Jeremiah 36:24

The king's knife and fire did what they could to destroy the prophet's word, but with what result this chapter shows. The king was Jehoiakim; the prophet, Jeremiah; the word, his written prophecies. It was necessary that these should be written down. The army of Babylon was already in the land, and drawing near to the doomed city of Jerusalem, if they had not already captured it for the first time. There was no hope of successful resistance. Therefore, for a testimony when all that had been foretold came to pass, and for a solace and warning to that and to all coming generations, it was necessary that the twenty-three years' witness which the prophet had borne against that guilty nation should be put on record. Jeremiah was "shut up," whether by his own will, or the word of the Lord, or for fear of his enemies, we cannot certainly say; but Baruch, who seems to have been to Jeremiah as Timothy to Paul, was commanded to write these prophecies, and then, on the "fasting day," to read them in the hearing of all the people. He did so. One of his hearers, alarmed and troubled, hastened away to the council of the princes, and told them what he had heard. Baruch was sent for, and declared again what he had before read to the people. The book was too terrible to show to the king; they therefore commanded that it and its author should be concealed, whilst they went in to the king to announce its fearful contents. A third time these prophecies were recited, but the king demanded that the book itself should be read to him. But when brought and the reading had begun, the angry king had no patience to listen beyond the first three or four leaves, but snatching it from the hand of the reader, he vented his rage upon it by cutting and hacking it with his knife, and then, to make short work of it, cast it, in spite of the horror-stricken entreaties of his princes, into the burning coals before him, where it was utterly consumed. Then he commands, but in vain, for "the Lord hid them," that Baruch and Jeremiah be arrested; but the Lord commands that these prophecies be written again, which was done, with the doom of the king added, and "beside them many like words." But this King Jehoiakim, in his dealing with the Word of God, and in its dealing with him, has had many successors. He is the type of -

I. THOSE WHO ARE IMPATIENT WITH THE WORD OF GOD. Jehoiakim only heard three or four leaves read, when he put a stop to the reading altogether in the foolish way we have seen. He would not hear the whole. Did any man ever destroy the Bible who knew it wholly? Many have thrown it into the fire who have heard or read a part only. The difficulty is in the "three or four leaves." How many stumble because they won't read on!

II. THOSE WHO BECOME VERY ANGRY WITH THE BIBLE. To men of this king's stamp the Bible has not one word of comfort, commendation, or hope. It is all full of thunder and storm. It is a dreadful book to the impenitent, No wonder that he snatches it from the reader's hand, and hacks at it with his knife, and then flings it into the blazing fire. Yes; be like this king, and you will do as he did, and be done unto as he.


1. Some would only partly do this. They admit a large amount of good in the book; they only desire to cut out what they think is otherwise. Theologians use their penknives. They practically put out of the Bible what makes against their favourite ideas. Science seems to be forever at this miserable cutting. Philosophy is equally guilty; but sin is worst of all. It loves not the hard things the Bible will keep saying against it; therefore it would cut them out - only it cannot.

2. There are those who would destroy the book altogether. What Bible burnings there have been! The histories of pagan and Romish persecutions are full of them. Are there none now? What is the difference between such burning and utter disregard of the book as too many are guilty of? If we trample it underfoot, in our hearts, our lips, our lives, how could burning it be any worse?

IV. THOSE WHO FIND THE BIBLE TOO STRONG FOR THEM. "O Galilaean, thou hast conquered!" said the Emperor Julian shortly before he died. And that has been the confession in regard to the Word of God on the part of all those who have tried to destroy it (ver. 30). The Word of God can neither be bound nor burned. It has been cut, cast into flames, proscribed, branded, corrupted, and treated with every conceivable form of opprobrium; but here it is today, a living and mighty factor in the lives of the foremost men and nations throughout the whole world. And the ungodly who practically seek to destroy it for themselves, they will find they cannot do this. Its truths will come back, its teachings reassert themselves, and will add beside "many like words" - C.

Yet they were not afraid.
Is it conceivable that men who believed Jeremiah to be a prophet of God should despise his words? Is it credible that, after preaching for twenty years, those who listened to him should think him a prophet, and yet throw his sermons in the fire? I am afraid this is very conceivable and very credible: I see nothing in it a whir more incredible than in this, that men who dare not deny the Bible to be the Word of God, should know what is right and not do it, that they should have warning of a far more fearful captivity than that which was coming on the Jews, and yet should never tremble. The king of Judah and his people were not in the condition of men who had been sinning in ignorance, and to whom a sudden message had come from God to warn them to repent; they had no excuse of this kind, they had been deliberately disobeying God in spite of the warnings of Jeremiah, they had sinned against light, as we say, and so they had become blinded and hardened. At first probably, when they heard the prophet, they felt that they were living wickedly and made resolutions to amend, but by and by temptation came again and they gave way; then once more they would hear the warning voice, but somehow it would not this time be so terrible. Is it difficult to find examples of the like thing now? of men who by little and little fall from one sin to another, who have been taught as children the way of God and have been told of heaven and hell, and so are scared at first when they think that "the wages of sin is death"; but by and by this truth seems to lose its edge, sin has gained more hold, and Satan has said as he did to Eve, "Ye shall not surely die"; one sin leads to another, and each seems easier than the one before it; things which once appeared frightful now seem simple and familiar, and thus after a time the man becomes hardened. This is what the confession of many criminals confirms, they trace their wretchedness hack to some much smaller sin committed when young: a boy disobeys his parents, and perhaps would not believe you if you told him that he had taken one step towards the gallows; and let this may be true. This I understand by the deceitfulness of sin, to which the apostle refers its hardening power (Hebrews 3:13); it is deceitful, because what we call a small sin appears trifling, because we judge of sins merely in themselves, without considering to what they lead. If in a war a general were to see a few of the enemy's soldiers straggling over the hills, he might say that they were so few that they were not worth considering, but would he say so? or would he not rather look upon them as the forerunners of a great army, would he not prepare at once to resist the host of enemies which he must know lurked behind? In like manner the sins of childhood are the forerunners of the great army of the world, the flesh, and the devil, which comes up in maturer years, and the only safe course is to look upon no sin as trifling, but to root out every enemy whether small or great, lest perhaps we allow our enemy to gain such strength as shall end in our over. throw. We will consider first the ease of a man who seldom or never goes to church. Now I suppose the reason such a man would give is, that he does not see the use of it. Did he always think so? Most probably he had been taught differently when a child, he had been taught that God is with His people gathered together in His Name, that our Lord Jesus Christ is there; he was taught this, and he once believed it, but now he thinks he is as well at home: how has this change come about? has he reasoned about it? probably not at all: has any one for whom he has any respect told him so? certainly not: then what has changed him? it is the effect of habit; he has been "hardened by the deceitfulness of sin." What I have just said will apply almost without change to the case of a man who never prays. He was taught to pray as a child, and perhaps he continues the practice, till at length, because he does not act up to his prayers, he finds the practice tiresome, and so he finds an excuse to omit prayer occasionally; then he grows more careless and more irregular, and yet the omission costs him less and less pain, till at last the time comes when he forgets God altogether, and so starves his soul to death. Or again, what shall we say of those who continually hear of their duty, and do not do it, or at all events do it in a very stinted degree? One man is just and kind and liberal, being scarcely aware of it himself, and another is stingy and churlish, not because he thinks it right to be so, but because he has become hardened. It is a thing for every one of us to think over and pray over, whether we are in all things following God without reserve, and whether there may not be some point in which we are falling very grievously short, but to which habit has hardened us.

(Bishop Harvey Goodwin.)

A celebrated infidel once said, "There is one thing which mars all the pleasure of my life." "Indeed," replied his friend; "what is that? I am afraid the Bible is true," was the answer. "If I could know for certain that death is an eternal sleep, I should be happy — my joy would be complete. But here is the thorn that stings me — this is the sword that pierces my very soul: if the Bible is true, I am lost for ever." This is the Bible upon the truths of which many have lived, and in the belief of which many have died. Oh, how terribly afraid would they have been if anyone had been able to show that it was untrue! For upon its truths all their hopes are built. An untrue Bible would mean an untrue Christ; and a Christless death would be a death of doom to them.


I. IT IS A FOOLISH BRAVERY TO IGNORE FACTS. Just that did Jehoiakim. It was a fact that he had sinned. It was a fact that Jeremiah was God's prophet. It was a fact that God, by the mouth of Jeremiah, had spoken doom for the sin of Jehoiakim unless he should repent. But Jehoiakim would have nothing of these facts. He cut the roll to pieces and threw it in the fire, &c. This did not change the facts.

1. It is a fact that good is what ought to be.

2. It is a fact that God is the good.

3. It is a fact that evil is what ought not to be.

4. It is a fact that the good which ought to be must be against the evil which ought not to be.

5. It is therefore a fact that God, who is the good which ought to be, must be Himself against the evil which ought not to be.

6. It is, therefore, a further fact that if I choose the evil which ought not to be, the good God, who must be against the evil which ought not to be, must be against me.

II. IT IS A FOOLISH BRAVERY TO IMAGINE YOURSELF AN EXCEPTION FROM THE WORKING OF THE DIVINE LAW. Have you never been subdued into a vast awe, as the absolute irreversibleness of natural law has been pressed upon you? It is because natural law is so unchanging that we may build our cities, and send our ships, and plough our fields, and reap our harvests. But there is another and a fearful side to this irreversibleness of natural law. When, for any reason, man stands athwart one of these great natural laws, the penalty for violation is sure to smite. And this is as true in the moral realm. It is a foolish bravery to think yourself an exception to God's law. He said it — there am many who think it who do not so plainly say it — that young man, whom I was seeking to dissuade from courses of dissipation. "Oh," he answered, "it may hurt other fellows, but it won't me; I am an exception." How crammed with folly such temerity!




(W. Hoyt, D. D.)

1. The man who hears God's threatenings without being afraid, and His kind invitations and promises without being melted, does in effect say to His face, I consider nothing which Thou canst utter as of sufficient importance to excite the smallest emotion; neither Thy favour nor Thy displeasure is of the least consequence to me; I dread not Thy threatenings, I regard not Thy promises; after Thou hast said all that Thou canst say, I remain perfectly unmoved, and prepared to execute, not Thy pleasure, but my own. And if this does not express the utmost contempt of God, what can express it?

2. This sin also involves and indicates the highest degree of unbelief, of that unbelief which makes God a liar. When a man brings us intelligence of most important events, of events in which, if true, we are deeply interested, we cannot tell him more plainly that we disbelieve everything which he has said, than by remaining perfectly unaffected. He then who is but in a small degree affected by God's Word, has but little faith in it, and he who is not at all affected by it has no faith in it at all. He is as completely an infidel as anyone who ever gloried in the name.

3. Those who hear or read the Word of God without being affected, display extreme hardness of heart. They show that their hearts are absolutely unimpressible by any motives or considerations which infinite wisdom itself can suggest; that they are of so much more than flinty hardness, as to resist that Word which God Himself declares to be like a fire, and a hammer, that breaketh the rock in pieces.

(E. Payson, D. D.)

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