Saturday, January 20, 2018

Up in Smoke

Recently as I was giving my servants their morning chores (in other words I was loading the dishwasher and starting the washing machine), I was listening to my audio Bible.  As usual, I was lost in listening.  Suddenly I gasped aloud in shock.  From the other room my surprised husband called out to find out what was wrong.  Here’s the story…

One winter long ago, Jeremiah was under house arrest in Jerusalem.  At the Lord’s instruction he sent for a scribe, Baruch, and dictated the entirety of the Lord’s prophecy up to that point to him.  (As an exercise imagine copying Jeremiah 1-35 by dictation).  When Baruch had finished painstakingly copying all the words that God had given to Jeremiah, the prophet sent him to the temple to read it aloud to all the people gathered for the fast day.  

Can you imagine the scribe reading aloud in the chambers in the gate?  See the people on their way to pray and fast, pausing to hear the doom and the sorrow that the Lord had proclaimed against them?  Feel Jeremiah and the Lord's hope that the people might repent?  

One of those passerbys was Micaiah.  He rushed down to tell his dad Gemariah in the scribes chamber.  Hearing about it they sent a messenger to bring Baruch down to read it to them.  He came and appalled they asked “Did Jeremiah dictate this to you?”  They knew they had to tell the King. 

Now what do you imagine happened next?  Remember even when ancient kings weren’t good or godly, they were superstitious.  Think of the King of Ninevah when Jonah proclaimed their doom.  He issued a decree to have all of the city clothed in sackcloth and ashes and genuinely repented.  So what did the son of David, the king of God’s people do?

He called for the scroll and had the messenger read it to him.  He was sitting in the winter palace surrounded by his servants and the scribes who first heard the word, warming himself in front of a brazier (think like an old fashioned kerosene heater but with an open flame).  He listened to 3 or 4 columns of the scroll read aloud, then he cut them off the scroll with a knife and threw them into the fire in front of him.  Literally he sent the word of God up in smoke.

I hope you are feeling as appalled as I was as I listened to the story.  It’s as if I hand wrote a letter to a loved one, warning them of danger, full of love and fear, and they cut it into pieces and burned it out of spite.  It is as if they spit in the face of God.  I wasn't even there, and I was afraid for them!

The scribes begged him not to do this evil thing but the Bible has this indictment: 

“Yet the king and all his servants who heard all these words were not afraid, nor did they rend their garments.” Jeremiah 36:24


As I turned my audiobook off and took off my headphones to explain to my husband what was so shocking, I got to thinking.  What could I do that would be the equivalent?

To be fair the odds of me cutting parts of my Bible out and throwing them in the fire are very slim.  Yet, there might be hard parts, things that challenge my day to day life, things that warn me of what I MUST do or face God’s wrath that I ignore.  I might love my comforts, my time, my quiet life more than I love God’s truth or desire to do His word.  I might find myself angry and defensive when someone brings me correction that I desperately need.  I might be cold and defiant in the face of God’s rebuke, no longer moved by the horror of my sin, thus hearing the word without being afraid or tearing the garments of my heart. 

Here is God’s conclusion for the King:

“He shall have no one to sit on the throne of David, and his dead body shall be cast out to the heat of the day and the frost of the night. I will also punish him and his descendants and his servants for their iniquity, and I will bring on them and the inhabitants of Jerusalem and the men of Judah all the calamity that I have declared to them-but they did not listen.” (Jeremiah 36:30-31)

God save us from such an end.


PS.  If you've been enjoying what you are reading, I'd love to encourage to subscribe.  When you do I'll send you the free Ebook 12 Lord's Supper Devotionals.  Each devotional is aimed at helping you focus your attention before communion and bite-sized for reading over coffee on Sunday morning if you have a pew filled with wiggly little ones.  See a sample here. 

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  1. I really loved this part, Helene: "I might love my comforts, my time, my quiet life more than I love God’s truth or desire to do His word. I might find myself angry and defensive when someone brings me correction that I desperately need." I'm much the same. May we be disgusted when we see the depth of our sin and may our hearts remain soft toward things of God!

    1. Amen! I need to be reminded every day how ugly my sin and how great my Savior!

  2. I like the comparison you share with Jeremiah and how we might throw things away or might think to. Thanks for sharing at Sunday Scripture Blessings. :)

    Peabea@Peabea Scribbles

  3. You're right - we might not physically cut up our Bibles and burn the pages, but in our hearts we often burn the parts that we don't want to hear. Convicting. Thanks for sharing! (I'm visiting from Sunday Scripture Blessings)

    1. I know I have been guilty of closing my eyes if not burning the book! Glad to hear I am not alone!

  4. This is such a convicting post, Helene. Thank you for shedding light on this passage to help me see it in a way I hadn't before! It's so easy to read such stories and say, "I would never do that!" And, yet, I do the equivalent all the time. Wow. How thankful I am for a merciful God Who gives me His mercy and grace because of Jesus. Thank you for being used of God today!

    1. Jerusha, I had a wonderful Bible class once that focused on applying the word and one of the things I learned was to ask, "What would it look like if I did what _____ did?" Sometimes that brings me to a really positive place, "What would it look like if I hoped against hope like Jeremiah did?" and sometimes a negative one, "What would it look like if I sent the word of God up in smoke like the King did?"

  5. Helene, I'm reading in Jeremiah right now and haven't made it to chapter 35 yet, but Jeremiah's words are fiery all the way through. No wonder a selfish and fearful king wanted to obliterate the truth. As believers, we claim to love the truth, but, as you pointed out so well, we don't always receive it well.

  6. I loved your retelling of the story, sometimes it is so nice to hear the bible told in a different way.

    1. Thanks! Reading the word well takes some imagination. It’s good to hear another voice sometimes tell the same old story.