Sunday, May 29, 2022

False Appearances, True Words (Jeremiah 36)

Jehoiakim became king of Judah when he was 25 years old and died at the age of 36. He did evil in the eyes of Yahweh (2 Kings 23:37). He also rebelled against Nebuchadnezzar, king of Babylon, who responded by laying siege to Jerusalem.

Yahweh had not wanted this to happen. He had for years been warning his people and their leaders about the growing likelihood of attack through his prophet Jeremiah. It had resulted from the deliberate devotion of king and people to false gods and their callous rejection of Yahweh as the one true god and savior.

Now Yahweh commands Jeremiah to have all the words he had spoken to him written down on a scroll and read to the people. Yahweh still hopes that, when leaders and people again hear his call to repent of their wickedness, this time they will repent so that he can save them from the self-destructive consequences of their own unfaithfulness (Jeremiah 36:1-3).

In response, Jeremiah asks Baruch to write down all the words which Yahweh has spoken to him. Because Jeremiah is no longer allowed to enter the Temple, he sends Baruch there to read the words of Yahweh to the people (vs. 4-10).

News of these words of judgment reach King Jehoiakim. He orders the scroll to be brought to him (vs. 11-21). After each portion of it is read to the king, he cuts it off the scroll and throws it into the fire. Eventually the entire scroll is consumed (vs. 22-25). Jehoiakim then orders the arrest of Jeremiah and Baruch but Yahweh had hidden them (36:26). 

What are we to make of this? First, we learn that Jehoiakim, even though he was king and ruler of the people of Yahweh, nonetheless did what was evil in the sight of Yahweh. So did almost all of his predecessors. Today, for us living in the Western world, this means that while our national leaders may be Christians, and while they too may rule over a nation which many still regard as Christian, they too nonetheless do what is evil in the eyes of Yahweh.

Second, we learn that Jeremiah was indeed a prophet of the living God. The words he spoke were intended by Yahweh to save his people from their heedless pursuit of disaster. Today Jesus calls us to serve him in this same prophetic role.

Third, let us note that while King Jehoiakim was able to burn the scroll of Yahweh’s words to Jeremiah and even to order Jeremiah’s arrest, his power disappeared soon enough but the words of Yahweh to Jeremiah endure to this day. Let us be prophetic witnesses to Jesus Christ, then, and not be misled by false appearances of permanence. Let us rely instead on the permanent words which Jesus our living lord does speak to us today, and which echo even now in eternity, for our good and his glory.

Copyright © 2022 by Steven Farsaci.
All rights reserved. Fair use encouraged.