Jeremiah 35:1–36:32, Romans 8:18–39, Proverbs 22:17–23:18, Isaiah 40:8
The Gutenberg Museum in Mainz, Germany has many old Bibles that monks painstakingly copied by hand from earlier manuscripts. I wept thinking of their incredible commitment to preserve the Word of God.
Those of us who love the word of God are both dismayed and awed by the following story —
During the last days of Judah before their exile to Babylon, God told Jeremiah to write everything He had said to him so that His people might hear the disaster He intended and turn from evil and be forgiven. Jeremiah did as God asked, using Baruch as his secretary. Since Jeremiah was banned from the house of the Lord, he sent Baruch to read those words in the hearing of the people.
Baruch did this as the people were fasting. Micaiah heard him and told the officials. Baruch was brought before them to read it again. “When they heard all the words, they turned one to another in fear” and asked him who wrote the words. When Baruch told them, they said, “Go and hide, you and Jeremiah, and let no one know where you are.”
Then God’s words were read to the king, and as he heard them, the king cut them off the scroll with a knife and threw them into the fire until the entire scroll was consumed. “Neither the king nor any of his servants who heard all these words was afraid, nor did they tear their garments.” Even when his officials urged him to not burn the scroll, he would not listen.
They were told to seize Baruch and Jeremiah, but the Lord hid them. Then the Lord told Jeremiah: “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.” He must also tell the king his fate. Jeremiah obeyed. (Jeremiah 36:1–32)
The Word of God is the source of all wisdom. Solomon wrote: “Incline your ear, and hear the words of the wise, and apply your heart to my knowledge, for it will be pleasant if you keep them within you, if all of them are ready on your lips. That your trust may be in the Lord, I have made them known to you today, even to you . . . . to make you know what is right and true . . . .” (Proverbs 22:17–21) and “Apply your heart to instruction and your ear to words of knowledge.” (Proverbs 23:12)
The king who burned the words was a fool and suffered as God said he would. There have been many who destroyed copies of the Bible since then, or mocked it, or disregarded it, or let it gather dust in the attic. This disregard for the Word of God remains an insult to our Creator and heavenly Father. Will His patience wear out?
For me, hearing contempt for God’s Word is a form of suffering as well. Jesus lives in me, and He is mocked and cursed. I feel what He feels, but I also know that “The grass withers, the flower fades, but the word of our God will stand forever.” (Isaiah 40:8) It remains a worldwide best seller and all efforts to destroy it have never been successful.
The Apostle Paul experienced scorn for his faith in Christ, who is the living Word of God, but he said, “I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us.” (Romans 8:18)
He also declared incredible truth for those who love God: “. . . all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.” We whom He foreknew are predestined to be conformed to the image of His Son, called and justified, and one day to be glorified. (Romans 8:28–30) They can burn the Book but they cannot destroy the eternal life in those who believe it.
Nor can they undo the power of God and His promises: “If God is for us, who can be against us? He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things? Who shall bring any charge against God’s elect? It is God who justifies. Who is to condemn? Christ Jesus is the one who died—more than that, who was raised—who is at the right hand of God, who indeed is interceding for us. Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword? As it is written, ‘For your sake we are being killed all the day long; we are regarded as sheep to be slaughtered.’ No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Romans 8:31–39)
What folly to think that this “old book” should be burned when it is the only old book that makes and fulfills every Word of wisdom written in it.