The Weekly Pulpit
Then the word of the LORD came to Jeremiah, after that the king had burned the roll…
True, those were very anxious times. Party feeling ran high, and we may find this much excuse for the foolish king, that party feeling carried him away. The last days of the kingdom of Judah had come. Two rival nations were seeking her alliance, each as a protection against the other. The good Josiah had favoured Babylon, and even fought against Pharaoh Necho, king of Egypt. In the great battle of Carchemish, Josiah lost his life, but the party favouring alliance with Babylon was strong enough to secure the election of his son Shallum as king, rather than the elder son, Jehoiakim, who seems to have favoured the Egyptians. Shallum, however, only held the throne for three months, and then Jehoiakim succeeded. Now Jeremiah, as the prophet of God, had distinctly, and over and over again, advised alliance with Babylon. He was consequently in disgrace when Jehoiakim came to the throne, and the Egyptian party gained the upper hand. He was no longer able to declare the Divine message freely in the streets, and at the court. But what is to be done with the roll? It was a great fast day; a national humiliation on account of the national peril. The people were crowding in from the district round, and were assembling for solemn services in the Temple courts. There the roll must be read. Baruch knew the peril, and shrank from the task, until comforted by an assurance of personal protection. They felt the news of all this must be taken to the king. They knew his impulsive willfulness so well that they feared to take the roll into his presence. Jehudi began to read, and the king began to grow angry at the Divine disapproval of his plans, and presently he seized the scribe s knife, as it lay on the ground, stripped a piece of the skin off, and threw it on the fire; and then, emboldened by his wilful act, proceeded to cut strip after strip, until the entire roll was consumed. What a daring act! And what a foolish act! More foolish than wicked, for he could not silence God's Word, or alter God's will in that way. It is very important that we should recognise the distinction between the revelation of God's will to a man, and the particular form in which that will may be made known to him. It is not the mere wording of the message that is our chief concern, it is the message itself. Men nowadays are finding so much to complain of in the mere form and wording of the Bible, that there is grave danger of their failing to heed that Bible as it comes closely up to each one of them, saying, "I have a message from God unto thee. And is our message to be refused because the form of its setting is unpleasing to fastidious tastes?
I. GOD'S MESSAGE TO US MAY BE AN OFFENCE TO US. It is when it opposes our inclinations. It is a wholly wrong attitude in which to stand towards God's Word, if we think to judge it by our inclinations and preferences, approving it only if it accords with them. God's will and Word are the standard by which we must test our inclinations, and they are stamped as wrong if we cannot gain the Divine approval. But so often our condition of approving the Bible is, that it shall comfortably allow us to "follow the devices and desires of our own hearts." We shut it up, we put it on the upper shelf, out of reach, when we have a half fear that it will-speak with an arresting voice, and say, "What doest thou here, Elijah?" And the Bible is an offence when it convicts us of our sins. The sin of our day is this — we are attempting to judge God's Word instead of to receive it. We conceitedly criticise it, instead of reverently listening to it. We are making ourselves the standard for ourselves; and are determined that we will have nothing in the Bible that we do not like.
II. OUR OFFENCE MAY END EXPRESSION IN INJURY TO THE WORD. That injury is not always coarse and vulgar like the injury done to the roll by Jehoiakim.
1. In subtle ways we injure it, nowadays, by making it out to mean what it suits us to think it means, and by picking out bits here and there which are of doubtful authority; and so creating a general suspicion of the authority of the whole.
(1) Generally undermining its authority. Men begin at the Old Testament. They cut strips out here and there. They would persuade us that the early chapters of Genesis are only legends, and the history of the patriarchs only uncertain traditions. Oh, poor Bible of our fathers!
(2) Evaporating or changing its meaning. If anything strikes hard against sin, explain it away. If any dark shadows are thrown on the eternal future of impenitent sinners, exaggerate your representations of the love of God, be quite unqualified in your statements, and boldly declare that you would not punish sinners so vigorously, and therefore you are sure God will not. If you hardly dare cut a piece out of the Word, use the knife to scratch out what you do not like, and write over what you think would be suitable.
(3) Refusing to admit the applications of the Word to ourselves.
2. How utterly foolish all this is! We cannot change one declaration of Holy Scripture. We cannot prevent the execution of one threatening. We cannot, by any of our devices, secure a comfortable arrangement for impenitent sinners in the next life.
III. GOD'S WILL CAN NEVER BE FRUSTRATED BY ANY INJURY WE MAY DO TO HIS MESSENGERS, OR TO HIS MESSAGE. Because though it is in a message, it exists apart from the message. Jeremiah can soon write it all over again. Moreover, the attempted injury cannot fail to rouse further vindications of God's outraged majesty. Kings never pass lightly by the insults that are offered to their ambassadors. And the Word of God does but tell of providential workings that go on, in spite of anything that may happen to the message that reports them to us. To destroy the Word is as foolish and as useless as for the ostrich to hide her head in the sand, and convince herself that there is no danger, when the hunters are every moment nearing her.
(The Weekly Pulpit.)
Parallel VersesKJV: Then the word of the LORD came to Jeremiah, after that the king had burned the roll, and the words which Baruch wrote at the mouth of Jeremiah, saying,