God tells Jeremiah to write down all the words God’s given him in a scroll, from the time he first began speaking to him until the present day. God’s motive is clear: he hopes his people will hear them and repent, “‘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,’” 36:3.
Though Jeremiah has already spoken God’s words at various times, writing them down will make them easy to read over again, and not necessarily by Jeremiah, who has gotten banished from the temple. I’m guessing God’s wanting the combined effect of all the prophecies read at one time to be strong enough to inspire repentance.
So Jeremiah dictates all God’s words to Baruch, his scribe. That Jeremiah remembered them all is something of a miracle. Maybe he took notes on scraps of paper he has lying around, or God brought his words back to mind. It’s not like God would have forgotten them.
It’s a convenient time for Jeremiah to be working on this scroll since he’s confined from public appearances at present. God makes use of his downtime, even downtime he wasn’t expecting. Paul’s letters to the churches he planted were written during his imprisonment in Rome, too. God uses our confinements for his purposes.
It’s a minor thing compared to these guys, but my hand injury of a few weeks ago that got me putting my Bible journal on my computer rather than handwriting it, feels like a similar sort of “making use of my confinement.” I’ve been wondering when I’d have the time to get all of my handwritten journals here as a daily devotional, but now, I guess it’s happening. I realized as I transitioned to the computer that this was an effortless way to do it: just begin to write all the days going forward by computer and cut and paste them into this blog.
I feel silly comparing my writing to Jeremiah’s or Paul’s, but something Darlene Brock said last night in the G&G writers’ meeting inspired me to believe that God can use what I write in ways I’ll never know and shouldn’t minimize. Of course, it’s not my words that need to get out there, it’s his. But mine can be window dressing, the “spoonful of sugar that helps the medicine go down.” God once used a donkey talking, after all.
As for Jeremiah and Baruch, Baruch goes to the temple and reads the scroll. Micaiah is a good guy who listens and thinks the palace officials should hear about this scroll, so he goes and tells them. They send for Baruch to read to them, understanding that Jeremiah and God are behind it. When they hear the whole thing, “they looked at each other in fear” and said they had to report it to the king (http://www.enduringword.com)
At first I thought it was because they were convicted of their sin that they’re afraid, but it’s more likely that they’re afraid of the king and what he’ll do. He’d already killed Uriah, who had the same message. So they warned Jeremiah and Baruch to hide. Though the king has to be told, telling him won’t endear them to him.
It’s winter. The king is sitting in an apartment in his palace in front of a fire. It should be a cozy setting, but the coldness with which King Jehoiakim receives the words is chilling. Whenever three or four columns of the scroll are read, the king cuts them off and tosses them in the fire in front of him. The officials who’d brought the scroll urge him not to burn it, but “he would not listen to them,” 25. Instead, he orders his men to arrest Baruch and Jeremiah. “But the Lord had hidden them,” 26.
Jehoiakim is defiant as he hears God’s written words. He doesn’t just listen and disbelieve them, or decide to go about his business and ignore them, which would be bad enough. He deliberately destroys them, showing his disdain not only for Jeremiah and his prophecies, but for God himself.
It’s a very different response to the word of God than his father Josiah had, who didn’t tear up the words but tore his clothes instead and wept when he heard them for the first time.
Jehoiakim slicing up the scroll and burning it was a kind of violence intended to destroy it, as if by destroying the words he could prevent what they said. But burning God’s words wasn’t going to stop what was coming.
God’s words prevail. They can’t be destroyed because God himself preserves them. He hides his prophet and scribe so they can’t be killed. He tells them to get another scroll and to make another copy of the very same words again. And he sends Jeremiah back to Jehoiakim to tell him he’ll be judged for his destruction: his body won’t be buried and his sons won’t reign. Jehoiakim is destroyed, but not God’s word.
God’s judgments are often uniquely suited to the crime. Jehoiakim sought to burn up God’s word in the privacy of his mancave, but God says his body will rot from exposure to extremes of heat and cold out in public, in the open air for all to see. Instead of protecting his people from judgment by destroying God’s words, Jehoiakim brought judgment upon them because he refused to heed what God said. Right after the book burning, God said, “‘I will bring on…the people of Judah every disaster I pronounced against them because they have not listened,’” 36:31.
When I think about what it is that God wants from Jehoiakim and his people, it’s simply for them to listen and repent. He’s not asking for difficult acts of service, like twice the number of sacrifices at the temple. He’s not wanting to raise taxes and tithes or take away the simple pleasures of weddings and childbirth and wine. He’s asking for them to worship him who created them and to obey his laws that were given for their good.
What does God really care about their keeping the Sabbath or not murdering one another? These things are for their benefit, not his. He’s good, he’s Almighty God, apart from whether or not they live as they should.
But they’re not good living apart from God and his laws. They’re rotting from the inside out. They’ve become oppressive, unjust, greedy, lustful, proud, hard of hearing and believing, unconcerned for the poor. Their society cannot live-long-and-prosper by neglecting the basics of God’s words and ways, the ways of civilized societies. God is wanting to avert their disaster, a disaster they’re bringing upon themselves and oblivious.
The “good life” is life lived with the good God. He loves them and longs for them. He knows what they need—his people don’t. They’re distracted by idol worship, by child sacrifice, by lewdness with one another at the temple. But God’s determined to at least get their attention. He continues to pursue and press the issue: The Babylonians are coming! The Babylonians are coming!
The coming disaster is designed to wake them up to an even worse one looming: their eternal demise by their own devices. Scholars guesstimate that Jeremiah and Baruch served God’s people for 20 more years from the time of this scroll burning event (Guzik). That’s a long time to keep trying to get a message heard. I can’t imagine writing and speaking for over 20 years and not having a single person pay attention, much less turn around. (I feel impatient if my blog isn’t ready everyday.)
Eventually, God does bring the destruction he so wanted them to avoid, but he does it with a heavy heart. It’s not his choice for them. It’s theirs.
God, we’re stupid people, bent on doing what we please and ignoring you. We, too, slice off the parts of your words we don’t like. Just last week, I was tempted to ignore Paul’s words to Timothy about women not leading at church and at home because Eve was deceived by the serpent and not Adam.
I don’t like to read about a woman’s “place” because I’m afraid that you side with men, who’ve been oppressive to women. But you aren’t the oppressor: you’re the rescuer, the freedom fighter. You condemn oppression in all its forms. Your words don’t kick women down, they give them wings.
The very passage I was afraid of turned out to teach me how submission is part of who you are and how you operate. Surely you aren’t oppressed or diminished by it. Submission is part of your son’s beauty and is why he’s lifted up and exalted. I don’t have to be afraid of it because you’re in it. And besides, you love me.
I’m thinking that accepting my role makes me beautiful, too. Submission is your design for how I reflect you, not a valuation of my worth to you. Jesus’ blood is a valuation of me that nothing can add to or take away from. There’s nothing more precious than his blood for any of us.
Forgive me for ignoring your words for so long in my life and for still, not liking them very much at times. Thank you for teaching me and not keeping them from me because I’ve failed to appreciate them in the past. They’re words of life and love for me. How I love my time with them, even though I have to drag my feet to the sofa to start.
They spring up green and bloom before I leave. Joy and worship burst open inside my chest.
So I believe.
1 Timothy 4
Gee, I spent an awful lot of time in Jeremiah. I’m tempted to skimp in Timothy. Please keep the clock quiet.
There’s general instruction about treating people in the church with respect to their ages—older men and women as fathers and mothers, younger ones as brothers and sisters. This is a family, after all. Keep it clean and pure. ✅.
Then Paul gives instructions for widows, both for ones under and over 60. Interesting to me, the cut-off age for a widow being considered eligible for remarriage and ineligible for church assistance. I agree that 60 is a clear line in the sand of a woman’s desirability for marriage. There’s something about us 60-year-olds that’s dialed way down compared to us in our youth. I get it, God.
Thanks for looking out for us, for instructing our families to take care of us if we can’t take care of ourselves, and for instructing our church families to help if our families can’t or won’t. And Paul says shame to them if they won’t. “If anyone does not provide for his relatives, and especially for his immediate family, he has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever,” 8.
Paul’s instructions for young widows to marry and care for their children and homes so that they aren’t idle gossips makes sense. He could just as easily have said in our day, “Get a job. Forget Facebook.” In his day, kids-and-home was a woman’s normal job. Bottom line: widows who can, oughta contribute, not be busy bodies. ✅
I’m interested to learn that the widow who’s eligible for assistance is the one over 60, been faithful to her husband, and is well known for good deeds, such as child rearing, hospitality, serving other believers, and helping those in trouble. In short, she’s “devot[ed] herself to all kinds of good deeds,” 10. A 60-year-old didn’t just raise her kids last week. This is a lifetime list of accomplishments, and everything adds up and is included.
I’m also interested to learn that raising my kids and loving on people in my home and community aren’t just “add ons” to a valuable life; they’ve been considered to be a valuable life for women for thousands of years, at least since Paul’s day, likely longer. It’s the delusion of our modern day that homemaking and child rearing and taking meals to folks are tasks to be embarrassed about, ones that should be shoved into an hour or two after supper or on Saturday.
This has been my job all my adult life, but it didn’t feel like a job. It felt like a privilege because I enjoyed it. I never saw myself as less important than someone who went to an office or a classroom. I’ve always believed that my home was the most important place I could be. While lots of people can fill up offices and classrooms and courtrooms, I was the only one who could work in my home and love on the people in it as wife, mother, and friend. On this side of those years, I’m glad not to have regrets about having been here. Thank you for the finances that enabled me to stay home. Many moms want to and can’t.
“Blessed are those who have learned to acclaim you,
who walk in the light of your presence, O Lord.
They rejoice in your name all day long;
they exult in your righteousness.
For you are their glory and strength,
and by your favor you exalt our horn.”
Those who “have learned to acclaim” God and who “walk in the light of his presence” are blessed. Acclaiming and walking with God aren’t things we naturally do or know how to do. They’re something we have to learn.
Acclaiming is loud, exuberant praising, a giving of deserved glory to another with enthusiasm. It’s praise from the heart, mind, will, and body. It’s emotional and passionate. It’s time and energy consuming. It’s not an extra thing we add on to our lives; it’s an essential thing for living them.
Walking in God’s presence is a regular and steady, daily sort of living before God so that what he wants is respected and what I want is tucked in behind him. What I want isn’t ignored, but it’s submitted, as I learn from him what’s good for me and what’s not. What I want is refined to include what he wants to become what we want.
Until it does, I wait. I listen and learn. I believe his words, and I delight in his love and care. He gives me light as I walk because he is light. I can’t walk with him and live in darkness. If sin has the upper hand, I’ve somehow gotten off his path. I’ve got to go back and reconnect. Walking isn’t an independent thing. It’s an accompanied thing. It’s co-walking.
Blessed means every good thing I can think of. Deuteronomy 28:1-14 has a long list of what God means by blessings—inside and outside, up and down, in the country and city, with crops and wine, in basket and bread. It’s all inclusive. It’s actually more than I can think of. The life God gives the one who praises and rejoices in him, who walks in his counsel, is beyond good, it’s bless-ed. Guaranteed.
Because God is my “glory and strength,” and his favor exalts me, what else could I want? Followers on social media? Likes? Fame and fortune? It’s empty compared to blessedness. I’m guessing there’s no greater glory and strength than God’s. Why chase the world’s glory when I get to share in the glory of the One Who Made the World?
My take away today is the blessedness God has for those who listen: his favor, his “attaboy” and “attagirl,” the rejoicing and exulting we do in him “all day long,” the delight of walking with him and being counseled by him, praising him for his light and goodness and glory. Verses 15-17 are jam packed with so much blessedness, I can’t describe all that I feel as I read them. I’m having a hard time just taking it all in.
I think of Jeremiah and the message he brought God’s people and how foolish they were not to listen to him all those years. I wonder if they had any idea of God’s blessedness and of the delight he is for those who adore him. I wonder if they ever wondered why God spent so much time and effort getting his words to them, or why Jeremiah was so consumed with preaching what they didn’t want to hear, or why they were so hard of hearing.
I’m guessing they never wondered at all.
That’s the thing about sin, it doesn’t just harden you to a couple of pet sins, it hardens you to everything good, to friendships and flavors, to feelings and fun. You don’t get to choose what you harden to, you just harden to all of it.
Paul shares with Timothy what a widowed woman is recognized for by the church. It’s not for writing books and winning beauty contests or being able to do a 200 push up/sit up ladder. It’s for serving others—husbands, children, believers, non-believers, the needy.
God’s way isn’t always counter cultural, but it often is. There’s no law against doing good deeds or staying home and managing it, but challenging the definition of what makes a person’s life valuable ruffles some. It’s got to be devastating to find out at the end of one’s life that you’ve missed the point of living, which is to love God and others. The golden rule holds true. Putting self first is a lonely life.
God, you know how I’ve gotten off track and gone my own way, searching for meaning in myself, been hard of hearing and deliberately disobeying. But I’m back and I’m tucked in and I’m listening now.
Thank you for these reminders today of your wonderful word and my need to eat all of it, not slice off the parts I don’t like (Jeremiah), and of your design for my life as a woman (1 Timothy), and of the blessedness that comes to me when I praise you and live in your presence (Psalm 89).
Blessedess is something that never gets old. Thank you for the blessedness you’ve already given me and for the more that’s coming. I’m guessing you’re not done.
Your idea of blessing is so much bigger than mine.