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On The Scripture

Jehoiakim, Jeremiah 36

{7} The law of the LORD is perfect, reviving the soul. The statutes of the LORD are trustworthy, making wise the simple. {8} The precepts of the LORD are right, giving joy to the heart. The commands of the LORD are radiant, giving light to the eyes. {9} The fear of the LORD is pure, enduring forever. The ordinances of the LORD are sure and altogether righteous. {10} They are more precious than gold, than much pure gold; they are sweeter than honey, than honey from the comb. {11} By them is your servant warned; in keeping them there is great reward. -- Psalms 19:7-11 (NIV)

In this paean to the Scripture we find the attitude of the ancient Jew at its highest point. These are the words of a man who is enraptured - and no wonder. This morning we will look at another man, and his reaction -- quite a different one.

The story is briefly told. Jeremiah is commanded by God to dictate a scroll to Baruch. He then tells Baruch to read it aloud at a fast day, when there would be a great crowd. The princes, after making sure this was Jeremiah’s writing and not Baruch’s, ask for the scroll to read to the king.

The king is in the winter portion of his palace; a firepot is at hand. As his own man reads the scroll, piece by piece he cuts it off and throws it into the firepot. Jeremiah responds to this by rewriting the scroll, and pronouncing doom upon the king.

It remains for us, then, to see just what the fuss is about.

Characteristics of the Scripture


{6} And the words of the LORD are flawless, like silver refined in a furnace of clay, purified seven times. -- Psalms 12:6 (NIV)

The Word never “returns void”

{10} As the rain and the snow come down from heaven, and do not return to it without watering the earth and making it bud and flourish, so that it yields seed for the sower and bread for the eater, {11} so is my word that goes out from my mouth: It will not return to me empty, but will accomplish what I desire and achieve the purpose for which I sent it. -- Isaiah 55:10-11 (NIV)

The uses of Scripture

{15} and how from infancy you have known the holy Scriptures, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus. {16} All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, {17} so that the man of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work. -- 2 Timothy 3:15-17 (NIV)

Note the uses of the Scripture:

·         teaching

·         rebuking

·         correcting

·         training in righteousness

the result of which is that we may be “thoroughly equipped for every good work.” Scripture, despite its most rabid defenders, is not intended to be a science textbook.

Enduring Forever

{22} Now that you have purified yourselves by obeying the truth so that you have sincere love for your brothers, love one another deeply, from the heart. {23} For you have been born again, not of perishable seed, but of imperishable, through the living and enduring word of God. {24} For, "All men are like grass, and all their glory is like the flowers of the field; the grass withers and the flowers fall, {25} but the word of the Lord stands forever." And this is the word that was preached to you. -- 1 Peter 1:22-25 (NIV)

We need not worry about the Bible fading away -- we need to work until the day comes when God takes the church out of the world.

The Example of Jehoiakim

{29} 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 cut off both men and animals from it?" {30} 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. {31} 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.'" -- Jeremiah 36:29-31 (NIV)

The prophecy is quite literally fulfilled. According to Josephus, he was dragged out of the city by the Babylonians, dragged behind a chariot until dead -- and left there to rot. His son, Jehoiachin, ruled for three months -- until his uncle Zedekiah was placed on the throne. No further descendants of the line of Jehoiakim were ever to reign. Indeed, it goes so far as to pronounce this curse on his son, also known as Coniah or Jeconiah, who was an ancestor of Joseph -- but not of Mary.

{32} 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. -- Jeremiah 36:32 (NIV)

Note that the word of God does not “fade away;” in fact, it comes back with more added from the Lord.

Benefits of Following the Scripture

Keeping yourself from violence

{4} As for the deeds of men-- by the word of your lips I have kept myself from the ways of the violent. -- Psalms 17:4 (NIV)

How many of us are beset by the sin of anger? Here is the cure.

Man does not live by bread alone

{3} He humbled you, causing you to hunger and then feeding you with manna, which neither you nor your fathers had known, to teach you that man does not live on bread alone but on every word that comes from the mouth of the LORD. -- Deuteronomy 8:3 (NIV)

You wondered where Christ got that quotation? It is an object lesson of the Lord to the ancient Jew. Your body can survive on bread and water -- but man cannot live by bread alone. The spirit must be nourished as well as the body, and it will find nourishment where it can. And if the spirit is not properly fed? The body gives us the lesson.

Blessings to those who meditate on it

{1:1} Blessed is the man who does not walk in the counsel of the wicked or stand in the way of sinners or sit in the seat of mockers. {2} But his delight is in the law of the LORD, and on his law he meditates day and night. {3} He is like a tree planted by streams of water, which yields its fruit in season and whose leaf does not wither. Whatever he does prospers. -- Psalms 1:1-3 (NIV)

Note the characteristics given here. The man meditates on the law of the Lord. He doesn’t just read it; he thinks about it and applies it to his life. The result is someone who is not blown about by every little thing, but one who is solid -- one who can endure a drought of good news.


{4} For everything that was written in the past was written to teach us, so that through endurance and the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope. -- Romans 15:4 (NIV)

Is there anything better for endurance than encouragement? Run with patience.

The Scriptures point to Jesus

{3} For what I received I passed on to you as of first importance : that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, {4} that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures,

-- 1 Corinthians 15:3-4 (NIV)

All of Scripture - every bit of it, really - points to the coming and ministry of Christ. It is the point of the whole thing. To read the Scriptures and not see Jesus as the Son of God, the Christ, God in the flesh -- is to miss the point.

The Scripture acts on us

{12} For the word of God is living and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart. -- Hebrews 4:12 (NIV)

Note the phrasing:

·         it is living -- not a dead letter from long ago.

·         It is active -- it causes change in us.

·         it judges -- it convicts of sin, judgment to come, and salvation through Jesus.

How We Got the Bible

There is a school of thought -- literal inspiration -- that holds that every word of the Bible (probably in King James English) was dictated, word for word, by God. This is patently not so. I consider it blasphemously limiting to God, bordering upon impeaching the Incarnation. The Scripture itself gives us clues to the variety of ways in which it was originally created:

Direct Writing

{16} The tablets were the work of God; the writing was the writing of God, engraved on the tablets. -- Exodus 32:16 (NIV)

Directly Spoken

{2} "This is what the LORD, the God of Israel, says: 'Write in a book all the words I have spoken to you. -- Jeremiah 30:2 (NIV)

Directly Shown

{19} "Write, therefore, what you have seen, what is now and what will take place later. -- Revelation 1:19 (NIV)

Diligently Researched

{1:1} Many have undertaken to draw up an account of the things that have been fulfilled among us, {2} just as they were handed down to us by those who from the first were eyewitnesses and servants of the word. {3} Therefore, since I myself have carefully investigated everything from the beginning, it seemed good also to me to write an orderly account for you, most excellent Theophilus, {4} so that you may know the certainty of the things you have been taught. -- Luke 1:1-4 (NIV)

Written by the hand of men

{15} Bear in mind that our Lord's patience means salvation, just as our dear brother Paul also wrote you with the wisdom that God gave him. {16} He writes the same way in all his letters, speaking in them of these matters. His letters contain some things that are hard to understand, which ignorant and unstable people distort, as they do the other Scriptures, to their own destruction. -- 2 Peter 3:15-16 (NIV)

We see Paul here as the “living pen” of God. This explains why his style of Greek is so different from John, as John’s is from Peter or Luke.

Summary: many times, many ways

{1:1} In the past God spoke to our forefathers through the prophets at many times and in various ways, {2} but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed heir of all things, and through whom he made the universe. -- Hebrews 1:1-2 (NIV)

There you have the some of it: the original Bible was created in a variety of ways -- but always it was God “speaking through” men. But then -- can you trust the copy?

The Xerox Problem

Note how very carefully Baruch handles the word:


{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.

-- Jeremiah 36:4 (NIV)


{18} "Yes," Baruch replied, "he dictated all these words to me, and I wrote them in ink on the scroll." -- Jeremiah 36:18 (NIV)

This is typical of the care with which the ancient scribes handled the Scripture. There is a school of thought in popular imagination which runs like this: "You can't really trust what the Bible says because it's so old. After all, it wasn't written until hundreds of years after the fact, from some oral legend. And even then there were all those copying errors. It's riddled with mistakes and superstitions. How can you know what's true in it?" And so we have the picture of "scholars" voting on which of the sayings in the Bible belong to the "historical Jesus."

There is only one problem with this theory. It's false. It's not even close to the truth. It is a convenient way out for the "intellectual mind." In brief:

1. There is far more manuscript evidence for the Bible than for any other ancient book. If the nit-picking done on Scriptures was done on any other ancient book, we would be completely ignorant of anything before the printing press.

2. Much of this evidence comes from the enemies of the church. When your opponents quote you, in attacking you, they are not likely to construct a fraud which can only be perpetrated hundreds of years later.

3. The theory that there are thousands of errors is a misstatement of a fact. If one copyist makes a mistake, and a hundred others copy it accurately, how many mistakes do you count? The opponents of Scripture count this in hundreds. In fact, it stands as evidence for Scripture - that these errors can be tracked from copyist to copyist tells us with what diligence the copying was done.

4. The archeological evidence is overwhelming. If Luke lists his travels from place to place, then we should be able to follow them. Names, places, dates - all these things show up in coins and artifacts. If you start with the theory that the Bible must be wrong you can certainly find evidence to fit it. But if you start with an open mind, nothing but the account of Scripture explains nearly as well. It is always well to check for assumptions and circular reasoning.

5. The internal evidence of the Bible is another one. If this is fraud, then it is the greatest literary invention of ancient times. No other work of fiction uses this style of writing until the 1800s. When you consider how many authors were involved, the chance that this is so is beyond possibility.

Handling the Scripture


The Scripture contains many warnings. Perhaps none is so severe as this warning to our Bible Burner:

Warning to the people:

{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." -- Jeremiah 36:3 (NIV)

I recall David Reagan saying that God never brings judgment on a people without warning them first. Here it is (and it’s not unique, America).

Reason for the Judgment

{3} Surely these things happened to Judah according to the Lord's command, in order to remove them from his presence because of the sins of Manasseh and all he had done, -- 2 Kings 24:3 (NIV)

Personal Warning to the King

{18} Therefore this is what the LORD says about Jehoiakim son of Josiah king of Judah: "They will not mourn for him: 'Alas, my brother! Alas, my sister!' They will not mourn for him: 'Alas, my master! Alas, his splendor!' {19} He will have the burial of a donkey-- dragged away and thrown outside the gates of Jerusalem." -- Jeremiah 22:18-19 (NIV)

Warnings against “taking the Lord’s name in vain.”

{29} "Is not my word like fire," declares the LORD, "and like a hammer that breaks a rock in pieces? {30} "Therefore," declares the LORD, "I am against the prophets who steal from one another words supposedly from me.

-- Jeremiah 23:29-30 (NIV)

Blasphemy is putting words into God’s mouth. If you proclaim your thoughts as his word, his word will come like fire; like a hammer to shatter you. God is indeed jealous of the sanctity of His Word.

Sanctity of His Word

{2} Do not add to what I command you and do not subtract from it, but keep the commands of the LORD your God that I give you. -- Deuteronomy 4:2 (NIV)

{18} I warn everyone who hears the words of the prophecy of this book: If anyone adds anything to them, God will add to him the plagues described in this book. {19} And if anyone takes words away from this book of prophecy, God will take away from him his share in the tree of life and in the holy city, which are described in this book. -- Revelation 22:18-19 (NIV)

Positive Commands
Signs and Posters from the bookstore

{18} Fix these words of mine in your hearts and minds; tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads. {19} Teach them to your children, talking about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up. {20} Write them on the doorframes of your houses and on your gates, {21} so that your days and the days of your children may be many in the land that the LORD swore to give your forefathers, as many as the days that the heavens are above the earth. -- Deuteronomy 11:18-21 (NIV)

Do you ever wonder why Christians seem to buy so many signs, posters, gimcracks, etc. to proclaim their faith? Perhaps they are following a good example, as set forth here. Note the promise: not only long life for you, but long life for your children. But it is not sufficient just to read and be reminded.

Working with the Scripture

{15} Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a workman who does not need to be ashamed and who correctly handles the word of truth. -- 2 Timothy 2:15 (NIV)

Bible study is work; indeed, why do we call it “study?” You need not only to read it -- as if it were nothing more than a book of magic formulae -- but to study it carefully. Ask, for each study, “what does this mean in my life?” But this too is not sufficient. If the heart is changed, it must bear fruit.

The fruit: doing the word

{22} Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says. -- James 1:22 (NIV)

There are the questions:

·         Are you reading the word?

·         Are you working it into your life?

·         Are you doing it, and not just hearing it?

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