It was as cold and wet outside as a late November and early December day (Hebrew month of Chislev), but the king sat in his enclosed, winter quarters, warming himself by the fire pit (36:22). The princes were all in the room as well as some of the king’s servants and Jehudi had just returned with the scroll that Baruch had written as Jeremiah dictated the words of the prophecies he had pronounced years earlier (36:4). When three or four leaves of the prophecy were read aloud in the king’s hearing, either Jehudi or Jehoiakim, the king, cut the papyrus scroll in pieces and brazenly cast it into the fire.
The one person not literally in the room but on everyone’s mind was Jeremiah the prophet. Jeremiah (“Jah will raise”) was initially reluctant in his role as prophet. When he was first called by the Lord he used Moses’ old excuse, “I cannot speak” but the Lord exploded that feeble argument (1:6-10; cf. Ex. 4:10). During his service as the Lord’s prophet he despaired when the people derided and mocked him daily (20:7). Like Job, he even cursed the day he was born (20:14-17). At one point he became so distraught that he attempted to refrain from speaking, but God’s word was as a fire shut up in his bones and he could not keep quiet (20:9).
But Jeremiah was young when the Lord called him to speak to His people, perhaps around twenty years of age (1:6). From the first, the Lord told him that his task would not be an easy one. He was warned not to be dismayed though he was going to be opposed by the people (1:17). The Lord told him that the people of the land, the priests, the princes, the kings, even the whole land would fight against him (1:18). Even his townsmen and family opposed him (11:21,12:6).
His message would not be a popular one. The Lord had established his covenant with His people and a curse was placed on all those that did not obey (11:1-7). And yet their history was one of rebellion and disobedience (11:8-10). Because they had continuously disobeyed, the Lord was going to bring evil upon them from which they would not be able to escape (11:11-17). The Lord would bring Babylon against them and they would serve them for seventy years (25:8-11). Because of this message, he suffered much at the hand of his enemies. He was thrown into stocks, cast in prison, he was thrown into a pit and his life was sought by his enemies (20:1-3; 33:1; 37:15-21; 38:6-13; 11:18-21).
This opposition came a little later in his work, however. Initially, as he prophesied under Josiah, he was relatively free from trouble. The young and good king Josiah had taken the throne and had begun drastic reforms in the land (II Kings 22,23). But though Josiah was sincere in his reforms and in his personal conduct, the hearts of the people in the land were not converted for immediately after Josiah’s death, the people began to revert back to their old ways. When Josiah died, Jeremiah lamented his death (II Chron. 35:25).
There were other prophets in the land beside Jeremiah. Many of them. But the vast majority of those prophets prophesied falsely (5:28). “From the least of them even unto the greatest of them every one [was] given to covetousness;” said Jeremiah, “and from the prophet even unto the priest every one [dealt] falsely” (Jer. 6:13). They all cried “Peace! Peace! When there was no peace” (6:14). Jeremiah warned them of the coming judgment and captivity. He implored them to “Stand ye in the ways, and see, and ask for the old paths, where is the good way, and walk therein, and ye shall find rest for your souls. But they said, We will not walk therein” (Jeremiah 6:16).
After Jehoiakim had burned the scroll, the Lord spoke to Jeremiah again and had him write once more all the words that were on the first scroll with the addition of new judgments against Judah (36:28,32; cf. Rev. 22:18,19). It was shear folly to think that God’s word could be destroyed or that God’s judgment could be avoided by not paying heed to it (Matt. 24:36; Psalm 12:5-8). You can’t hide from God by ignoring His word. You just can’t hide from God (Heb. 4:13)! Period.
However, not everything that Jeremiah wrote promised judgement, destruction and death. The very judgements passed were immersed in divine love, enduring mercy and hope. “I have loved thee with an everlasting love” (31:3). “I will surely have mercy upon him” (31:20). “There is hope in thine end” (31:17). While His people had broken His covenant God was going to make a new covenant that would be planted in the heart and where the sins and iniquities would be remembered no more (31:31-34). The Righteous Branch would be raised up and in His days Judah and Israel would be saved (23:5,6).
Eric L. Padgett