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Fire Proof

Jeremiah  •  Sermon  •  Submitted   •  Presented   •  35:01
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The world attempts to destroy both God's people and His Word, but the message of Jeremiah is that God is watching over both His people and His Word.

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Introduction:

Our Scripture lesson is taken from Jeremiah 36:15-26 this morning. As your turning to that passage, let me introduce this text.
All during this brief survey of the book of Jeremiah, the most common feedback I have received from you as a congregation is amazement at how applicable Jeremiah's message is to our current situation in America. Today I want to focus on one more area that our culture shares with ancient Judah--the neglect, distortion and suppression of God's Word.
In the early years of Jeremiah's ministry, under the reign of the wicked king Jehoiakim, God instructs Jeremiah to dictate to his scribe Baruch the messages He has given to Jeremiah up to this point (Jer 36:1-4). After Baruch had finished the scroll, Jeremiah instructs Baruch to read the scroll in the courtyard of the temple to the people. When Micaiah heard the words being read, he became alarmed and reported the message to his fellow officials. They in turn called for Baruch and that brings us to our text.
Jeremiah 36:15–26 ESV

And they said to him, “Sit down and read it.” So Baruch read it to them. When they heard all the words, they turned one to another in fear. And they said to Baruch, “We must report all these words to the king.” Then they asked Baruch, “Tell us, please, how did you write all these words? Was it at his dictation?” Baruch answered them, “He dictated all these words to me, while I wrote them with ink on the scroll.” Then the officials said to Baruch, “Go and hide, you and Jeremiah, and let no one know where you are.”

So they went into the court to the king, having put the scroll in the chamber of Elishama the secretary, and they reported all the words to the king. Then the king sent Jehudi to get the scroll, and he took it from the chamber of Elishama the secretary. And Jehudi read it to the king and all the officials who stood beside the king. It was the ninth month, and the king was sitting in the winter house, and there was a fire burning in the fire pot before 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 that was in the fire pot. Yet neither the king nor any of his servants who heard all these words was afraid, nor did they tear their garments. Even when Elnathan and Delaiah and Gemariah urged the king not to burn the scroll, he would not listen to them. And the king commanded Jerahmeel the king’s son and Seraiah the son of Azriel and Shelemiah the son of Abdeel to seize Baruch the secretary and Jeremiah the prophet, but the LORD hid them.

God has always preserved for himself a godly remnant, a so it was in Jeremiah's day, these officials became alarmed with fear when they heard the words of God through Jeremiah. The Evangelical church is today only a remnant in America and just like these officials, many of you have been alarmed with fear as you have been reading the book of Jeremiah during this series. God judges NATIONS, not just the nation of Israel. We know that our nation is not immune from God's judgement.
Just like these officials we want to get the word out, especially to those in authority, perhaps they will repent and attempt to reform the nation as Josiah did. I can imagine that these godly officials had hope that Jehoiakim would respond positively to the reading of this scroll. He was by the way Josiah's son. However, their hopes were soon dashed.
Jehoiakim's response was anything but positive--he took a knife and cut the scroll up piece by and threw it into the fire pot. The Word of God was literally under fire.

The Word Under Fire

To appreciate what was happening in Jeremiah's day and in our day we need to remember that for idolater's the Word of God is the most dangerous book on earth. It is dangerous because it exposes sin and lies. All false religions offer the promise of Personal Peace and Prosperity. This was the promise of the fertility cults of Baal and Asherah during Jeremiah's day. This is the promise of Progressive Statism today. Remember how several weeks ago I quoted Francis Schaeffer who identified the idol of secular western culture as Personal Peace and Prosperity. The way secular humanist attempt to obtain their Personal Peace and Prosperity is through the state or government--Francis Schaeffer goes on to observe:
The Complete Works of Francis A. Schaeffer Chapter Eight: The Use of Civil Disobedience

We must realize that the Reformation world view leads in the direction of government freedom. But the humanist world view with inevitable certainty leads in the direction of statism. This is so because humanists, having no god, must put something at the center, and it is inevitably society, government, or the state.

In other words, the state or government is the Baal of our day.
The response by idolators to God's Word has always been the same:
They Neglect It
They Distort It
They Attempt to Destroy It
In America today, the Bible is the most owned, but also the most neglected book. The consequences of this neglect are nothing less than catastrophic. In the book of Deuteronomy, God instructs the kings of Israel to hand copy and read every day of their lives a copy of God's law.
Deuteronomy 17:18–19 ESV

“And when he sits on the throne of his kingdom, he shall write for himself in a book a copy of this law, approved by the Levitical priests. And it shall be with him, and he shall read in it all the days of his life, that he may learn to fear the LORD his God by keeping all the words of this law and these statutes, and doing them,

Unlike his father Josiah, king Jehoiakim hardened his heart and neglected God's word. The consequences for Judah were catastrophic.
In America today, we live under a Constitutional Republic. As a Constitutional Republic our government is "of the people, by the people and for the people." Our Constitution and people are the highest authority, not our elected officials. But how many our citizens, especially Christian citizens, are reading their Bibles with the care that God commands? When Christian vote for candidates who openly support policies that promote sins against God's law it reveals that these self-professing Christians are either ignorant of God's Word or they are purposely distorting God's Word.
The distortion of God's Word was going on in Jeremiah's day as through the false prophets who spoke a false "word of the Lord." The same thing is true today. Last week for example, LifeWay Christian Resources had to pull all of Jen Hatmaker's resources because she publically voiced approval of gay marriage and the gay lifestyle. Hatmaker is just the most recent example of a prominent Christian teacher distorting God's Word.
Of course, neglecting and distorting God's Word does not shut up people like Jeremiah. Ultimately, idolators will seek to suppress and even destroy God's Word. This is what Jehoiakim and the other wicked kings attempted to do. Jehoiakim cut up and burned Jeremiah's scroll and then attempted to arrest him.
Things are not that different today. Three weeks ago IVP took strong stand defending the Bible's clear teaching on homosexuality and within days they found themselves suspended from having a book stall at the annual meeting of the Society of Biblical Literature. If this is what so called Christians can do to other Christians, what will the secular humanist do to biblical Christians? Just consider all the things the Bible teaches as sin, but which the world considers a virtue. The Bible teaches that homosexuality is sinful, the worlds calls opposition to the homosexual and transgender agenda homophobic. In the story of the Tower of Babel, the Bible teaches the necessity of maintaining national distinctions, the world calls opposition to the globalist agenda xenophobic and racist. The Bible teaches the sanctity of human life, the world calls this anti-choice. The Bible teaches male headship, the world calls this sexist and misogynist. The Bible teaches the sanctity of private property, the world calls this greed and inequality.
Do you understand what is happening today? The first step towards persecution is labeling your opponents as deplorable and nonredeemable. It then becomes easy to justify their imprisonment and execution. This is what they did to Jeremiah and this is what they have done to Jewish and Christians. This is what they will do to us in America as well.
But God is able to Preserve Both His Word and His People Through the Fire!

The Word Preserved Through Fire

God is not blind to all this. Remember how in Jeremiah's call God promises to watch over both Jeremiah and his prophetic message:
Jeremiah 1:18–19 ESV

And I, behold, I make you this day a fortified city, an iron pillar, and bronze walls, against the whole land, against the kings of Judah, its officials, its priests, and the people of the land. They will fight against you, but they shall not prevail against you, for I am with you, declares the LORD, to deliver you.”

In our text the godly officials warn Jeremiah and Baruch to hide and God supernaturally preserves them in their hiding. God also acts to preserve his Word.
Jeremiah 36:32 ESV

Then Jeremiah took another scroll and gave it to Baruch the scribe, the son of Neriah, who wrote on it at the dictation of Jeremiah all the words of the scroll that Jehoiakim king of Judah had burned in the fire. And many similar words were added to them.

Isn't that just like God! Jehoiakim attempted to suppress and destroy the Word of God and God responses by making it even stronger!
In the chaos caused by ISIS, thousands of Christians have lost their lives in Syria and Iraq, yet the untold story is that many thousands of Muslims are turning to Christ as they have become disillusioned with the false promises of Islam. If you listened to Friday's BreakPoint you heard the story of Javad:
A Muslim from Iran, Javad didn’t know any Christians and didn’t own a Bible, though he had heard some Christian satellite radio. Then in 2008 he migrated to Athens, and a roommate asked him to come to an Iranian church. Javad had never heard of such a thing and, curious, he went. There, in a small, unremarkable rented room, he heard the gospel and gladly received Christ.
Now Javad is sharing the Jesus he met with other Muslim refugees in Greece. Every day he goes to a refugee center, park, or coffee shop to share the good news with Iranian and Afghan refugees. He says that he knows of two or three Muslims each day since he arrived who have trusted in Christ. Working at a refugee center that provides practical aid, Javad says more than 2,000 Muslims at the center have turned to Jesus in the last eight years.
Because many refugees remain on the move, an informal network of new churches for Muslim converts has begun spreading in Britain, The Netherlands, Germany, and elsewhere. One church in Berlin has counted 1,200 Muslims converted in just three years, most of them Afghans and Iranians. At a Persian church in Hamburg, meanwhile, more than 600 Pakistanis and Afghans lined up to be baptized during one service. According to a report in The Daily Beast, thousands—maybe tens of thousands—of Muslims have become followers of Jesus across Northern Europe.
One young woman from Iran told the German magazine Stern, “I’ve been looking all my life for peace and happiness, but in Islam, I have not found them.” Another convert said the love of Christ made all the difference. “In Islam, we always lived in fear,” he said. “Fear God, fear of sin, fear of punishment. But Christ is a God of love.” http://www.breakpoint.org/bpcommentaries/entry/13/30066
You see, it is not the fires of persecution that will consume God's Word and people, but God's Word that will consume the world!

The Word is a Consuming Fire

When Jeremiah was confronting the false prophets, God spoke this message through Jeremiah,
Jeremiah 23:29 ESV

Is not my word like fire, declares the LORD, and like a hammer that breaks the rock in pieces?

In the next three verses (Jer. 23:30-32) God declares three times that that he is "against the prophets" who speak lies. Remember that in the Hebrew language the superlative is expressed by a three fold repetition. God is saying in the strongest way possible that he is against those who distort his Word!
We need to encourage one another today that when it appears that all is lost and God's enemies have the upper hand, their victory is an illusion. In the book of Revelation John describes how the Beast overcomes the Two Witnesses and kills them. The world rejoices in their death.
Revelation 11:9–10 ESV

For three and a half days some from the peoples and tribes and languages and nations will gaze at their dead bodies and refuse to let them be placed in a tomb, and those who dwell on the earth will rejoice over them and make merry and exchange presents, because these two prophets had been a torment to those who dwell on the earth.

But then suddenly the tables are turned.
Revelation 11:12–13 ESV

Then they heard a loud voice from heaven saying to them, “Come up here!” And they went up to heaven in a cloud, and their enemies watched them. And at that hour there was a great earthquake, and a tenth of the city fell. Seven thousand people were killed in the earthquake, and the rest were terrified and gave glory to the God of heaven.

Our Lord Jesus Christ has blazed the path for His Church--first death, then resurrection and finally glorification!

Conclusion:

In these troubling times let us remember "How Firm a Foundation has God laid for his saints in his excellent Word"--both the written word and the Word made flesh. In rejecting Christ our society is committing idolatry. With idolatry will always come attacks on God's people and Word. Let us not be surprised by this nor discouraged by it. The message of Jeremiah is that God is watching over both his Word and his people.
Let us respond to this glorious truth by standing and singing Hymn # 275 "How Firm a Foundation"
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