Christ Lutheran Church of the Deaf
Silver Spring, Maryland
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Jeremiah, the reluctant prophet

The Story about the Scroll
Rev. Ron Friedrich
August 27, 2006

Jeremiah served as the Lord's prophet during the reign of five different kings, or as we would say today, during five different administrations -- two of them were very short.   King #3, Jehoiakim, is the focus of today's story about the scroll.

Jeremiah 36 (New Century Version)
1 The LORD spoke this word to Jeremiah during the fourth year that Jehoiakim son of Josiah was king of Judah: 2 "Get a scroll. Write on it all the words I have spoken to you about Israel and Judah and all the nations. Write everything from when I first spoke to you, when Josiah was king, until now."

For 23 years Jeremiah had be speaking God's word to the people.  Now it was time to write it all down.  That is a lot of writing!  We will soon see that Jeremiah got someone to help him.  

God had as special reason for telling Jeremiah to write down His message.  God told Jeremiah:

 3 "Maybe the family of Judah will hear what disasters I am planning to bring on them and will stop doing wicked things. Then I would forgive them for the sins and the evil things they have done."

Notice that even though God had already decided that He would punish the nation of Israel for its many years of rebellion, disobedience, and idol worship, God was still very concerned about individual people in Israel.   For the nation of Israel, it was too late to stop God's plans.  But for the people who were still alive, it was not yet too late.  God is more concerned about people than He is concerned about governments.  However, during the coming trouble, some of the people would get killed, and all survivors would experience great loss.  God wanted the people to be prepared -- same as He wants each one of us to be prepared to face death.

This is the main purpose and message of the Bible.  It is God's teaching that
    (1) Shows us the truth about our sins.
    (2) Leads us to repent -- sorrow for our sins.
    (3) Shows us out Savior, Jesus Christ, who suffered and died on the Cross in our place.
    (4) Shows us that Christ's sacrifice paid all our debt to God.  God forgives all our sins.
    (5) Leads us to trust Jesus alone for our eternal salvation.

 4 So Jeremiah called for Baruch son of Neriah. Jeremiah spoke the messages the LORD had given him, and Baruch wrote those messages on the scroll.

Baruch was a scribe.  His profession was like our modern day secretary.  Jeremiah's 23 years of prophetic messages took a long time to write -- several months.

The name Baruch is a Hebrew word that means BLESS. 

Jeremiah understood that the first purpose of this writing project was not to make a document to keep in a historical archive.  God wanted to give the people of Judah  an opportunity to hear it again and respond with repentance and faith. So...

5 Then Jeremiah commanded Baruch, "I cannot go to the Temple of the LORD. I must stay here. 6 So I want you to go to the Temple of the LORD..."

Hold it!  We learn in the first chapter of Jeremiah that he was a priest.   He had a right to go to the temple.  But he was banned.  Why?   Because he dared to tell the truth to people who didn't want to hear it.  The authorities regarded Jeremiah as a trouble maker.

 5 Then Jeremiah commanded Baruch, "I cannot go to the Temple of the LORD. I must stay here. 6 So I want you to go to the Temple of the LORD on a day when the people are giving up eating [fasting]. "

What "fast day" or religious holiday was this?  We will see later in the story that the time of year was around December.  In this period of Israel's history, Israel did not have a regular annual holiday in December;  Hanukkah was established over 400 years later. King Jehoiakim announced a special fast day that year, probably for the purpose of praying for Israel's security against enemy nations. 

This is similar to the "day of national humiliation, fasting and prayer" that President Abraham Lincoln announced for April 30, 1863, during the Civil War.  Lincoln called on Americans "to confess our national sins and to pray for clemency and forgiveness."

However, Jehoiakim was a godless man.  He cared for nothing about repentance and obedience.  He only wanted God to help him win his military battles and protect his political power.  Jehoiakim was a two-faced hypocrite.  Fortunately, many who came to observe this fast day did it with repentance.  They did not share Jehoiakim's rotten attitude.

Continuing Jeremiah's instructions to Baruch:

"Read from the scroll to all the people of Judah who come into Jerusalem from their towns. Read the messages from the LORD, which are the words you wrote on the scroll as I spoke them to you. 7 Perhaps they will ask the LORD to help them. Perhaps each one will stop doing wicked things, because the LORD has announced that he is very angry with them." 8So Baruch son of Neriah did everything Jeremiah the prophet told him to do. In the LORD's Temple he read aloud the scroll that had the LORD's messages written on it.

 9 In the ninth month of the fifth year that Jehoiakim son of Josiah was king [December, 605 BC], a special time to give up eating was announced. All the people of Jerusalem and everyone who had come into Jerusalem from the towns of Judah were supposed to give up eating to honor the LORD. 10 At that time Baruch read to all the people there the scroll containing Jeremiah's words.

People gathered for prayer and worship, bringing their sacrifices to the outer courtyard of the temple.  Baruch went up to a second floor room that opened to the courtyard below.  In a loud voice Baruch read the scroll, while the people listened.   Many of the people felt God speaking to them through message that Baruch read.  Among those who heard Baruch reading were some middle-level government officials.  God's Word also touched them.  The officials met to discuss this.

 14 Then the officers sent a man named Jehudi son of Nethaniah to Baruch... Jehudi said to Baruch, "Bring the scroll that you read to the people and come with me."

So Baruch son of Neriah took the scroll and went with Jehudi to the officers. 15 Then the officers said to Baruch, "Please sit down and read the scroll to us."

So Baruch read the scroll to them. 16 When the officers heard all the words, they became afraid and looked at each other. They said to Baruch, "We must certainly tell the king about these words." 17 Then the officers asked Baruch, "Tell us, please, where did you get all these words you wrote on the scroll? Did you write down what Jeremiah said to you?"

 18 "Yes," Baruch answered. "Jeremiah spoke them all to me, and I wrote them down with ink on this scroll."

 19 Then the officers said to Baruch, "You and Jeremiah must go and hide, and don't tell anyone where you are."

 20 The officers put the scroll in the room of Elishama the royal secretary. Then they went to the king in the courtyard and told him all about the scroll. 21 So King Jehoiakim sent Jehudi to get the scroll. Jehudi brought the scroll from the room of Elishama the royal secretary and read it to the king and to all the officers who stood around the king. 22 It was the ninth month of the year, so King Jehoiakim was sitting in the winter apartment. There was a fire burning in a small firepot in front of him.

The Jewish religious calendar does not begin in January.  The Jewish calendar begins with preparations for the celebration of Passover in the spring (see
Exodus 12:1,2; for more information about the Jewish calendar, see the study of "Our Jewish Roots" in www.christdeaf.org/bible).  The ninth month was around December.

 23 After Jehudi had read three or four columns, the king cut those columns off of the scroll with a penknife and threw them into the firepot. Finally, the whole scroll was burned in the fire. 24 King Jehoiakim and his servants heard everything that was said, but they were not frightened! They did not tear their clothes to show their sorrow. 25 Elnathan, Delaiah, and Gemariah even tried to talk King Jehoiakim out of burning the scroll, but he would not listen to them. 26 Instead, the king ordered Jerahmeel son of the king, Seraiah son of Azriel, and Shelemiah son of Abdeel to arrest Baruch the secretary and Jeremiah the prophet. But the LORD had hidden them.

 27 ... Then the LORD spoke his word to Jeremiah: 28 "Get another scroll. Write all the words on it that were on the first scroll that Jehoiakim king of Judah burned up...  31 I will punish Jehoiakim and his children and his servants, because they have done evil things. I will bring disasters upon them and upon all the people in Jerusalem and Judah -- everything I promised but which they refused to hear.' "

 32 So Jeremiah took another scroll and gave it to Baruch son of Neriah, his secretary. As Jeremiah spoke, Baruch wrote on the scroll the same words that were on the scroll Jehoiakim king of Judah had burned in the fire. And many similar words were added to the second scroll.

What lessons can we learn from this story?   We have already seen a couple important lessons. 

Lesson #1:  The main point of this story is well summarized by a comment the Apostle Paul wrote to his assistant, Timothy:  "God wants all people to be saved and to know the truth."
(1 Timothy 2:4)  The purpose of God's Word is to lead us to repent of our sins and trust Jesus for forgiveness.   God's Word gives people faith in God. (See Jeremiah 36:3)

Lesson #2:   In Jehoiakim and in the lower level government officials, we saw the difference between public religion and a personal faith-relationship with God. King Jehoiakim had religion.  But he hated God's Word.  Jehoiakim hated God's messengers. 

We also must not fool ourselves to think that just because we have religion and go to church, that makes us good people.  Jesus himself warned us:

"Not all those who say that I am their Lord will enter the kingdom of heaven. The only people who will enter the kingdom of heaven are those who do what my Father in heaven wants.   On the last day many people will say to me, 'Lord, Lord, we spoke for you, and through you we forced out demons and did many miracles.' '   Then I will tell them clearly, 'Get away from me, you who do evil. I never knew you.' "  (Matthew 7:21-23 NCV)

God wants us to know Him -- not just know about Him. 

When national disasters hit, we see "Jehoiakim's" signs and billboards that ask us to pray for God's protection.   But no one dares to remind us to repent or to obey God.

During the first Persian gulf war, we saw signs that said, "Pray for our troops."   When that war ended quickly and successfully, where were the signs reminding us to thank God for answering our prayers?  There weren't any.

After September 11, 2001, we saw bumper stickers that said, "God Bless America."  I saw a bumper sticker that I like better;  it said, "America, Bless God."   Oops!  We don't do that, do we?  We are so much like Jehoiakim.  We want only God's blessing and protection, while we spend our lives on our own pleasure.

Lesson #3:  God's Word is convicting (touches the heart).  We saw that in the response to Baruch when he read the scroll in the temple.   The Apostle Paul saw this response in the new Christians in Thessalonica.  Paul told them,

Also, we always thank God because when you heard his message from us, you accepted it as the word of God, not the words of humans. And it really is God’s message which works in you who believe. (1 Thessalonians 2:13 NCV)

The Bible says:

God’s word is alive and working and is sharper than a double-edged sword. It cuts all the way into us, where the soul and the spirit are joined, to the center of our joints and bones. And it judges the thoughts and feelings in our hearts.   Nothing in all the world can be hidden from God. Everything is clear and lies open before him, and to him we must explain the way we have lived.  (Hebrews 4:12,13 NCV)

Lesson #4:  God's Word is true, whether people believe it or not. 
Jehoiakim and his closest assistants rejected God's Word.   They didn't believe it.  But their unbelief did not change God's plans.  God said,

"I will bring disasters upon them and upon all the people in Jerusalem and Judah -- everything I promised but which they refused to hear." (Jeremiah 36:31)

Many churches which once stood firm on the truth of God's Word, today they have abandoned God's Word.  They no longer teach or believe that God's Word is true.  Just like Jehoiakim, they hear and read God's Word, and they deliberately choose not to believe it.  Just like Jehoiakim, they work hard to teach their church members to also not believe God's Word. 

One very large, well known, Protestant denomination counseled parents, "Don't let your children read the Bible until they are old enough to understand it."  Obviously, these church leaders are afraid that children would, in a childlike way, believe what God says, as Jesus said we all should do. (see
Mark 10:15

Lesson #5:  God's Word endures (stays & continues). 

Jehoiakim tried to prevent the Israelites from receiving God's Word by burning it.  Today in government, in education, in entertainment, and even in the church, folks are still trying to prevent people from receiving God's Word.  They outlaw and ban God's Word. They mock people who believe and obey God's Word.  They create clever explanations to convince people that God's Word is not true.  Just as Jehoikim discovered, all their efforts to destroy God's Word fail.  

The French philosopher, Voltaire, predicted that within 100 years of his death (1778), no one would believe in Christ any more, and that Christianity would be completely gone.  Fifty years after his death, the Geneva Bible Society used Voltaire's house and his printing press to produce stacks of Bibles!

Jesus said, "Heaven and earth will pass away.  But My words will never pass away."
(Matthew 24:35)

Rain and snow fall from the sky
     and don't return without watering the ground.
They cause the plants to sprout and grow,
    making seeds for the farmer
and bread for the people.
The same thing is true of the words I speak.
    They will not return to me empty.
They make the things happen that I want to happen,
    and they succeed in doing what I send them to do.
(Isaiah 55:10-11 NCV)