JEREMIAH 36: It is not us but God who makes things happen
At the beginning of this book, we tried to understand the last five kings of Judah and the exact years of their rule. King Josiah took over from King Amon (who had taken over from King Manasseh-the son of Hezekiah). It is portrayed by the bible and history that Manasseh and Amon had dragged Judah down in matters of worship and when Josiah took over the throne, Judah was already a rotten nation. Josiah who started his reign in 640-609 and ruled for 31 years started his great agenda of reformation in about his eighteenth year of kingship (2 Kings 22) and Jeremiah who began his job in 13th year of this King’s rule became a great part of this reformation. King Josiah was killed by Pharaoh Neco of Egypt and buried home in his ancestor’s tombs (2 Kings 23:29-30) and his son Jehoahaz was appointed by people as the King. However, after only 3 months, this son was dethroned and taken captive by Neco to Egypt where he lived and met his death too. Pharaoh Neco put another Josiah’s son, Eliakim (Jehoiakim), on the throne of Jerusalem and ordered him to pay tribute to Egypt (2 Kings 23:31-35). Jehoiakim ruled for 11 years (609-598 or to 597).
According to some writer and the bible, at the end of Jehoiakim’s 3rd year as a king, King Nebuchadnezzar launched an attack on Judah and, by the end of fifth year or the beginning of sixth year, captured many of its people and paraded them to Babylon. Among them were Daniel, King Jehoiakim and other young and wonderful men of Judah. However, King Jehoiakim was allowed to return back in the same year and was to pay tribute to Babylonian King. But after 3 years only, Jehoiakim became stubborn and refused to pay tributes to Babylon. King Nebuchadnezzar returned and hammered Jerusalem and tried to take King Jehoiakim but the king died on the way before leaving the land and his body was just left out as the prophecy says (2 Kings 24:1-20, Daniel 1:1-21). From 597, King Jehoiachin (Jehoiakim’s son) took over. After 3 months only, he surrendered to Babylonian rule and was taken unharmed together with his family, relatives and other wonderful people of Judah to Babylon. Then another son of Josiah, Mattaniah (Zedekiah) was made king. He ruled for about 11 years from 597-586 or to 587, the year in which Jerusalem and the temple were completely destroyed (compare with notes on Jeremiah 24 and 27).
So today, we read that God instructed that all the sermons and preaching that had been given ever since the 13th year of Josiah’s time up to the fouth year of King Jehoiakim’s rule be put down in writing so that it can last for long time and be read and re-read to people. Like we have always noted, Jeremiah’s chapters are not chronologically arranged but the message is arranged well. I think this was the perfect time to remind people how God had tried to turn their life by use of writings too but their kings had remained rebellious, a clear vindication for the wrath that was surrounding Jerusalem in these Zedekiah’s times.
Since Jehoiakim started his reign in 609, then his fourth year must have been in 605 and this was Jeremiah’s 22nd year of work and probably 23rd year since the reading of the message happened in the fifth year of this King’s reign. This must have been 18 years before the complete destruction of Jerusalem and the temple which happened in 587 during King Zedekiah’s rule. The Lord hoped that the resound of His words into people’s ears and the evil He was planning to send would cause awakening and then would not punish them (verses 1-3), but oh! This didn’t happen. It is not that the Lord didn’t know that people would not listen or make a turn be He had to do His part (Isaiah 48:8-9).
I believe there are about two approaches of making people turn from their sins and start respecting God: Threatening them with the punishments they are likely to meet in pursue of the rotten ways or telling them of the great love of God and they end up loving HIM back. In this today’s chapter, the Lord hoped that people would repent after hearing the evil that was befalling them (verse 3). However, the only way that produces real true salvation is the way of LOVE. Threats, well applied and used, make people realize how lovely our God is and inevitably give in to love and respect HIM too. But since the basics involved in following rules or laws due to the fear of the punishments may blind the eyes of people from the love or mercy of God, I am confident to advise gospel preachers to use the approach of love than of threats or, precisely put, use threats in a tactical and true meaning. The true exposition of God’s punishment on people is still love. So as long as we are able to explain to the world that it is because of His great love for us that God allows us to face the punishments or judgment, there is no problem in using God’s judgments or punishments as a means to make people worship Him.
Jeremiah called Baruch, his close disciple and secretary who he had made a witness in the purchase of land in chapter 32. The word is written (verses 4-8). Since it is impossible for any person to recall every important word that he could have used in past years, it is clear that the spirit of the Lord helped Jeremiah to remember and write the correct context from all his years of service (2 Timothy 3:16-17). In the fifth year of Jehoiakim’s reign, the secretary was sent to go and read the word to all the people who had gathered to have fasting. I think this was the right timing. Since fasting went with repentance, then the word would help in rediscovering their true areas of stubbornness and mark the beginning of true repentance. He read it to people, to officers, and then it was read to the king. The people and the officers were probably moved by the words but they knew their King’s stand and so advised Baruch and Jeremiah to hide in time before the King could read through (verses 9-19). But Fausset and Brown observe that these officers were proud too and, instead of going to the temple and confess their penitence, called for Baruch to come to them (verses 14-15).
When the words were finally read to the King by a man called Jehudi (one of the palace workers), the king burned down the scroll. Some of the previous officers tried to advise the King not to do such a thing but He didn’t hear. In addition, he wanted to arrest the prophet and the secretary but they had disappeared (verses 20-26). Like I said earlier, it is possible to have good results when we present the word of God using the threatening method, but not all the time shall we reap well. The King didn’t get scared at the punishments in the scroll. Usually, there are people who are easily broken down by use of their emotions and others succumb to fears or threats. It is the duty of the preacher to understand which way to use, on which person and in which period. It is important to note that the hiding of the prophet and his secretary and the failure of the king to trace them was because God hid them Himself. Yeah, we plan and act but to have results that we desire for is God’s making. Indeed, if it wasn’t God guarding the city, then the guards would do it in vain. It is not our power or wisdom or anything that makes our success but God’s hand.
After that, the Lord wrote another scroll with the same hands He had used before and this time it included many other details especially concerning the punishment of King Jehoiakim (verses 27-32). Yeah, we can’t fight God and we can’t fight anyone if God is on their side. People will make us lose what we have accumulated but the mercy of God makes us restore what we lost and even more. His store or words are never depreciated and they are everlasting. Any loss can be recovered and in a greater way than before.
Our today’s lesson is on verses 19 and the last sentence on 26. The officers had advised Jeremiah to hide which I am sure he did together with his secretary, but it was only because of God’s participation in the hiding that the king failed to trace them. Yeah, the message we are sharing today is that it is only God who brings out results in whatever we do, think or say. If we have ever achieved anything, it is because God said yes. And if we have ever failed anything, it is still because God said no. Oh what! I am saying that God is the final author of everything. But then should we blame ourselves for the failures we register? Yes of course. Though not all the times, we are responsible for our failures for we have a big part to play to convince God to say yes or no to something. If you request, this can be another topic of another day.
I just hope that today’s message is taken home. It is not us but God who makes things happen.
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