Lesson Four: God's Word shows us our sin.

By Barry McWilliams
Bible Story "The man who burned God's Word"
Bible Text: Jeremiah 36

Read Jeremiah 36 - Outline the story

Theme: God's Word shows me my sin. In This story we have portrayed God's mercy seeking to turn His people from their sin. We see the correct response in those who acknowledge what it says is true. But most importantly we see the rejection of the Word and its consequences by a evil king who refused to admit his guilt. This story is also significant because it teaches us something concerning how the Scriptures came to be written.

At the death of Josiah, his son Jehoahaz was made king for three months, then replaced by Pharoah Neco by his brother Eliaham, whom Neco renamed Jehoiakim. God's people have turned to wickedness again. Judah has failed to pay attention to God's Judgement on their brothers in the Northern Kingdom of Isreal. Idolatry and sin fill the land. They are not trusting nor obeying God and His law, trusting rather in the idols and army of Eygpt. Jehoiakim, a depraved ruler, had been placed on the throne by the Pharoah of Eygpt who had defeated and killed Josiah. God tells Jeremiah to write all the words He has spoken concerning Isreal, Judah and the other nations from the time of Josiah to the present - 23 years of messages from God through the Prophet to the people. God wanted his people to be turned from their wickedness back to him.

Baruch was Jeremiah's scribe (secretary). He wrote with a pen and ink on a papyrus scroll rolled on a stick as Jeremiah told him what to write. They wrote backwards with what seem to us to be funny letters - Actually the Hebrews were the first to use an alphabet in writing unlike the complicated and hard to learn bi-syllabic writing on clay tablets or the "picture language" or heiroglyphics of their neighbors to the east and west. Books and paper as we know it had not yet been invented.

Writing a long scroll like this takes a lot of hard work, and it took a long time too for God had said many things. What they wrote was the first edition of the book of Jeremiah which we have in our Bibles. Because the people were very wicked and the king too was wicked, God's word given told of God's anger and sadness at the sin of His people. God's word may not be pleasant to us, but God intends it for our best interests. We need to know we are sick before we will go to a doctor for medicine. God knows we are sick with sin.

God had a purpose in putting these messages into writing. Most of the people had not heard Jeremiah's words. Those who had heard him had only heard some of them. Now God was going to make all His words available to all the people. Because God has put his words into writing in the Bible, now everyone can read [in various translations] and thus hear the Word of God. Here we see the process of inspiration by which God gave us the Bible - His Spirit spoke through men [the Prophets and Apostles] who wrote down His words. (Jeremiah 1:9, 2 Peter 1:20,21, 2 Tim 3:16) Even though we no longer have them to teach and preach to us, we have their teaching in written form.

Then Jeremiah sent Baruch to read the scroll to all the people as they came to the temple. (Jeremiah apparently was forbidden to enter the temple, but God's written word was not so easily kept out, God in His wisdom knows how hard it is to suppress the written word.) As the people came to the temple, they heard these words.

Micaiah heard the words and they made him afraid. He knew this was an important message for all the people so he went and told about them to all the officials in the royal palace. They had Baruch come and read the scroll to them. When they heard these were God's words given through Jeremiah the prophet, They were very afraid (as God wanted them to be) for they knew that the Prophet spoke from God. They knew they must tell these words to the King. However they knew that the king would not like these words from God. So They told Baruch and Jeremiah to hide.

They took the Scroll to Jehoiakim, the King. It was a cold day in December and the King was sitting by a fire in a pot by his throne for warmth. He had Jehudi begin reading the scroll to him as all his officials stood around. Probably the king could neither read nor write, most of the people of his day were illiterate. As the words of the scroll were read to the king, he began to fidget uncomfortably on his throne. They told of how God was unhappy with his sins and the sins of Judah, his kingdom. However, unlike his officials who knew that God was telling them the terrible truth about thier sin, he was not afraid of the words.

When he heard that God would send the wicked king of Babylon to punish Judah for its wickedness the king was angry. He thought it was treason to say that they were sinners and God could not tolerate their sin. He refused to believe what was being read to him was true.

Jehoiakim picked up a knife and after each two or three columns were read, he cut them off the scroll and threw them in the fire. His officials were stunned. He was burning God's Word given through Jeremiah. They protested to the king, urging him not to do this. But even though Elnathan and Delaiah and Gemariah urged him not do so, after each section was read, piece by piece, he burned the entire scroll. He thought that by burning it, he could ignore it. He thought that because it told of terrible things that would happen if he continued to sin against God that it was a bad book. He refused to accept the truth it told him concerning his sin.

All the many hours of work writing God's words seemed wasted as the scroll was burned by this wicked king. (This was the only copy of Jeremiah's book that there was. This would be just like the President of the United States burning the only copy of the Bible in existence?) In his anger he even tried to arrest Jeremiah and Baruch. People who refuse to accept the truth about their sin can be quite cruel to those who only want to help them turn to God for forgiveness.

The advice of the officials had given Baruch to go hide turned out to be wise advice. God himself made sure they were safely hidden for they had work to do. They were hard at work again, starting over a second time, writing down a second time all the words that God had spoken. We can not avoid God's word by destroying it. God's word cannot be destroyed. And God added some more words to this new scroll. He said he would punish this king in a terrible way and bring disaster upon him and his children because he did not listen to God's word. And God's words came true, just as He warned Jehoiakim. The very next year, The King of Babylon came and defeated the Eygptians at the battle of Carchemish. He beseiged Judah and took many captives (Including Daniel) back with him to Babylon. Soon after, Jehoiakim was either assassinated, murdered or carried off, replaced by another puppet king who ruled only three months before Jerusalem was destroyed and its people carried off into captivity.

Jeremiah teaches us much about sin and Salvation: Teachers may want to make "Verse Puzzles" - each verse in several pieces - and talk about the passages from Jeremiah as the children are re-assembling them. Imagine Jehoiakim's reaction to (On Sin): 1:16, 2:19, 4:22, 7:8, 13:23, 17:9, 18:15; But don't miss either the hope of (On Grace): 7:3, 9:23,24, 23:5,6, 31:33, 33:8.

Study Questions Describe the process of writing the book of Jeremiah. What have you learned about how the Bible came to be? What are the values of having the word of God written?

What did Jehoiakim find objectionable in this book? What was his reaction? What were the consequences of his actions.

Can we trust the Bible? Will God preserve it?

The convicting work of the Word of God is seen in two passages:

Hebrews 4:12-13 teaches us that the Word is like a sharp sword. It cuts deep into the heart and judges even our thoughts and attitudes. It helps us see our hearts as God sees them.

2 Peter 1:15-21 teaches us that we do well to pay attention to the Word - it is like a light shining in a dark place - until that light shines in our hearts. (The Morning Star is Jesus) The teaching of the Scriptures are not merely human words - they come from God and His Spirit - and thus with tremendous authority. We can not ignore them, or set them aside for in them God speaks to us. Here is a statement concerning the process of inspiration - the Prophets and Apostles were "carried along" by the Holy Spirit so that they spoke for God. Scriptures prophecies did not have their origin in the will of man - they came through the Spirit of God. (You may find interesting Peter's remarks about Paul's letters in 2 Peter 3:15-16).

© 1991 Barry McWilliams and Mission Church Fellowship, Hypertext Version © 1996 Barry McWilliams
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