Sunday, February 05, 2023

"The Scroll" [Matt's Messages]

“The Scroll”
Uprooted - The Words of Jeremiah
Lanse Evangelical Free Church
February 5, 2023 :: Jeremiah 36:1-32

“‘For I know the plans I have for you,’ declares the LORD, ‘plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future’” (Jer. 29:11 NIVO). 

What a wonderful promise given to the people of God right before they entered into exile. Exile was not the end! They had a hope and a future. One day, the Lord was going to restore them and give them peace and prosperity, shalom.

Jeremiah chapters 29 through 33 are often called “The Book of Hope” or “The Book of Promises” because of wonderful promises like this one and like the wonderful promises of the New Covenant.

But we learned last week that chapters 34 through 45 could be called “The Book of Failures” because they tell the stark story of how Judah got themselves all the way to the place of exile, especially through the terrible choices of their last two major failure kings.

And, today, you and I can learn from their failures. Each failure is a warning, a notification of danger ahead, and a signpost to the off-ramp that the Lord wants us to take instead.

So today, we look at the colossal failure of King Jehoiakim in Jeremiah chapter 36.

You’ll never believe what the king did to the scroll!

They call that “clickbait.” Have you ever seen one of those attention-grabbing news headlines online that just scream, “CLICK ON ME!”

“Here are the 10 life-hacks that you need to know to get ahead in this economy.” [CLICK.]

“She was a Olympic figure-skater. See where she is now.” [CLICK.]

“Watch this guy eat 499 hotdogs in one sitting!” [CLICK.]

I think that Jeremiah 36 is cautionary tale that should legitimately grab our attention and scandalize us.

It is shockingly unbelievable what this king did to this scroll! Intrigued? Let’s read it. Jeremiah 36, verse 1.

“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, each of them will turn from his wicked way; then I will forgive their wickedness and their sin’” (vv.1-3). 

The year is 605 BC. That’s the fourth year of Jehoiakim. It’s a pretty consequential year in Ancient Near Eastern history. Nebuchadnezzar has won at the battle of Carchemish and has become the king of Babylon. He’s got his eye on Judah next.

Jeremiah has been a prophet for more than two decades. He’s been prophesying for about 23 years. This is roughly about the same time period as last week’s story in chapter 35 when Jeremiah offered the wine to the Recabite Family (and they turned him down because they were still obeying Great-Grandpa Jonadab).

But the people of Judah were not obeying Yahweh. They were consistently disobeying Him. They were breaking His covenant. And for 23 years Jeremiah has been a broken record about that broken covenant. He has warned them time and time again that they should repent or suffer the judgment of the LORD.

And now, the LORD has commanded Jeremiah to write down all of those things that he has been saying for the last twenty three years.

On a scroll. Probably made of papyrus like this bookmark that Keith was handing out to the youth class a few weeks ago. A scroll of papyrus. This kind of scroll is the side-to-side kind. A roll over here, and a roll over here. And Hebrew reads right to left, so to read it, you unspool the right roll and spool up the left roll and the words go by you like this. Columns up and down and the scroll goes right to left. Just like some of you are scrolling on your Bible devices right now. Except most of you are going from top to bottom on your scroll.

Jeremiah is supposed to write down (v.2) “all the words I have spoken to you concerning Israel (the northern kingdom), Judah (the southern kingdom that he’s talked about the most) and all the other nations from the time I began speaking to you in the reign of Josiah till now.” Twenty three years of prophecies, on the scroll.

Now, we’re not sure exactly how many words that was. It could have been like chapters 1 through 6 of Jeremiah. Some scholars think that. Those are a great summary of Jeremiah’s essential message. But I tend to think it’s more like Jeremiah chapter 1 through 25. Maybe even chapters 46 through 51 as well because of all those words to the nations. Jeremiah was a prophet not just to Judah but to the nations. Regardless, it was a lot of words. Twenty-three years of prophecies on the scroll.

And here was the purpose of this inscripturating of them–to once again invite the people of Judah to repent. Did you see that in verse 3? “Perhaps when the people of Judah hear about every disaster I plan to inflict on them, each of them will turn from his wicked way; then I will forgive their wickedness and their sin.’”

“Do you hear His heart? The LORD loves to forgive. Wouldn’t it be wonderful if the people of Judah would repent, to shuv, to turn from their wicked ways? Then I could  forgive them! I love to forgive repent sinners! It’s my very heart.”

Wouldn’t it be great if there was revival?

It’s not unheard of. It happened in Jeremiah’s lifetime. It happened during the reign of Jehoiakim’s dad, King Josiah. They found the Book of the Law when they were repairing the temple. And they ran to show it to the king, and they all tore their clothes in repentance when they realized that they haven’t been following the Law. And the king started to enact reforms throughout the kingdom.

Could it happen again? Let’s find out. Jeremiah goes to work making the scroll. His first step is to call in his administrate assistant, Mr. Blessing, Baruch. Look at verse 4.

“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.”

We met Baruch whose name means “blessing” in chapter 32 when he put the land deed in the clay pot, but that story takes place 17 years later than this one. This is the first time chronologically that we meet Mr. Blessing. He is Jeremiah’s long-term associate and acts kind of like an executive secretary. 

God gives Jeremiah words. Jeremiah dictates words. Baruch writes the words. And then here we have “the scroll.”  Now, that’s now how all Scripture comes to be. But it is how this text of Scripture came to be. The word of the LORD came to Jeremiah. Jeremiah spoke the word of the LORD to Baruch. Baruch writes it down on the scroll.

And now it’s time to read it! In public. But Jeremiah isn’t allowed out right now. He’s apparently not allowed to go to the temple–perhaps because he just preached that famous temple sermon called, “The Temple of the LORD, The Temple of the LORD, The Temple of the LORD!” Remember that? They didn’t like that one!

Jeremiah is “restricted,” but God’s Word is not! He sends Mr. Blessing to read it in instead. V.5

“Then Jeremiah told Baruch, ‘I am restricted; I cannot 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 each will turn from his wicked ways, for the anger and wrath pronounced against this people by the LORD are great.’”

It’s worth a try. Perhaps the people will repent. They will “shuv.” They will turn from their wicked ways, and the LORD will forgive them. He would love to do that! It’s in His heart. He is holy! If they do not turn, the city will burn. And rightly so. But He is not just holy. He is amazingly gracious. He’s a “Wonderful, Merciful Savior” to all who turn to Him.

Now, when we get to chapter 45, there’s this really short chapter that tells us how Baruch felt about this assignment. He wasn’t too keen to go on this ministry trip. But he did. Verse 8.

“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. [Here’s how it happened, verse 9.] 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” (vv.8-10).

This is December of 605 BC. It’s about 9 months later. Jeremiah and Baruch have finished the scroll and found the perfect time to read it. There is time of fasting. We don’t know exactly why. Perhaps because Nebuchadnezzer has come knocking. But the people have gathered in Jerusalem and are worshiping at the temple. They are fasting. And Baruch brings the scroll and climbs up to the upper courtyard at the entrance to the New Gate, and stands in the window. Maybe there was a little balcony. Outside of the rooms of Gemariah son of Shaphan. 

And he begins to read. And then read some more. And then some more. He reads the words of Jeremiah from the scroll. Notice that these are both the words of the LORD and the words of Jeremiah. That’s how Scripture works, right? Like our EFCA Statement of Faith says, “We believe that God has spoken in the Scriptures, both Old and New Testaments, through the words of human authors.” It’s a both/and not an either/or. Obviously, the LORD’s inspiration is more important than the human contribution, but they are both inextricably there.

And the big dramatic moment has arrived. Baruch reads the Prophecy of Jeremiah for the first time. And the people hear it being read. Let’s make that point number one of three this morning:


Listen to the word of the LORD. Our God is a speaking God. He loves to communicate. He tells us Who He is and what He is doing in the world. He’s communicated through nature. “All nature sings and round me rings the beauty of the spheres.” But He’s spoken even more clearly in His inscripturated word.

He’s inspired the authors of the Bible with His message, and they have faithfully conveyed it to us! Hear the word of God. 

That means read it. I’m amazed at how many people who claim to be followers of Jesus do not really read their Bibles. This is the written word of God. Why wouldn’t we read it?

Are you reading your Bible? What is your plan? It doesn’t have to look the same way for all Christians. It doesn’t have to look the same way for any Christian from year to year. But all Christians should be reading their Bibles!

Some Christians don’t even know where their Bibles are. If I were to ask you, where are you at in your Bible, I hope that you wouldn’t say, “I don’t even know where my Bible is.”

Let’s do this right now. Right down on your notes where you are in your Bible right now. Go ahead. Some of you will have to say, “Jeremiah 36.” Because this is the amount of Bible you are taking in right now as a Christian. And I’m so glad you are here! Because you are hearing the Word of God!

Some of you learn a lot better by listening than you do by reading. That’s fine. There are so many ways to listen to the Bible now. You can get an app on your phone and have the Bible read to you. Pastor Kerry, my pastor, listens to the Bible while he walks around his neighborhood. He’s focusing on the gospels this year. Great idea! 

The point is to hear the word of God. To get into the Word and have the Word get into you. And not just to have it read over you, but to listen. To truly hear what God is saying.

That day, there was a man who heard the message loud and clear. His name was “Micaiah.” Look at verse 11.

“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 Acbor, Gemariah son of Shaphan, Zedekiah son of Hananiah, and all the other officials” (vv.11-12).

There was like a cabinet meeting going on.  And Micaiah busts in the door, “Guys, you’ve got to hear this!” And he gives them the gist of the message he has heard. V.13

“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. [See how it’s all about the scroll?] They said to him, ‘Sit down, please, and read it to us.’ So Baruch read it to them” (vv.13-15). Second reading.

Of course, this shouldn’t be news, right? Jeremiah has been saying these things for 23 years. But this day, there’s something different. It’s written down. It’s kind of like that day that they discovered the Book of the Law in the temple. This scroll has it all in one place, all 23 years. And Mr. Blessing is reading it to them. And they are hearing it.

Have you ever heard God’s word? I mean, it really came alive to you in the moment? You felt the burden of it. You felt the weight of it. You felt the glory of it. The seriousness of it. These guys were really hearing it. And they were looking at each other while it was being read, and their hearts were sinking. Or maybe soaring!

Maybe this is the moment when revival breaks out?! V.16

“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.’”

You feel it? They sure were. We’re going to make this point application number two.


By that, I mean take it seriously. “The fear of the LORD is the beginning of knowledge, but fools despise wisdom and discipline” (Prov. 1:7 NIVO). And if we properly fear the LORD, of course, we’re going to tremble at His Word!

Now, I’m not sure if this fear that these guys have in verse 16 is fear of God or fear of the king. It might be both. They are frightened of what the king is going to think about the scroll. And they should be frightened by what the scroll says the LORD is going to do if they do not repent. Either way, they know that they need to act.

First, they make sure they understand what the scroll actually is. Verse 17.

“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.’” (vv.17-19).

We don't want to know where you are! This is explosive stuff. We have to take it to the king, but we don't know he'll respond. I think they want him to respond well. They seem to be waking up and leaning toward repentance. Maybe they want revival. They certainly don't want Jeremiah to get blow back. V.20

“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. [And here’s the moment of truth. You won’t believe what the king did to the scroll! V.21] 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. [Third reading. All the way through.] 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” (Vv.20-23). 

How brazen! How shocking! How wicked! How foolish! How damnable!

I feel sorry for Jehudi. He has to read the whole thing. And every few columns, the king says, “Stop,” and he takes out his penknife, the knife a scribe would use to sharpen their pen, and he saws off the payprus and throws it into the fire.

He doesn’t just pick the thing up over his head and toss it all into to the fire. He has the whole thing read and cuts it piece by piece by piece. And puts it piece by piece by piece into the flames. He does the exact opposite of what you and I should do with God’s word. He does NOT fear it. V.24

“The king and all his attendants who heard all these words showed no fear, nor did they tear their clothes. 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” (vv.24-27).

This is truly scandalous. There is no revival. There is no reading and heeding the Word of God.

There’s just cutting the Word of God. And burning the Word of God. Not fearing the Word of God. How frightful! Instead of tearing his clothes and repenting. He tore the Scriptures and burned them.

I wouldn’t want to be in Jehoiakim’s shoes, would you?

But how often do we do something similar when we cut out of our minds the parts of the Bible we don’t like? Some people do that with the Old Testament. They cut it from the New. But you can’t understand the New without the Old as it fulfills it. And some people cut out the parts with miracles in it. They just want the teachings. Thomas Jefferson did that. He cut up his Bible and took out all the parts that he didn’t believe. 

Maybe we don’t throw it in the fire, but we all have parts of the Bible that we black out in our minds if not cut out physically.

Maybe it’s the part that tells us what to do with sex and marriage. One man and one woman united for life. Sex in that covenant and only in that covenant.

Maybe it’s the part that tells us what to do with our words. “Keep your tongue from evil and your lips from speaking lies.”

Maybe it’s the part that tells us what to do with the poor. “Act justly? Love mercy?”

Maybe it’s the part that tells us what to do with our enemies. “Love them?! I don’t think so.”

Maybe it’s the part that tells us that there is one way and only one way to get to God.

We might not be so brazenly disrespectful as Jehoiakim, but we are all tempted to cut out the parts of God’s Word that we don’t want to hear.

Which ones are you tempted to cut? Don’t do it. Fear the Word of God. Tremble. Take these words seriously. Especially the threats. Because God always keeps His promises. Including the threats. God is deadly serious, and should we be.

He preserves Jeremiah and Baruch. They are hidden from the wrath of the king.  But no-one will hide the king from the wrath of the LORD. V.27

“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 [what a phrase!] and said, ‘Why did you write on it that the king of Babylon would certainly come and destroy this land and cut off both men and animals from it?’ 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.'”

He’s not going to get away with this. If the king thinks that he can just cut off God’s words, the king will find that he will be cut off, as well. He will find himself “unloved, unmourned, unburied” (Christopher J.H. Wright). And frozen in the street. So much for warming himself with the scriptures as home heating fuel!

God’s Word will not be stopped. Here’s how we’ll put it for application point number three:


Rejoice that God’s word is unstoppable! I don’t know if Jehoiakim thought he could stop God’s threats from coming true just by cutting up and burning His words? But it doesn’t work that way. And it never will. The LORD says that He will still do everything that He said He would do. And He remembers all of it. And so does Jeremiah. So, in verse 28, He tells Jeremiah to write it all down again, and in verse 32, he does.

“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.”

I love that part! The LORD threw in some more words! And now we have the whole book. All 52 chapters of Jeremiah which we will soon have read and studied in the course of a year.

God’s Word is indestructible. Throughout the centuries, God’s enemies have tried to destroy it, but they always end up losing.  In fact, many times when they try to stop the Bible from being distributed, the Bible gets multiplied and reaches more people than ever before. It’s an unstoppable book!

I read this week in Foxes’ Book of Martyrs about a man who tried to buy up all the Bibles translated into English to stop them from being distributed. And he sent someone to buy them from William Tyndale, the translator himself. Do you think that Tyndale would sell his Bibles so that they would get burned?

He did! But he said, “Go ahead and take these. Then I’ll have the money to get out of debt and print some more. I have some corrections I want to make to make the new translations even better. And people will be incensed that you incinerated these Bibles, so they will buy more of them from me.”

And in the end, there were more Bibles than ever before!

It’s an unstoppable book! Three cheers for the Bible! Hip, hip, hooray!

But don’t just cheer it on. Read it for yourself. Hear it. Take it to heart. Open up the pages. And it take it deadly seriously. Including the warnings.

J.I. Packer once said that Jehoiakim’s burning of God’s Word was like “getting out of a car to destroy a 'Bridge Out' sign: done at one's own peril.”

The Word of God calls us to repent, to shuv, to turn. We ignore it at our own peril. But if we truly take it seriously, then we will experience revival.

And you’ll never believe what the King might do if we believe in the words on the scroll!


Previous Messages in This Series:

01. "The Word of the LORD Came to Me" - Jeremiah 1:1-19
02. "I Bring Charges Against You" - Jeremiah 2:1-3:5
03. "Return to Me" - Jeremiah 3:6-4:4
04. “Oh My Anguish, My Anguish!” - Jeremiah 4:6-5:31
05. "Ask for the Ancient Paths" - Jeremiah 6:1-30
06. “This Is the Temple of the LORD, the Temple of the LORD, the Temple of the LORD!” - Jeremiah 7:1-8:3
07. "Is There No Balm in Gilead?" - Jeremiah 8:4-9:22
08. "Boast About This" - Jeremiah 9:23-24
09. "Like a Scarecrow in a Melon Patch" - Jeremiah 9:25-10:25
10. "Conspiracy" - Jeremiah 11:1-12:17
11. “My People For My Renown” - Jeremiah 13:1-27
12. "I Can No Longer Show Compassion" - Jeremiah 14:1-15:21
13. "I Have Withdrawn My Blessing, My Love and My Pity" - Jeremiah 16:1-21
14. "I the LORD Search the Heart" - Jeremiah 17:1-27
15. "Go Down to the Potter's House" - Jeremiah 18:1-19:15
16. “Insult and Reproach All Day Long” - Jeremiah 20:1-18
17. "Woe to the Shepherds" - Jeremiah 21:1-23:8
18. "I Did Not Send These Prophets" - Jeremiah 23:9-40
19. "“My Eyes Will Watch Over Them For Their Good” - Jeremiah 24:1-25:38
20. "This Man Should Be Sentenced to Death" - Jeremiah 26:1-24
21. “Under the Yoke” - Jeremiah 27:1-28:17
22. “I Know the Plans I Have for You” - Jeremiah 29:1-32
23. "I Will Surely Save You Out of a Distant Land" - Jeremiah 30:1-24
24. “I Have Loved You With An Everlasting Love” - Jeremiah 31:1-26
25. "A New Covenant" - Jeremiah 31:27-40
26. "Buy the Field" - Jeremiah 32:1-44
27. "Great and Unsearchable Things" - Jeremiah 33:1-26