In the fourth year of King Jehoiakim son of Josiah of Judah, this word came to Jeremiah from the Lord: 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. It may be that when the house of Judah hears of all the disasters that I intend to do to them, all of them may turn from their evil ways, so that I may forgive their iniquity and their sin. (Jeremiah 36:1-3)
In reading these words this morning, I was reminded of what Karl Barth said about the three forms of the word of God. We have the word of God preached, the word of God in Scripture, and Christ as the word of God. Jesus is the ultimate Word. The word preached and the word in Scripture point to Jesus.
Of course, Karl Barth was not the first person to note this three-fold distinction. George MacDonald once wrote,
But herein is the Bible itself greatly wronged. It nowhere lays claim to be regarded as the Word, the Way, the Truth. The Bible leads us to Jesus, the inexhaustible, the ever unfolding Revelation of God. It is Christ ‘in whom are hid all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge,’ not the Bible, save as leading to Him.
C. S. Lewis said something similar. In a letter to a Mrs. Johnson, written on 8 November 1952 Lewis says: “It is Christ Himself, not the Bible, who is the true word of God. The Bible, read in the right spirit and with the guidance of good teachers will bring us to Him.”
Reading Jeremiah this morning got me thinking, “Where would we be if Jeremiah had not had Baruch to write down all his words of prophecy?” Jeremiah’s words would still have gone out to the people of his own generation, but we would not have the words of this great prophet, and therefore subsequent generations would have suffered great loss without even knowing it.
Where would we be if all those who originally wrote the words of the Bible had not written them? Where would we be if others had not faithfully copied these words? Where would we be if still others had not translated these words into languages that many can understand today? We owe a tremendous debt to all these writers, copiers, and translators down through history.
I suppose there are many possible responses to Scripture, but certainly one of the worst is that of Jehoiakim who tried to destroy the word of God. Of course, his effort was futile. Jeremiah simply dictated the words to Baruch and had him write these words down again. No matter how many people down through history have tried to destroy the Bible, or parts of it, they have never been fully successful. However, how awful to be like Jehoiakim who tried to totally disregard God’s word to him!
Despite our disregard for God’s word, God’s intentions toward us remain the same. Why did the Lord have Jeremiah and Baruch write down his words in the first place? He did it so that the Jews might “turn from their evil ways, so that I may forgive their iniquity and their sin.” I believe that is always God’s intention toward us. That is why he speaks his word to us, and has it written down, and embodies his word for us in Jesus. He does all of these things so that we might turn and be forgiven. God’s intention toward us is always one of love. He gives us his word in love. The only question is: will we receive it?