroll. “When they heard all the words, they turned one to another in fear” (36:16). They have the right response. They have heard the word of the Lord and realize the doom that is proclaimed by God against this nation for its sins. The officials tell Baruch that they need to report all these words to the king. However, they know how this could turn out. They know that this message from God could cause trouble for those who do not want to hear this sharp message. Notice in verse 19 that the officials tell Baruch that he and Jeremiah need to go hide.
This is a terrific message. The officials understand the need to defend the proclaimer of God’s word. They are afraid that the typical reaction to a negative message will occur: shoot the messenger. If you don’t like the message, kill the messenger. When you read the book of Jeremiah you will observe that this has been the response of the people throughout Jeremiah’s ministry. Rather than listening to the word of the Lord, they are trying to silence, discredit, and sometimes kill Jeremiah. But the word of the Lord is the authority, not the speaker. We need to consider that if the message is the reading of God’s word, then you can be angry at the message and not like the message all you want, but it is the message of God. Too often we can have a heart that rejects the message because we do not like its contents. We do not like what it said. Was it what God said? Was it the reading of God’s word? If it was, then we put aside our feelings and have fear for the word of the Lord. It is easy for teachers and preachers to tailor their sermons based upon what they think the people will like to hear. They want to hear that they did a good job. But what is important, in fact, the only thing that is important is that it was the word of the Lord proclaimed.
We need to understand that God’s word steps on all our toes because he is a holy God and we are unholy sinners. Everything God says steps on our toes. Many times you will come up to me and say that something in the message caught you or stepped on your toes. Believe me, everything I preach steps on my toes. God’s word is a sword that cuts to the very heart. I have already been cut by these words for the past week or two as I prepare the message by studying God’s word. The purpose of God’s word is to convict us of sin so that we will turn from our evil ways, not pat us on the back when the judgment is coming. When we have a strong response to God’s word, the first reaction should not be to shoot the messenger, but to listen to the word of God.
Rejecting God’s Word (36:20-26)
But listening to God’s word is not the easy thing to do. Notice what happens now in the story. The officials go to the court of the king with the scroll that Baruch had written which recorded the very words of God. Jehudi begins to read the scroll of Jeremiah while the king is sitting next to the fire in his winter palace. As Jehudi read a few columns of the scroll, the king would cut the column off with a knife and throw it into the fire. Jehudi kept reading, the king kept cutting, until the entire scroll had been cut and thrown into the fire. Listen to the serious words of verse 24:
Yet neither the king nor any of his servants who heard all these words was afraid, nor did they tear their garments. (Jeremiah 36:24 ESV)
When God’s word was read, the king did not care and neither did his servants. None of their were afraid. None of them were moved at all. Even as the officials were begging the king not to destroy the scroll, the king would not listen (37:25). In 2 Kings 22:11 when King Josiah heard the word of the Lord, he tore his clothes and began massive reforms for the nation to turn them from their sins. But that was not the reaction of Jehoakim. Jehoakim orders for Baruch and Jeremiah to be arrested, but the Lord hid them so that they could not be captured, mistreat, and killed.
How easy it is for us to cut God’s word and burn the scroll today! We do the same thing when we never open God’s word and read it. If you do not own a Bible, we would love to provide you with one. But owning one does not do any good. The good will come when you read it every day. This is the word of the Lord. We cut and burn God’s word when we refuse to listen to God’s word. We choose not to come and assemble ourselves together so that we can learn what God has to say. We would rather sit at home than come to hear the saving words of God. We cut and burn God’s word when we come, hear the message, and then do not change our hearts. We reject the message. We do not consider the word. We just simply decide if we liked the message or not. If we like it, great. If we do not like it, just ignore it and come back another time. In our hearts we are destroying God’s word because we are unmoved and do not fear God’s word.
The Truth of God’s Word (36:27-32)
After the scroll is burned, God tells Jeremiah to write another scroll with all the words that were on the previous scroll that was burned. Our response does not change God’s truth. Just because we do not like the message or disagree with the message does not mean the message is not true. Further, God has some choice words for our rejection. God tells Jeremiah to not only rewrite the previous scroll but to add some words. Verses 30-31 record the words of judgment from God against Jehoakim, his offspring, and his servants for their sins and because “they would not hear” (36:31).
We need to be very cautious about rejecting the word of the Lord. When we decide that we will not listen and that we will not change our hearts or our lives, then God’s judgment is firmly placed against us. There is no grace from God when we reject his words. We cannot cut and paste the Bible so that we can defend our values, beliefs, and doctrines. Religion is filled with people twisting the scriptures and altering God’s word so that they can keep doing what they are doing and keep believing what they are believing. God has choice words of judgment for rejecting his words.
God’s word is given so that we can turn from our evil ways that God may forgive us. Therefore we must earnestly desire to hear the word of the Lord so that our hearts will be transformed and our lives will be changed when it is proclaimed. Will we listen and change or will we reject and cut God’s word out of our lives? Listen and change so that God can save you from the coming judgment.