The Word that No-one Can Destroy
It ranks as one of the wickedest acts of a Jewish king, it has had many parallels, and the end result of them all is a failure to destroy the Word of God. Here’s the story.
King Jehoiakim of Judah was listening as the words of a scroll were read to him – a scroll containing all the words God had ever given to the prophet Jeremiah. What did he do? Others hearing it earlier reacted with fear. And very appropriately, too, because the scroll spoke in the plainest terms of the judgment God was about to bring on the land for the people’s grievous sins. Not King Jehoiakim. ‘The king and all his attendants who heard all these words showed no fear, nor did they tear their clothes’ (Jer. 36:24).
Nor was that the worst of it. The king was sitting in his winter apartment at the time with a fire burning in the firepot in front of him. That firepot was just the place, he thought, for a scroll like Jeremiah’s! And that’s exactly where he put it – a section at a time. It would have been bad enough if in his rage he had thrust the whole scroll into the fire at once. But he didn’t. He took his time, cutting a bit off with a scribe’s knife as every few columns were read to him, and burning it piece by piece.
His action, however, was ultimately in vain. Had Jehoiakim had his way he would have destroyed both the prophet and his scroll. In the event, he succeeded in destroying neither. For not only did the Lord hide Jeremiah, he gave him this instruction: ‘Take another scroll and write on it all the words that were on the first scroll’ (v. 28). And Jeremiah did so, enlarging it, we are told, with many similar words.
We have in this event an early example of God’s preservation of his Word. The scroll that Jehoiakim burned was probably the first edition of what would eventually become the Old Testament book of Jeremiah. It was written at God’s command and contained his own inspired word. And the king destroyed it! The only copy! But it was afterwards re-written. God intended it should be preserved for the instruction of every succeeding generation to the end. And it has been. Readers of the book of Jeremiah today are looking at the very words King Jehoiakim burned long ago in his firepot. In vain!
Over the centuries various other attempts have been made to destroy God’s Word. Back in the sixteenth century, for example, copies of William Tyndale’s translation of the New Testament, smuggled into Great Britain, were seized and burned by order of the church. It was the history of King Jehoiakim repeating itself – God’s Word being consigned to the flames. But it survived.
In later centuries we have had another knife at work – the critic’s knife. One part of the Bible after another ‘cut out’, as it were, because held to be inauthentic and untrue. But the Bible has continued to survive. God has gone on preserving his Word. Every endeavour to destroy it has been defeated. We have it in our hands today intact.
See in this the high value God places on his Word! His great enemy Satan has hated it. He has hated it being written, hated it being brought together, hated it being translated, printed, and sent to every part of the world. Hardly surprising that in all kinds of ways he has attempted its destruction. But he hasn’t succeeded. And nor shall he. To this very day the Bible remains under attack. Even among evangelicals the doctrine of its entire inspiration and inerrancy is again being undermined. But God so values it that he will go on preserving it until its work on earth is done.
How we should value it too! Let no-one treat it with contempt. Let it often be in our hands. Let it be with open hearts that we come to its exposition. Let its truths guide our lives. Let its God and Saviour be our God and Saviour. Let us teach it to others. And let us pray for its light to shine in every dark corner of our world.
David Campbell is pastor of Grace Baptist Church, Carlisle, Pennsylvania.
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