The Indestructible Word
The Indestructible Word (Jeremiah 36)
Why do we have the words of the Bible? We have them only because God has undertaken to see that His Word will not be destroyed. Jehoiakim, the vile puppet king, sought to destroy both the message and the messenger. Always, the Word of God has been under threat of destruction. Critics without and within the church, political and religious, assault both physically and mentally—and still the Word of God stands. This chapter presents changeless truths about the eternal preservation of God's Word.
Revelation of the Word of God
The text leaves no room for doubt concerning the absolute divine inspiration of Jeremiah's prophecy. God says, "Take a scroll and write on it all the words I have spoken to you" (v. 2). The words of Jeremiah's prophecy are veritably the words of God Himself. This text clearly teaches that God reveals Himself in words, men record those words, and those words, once recorded, are the object of divine protection forever. The text does not teach that Jeremiah's prophecy is a reaction to the Word of God. It is the Word of God. Jeremiah received the words of God Himself. This is so much so that the prophet could say to his scribe: "Jeremiah dictated all the words the Lord had spoken to him" (v. 4).
Reaction to the Word of God
The passage is a timeless demonstration of people's reaction to the Word of God. The Word of God was spoken to them in a time of peril. The armies of Babylon were literally at their doorstep. Further, it was spoken prominently in the temple and persistently by God's man. This chapter records three times of proclamation in a single day. Nevertheless, the people's reactions differed. The common people heard the Word with total indifference. The responsible people heard the Word of God with conviction. The king heard the Word of God with angry rejection. One evidence of the Bible's inspiration is that it contains within itself the timeless reactions of men to its own words.
Rejection of the Word of God
Men seek to destroy the Word by physical destruction of the Word itself (v. 23). Seated by a brazier of coals in his winter palace, the king cut the Word with a knife and burned it in a fire. From the days of Diocletian, through the life of Wycliffe, until the fading communist regimes of today, there has scarcely been a time when the Word of God was not the object of physical attack. Still it stands.
Men seek to destroy the Word of God through spiritual disregard (v. 24). "The king and all of his attendants . . . showed no fear." The Word that caused the king's officials to tremble meant nothing to the king. We, too, may be guilty of using the penknife of disregard. When we choose to believe some passages and not others, follow radical criticism wherever it leads, and subject the Word of God to our own interpretive bias, we join with Jehoiakim.
Men seek to destroy the Word of God by destruction of the messengers (v. 26). From the days of Jeremiah and Baruch to the death of Wycliffe translator, Chef Bitterman, in Colombia, men seek to destroy the Word by destroying those that bring it. Then and now, it is a doomed tactic.
Renewal of the Word of God
The renewal of the Word of God is dininely assured (v. 28). Immediately after the king acted to destroy the Word of God, God acted to renew it. Moses may break the tablets of stone, but God renews His commands.
The renewal of the Word of God is divinely enhanced. The Word of God renewed became larger and fuller (v. 31). God will do to Jehoiakim what the king had done to the Word of God. The renewal of God's Word is increased in the enlargement of God's Word. When God's words came to Jeremiah the second time, "many similar words were added to them" (v. 32). Far from diminishing the Word of God, the rage of Jehoiakim gave occasion for even more oracles from God to be preserved. Like embers spread by those seeking to quench a flame, strike at the Word of God, and it will only burn more brightly in more places than ever before!