Explore the Bible Study: Speaks (The Cost of Ignoring God's Message)

9:45 AM

According to Pew Research, Eight-in-ten Americans say they don’t generally answer their cellphone when an unknown number calls. While we might understand this response to unknown callers, it seems that over the past few years, more and more people have begun to ignore calls and texts from even their closest friends. While we might not admit it, there are also times when God sends us a message that we choose to ignore as well. The Explore the Bible Study: Speaks, reveals what happens when one chooses to ignore God's messages.

Imagine someone receiving a written message from God and tearing it to shreds and burning it? This is what took place in chapter 36 of Jeremiah. The king of Judah, King Johoiakim, didn’t like the message that came from God’s prophet, Jeremiah. So, he tried to dispose of it. But God’s Word could not be destroyed, and the truth it declared could not be avoided. 

In the fifth year of Judah’s evil King Jehoiakim, the Lord instructed Jeremiah to record his prophetic words on a scroll. Jeremiah 36:2-3 describes the message and the reason God sends the message:

“Take a scroll, and write on it all the words I have spoken to you concerning Israel, Judah, and all the nations from the time I first spoke to you during Josiah’s reign until today. 3 Perhaps when the house of Judah hears about all the disaster I am planning to bring on them, each one of them will turn from his evil way. Then I will forgive their iniquity and their sin.”  (Jeremiah 36:2-3)

Jeremiah faithfully dictated the words to Baruch, his scribe, who later shared the words with all those who came to the temple (Jeremiah 36:4-10).

An official named Micaiah heard the Lord’s words and shared what he had heard with other leaders (Jeremiah 36:11-13). Baruch then read the scroll Jeremiah had dictated to these officials. After hearing what God had said through the prophet, the men determined that King Jehoiakim also needed to hear these messages (Jeremiah 36:14-18).

What we will observe in Jehoiakim’s response to God’s Word should cause us to stop and evaluate how we might respond to the messages God sends to us through His Word and His Spirit. We should also observe the consequences when a society refuses to hear and respond to God’s Word.

God’s Message Prompts a Response – Jeremiah 36:16-21

Jeremiah 36:12 names five officials to whom Micaiah, the original recipient of Jeremiah’s message, brought the news. Try to imagine what unfolds:

  • The officials heard the message and were afraid. Yet they felt the king needed to hear the message.
  • The officials knew that the king would likely reject the message and come after Jeremiah and Baruch, so they encouraged them to hide.
  • Instead of taking the scroll to King Jehoiakim, they left the scroll under the care of Elishama the scribe. 
  • Then other officials recounted for Jehoiakim the details and requested a meeting to discuss Jeremiah’s message.
  • The king sent Jehudi to get the scroll. 
  • Jehudi retrieved the scroll from Elishama (v. 20) and brought it to the king. 
  • Jehudi then read it in Jehoiakim’s hearing, as the other officials stood by. 

Jehoiakim’s response was vital because royal support for Jeremiah’s words could turn the country back toward the Lord. On the other hand, the king’s rejection of Jeremiah’s words would lead to God’s judgment.

Believers are called to deliver God’s Word faithfully. That can happen through preaching, teaching, or even a simple conversation. The nature of our delivery will vary, but God invites us to share in delivering His Word wherever and however we can.

Sadly, Jehoiakim responded even worse to the message than what was anticipated. 

Imagine standing before King Jehoiakim as he responds. Consider how you would feel.

God’s Message is Blatantly and Callously Ignored – Jeremiah 36:22-26

Whey you read what the king did to the scrolls what thoughts or feelings do you have regarding his actions? 

What would you have done if you were Jehudi and you observed the king’s actions?

How are people’s responses to God’s Word today like those of the king?

What might be some reasons people disregard the message of the Bible?

Jehoiakim responded with utter contempt for God’s Word, and the actions he took to destroy the scroll indicate further disdain for God and the prophetic message. Additionally, we see how his view of God’s message influenced the behavior of the entire audience in the room:

  • His servants had no regard for God’s message. They heard the message, but they did not become terrified at the king’s actions, nor did they tear their clothes—an action that would demonstrate great distress or morning.
  • Jehoiakim commanded some of his officials’ sons including his own son to seize the scribe Baruch and the prophet Jeremiah. 

Can you imagine the king of Judah sending his own son the sons of some of his officials to do the work of destroying God’s messenger? What does the fact that the officials Jehoiakim commanded to seize Jeremiah and Baruch were sons, one being his own son, communicate about the influence our response to God has on the next generation? 

People who reject God’s Word will try to silence it. The Bible challenges people to admit they’re sinners, and most people in this world just don’t want to do that. Consequently, they invest a lot of time and energy into discrediting the Bible—or they persecute the messengers. Additionally, they usually desire to bring down the next generation with them by encouraging their own children to reject the message and messengers of God.

What one must never forget, however, is that there is a price to be paid for ignoring God’s message.

There are Consequences When We Ignore God’s Message – Jeremiah 36:27-31 

Had you been Jeremiah, would you have felt like a failure or have possibly been unsure about writing another message for the king? What can you learn from the persistence of God to Jeremiah that he was to prepare the message “once again,” plus some additional words to the king?

Remember Jeremiah’s situation. He had prophesied for twenty years already and seen little spiritual response. Then, the king had sent God’s messages up in flames. After Jehoiakim burned the scroll, Jeremiah and Baruch could have fallen into utter despair. 

The “Therefore” in verse 30 introduced God’s dramatic conclusion.

  • Jehoiakim would have no one to sit on David’s throne. Jehoiakim’s royal line ceased shortly after his death. His son, Jehoiachin, inherited a city under Babylonian siege and reigned only three months before he surrendered to Nebuchadnezzar (2 Kings 24:8-12). Zedekiah, Jehoiakim’s brother, became Judah’s last king, and his rebellion led to Jerusalem’s destruction (2 Kings 24:17–25:10). 
  • Jehoiakim’s corpse would be thrown out without a proper burial, exposing it to the heat of day and the frost of night. The word thrown out is a different form of the word translated “throw” in verse 23. Jehoiakim had cast aside God’s Word, so God would cast his corpse aside. 
  • Jehoiakim’s officers would also be punished. Judah’s leaders had failed miserably. The word officers likely denotes leaders who served the king.
  • God’s judgment would progress from the king to his descendants, to his officers, down to the residents of the capital, and finally to the general population. The Lord had repeatedly warned them about this disaster for twenty years through Jeremiah. Tragically, they did not listen to His words. While some of the people eventually returned from exile, the nation, in general, paid a terrible price for their sin.

Are We Still Ignoring God's Message?

One might think that we are past the days when those who reject God would blatantly destroy God’s Word, but we must remember that we live in a sin-broken world. We might feel as if we are relatively protected today in our society for people becoming as angry as King Jehoiakim became. Is this because people are responding differently, or is it because the message of repentance and salvation is not being proclaimed? A July 14, 2023, CNN News Post reveals how people view God’s written word in a “modern” society. It was reported that “Swedish authorities have approved a protest involving the burning of Torahs and Bibles outside the Israeli Embassy in Stockholm.” Perhaps we aren’t as immune to people responding negatively to God’s message as we think. 

What can you learn from Jeremiah regarding sharing the Good News of Jesus Christ?

How should believers respond to those who try to destroy God’s Word?

Examine your own life to consider if you have “torn out pages in God’s Word and tossed them in the fire” because you didn’t like what God said to you. 

Consider whether or not your lifestyle reflects the actions of Jehoiakim. Are there things you are doing, saying, thinking, or not doing, saying, or thinking that communicate that you have “torn out pages in God’s Word and burned them”?

The downloadable teaching helps provide more details for this study, along with some tools you can use in guiding a group Bible study. 

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LifeWay Explore The Bible Resources

These teaching helps are intended to be used as a supplement to your study of Lifeway's Explore the Bible curriculum resources. Portions of this material are taken directly from content copyrighted to Lifeway Christian Resources Explore the Bible and is used with permission.  This material has not been reviewed by Lifeway Christian Resources. 

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