More Words Like These (Jeremiah 36:32)

Then Jeremiah took another scroll and gave it to Baruch the son of Neriah, the scribe, and he wrote on it at the dictation of Jeremiah all the words of the book which Jehoiakim king of Judah had burned in the fire; and many similar words were added to them.

Jeremiah 36:32

A little context on this verse might be in order. God told Jeremiah to write down everything that God has said up to that point through Jeremiah. The prophet obeys and the scroll is taken into the temple and read, as God instructs. One of the scribes hears it and reports back to the others. They ask to hear the scroll and Baruch takes the scroll on over and reads to them. They recognize a problem and take the scroll over and read it to Jehoiakim. Jehoiakim cuts the scroll up and tosses it in the fire. There were two basic reactions to the scroll and its contents: to listen and realize that the hearer was wrong or to listen and decide that the message was undesirable.

The first reaction is from the scribes. They hear the message and realize that there is a problem. They hear, I suspect, the hope set in the midst of the doom and gloom and cling to that hope. They want to get the message to the people who can make meaningful changes. They recognize that those who are directly addressed by this message will not be happy. So they tell Baruch to hide himself and Jeremiah. They also hide the message away until they are ready to share it with the impacted individuals. They heard the message and took it to heart and stored it where they had ready access to it.

The second reaction is from the king. He hears the message and cuts the paper up and tosses it into the fire that is burning in front of him. I recently read about an atheist who burned the Bible given to him by his parents when he was a young man. He felt that the whole thing was strangely anticlimactic. No thundering from the clouds, no lightning striking him on the spot — nothing. Maybe Jehoiakim felt the same way as he cut up the scroll with Jeremiah’s prophecies on it. The king surely cut up the scroll and burned it for the same reason as the aforementioned atheist — both wanted to demonstrate that they did not believe what was written and that they feared no retribution for destroying it.

Do we accept the message or reject it? It is a choice made every time God speaks. The thing that is intriguing to me is today’s verse. God has Jeremiah recreate the scroll and gives him more to add to it. Jehoiakim thought that by destroying the scroll, he somehow interrupted the power of the words on the page, but God sent a new scroll with still more prophetic utterance. It is almost as if God smirks as the petulance of Jehoiakim, shakes His head, and proceeds to finish what He had been saying before the king threw his temper tantrum. My daughter is two, so I am getting an up close and personal refresher course on tantrums and fits. Jehoiakim’s action fits right in with the things my daughter does when throwing a fit. God simply repeats the judgments and whatnot and adds more. When my daughter is done with her fits, she usually ends up doing what she was told to do in the first place … sometimes more.

What about me? Am I hearing what God has to say to me and storing it inside where I have it ready to hand or am I cutting up the words and destroying them? Every word God utters; every instruction He gives me is a new choice; a new chance to quietly and calmly obey or to throw a spiritual fit. Regardless of my choice, the words will still come to pass. It is more a matter of whether I will arrive at their fulfillment content because I have obeyed or defiant and troubled in my heart.

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