Jeremiah 36 is a great reminder of how futile it is to think that human actions can snuff out the words of the Lord. It opens with these words:
1 In the fourth year of Jehoiakim the son of Josiah, king of Judah, this word came to Jeremiah from the Lord: 2 “Take a scroll and write on it all the words that I have spoken to you against Israel and Judah and all the nations, from the day I spoke to you, from the days of Josiah until today. 3 It may be that the house of Judah will hear all the disaster that I intend to do to them, so that every one may turn from his evil way, and that I may forgive their iniquity and their sin.” 4 Then Jeremiah called Baruch the son of Neriah, and Baruch wrote on a scroll at the dictation of Jeremiah all the words of the Lord that he had spoken to him.
We learn here that all the words that God dictated to Jeremiah were written down on a scroll by Baruch, a scribe and friend of Jeremiah. We then learn that Baruch read the scroll in the hearing of all the people of Jerusalem. When the kings officials heard the scroll, which contained all of God’s promises of the exile of Judah for their rebellion, they took the scroll from Baruch and read it for the king. This is what happens:
22 It was the ninth month, and the king was sitting in the winter house, and there was a fire burning in the fire pot before him. 23 As Jehudi read three or four columns, the king would cut them off with a knife and throw them into the fire in the fire pot, until the entire scroll was consumed in the fire that was in the fire pot.
So the king, Jehoiakim, burned the word of the Lord. Presumably, he did so in an attempt to either nullify or simply avoid the promises of destruction and exile. This was not wise. Two things happened because of his foolish actions. First, God promised that Jehoiakim would not have any descendants to sit on the throne, his brother would become king in his place. And the second thing that happens is recorded here:
27 Now after the king had burned the scroll with the words that Baruch wrote at Jeremiah’s dictation, the word of the Lord came to Jeremiah: 28 “Take another scroll and write on it all the former words that were in the first scroll, which Jehoiakim the king of Judah has burned… 32 Then Jeremiah took another scroll and gave it to Baruch the scribe, the son of Neriah, who wrote on it at the dictation of Jeremiah all the words of the scroll that Jehoiakim king of Judah had burned in the fire. And many similar words were added to them.
Burning a scroll does not bring about the defeat of God’s word. Imprisoning Christians does not stop the kingdom from spreading. Taking down the 10 commandments from schools and court rooms does not mean that God’s words are any less true. Persecution is not the way to stop God’s word from going forth into the world. There is no stopping it. Jeremiah and Baruch simply rewrite everything that God had said, and just to be sure that there is no confusion about who is in charge, God added more words to the scroll. This makes for a busy day for Baruch, but it is for the benefit of everyone who calls on the name of the Lord.
His word is stronger than the strength of men and it will never return void.