A Fool and His Penknife
Jeremiah 36:20-26
And they went in to the king into the court, but they laid up the roll in the chamber of Elishama the scribe…

All things were hastening to a general clash and ruin unless they speedily mended their ways; and the king and his flatterers were living, as such gentry do, in a fools' paradise. Jeremiah saw it with the seer's illumined eyes. It came to him as the Word of the Lord, and as the Word of the Lord he wrote it down on a roll of parchment. The roll was brought to the king, as he sat enthroned in one of his palaces, with his courtly parasites and sycophants around him. It contained no flattery. It was a black picture of the king's misdoings, and the terrible consequences which some near morrow would bring. The royal sinner did not like it. What sinner does, whether he be king or beggar? He did not want to think about to-morrow. No man on the highway to destruction does.

I. NOW THAT PICTURE OF THE KING WITH THE PENKNIFE IS OFTEN REPEATED IN VARIOUS WAYS. The Bible has been so often attacked by that instrument that if it were not the indestructible Word and work of God it would long since have disappeared. People have always been so busy cutting out what they did not believe, or what they did not like, that really it is only by a perpetual miracle that there is any of it left. I thank God that I have still my Bible, and believe in it in spite of all the cutting and paring down that has been done. Somehow it stands the fire and comes out unharmed, no matter what furnace you pass it through. Critics have their day, and Jehoiakims do their fooling and die, but the Word of the Lord endureth for ever.

II. I AM AFRAID WE ALL KEEP THAT INSTRUMENT FOR SPECIAL OCCASIONS, AND USE IT WHEN WE DO NOT WISH TO FACE AN INCONVENIENT OR UNWELCOME TRUTH. Men who profess the greatest reverence for the Bible sometimes manage to put out parts which do not harmonise with their conduct and views. There are our good friends who admire, honour, revere, and love Christ as the highest man, but stop short of worshipping Him as Divine. It must surely be a difficult thing for them to read the New Testament without the penknife.

III. I FEAR WE ARE ALL SINNERS, EITHER WITH PENKNIFE OR THE PASTE. We often cut out moral precepts and commandments if they do not quite accord with our conduct. Most of us use the knife on those many words of Jesus and His apostles which warn us against Mammon worship and covetousness and the love of money, and tell us not to pay all our devotions to the people who have it. It makes our conscience easier if we can somehow get these texts put out. Some people do not always like the Fourth Commandment and kindred injunctions which speak to us about honouring father and mother and reverencing the hoary head. "That is quite antiquated prejudice, and out of date," they say; "let the penknife deal with it." There are people who talk far too freely, and not always too truthfully, discussing the faults of friends, and passing on mischievous scandal. I read them what Jesus said: "For every idle word you shall give account." "Oh! is that there?" they say. "I do not believe it; lend me a penknife." And there are Christian people who find it desperately hard to forgive; it is as hard as to get a camel through the eye of s needle. They will keep a grudge and maintain a silent quarrel with a fellow-Christian for years. I open the book for them and read: "If thy brother offend thee seventy times, and seventy times repent, thou shalt forgive him," &c. "Be ye kind, tender-hearted, forgiving one another, if any man have a quarrel against any." And they stop me and say, "These things are not in my Bible; I have cut them all out." And there are all those sayings of the Master and His apostles about cheerfulness, gladness, thankfulness — "Be of good cheer; in all things give thanks; be content with such things as ye have; rejoice always, and again I say rejoice." They are the brightest and pleasantest sunshine in the Bible; but some of us use the penknife on them every day. We should all be better Christians if we could lust take the Book as it is, and not be always forgetting or putting out the parts we least like. But let me not forget to say that the penknife is used far more constantly, and more in Jehoiakim's fashion, by those who are not Christians at all, by those who are living wholly irreligious lives. Away with all the warnings, threatenings, counsels, and invitations which stand in the way of our desires. "The soul that sinneth it shall die." "The wages of sin is death." "For all these things God will surely bring thee into judgment." "Whatsoever a man soweth that shall he also reap" Cut away the roll; burn it; let us forget the words; out of mind is out of existence; the day of reckoning will never come. But it does come, nevertheless! The inevitable hour creeps on; the debt stands though you tear the bill in two and burn both halves. You cannot burn God's ledger in which all the accounts are kept. You will have to pay that bill unless, through faith and repentance and the merits of Jesus, it is all forgiven.

(J. G. Greenhough, M. A.)

Parallel Verses
KJV: And they went in to the king into the court, but they laid up the roll in the chamber of Elishama the scribe, and told all the words in the ears of the king.

WEB: They went in to the king into the court; but they had laid up the scroll in the room of Elishama the scribe; and they told all the words in the ears of the king.

Jehoiakim's Penknife
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