Friday, August 17, 2012
“After the king had burned the scroll with 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 very words that were on the original scroll that Jehoiakim king of Judah burned.’” (Jeremiah 36:27-28 HCSB)
From the dawn of time, there has been an attack by the Serpent and his minions on the Word of God. He hates it, for it is the sword that will slay his nefarious schemes. It has ever been the weapon in the believer’s arsenal for which Satan had no defense.
So, in that pristine place called Eden, the seductive suggestion was made to create doubt about the Word of God. To Eve, a forked tongue asked, “Did God really say, 'You can't eat from any tree in the garden'?" (Genesis 3:1). From doubt, the Devil proceeded to denial, “’No! You will not die,’ the serpent said to the woman. ‘In fact, God knows that when you eat it your eyes will be opened and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.’” (Gen.3:4-5). So, she reasoned it looks good, surely tastes good, and the results will be good—and this led her from doubt, to denial, to disobedience—and death. One day, Adam and Eve’s bodies would decompose in the earth from which they had been formed, but the Word of God would endure.
That is not the last time the Word of God has been assailed. Skeptics have denied it, tyrants—both secular and ecclesiastical—have sought to destroy it or hide it. Cults and false religions have twisted it and contradicted it. For thousands and thousands of years, it has been the perpetual target of the Dragon’s fire, but still the Word of God endures.
In our text, we see the son of the Serpent on the throne in Jerusalem—a king named Jehoiakim. This dirty despot was confronted with a message of judgment, and his response was to seek to destroy the Word of God by burning it in the fire. He might burn the scroll, but he could not destroy the truth. It is invincible!
Centuries before, another man, named David, sat on the throne, and this is what he declared, “Lord, Your word is forever; it is firmly fixed in heaven.” (Psalm 119:89 HCSB). The Word of God is indestructible.
It endures because of its INSPIRATION BY GOD.
“In the fourth year of Jehoiakim son of Josiah, king of Judah, this word came to Jeremiah from the Lord: ‘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.’” (Jeremiah 36:1-2)
God was its source, though Jeremiah would be the spokesman and Baruch the scribe. It would not be the vision of a man, but the veracity of the Master who would inspire the writing of the Word—a God incapable of error, either of being mistaken, because He is omniscient or of being deceptive, because He is righteous. That Word proceeded from the halls of heaven, into the heart of the prophet and was documented flawlessly by the hand of the scribe. That is the Word we have today—it endures.
It endures because of its INTENTION FROM GOD.
“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 wrongdoing and their sin." (Jeremiah 36:3)
There is a transforming power in that Word. The Bible can do what no other Book can do. It is like a spiritual x-ray that exposes our heart’s true condition. It is the seed of eternal life that can penetrate the soil of our soul and produce the fruit of salvation. It is bread to sustain the believer in his pilgrimage. That Word is a light in the darkness, a comfort for the hurting, a staff to guide, a rod to correct, a fire to warm, a hammer to break, a sword that overcomes…and so much more! All we must do is hear it and heed it, and it will change us forever. That is God’s intent.
But, if we refuse to believe it that does not change the truth, but neither does that truth change us. The Word offered as a document of pardon for those who repent, likewise becomes a decree of punishment for those who rebel. Jehoiakim chose to burn the Scripture, rather than bow to it. God set before him life or death…and he foolishly picked the latter.
“Therefore, this is what the Lord says concerning Jehoiakim king 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 wrongdoing. I will bring on them, on the residents of Jerusalem, and on the men of Judah all the disaster, which I warned them about but they did not listen." (Jeremiah 36:30-31)
It endures because of its IMMUTABILITY THROUGH GOD.
“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.” (Jeremiah 36:32)
The Word of God is as unchangeable as the God of the Word. Let the king burn a copy, and another copy is given. Jesus said, “the Scripture cannot be broken…” (John 10:35b). It is immutable—it does not change. It is invincible—it cannot be conquered. It is indestructible!
There was a popular bumper sticker of days gone by that read, “God said it, I believe it, that settles it.” It sounds good at first, but on deeper reflection is not quite right. A better way would be, “God said it, that settles it, whether you believe it or not!” Whether we believe or disbelieve certainly changes the nature of its result, but since it is immutable, it does not change the nature of its content whatsoever.
This story in Jeremiah underscores the truth of a prophet who preceded him, “The grass withers, the flowers fade, but the word of our God remains forever." (Isaiah 40:8)
In a day when that Word was hidden from the common people, buried under layers of church tradition, obscured by a language none but priests understood, the very ones who should have been guardians of the truth, perverted it for their own carnal purposes. Yet, God raised up Martin Luther to preach that Word and it was unleashed and unconquerable. Once more tyrants—neither king nor pope, could stop the force of truth.
“And though this world, with devils filled,
should threaten to undo us,
we will not fear, for God hath willed
his truth to triumph through us.
The Prince of Darkness grim,
we tremble not for him;
his rage we can endure,
for lo, his doom is sure;
one little word shall fell him.
That word above all earthly powers,
no thanks to them, abideth;
the Spirit and the gifts are ours,
thru him who with us sideth.
Let goods and kindred go,
this mortal life also;
the body they may kill;
God's truth abideth still;
his kingdom is forever.” (Martin Luther)