Josiah was one of the greatest kings in the history of Judah. Three of his sons and one of his grandsons also ruled after him, but their years as kings were far below the standard of the reign of their father and grandfather. Johoiakim, one of the sons of Josiah, had a callous disregard for the Word of the Lord.
We might expect that the king would have paid more attention to the Word of the Lord after suffering some of the setbacks that he faced. The episode described in this chapter took place during a time when Babylonian forces were coming against Jerusalem. Whatever adversity Jehoiakim faced prior to this event did not lead the king to a godly repentance. Instead he became hardened in his rebellion against God.
The Lord told Jeremiah to record on a scroll all the words that God had spoken to him over his years of prophetic ministry. The Lord indicated that these words were to be read aloud to the authorities, and that the proper reaction to this revelation would have been a sincere change of heart evidenced by new behavior.
The writing of a document like this was a time-consuming and expensive project. It involved many hours of effort on the part of Jeremiah who dictated the words, and also for Baruch his scribe who recorded the words on the scroll. The effort was not only physical, time-consuming, and expensive, but also emotionally taxing. The speaker was reviewing messages of the utmost importance for the nation that came from God, messages that had not been adequately considered and obeyed.
Baruch took the product of these efforts to the Lord’s house and read the words in the hearing of the people during a day of fasting. The message of Jeremiah found its mark in the hearts of some important people, and they determined to have the scroll read to the king. Jeremiah and Baruch were not present for this event, since everyone understood that the reading of these words could bring life-threatening trouble upon these men.
The reaction of the king himself was scandalous. Despite the objections of some of his officials, the king cut off strips of the scroll as it was read and tossed these into the fire that was warming the small group of advisers that had gathered in the king’s winter house. Throughout the history of God’s speech to men, there have been many disrespectful reactions to the Word of God, yet this is one of the most memorable.
God then gave Jeremiah the task of preparing a second scroll with the same message. This time there was an additional curse on Jehoiakim. None of his children would sit on the throne of David.
What was it in the message of Jeremiah that disturbed Jehoiakim so deeply, provoking such an impious reaction? It was the prophet’s forthright instruction that the king of Babylon would come and destroy the land, and that he would cut off from it man and beast. Jehoiakim refused to accept this prophecy.
Burning the scroll could not change the Word of God. The king heard the truth. No benefit came from trying to destroy the evidence. Why would he do this, except to express his complete disdain for the Lord of glory?
When the Word of God came in person, the reaction of His adversaries was similar to that of Johoiakim. Killing the Messiah could never have changed the fact of His saving work. In His death He accomplished His mission. How do you defeat someone who will achieve His greatest goals when you put Him to death? Though enemies despised Jesus, there was nothing that anyone could do to stop the saving power of the the Son of God.
Prayer from A Book of Prayers
Almighty God, we thank You for the gift of Your Word, spoken to us through the prophets. We are very grateful that You have provided for us a written record of Your voice in the Scriptures of the Old and New Testaments. Grant to us Your Spirit that we might hear Your Word with deep reverence and with a willingness to worship and obey You. Use the ministers of Your Word to accurately explain to us the meaning. Show us the great themes that are so clearly put forth in the Bible. Some would have the most profound disrespect for Your Word. They would not tremble at Your warnings, but would gladly destroy any record of Your message to us. They will not succeed in their wicked plots. Though they would seem to be the most powerful people on the earth, they will not be able to take away the power of Your promises to us. We hear Your voice through the Scriptures, and we bow before You.