1 Peter 3; Jeremiah 35-36; Psalm 136
North Korea recently executed a number of citizens for what most people in the world would consider “petty crimes.” Actually, most people in the world would not consider many of the executable offenses as crimes. One of the crimes was possession of a Bible. Many would be shocked at that cause and the other causes for execution. President Kim Jong Un ordered the executions to fight “corrupt foreign influence.” As followers of Christ, we recognize that such intolerance is widespread around the world; that tyrants have always sought to exterminate God’s Word and His people. Such tyrants should learn the lesson of Jehoiakim.
God directed Jeremiah to write out all the prophecies that He had led Jeremiah to make. Those in the religious leadership heard all these prophecies put together and instead of dismissing them, recognized that God’s Word showed them that punishment was coming if they didn’t return to Him. They made sure that Jehoiakim got that scroll. He got it on a cold night and as portions were read he laughingly cut them off of the scroll and put them on the fire. He thought that by burning God’s word, he could get rid of it. Many tyrants have tried to get rid of God’s word. As for Jehoiakim, “After the king burned the scroll containing the words that Baruch had written at Jeremiah’s dictation, the word of the LORD came to Jeremiah: ‘Take another scroll and write on it all the words that were on the first scroll, which Jehoiakim king of Judah burned up.’” The prognosis for the rest of Jehoiakim’s life was painful, short and full of loss.
As God’s people we recognize that God speaks to us through His word. We may not be sitting in front of a fireplace ready to tear up His word and burn it as we hear it read. The question that each of us faces every day is whether or not we’ll read God’s word and follow it. We don’t have the threat hanging over our head that Jehoiakim had. We do have the knowledge of God’s love for us and the recognition that failure to do what God’s word tells us to do has an even worse punishment: we are reminded of the price that Jesus paid on the cross for our sins. That knowledge should stab at our heart even more than any persecution. Today, live in the love of Jesus Christ. Accept and follow His word and experience the joy of life in Christ. It’s worth the cost.