by Pastor David Groendyk
These are the final days of Judah. The clock is ticking until Jerusalem falls in Jeremiah 39. Contrasted with the faithful, command-keeping, authority-obeying Rechabites in yesterday’s chapter, Jehoiakim the king of Judah is defiantly rebellious and disobedient to God.
The king that’s been center-stage for much of the story lately is Zedekiah, who was the final king of Judah, but in our chapter we’re going back in time about 10 years to the time of King Jehoiakim. While not in order chronologically, this story fits quite well here thematically as a grand example of the rejection of God’s Word. The scene begins with the Lord commanding Jeremiah to write down the word of warning and judgment. Jeremiah does so; he speaks, and his scribe Baruch dictates. Baruch goes to the temple to read out the letter, and certain men closely connected with the king hear the proclamation and are terrified. They take the scroll to the palace but urge Baruch to hide, knowing the message will provoke a strong response from the king’s office. And actually, for much of this chapter, a ray of light is offering us some hope. It looks like people are listening! But verse 23 is tragic. As Jehudi reads, the king follows along with his knife, slicing off the columns and tossing them in the fire. This is a devastating chapter in the lives of Jehoiakim and Judah.
In a sense, all of Scripture is simply warning us of the danger we’re in if we don’t repent. It does not matter what book or chapter of the Bible you’re reading; there is always a lesson to be learned that God is great, humans are sinners, and we need to turn to him for salvation. But this chapter is also a painful reminder of how God’s Word doesn’t penetrate every person’s heart. The matter-of-fact-ness of the way in which the king is described as burning the scroll makes me imagine what a nonchalant kind of act this must have been for him. The indifference is just shocking. The warning message had utterly terrified Micaiah and others, but the king didn’t even flinch. It’s amazing the different effects that Scripture can have on different hearers. Some people are defiant and unmoving, some may have a temporary or superficial response, and some may be convicted to the point of truly surrendering themselves to God (see also the parable of the sower in Matthew 13:1–23). This reality should drive us to prayer. None of us are capable of receiving God’s Word on our own. Sin will always seek to harden your heart. But God can soften any heart to receive, accept, love, rejoice in, and live out the words of Scripture. Pray for yourself, pray for our church, and pray for our unbelieving family, friends, and neighbors, that we would receive the call of the gospel message when it is read and preached.
We’re also reminded of the enduring permanence of God’s Word in this chapter. Even though the king of the land burned the scroll of Jeremiah into nothingness, the Word of God was not defeated. No man can judge, revoke, or abolish Scripture. Many have tried, but none have succeeded. On the contrary, we see here the Word judging man. Because of Jehoiakim’s obstinacy, his line would be wiped out. In a matter of six years, Jehoiakim will die, his son will take the throne and reign for a whole three months, and Nebuchadnezzar will come and take that son away and put Jehoiakim’s brother (Zedekiah) on the throne instead. All the defiance and opposition in the world cannot defeat God’s purposes. No man can ever cause God’s words to fail. For those of us who have turned to God in repentance and sought out Jesus for eternal salvation, what a great comfort and confidence we have! For those who have not turned to God, pray to God, listen to the warning, and end your rebellion now while you still can.