We live in a society awash in lies posing as truth. What went wrong? Or more importantly, what can we do about it? Jesus was challenged as to the heart of serving God. In his response, Jesus said, ‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind (Matthew 22:37).’ This speaks of total commitment and to the development of a comprehensive understanding of who God is and what He requires. It means that we need to develop a biblical world view including ‘presenting our bodies as living sacrifices’ while having our minds transformed by renewing them (cf. Romans 12:2). We need to understand our world (society) as God does. Charles Colson, in his book, ‘How shall we live?’ relates:

Religion is not a reflection or product of culture, but quite the reverse. As the great twentieth-century historian Christopher Dawson argued, cult is at the root word of culture (taking ‘cult’ in its most basic meaning as a system of religious worship). The late political philosopher Russell Kirk agreed: ‘It’s from association in a cult, a body of worshipers, that human community grows.

The oyster offers a good analogy. Oysters make their own shells, so if the shell is badly formed, the problem is not the shell but in the oyster. Likewise, when a culture deforms and decays, don’t ask what went wrong with the culture; ask what went wrong with the cult – the religious core.[i]

So, what has gone wrong? The simple answer is that the church has accommodated itself to the culture. Jesus said that we are to be ‘in the world, but not of the world (cf. John 17:15-16).’ It all comes down to our response to the word of God. An indifferent and dismissive attitude does not diminish the message. God’s word is eternal in nature and what is being communicated will occur regardless of our response. What we discover here in Jeremiah 36 is two very different responses to God’s word. The first group are struck with ‘fear,’ with a deep concern for what God is warning the people about. This suggests that these individuals believed in and revered God. They realized the danger they were in because of their prior indifference and disobedience.

The second group lead by the king had no fear of God, and literally discarded the words. The king burned the message in the firepot heating his winter apartment. The result was that the king was left with no lasting family dynasty and the nation ultimately suffered war, famine and eventual exile. 

So, how do we respond to God’s word? How is God’s word influencing, directing, and determining our lives? Are we just hearers or are we doers of God’s word? Though there are basically only two responses toward God and His message, there is also God’s actions that occur from those responses. What can we learn about human nature and God’s nature from an interaction with His divine message? There are three things we learn from God’s revelation toward humanity.


In our lives, we are generally influenced by those who are communicating to us. If we ignore those who we are in a relationship with, they will suffer. If we ignore those who are in authority, we will do so at our own expense. God is not someone to be trifled with, ignored, or rebelled against. A denial of belief in God does not justify our behavior. To say God does not exist, does not mean that there is no God. We recognize that there are certain natural laws that we must adhere to, otherwise we will suffer consequences. Here in our text we see God’s mercies being offered to His people.  

A. The mercies of God being extended through the message given to Jeremiah.

Jeremiah was told to write down the messages that God had given him for the past twenty-three years. Here we gain a little insight into the development of the bible, the movement from an oral culture to a written one.

In the fourth year of Jehoiakim son of Josiah king of Judah, this word came to Jeremiah from the Lord:

“Take a scroll and write on it all the words I have spoken to you concerning Israel, Judah and all the other nations from the time I began speaking to you in the reign of Josiah till now.

Perhaps when the people of Judah hear about every disaster I plan to inflict on them, they will each turn from their wicked ways; then I will forgive their wickedness and their sin.[ii]

This mandate to write down all that had been orally communicated from when Jeremiah began in Josiah’s time to the moment he received this instruction spanned twenty-three years. The current moment is deeply significant as a crisis was looming upon the nation. The fourth year of Jehoiakim reflects the first assault by the Babylonians on Jerusalem in around 605-604 B. C. Tremper Longman relates the significance of this assault as the emergence of Babylon as a dominant player in the area.

…this first siege was simply an initial sign of the Babylonians’ presence and power in the area, but it was significant enough that Jehoiakim turned over to the Babylonians some of the temple vessels as well as a number of the young, noble men of the kingdom. Perhaps it was this that led Jeremiah to think that the king might listen to the warnings that were recorded in the scroll that he sent to the court through Baruch.[iii]

God’s desire is reflected in verse 3. If people will repent and turn from their wickedness and sin, God will forgive. If not, the consequences of sin is death. What is interesting is that Jeremiah is unable to bring the message personally, but it now is communicated through a written document read by Baruch.

B. The challenges of bringing the truth in a hostile environment.

So Jeremiah called Baruch son of Neriah, and while Jeremiah dictated all the words the Lord had spoken to him, Baruch wrote them on the scroll.

Then Jeremiah told Baruch, “I am restricted; I am not allowed to go to the Lord’s temple.

So you go to the house of the Lord on a day of fasting and read to the people from the scroll the words of the Lord that you wrote as I dictated. Read them to all the people of Judah who come in from their towns.

Perhaps they will bring their petition before the Lord and will each turn from their wicked ways, for the anger and wrath pronounced against this people by the Lord are great.”[iv]

What did it mean that Jeremiah had to send Baruch to read the message, because he was ‘restricted?’ F. B. Huey gives a number of possibilities to what this term means.

…he was “restricted” (ʿazûr) and unable to go himself. The word azûr can mean “imprisoned” (as in 33:1; 39:15), but that meaning is unlikely here since vv. 19, 26 indicate he was free to move about. The word can also mean that he was in danger and hiding and therefore was not allowed in the temple (cf. 1 Chr 12:1). It is possible that he was ceremonially unclean, a condition that would have barred him from the temple. However, the most plausible interpretation of the word here is that the temple authorities saw him as a troublemaker and would not permit him to speak there, perhaps because of his temple sermon (see 26:7–19; also cf. Gen 16:2, “The Lord has kept me,” where it means prevented from doing something.[v]

Jeremiah was not allowed in the Temple, therefore he sends Baruch with the scroll to communicate God’s message to the people. Baruch was to appear at the temple during ‘a fast day.’

A ‘fast day’ was always a sign of some crisis in the community, a crisis in which an appeal was made to God for help. This particular fast day was probably caused by the deteriorating military situation. In the previous year the Babylonians had soundly defeated Jehoiakim’s Egyptian allies at the battle of Carchemish in Syria, and news had probably reached Jerusalem that Ashkelon in the coastal plain had just fallen to the Babylonians.[vi]

There are moments when bringing God’s message to others is difficult and even can be dangerous. It takes courage to bring God’s message to others, but it is absolutely necessary. We have a responsibility to warn and instruct others, otherwise their destroyed lives are our responsibility.

C. Obedience in bringing God’s word to the people.

Baruch son of Neriah did everything Jeremiah the prophet told him to do; at the Lord’s temple he read the words of the Lord from the scroll.

In the ninth month of the fifth year of Jehoiakim son of Josiah king of Judah, a time of fasting before the Lord was proclaimed for all the people in Jerusalem and those who had come from the towns of Judah.

From the room of Gemariah son of Shaphan the secretary, which was in the upper courtyard at the entrance of the New Gate of the temple, Baruch read to all the people at the Lord’s temple the words of Jeremiah from the scroll.[vii]

D. The response of some of the leaders present.

When Micaiah son of Gemariah, the son of Shaphan, heard all the words of the Lord from the scroll, he went down to the secretary’s room in the royal palace, where all the officials were sitting: Elishama the secretary, Delaiah son of Shemaiah, Elnathan son of Akbor, Gemariah son of Shaphan, Zedekiah son of Hananiah, and all the other officials.

After Micaiah told them everything he had heard Baruch read to the people from the scroll, all the officials sent Jehudi son of Nethaniah, the son of Shelemiah, the son of Cushi, to say to Baruch, “Bring the scroll from which you have read to the people and come.” So Baruch son of Neriah went to them with the scroll in his hand.

They said to him, “Sit down, please, and read it to us.” So Baruch read it to them.

When they heard all these words, they looked at each other in fear and said to Baruch, “We must report all these words to the king.”

Then they asked Baruch, “Tell us, how did you come to write all this? Did Jeremiah dictate it?”

“Yes,” Baruch replied, “he dictated all these words to me, and I wrote them in ink on the scroll.”

Then the officials said to Baruch, “You and Jeremiah, go and hide. Don’t let anyone know where you are.”[viii]

Here we find a number of people who were deeply influenced during the godly reign of Josiah. These individuals were shaken up by the message. God was speaking through his prophet, Jeremiah. What can we learn from this episode? We cannot control outcomes in our communication. We cannot control how people will respond. However, we have a responsibility to share the message of God’s gracious offer of salvation and deliverance from the effects of sin to those God sends us to. Our part is to communicate it and trust for openness on the part of those we are communicating to. These particular leaders realized that some of the message conflicted with the current administration’s practices, beliefs, and alliances. They feared for both Jeremiah, who spoke the message, and Baruch, his scribe and reader, and so told Baruch that while they would take the message to the king, they should hide themselves for their safety, which they did, and later we read that ‘the LORD had hidden them (v. 26). These leaders were aware of the current danger not only that the messengers from God were in, but also realized their own precarious position before God. We also see this amazing union between human agency and God’s provision and protection. There is a part that we play in the human drama of life, but there is also a deep recognition that God’s oversight is directing the affairs of humanity.  


The vast majority of people today are simply ignorant or negligent of what God is trying to communicate to them. Yet, we also see that some are actively opposing what God is communicating. They are threatened by God’s message and the reason they act in a hostile fashion is that they do not ‘fear God.’ 

After they put the scroll in the room of Elishama the secretary, they went to the king in the courtyard and reported everything to him.

The king sent Jehudi to get the scroll, and Jehudi brought it from the room of Elishama the secretary and read it to the king and all the officials standing beside him.

It was the ninth month and the king was sitting in the winter apartment, with a fire burning in the firepot in front of him.

Whenever Jehudi had read three or four columns of the scroll, the king cut them off with a scribe’s knife and threw them into the firepot, until the entire scroll was burned in the fire.

The king and all his attendants who heard all these words showed no fear, nor did they tear their clothes.[ix]         

The tearing of the garments would be a deep sign of grief and repentance. So, what was the king’s response? Here we see an annoyed and angry response to the message as the king commanded the arrest of Jeremiah and Baruch. There was a common belief in the ancient world that if you destroyed the messengers, then their words would not come to pass. We also see that the king refused to respond to God’s message.

Even though Elnathan, Delaiah and Gemariah urged the king not to burn the scroll, he would not listen to them.

Instead, the king commanded Jerahmeel, a son of the king, Seraiah son of Azriel and Shelemiah son of Abdeel to arrest Baruch the scribe and Jeremiah the prophet. But the Lord had hidden them.[x]

This incident is one of the earliest we have of an attempt to apply official censorship to unpopular views. Whether it is done by religious or political authorities, the attempt to silence opposition by banning or destroying the written word is an exercise in futility.[xi]

Alexander Solzhenitsyn wrote regarding the censorship they faced in Russia.

Literature, together with language, protects the soul of the nation…But woe to the nation whose literature is disturbed by the intervention of power. Because this is not just a violation of ‘the freedom of the press,’ it is the closing down of the heart of the nation, a slashing to pieces of the memory.[xii]

When we no longer allow the voice of dissidence to occur, we are beyond correction. There is then no ability to correct what is wrong within society and the inevitable state of decline and destruction will occur.


We can be assured that all the attacks of various people over the ages against God’s word have never prevailed, nor will prevail, ultimately. There have been many who have tried to attack God’s word and destroy it, but have ultimately failed.

In the midst of the enlightenment, when deism [a denial of belief in a personal God] was spreading rapidly, Voltaire proclaimed that within twenty-five years the Bible would be forgotten and Christianity would be a thing of the past. Forty years after his death in 1778, the Bible and other Christian literature were being printed in what had once been Voltaire’s very own home.[xiii]

What an irony.

A. The enduring nature of God’s word despite opposition to it.

God’s word is eternal. We are reminded from the prophet Isaiah. “The grass withers and the flowers fall, but the word of our God endures forever (Isaiah 40:8).”

Jesus stated it this way in his sermon on the mount.

For truly I tell you, until heaven and earth disappear, not the smallest letter, not the least stroke of a pen, will by any means disappear from the Law until everything is accomplished.[xiv]

God has communicated His purposes in His word and they shall come to pass.

After the king burned the scroll containing the words that Baruch had written at Jeremiah’s dictation, the word of the Lord came to Jeremiah:

Take another scroll and write on it all the words that were on the first scroll, which Jehoiakim king of Judah burned up.

Also tell Jehoiakim king of Judah, ‘This is what the Lord says: You burned that scroll and said, “Why did you write on it that the king of Babylon would certainly come and destroy this land and wipe from it both man and beast?”

Therefore this is what the Lord says about Jehoiakim king of Judah: He will have no one to sit on the throne of David; his body will be thrown out and exposed to the heat by day and the frost by night.

I will punish him and his children and his attendants for their wickedness; I will bring on them and those living in Jerusalem and the people of Judah every disaster I pronounced against them, because they have not listened.’”

So Jeremiah took another scroll and gave it to the scribe Baruch son of Neriah, and as Jeremiah dictated, Baruch wrote on it all the words of the scroll that Jehoiakim king of Judah had burned in the fire. And many similar words were added to them.[xv]

What is the lesson for us here?

It is the book (scroll), and not the presence of the prophet, which becomes decisive in resisting the king. …the scroll is so much more difficult to resist because it cannot, like a person, be intimidated, banished, or destroyed. It keeps reappearing.[xvi]

Robert Davidson points out the contrast between the response of two kings toward the word of God.

In chapters 22:13-17 we have Jeremiah’s savage attack upon Jehoiakim as the corrupt, unworthy son of a godly father, Josiah. Perhaps the story of the scroll that Jehoiakim destroyed is intended to underline the contrast. Both have dealings with a scroll in the Temple. Josiah, according to 2 Kings 22, has a scroll read to him; he listens… it leads to national reformation. Jehoiakim has a scroll read to him; he does not listen, he consigns it to the flames…it leads to national disaster. So the different choices we take, when faced with similar situations, are fraught with consequences for good or for evil.[xvii]

B. The power of God’s word when embraced and acted upon.

The purpose of the scroll, moreover, is to move Judah to hear (shema) and to turn (shub), and so to avoid evil. That is, the scroll is not designed to give information, nor even to make an argument, but it is to authorize, energize, and evoke a transformed life that will avoid and deter the coming evil. The scroll is intended to alter Judah’s public existence.[xviii]

Even so this is true in our lives. The Scriptures are not designed to be argued about, ignored, or denied. They are to be acted upon in obedience because they are God’s word to us. The great tragedy is that by cutting the scroll, the king refused to allow the word of God to touch his life, and therefore the promise of grace was forfeited, while the outcome of the king’s rebellion led to death for the nation and his own family. Rather than to rend or cut his own garment as a sign of repentance, the king’s heart was hostile both to the scroll and those who created it. He sent attendants to find, in order to punish, Jeremiah and Baruch. They are spared because God hides them from the king, but the king has no place to hide from God and is therefore judged and destroyed.

How will we respond to God’s word? Will we ignore it, or read and hear it and act upon it? Will it touch our hearts and move us to respond in obedience to its mandates? Our response to God’s word determines our future destiny both in life and eternity. As we look at our society today, let us remember that cursing the darkness will not bring about transformation in it. Shining the light of God’s word through our lives is the only hope.

[i]     Charles Colson, ‘How shall we live?’ (Wheaton, Il: Tyndale House Publishers, Inc., 1999), 37.

[ii]     Jeremiah 36:1-3, The New International Version of the Bible, Zondervan, 2011.

[iii]    Tremper Longman III, Jeremiah, Lamentations, New International Biblical Commentary, (Peabody, MA: Hendrickson Publishers, 2008), 236.

[iv]    Jeremiah 36:4-7.

[v]     F. B. Huey, F. B. Jeremiah, Lamentations, Vol. 16, (Broadman & Holman Publishers, 1993), 320.

[vi]    F. B. Huey, F. B. Jeremiah, Lamentations, Vol. 16, (Broadman & Holman Publishers, 1993), 320.

[vii]   Jeremiah 36:8-10.

[viii]   Jeremiah 36:11-19.

[ix]    Jeremiah 36:20-24.

[x]     Jeremiah 36:25-26.

[xi]    Robert Davidson, Jeremiah, Vol. 2, The Daily Study Bible Series, (Louisville, KY: Westminster John Knox Press, 1985), 116.

[xii]   Alexander Solzhenitsyn, Nobel Lecture on Literature, as quoted by Robert Davidson, Jeremiah, Vol. 2, 116-117.

[xiii]   Michael P. Green, ed. Illustrations for Biblical Preaching, (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Book House, 1989), 27.

[xiv]   Matthew 5:18.

[xv]   Jeremiah 36:27-32.

[xvi]   Walter Brueggemann, A Commentary on Jeremiah: Exile and Homecoming, (Grand Rapids, MI: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1998), 346.

[xvii] Robert Davidson, Jeremiah, Vol. 2, 117.

[xviii] Walter Brueggemann, A Commentary on Jeremiah: Exile and Homecoming, 346.

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