It was cold and blustery as the sun was setting. Ice had begun to form along the empty streets outside and Jehudi’s teeth chattered as he scurried back to the house having completed his official government business. The contraband he had been dispatched to obtain was tucked safely under his left arm as he opened the door. The snow fell lightly during the day but at times picked up in its intensity. The evening arrived, and winter officially set in.
Jehoiakim sat in his winter house with a light blanket draped over his shoulders surrounded by his officials as the door creaked and Jehudi burst triumphantly through showing that he had retrieved the scroll of one Jeremiah the prophet of the LORD. The fire blazed beside the king, filling the room with much-appreciated heat but it had no effect on melting Jehoiakim’s frozen heart.
Jehudi let his hands thaw, and slowly unrolled the scroll and began to read its words before the king. This particular parchment pronounced judgment upon God’s people but the intent was that these people would hear this word, heed it, and repent; thus averting the disaster that God promised would surely come if they continued in their state of rebellion. As the fire crackled and popped, Jehoiakim stared expressionlessly into the flames and listened to Jehudi’s reading.
What Would the King do?
The word of the living God was being read before him. A precedent had already been set by Jehoiakim’s father, Josiah. In Josiah’s day, a scroll of Moses had been discovered in the temple. When Josiah heard it read, his heart was broken and he tore his clothes in repentance, leading the people of God into a brief period of revival.
Here the stage is set again. And although the people had once more been unfaithful, the LORD of hosts had yet again pursued them by persistently sending them His prophets. This is just like God to do. Holy and righteous, but also ready and willing to forgive.
Over 100 years prior, the prophet Jonah saw this first hand as God’s grace poured over the wicked Assyrians leading them to repentance in Nineveh. But that time had passed. This was a new day. And God had not sent the prophet Jeremiah to a foreign land, but right to the heart of His people. Yahweh was ready to forgive.
God is abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness. Was King Jehoiakim ready to lead the people in another revival? Would this son follow in the footsteps of his godly father? What would his response be to the word of the Lord?
The Knife Speaks Loudly
Jehudi’s heart beat a little faster as in the midst of his reading, he noticed the king grabbed a knife. Jehoiakim raised the blade toward Jehudi while he was in mid-sentence and made his stab. Thankfully, in Jehudi’s mind, the knife wasn’t for him.
The king was using it to cut Jeremiah’s scroll bit by bit. And not so he could frame these sacred words to hang in his palace. Instead, he tossed them piece by piece into the fire beside him. 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.
Three men standing nearby began to plead with the king not to burn the scroll, but his heart was too cold. He and his attendants were not afraid. This wasn’t a one-time dump of the entire scroll into the fire. It was slow and methodical. It was stab after stab after stab – a crime of passion. Winter had officially set in.
The king and his officials watched this scroll burn piece by piece with a sense of smugness and satisfaction. They had won. That will teach these prophets to keep sending this nonsense. There was no fear of God before their eyes. And they did not tear their garments. Instead, Jehoiakim doubled down and sent two of his thugs out in the cold to find Jeremiah and his scribe, Baruch. If he could just lay his hands on these men, he’d treat them just like he treated the scroll.
What about us?
This story is from Jeremiah 36 and recounts the sad truth of the people of Judah rejecting a God who had been nothing but faithful to them, despite their continued rebellion. What an act of grace that Jehoiakim had the very words of the living God read before him! But instead of listening, loving, and repenting, he tossed them into the fire, discarding something so precious as easily as one would throw away his rice Krispies treat wrapper.
Rightly, a story like this leaves us aghast. How could a king treat God’s Word like that? Why would he cut it up and toss it in the fire? How could he not so plainly see his sin before him? How could he blame the righteous for the calamities he had experienced instead of his own foolishly hard heart?
Perhaps a better question to ask ourselves is, why do we so often cut up the Bible? I know, I know, you’ve never actually chopped your bible up like Jehoiakim or Thomas Jefferson (I hope). However, symbolically we are guilty like Jehoiakim‘s slicing and dicing when we fail to tremble at the word of God like the king and his officials did on that cold winter day.
When we fail to take up and read, or when we fail to care about reading in context, or when we stop responding to God’s Word properly – namely in faith and repentance – we too are essentially cutting up our Bibles. We might as well be throwing it in the fire as to treat it so flippantly (of course, I’m not advocating you actually do that!).
How the Bible is Meant to be Read
You see, we are very crafty at deceiving ourselves like Jehoiakim, thinking that by listening to part of the Bible while neglecting other parts, we are ok. We can think that even though we don’t really love Scripture at all, that we are right with the Lord. We can think our heart is a summer ocean when in reality it is more frozen than Lake Erie in January.
Scripture is not meant to be read like a Twitter feed, 140 characters at a time, or a bunch of disconnected words here or there. It is not meant to be read merely to boost one’s self-esteem for the morning. Nor is it meant to be read out of context whereby we claim promises that aren’t ours to claim or inserting ourselves into places in the Bible that we have no place being. It’s not meant to be twisted and quoted out of context like Satan does (see Matthew 4). It is saddening to see many professing Believers use the Bible as a collection of proof texts, and feeling that they have the right to sit in authority over it, or to not trust its sufficiency.
Scripture is meant to be read in dependency and humility. It is meant to be enjoyed. It is meant to be a window into the glory of God. Scripture is God’s speech in written form. It is given to us by a God who is ready to forgive, heal, and restore. But this is the one to whom He will look: the one who is contrite in spirit and trembles at His Word (Isaiah 66:2). Scripture is sweeter than honey and more precious than gold.
Don’t Cut Up Your Bible
So, here is my exhortation today: Don’t cut up your Bible. Read it contextually, humbly, and in faith as you seek the God who wrote it. Treat the Bible as it deserves to be treated. See a God who is ready to bring revival to your soul. See the God who has completed the work needed to bring you to Himself in Christ. Don’t let winter set in.
Don’t skip a day in the Word. Read it again and again. Meditate on it. Consider what the Lord would have you do in response to it. Read it with others. Read it with your family. It is the word of the living God! Don’t be so prideful as to think you know better than the Lord. Stop resting on human ingenuity. Take up and read the Bible.
You see, Jehoiakim wasn’t the last king of Judah. That title belongs to Another. And no, I’m not speaking of Zedekiah. I’m referring to the King of kings, and Lord of lords, the God-Man Jesus Christ. Jesus, unlike any of the kings before Him, perfectly obeyed God. He had a high view of Scripture (you’d expect that of its Author, wouldn’t you?) and did not cut it up. He had no need of repentance and so He did not tear His clothes. Instead, something greater was torn.
Christ’s own flesh was torn on the old rugged cross to bring peace between God and man. The veil was torn symbolizing that the one way to God is only found through this King, Jesus. Jesus was tossed into the flames of God’s wrath on the cross so that we who are far off because of sin and unrighteousness, might be brought near by grace through faith.
And the only way we know all of this is through the Bible. This is what the whole of Scripture is about! If you ever hope to deepen your relationship with God in Christ or to even have one, I exhort you to take up the Scriptures and seek Him there.
“But I’m just not in the mood to read it.” Ah, read it nonetheless! Read it in hopes that the Spirit of God through the Word itself will melt the icicles on your heart! Again, don’t blindly search for a verse here or there. Read through a book. Read John, or Ephesians, or a Psalm (and you can check out our pSaturday Psalms devotions here).
But don’t stop there. Read it again. Keep reading it. Read until you know it. Keep on reading it until you feel your soul inflamed with passion for God. Read it until it burns away your lusts for this passing world. May Scripture be ever more precious to you than it currently is.
Get in the Book
Do not let the fires of worldliness burn it up. Instead, may the fire of the Word warm our clammy hearts that we may seek Him all the more faithfully. Get in the Book. The time past suffices for carelessness toward the Word. The days are evil, so let us make good use of the time we have.
Prioritize Scripture reading. God has promised to draw near to those who draw near to Him. He has promised to be found by those who seek Him. Don’t think you can do it your own way. There is no voice more important in your life than the voice of God in written form. Listen to it. Heed it. Tremble at it. Don’t seek for God’s voice outside of the Bible, instead sit humbly under what He has given His prophets and apostles for our good.
If you are a preacher of God’s Word, stop with human ingenuity. The people don’t need your craftiness. Proclaiming God’s words is the catalyst for repentance (Jeremiah 23:22). Proclaim the full counsel of the Word of the living God in its proper context.
If you’re not a preacher, be careful at pulling a Jehoiakim and labeling others judgmental simply for communicating the word of God. It’s never judgmental to simply communicate what the Judge has spoken, albeit it must be done in compassion. The point being in Jehoiakim’s day, he was more concerned with Jeremiah, the messenger, than he was with heeding the message of the LORD. May this not be true of you. Heed the message of God.
Please don’t cut it up.