For Preachers Only
THE MINISTRY OF THE WORD
By James L. Thornton
We want to use this study to help in the preparation for the ministry. The study will be put on in several sections with links to each study. We will be adding to this study from time to time.
We hope you will visit each section of this study. We feel you can gain some insight into the calling and duties of the minister.
It is said that a Minister, who was a friend of Abraham Lincoln, called on him shortly after he had been elected president of the United States and inquired about a position in his cabinet. Not long afterwards Mr. Lincoln called the minister into his office and told him that he had considered his request. Mr. Lincoln informed him, "I find that there is no office in the United States Government that is befitting to you, as you already hold the highest position in the land as a Minister of the Gospel."
It is true there is no higher profession in the world than to be called to Minister the gospel of Jesus Christ.
The Apostle Paul tells us how important the minister is in the salvation of mankind, in fact he says a person cannot be saved without the minister.
Romans 10:13. For whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved.
14. How then shall they call on him in whom they have not believed? And how shall they believe in him of whom they have not heard? And how shall they hear without a preacher?
15. And how shall they preach, except they be sent? As it is written, how beautiful are the feet of them that preach the Gospel of peace, and bring glad tidings of good things!
16. But they have not all obeyed the gospel. For Esaias saith, lord, who hath believed our report?
17. So then faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of god. (kjv)
B. THE CALLING AND THE QUALIFYING OF THE MINISTER
I would like to begin this study with a look at the calling and qualifying of the minister. My dad, an old time minister, said, "Some are called, some are sent, and some just bundled up and went." There is a whole lot of truth in that statement.
I would like for each person who reads these studies on, "THE MINISTRY OF THE WORD," to search their own heart and soul to see if you really and truly feel the call of God to the ministry, or if other pressures made the decision for you.
Ephesians 3:7. Where of I was made a minister, according to the gift of the grace of God given unto me by the effectual working of his power. (kjv)
Ephesians 4:11. And he gave some, apostles; and some, prophets; and some, evangelists; and some, pastors and teachers;
12. For the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ: (kjv)
First of all we must recognize that there must be a definite call from God to the ministry. There must be a time, and a place, that we can look back upon and say, "it was here, and this manner, that God called me to the ministry."
Jacob had such a meeting with God at Jab-bok (Genesis 32:22-32). Isaiah came face to face with God on the day his king died (Isaiah 6:1-11). Ezekiel was by the river Chebar when he saw visions of God (Ezekiel 1:1). Paul received his call on the road to Damascus (Acts 9:1-9). Each of these, and many more, had a life changing experience that they could testify of many years afterwards.
Many may enter the ministry because their father, or grandfather, was a minister, and they are simply walking in their footsteps. Some may enter the ministry because it seems to be an easy way to make a living. The reasons may vary from person to person. Let us be honest with our selves and with God and if we have never experienced a definite call from God let us seek God for that call.
If you have chosen the ministry, expecting to be carried to heaven on "flowery beds of ease," you have made an apparent mistake. With such ideas, you will never rise above the merest mumble, and you had better seek out other pursuit. But when with a worthy opinion of the purpose and rewards of the gospel ministry, and you give yourselves unreservedly and wisely to its prosecution; then, in spite of its arduous toils, you may look for joys, like of which this world gives to no other laborers.
All other pleasures pale in comparison as you hear the cry of the lost saying, "what must I do to be saved?" Or the song of the convert whom you have brought to Jesus, there will be to you an "over-payment of delight" for all the exertions which you have made. God places in the heart of his ministers the burden for lost souls, and rewards them with joy when one repents.
I do not bring to you any "short and easy method" to ministerial usefulness and success. For nigh unto fifty years I have been striving to reach my ideal of the Christian preacher, and it seems to me as if I were to-day as far from it as ever.
Never did it seem to me so difficult to preach as it does today. The magnitude of the work grows the longer we engage in it; and with every new attempt we make, there comes the painful consciousness that we have not yet attained (Philippians 2:12-14). Twenty years ago I thought I could preach a little, and flattered my-self that I knew something about homiletics. Now I feel that I am a beginner, and the thought of addressing you upon such a subject fills me with misgiving.
C. THE PURPOSE OF THE MINISTRY IS TO BE A SERVANT
The next thing I would like to bring to your attention is the true purpose of a God called minister. To find the answer to that, let us open the New Testament, where we learn, in the first place, that it is first of all a service. The first minister is the Lord Jesus Christ himself, and the following are his words.
Matthew 20:26. But it shall not be so among you: but whosoever will be great among you, let him be your minister;
27. And whosoever will be chief among you, let him be your servant:
28. Even as the Son Of Man came not to be ministered unto, but to minister, and to give his life a ransom for many. (kjv)
The same thought is brought to our attention again at the supper table when some had argued over which of them would be accounted the greatest.
Luke 22:26. But ye shall not be so: but he that is greatest among you, let him be as the younger; and he that is chief, as he that doth serve.
27. For whether is greater, he that sitteth at meat, or he that serveth? Is not he that sitteth at meat? But I am among you as he that serveth. (kjv)
When the son's of Zebedee came seeking the highest seat in His kingdom, he said, "Can ye drink of the cup that I drink of, and be baptized with the baptism that I am baptized with? (Mark 10:38)
We, as ministers of Christ, must imitate the great principals laid down in these verses by Jesus. One must imitate this consecration of himself to the service of others, as the great indispensable prerequisite to greatness in the ministry. In doing this we are only enforcing Jesus' words to James and John, in urging that the drinking of His cup and submitting of ourselves to His baptism, are the only passports to real greatness in the work to which we have devoted ourselves.
This principal is far reaching. It tells us that it is through manifold experiences of sorrow and pain that Christ fits His ministers for their highest service. He writes their best sermons for them on their own hearts with a sharp "stylus" of trial, and they are then most eloquent and effective when they read what has been written on their own hearts to their hearers.
Those whom He calls to His ministry, He takes with Him into Gethsemane, and such as He would make most eminent He takes furthest in. How true this statement is. We only have to study the biographies of a few of the most eminent ministers, both in the book of Acts, and down through history to the present day.
Now God may not have called you to suffer persecution and shame like some of those were, but nevertheless there is still a price to pay to achieve ministerial greatness. I want you to take note that this willingness to sacrifice self in the service of others is the distinctive feature of ministerial greatness.
The people are not for the minister, but the minister is for the people, and he is to lose himself in their service and for their benefit. See how the Apostle Paul had learned this lesson, when he says, "We preach not ourselves (as lords), but Christ Jesus the Lord, and ourselves your servants for Jesus' sake" (2 Corinthians 4:5).
Again we find him describing this as the dominating principal of his life, "For though I be free from all men, yet have I made myself servant of all, that I might gain the more" (1 Corinthians 9:19).
Now I put this at the forefront, because, as it seem to me, it goes very far to account for the ministerial failures over which the churches mourn, and for the partial successes which have been made by many who were otherwise admirably adopted for the work.
The minister who is constantly railing on, and scolding his congregation is doomed to failure. The office of the preacher is that of helper of his fellows. His special duty is to lead them to him who is their helper and redeemer, and to assist them in the understanding of his word, and in the application of its principals to their daily lives.
Hardly can we find a more appropriate model for the Christian Minister, than that presented by the Apostle Paul, when he says, "And I will very gladly spend and be spent for you: though the more abundantly I love you, the less I be loved (2 Corinthians 12:15).
On the other hand, he who seeks to be the servant of all--comforting the sorrowful, assisting the weak, sustaining the burdened, directing the perplexed, and cheering the disconsolate--will as he is pursuing his work, gather around him the love and confidence of his people.
Whomsoever will be great in this field, therefore, must begin by renouncing self. If you make yourself the chief end of your ambition, you will lose your labor, and do no good either to yourself or to others. But if forgetting self, you seek the good of your people for Christ’s sake, you will bless them, and have at the last their happiness added to your own. Thus, the motto of the ministry is that of the highest nobility, "I SERVE".
We hope you enjoyed this chapter in our study of "THE MINISTRY OF THE WORD."
D. THE PREPARATION OF THE MINISTER
In this study of "THE MINISTRY OF THE WORD" we will discuss ways the preacher or teacher can prepare themselves for their ministry. We talked about the calling and the purpose of the minister, we are now ready to inquire what are the prerequisites to an effective ministry.
We must seek the holy spirit for power in our ministry
here I take for granted that the minister is himself a sincere and earnest Christian filled with the Spirit of God, and that he will constantly seek the co-operation with him of the Holy Spirit. These are the first principals with us, they are of the greatest importance, they, are paramount and indispensable.
These things are the life and power of your ministry. If you have not that conviction, the kindest thing I can say to you is, "go no further until you get it."
It is only light that can enlighten. It is only fire that can kindle flame. If we would illuminate others, we must have light in ourselves (Matthew 5:14-16). And if we would kindle the flame of Godliness in others we must take the "live coal" with which we do so, from the burning "altar" of our own spirit (Isaiah 6:6-7). The fathers called it "unction," it is really the holy spirit.
If we be ourselves uninterested, how can we expect to interest others? If we be ourselves insincere, how can we hope to bring others to the faith? If we be ourselves cold, passionless, and dull, how can we expect to rouse others to enthusiasm? Let us read what Paul wrote to his young minister Timothy.
2 Timothy 1:6. Wherefore I put thee in remembrance that thou stir up (fan into flame) the gift of God, which is in thee by the putting on of my hands. (kjv)
Even personal sincerity will not avail without the co-operation of the Holy Spirit. And so the connection between prayer in your closet and power in the pulpit is of the closest sort. HE PREACHETH BEST WHO PRAYETH BEST.
Prayer is to the minister what the minstrel's music was to Elisha (2 Kings 3:15), it prepares his soul for the decent of the Holy Ghost upon him, and when He is with us, there is power.
Ezekiel’s prophesying produced a shaking among the bones, and a coming together, but it was the breath of the Lord in answer to his prayer that gave them life (Ezekiel 37:7-10). When God pours out upon a minister the spirit of prayer, it is the sign of coming revival in his church.
In the history of the Christian Church there have been more great preachers than great men in any other realm of art or science. In any age of the Christian Church the rise and fall in spiritual power, in the nation as a whole, has largely corresponded with the ebb and the flow in preaching. GREAT PREACHING WILL SAVE THE WORLD.
E. FILL YOUR HEART AND MIND WITH THE WORD OF GOD
I adjure you to give special emphasis to a familiar acquaintance with the scriptures, as one of the most important prerequisites to power in the pulpit.
You are to be ministers of the word (2 Timothy 4:2), and it is by the knowledge of the scriptures that you are to be thoroughly furnished for your work (2 tTimothy 3:16-17).
THE BIBLE IS YOUR "TEXT BOOK," and that not in a sense of being just a place to find a text, but in that of constituting the foundation of all your discourses. You are pastors and teachers, and the very thing you are to teach is the word of God. Some read far too much about the Bible, and far too little in the bible. the Bible is the most important book you will ever own.
That is not to say that there are not other books and commentaries which be of great help in your ministry, but I would pick these carefully as there are many things being written which will be of little value in the long run.
Some are pursuing a social gospel with no real life changing virtues, more a self-help course than anything else. Hundreds of different views on the end-time are available, and fictional stories to capture the imagination are abundant. These will be of little value when you stand by the bedside of a dying person and you need to say something to help them in their last hour.
That is not the time for poems or some saying you read out of the latest book. The only thing they want to hear is something from God Himself. So quote, or read from the Bible, the 23rd Psalm, the 14th chapter of St. John's gospel, or some words of Paul in 15th chapter of 1 Corinthians.
Christianity is revealed to us in the scriptures of the Old and the New Testament. In the Old, through history, types and prophecy; in the New, through the revelation of Jesus Christ. If we are to teach it effectively, we must be thoroughly acquainted with these books.
The preacher of the Gospel should be like Apollos, "mighty in the scriptures" (Acts 18:24). Commit to memory as much of it as you possibly can. Have your memory stored with its words, so they may come at your bidding to strengthen and adorn your pulpit ministry. In preparing to feed the flock, the minister must first feed his own heart out of the book.
I am urging you to a continuous study of its books, familiarize yourselves with its truths that you may be able to proclaim them to others. I wish you to have your minds so saturated with its spirit, that the first and most natural view you will take of any subject, will be the Biblical.
Resolve that whatever else you read or leave unread, you will at least master that which for you is the book. And never imagine that you have perfectly possessed yourselves of all its treasures, for, as you grow in your Christian experience, you will find that you have grown into the capacity of discovering just so much more. Then after years of study you will say like the Queen of the East, "the half has never been told" (1 Kings 10:7).
F. THE JOY OF PREPARING TO PREACH
2 Timothy 2:15. Study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth. (kjv)
Somehow a man finds time to enjoy what he most loves. No portion of your life between Sundays should bring more lasting joys than the four or five morning hours which you spend in your study. One reason why those hours should come early in the day is because that is usually the best time for intellectual labor. Strive to enjoy your daily work as a student. The psalmist says in the first psalm, "His delight is in the law of the lord; and in his law doth he meditates day and night" (Psalms 1:2). If in the course of time one does not enjoy these long, quiet morning hours in the study, something is wrong with one's methods, with one's tools (books, study materials), or with one's motives for entering the ministry.
Though preparing to preach is a solitary experience, the minister in the study should never feel lonesome. By his spirit the Living Christ is with each of the Children of God, and in a special sense he is with the man who is preparing to preach. That is one reason why his place of study should be a sort of upper room, or shrine, where the minister is as free to pray as he is to read and meditate and write.
One reason why the Apostle Paul could write his authoritative Epistles was because he had time to think, and to meditate, and to pray, by day and by night. I do not think that Paul felt lonesome in those long nights and days while he was in prison. His mind was occupied with the problems the churches and ministers faced, and he communicated to them what God revealed to him. A good rule of thumb to go by is, to proportion an hour of reflection, or thought, to an hours reading, and so absorb the material into your mind. Spend much time in preparing to preach.
G. KNOW THE HUMAN HEART
Another prerequisite to success in the ministry is a good knowledge of the human heart. A physician must understand, not merely the workings of the different medicines he prescribes, but also the symptoms and workings of the diseases which he is asked to cure. He must visit the wards of the hospitals, as well as study the book containing an official list of medicinal drugs together with articles on their preparation and use.
The gospel is a remedial principal, and therefore it is essential that its ministers should be acquainted with the nature of man, as well as the means, with which he, by God's help, is to use to transform that nature.
There are, admittedly, distinctive peculiarities in each individual, but in their great outstanding characteristics, men everywhere are very much alike. Therefore, you may safely take it for granted, that what you find in your own hearts, exists also in the hearts of others.
The burden of guilt which weighed so heavily on your conscience, will be found pressing also upon theirs, if only you can succeed in bringing them to that knowledge of God's Law (Romans 7:7) by which you were awakened to a sense of your sinfulness. The blood of Christ which cleansed you from your iniquities will be as cleansing in their cases, if they will apply it to themselves in simple faith.
The struggle that you have continually to carry on against the evil principals that are yet within you, must be maintained also by them. Whatever is felt by you to be helpful in the holy war, will be welcomed by them. The besetments which encircle you, will in some form or other surround them. The weaknesses, which you feel so frequently, and in consequence of which you yield so often to temptation, will be felt by them. And whatever has been to you the means of revival, will certainly prove a remedy for them.
They have their unsettlements and trials in life just as you have. They have their sorrows, and sicknesses, and bereavements just as you have. And by telling them how you have been up-lifted, may "be able to comfort them which are in any trouble, by the comfort wherewith we ourselves are comforted of God." (2 Corinthians 1:4)
Preaching from the Bible enables the minister to supply the heart needs of his people. THE PREACHER MUST LIVE WITH THE PEOPLE IF HE IS TO KNOW THEIR PROBLEMS, AND HE MUST LIVE WITH GOD IF HE IS TO SOLVE THEM.
The obvious way to live with God all week is to saturate one's soul in the Bible, and to keep working in the spirit of prayer. Such a minister devotes long morning hours in his study, chiefly in the Bible, and five nights a week to the pastoral cure of souls. As a result; therefore his sermon from the Bible on next Sunday morning will be concerned with divine power for human souls among his own people.
"Comfort ye, comfort ye my people, saith your God. Speak ye comfortably to Jerusalem" (Isaiah 40:1,2).
H. A PRAYER BEFORE YOU PREACH
Before entering the sanctuary to preach, the minister should take a few minutes to kneel in his study to pray for his people, both saints and sinners, one by one, and then ask God to accept the sermon which is burning in his heart. "Here, O Lord is my sermon. It is a piece of my heart and of my life. Take it, I beseech thee, and use it as an earthen vessel. Cleanse it by thy Holy Spirit, then fill it and flood it with the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ."
I. EFFECTIVE PREACHING
If the minister expects to have success at winning souls to God, and equipping the Saints to live a Christ-like life, he must preach the word of the Lord. We need an increase in the use of the Bible in preaching. It is the authority that backs our preaching. It voices the everlasting messages of the world's hope.
Many a minister sends his people away with a feeling that they have heard him, more than they have heard from God. When people, with receptive hearts, discover that your words are God's words, not the words of man, they will rejoice when they hear you.
Now I’m not saying that you cannot successfully fill a large church by not having Bible preaching. Having a very large church is not a sure sign that the Bible is being preached there. The Apostle Paul says that,
"The time will come that they will not endure sound doctrine; but after their own lusts shall they heap to themselves teachers, having itching ears; and they shall turn away their ears from the truth, and shall be turned unto fables (2 Timothy 4:3-4).
Paul is saying that to some the truth of God's Word is intolerable. And so they will flock to some teacher, or preacher who will flatter the pride of human nature, and not lay too great a stress upon the importance of a holy life, or obedience to the ordinances of the scripture such as repentance, baptism, and a spirit filled life.
PAUL LAID GREAT STRESS UPON PREACHING FROM THE BIBLE.
2 Timothy 4:1. I charge thee therefore before God, and the Lord Jesus Christ, who shall judge the quick and the dead at his appearing and his kingdom;
2. Preach the word; be instant in season, out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort with all longsuffering and doctrine. (kjv)
The object of the Apostle is to impart to Timothy a solemn sense of responsibility of his ministry. All preachers must one day give an account of their stewardship. Such a thought ought to stimulate them into greater faithfulness. Their responsibility is to God, who is witness of their work, and the ultimate judge of it's worth at his second coming.
"PREACH THE WORD;" His first and pre-eminent duty is to preach the gospel, because "it is the power of God unto salvation" (Romans 1:16). the highest order of business of the preacher is to "preach the word."
Timothy had not to create a gospel, but to preach one; and the "word" is broad and vast enough for any preacher. Nothing else will fortify and sustain the Christian against the trials of life except Bible preaching.
"Be instant in season, out of season;" He was to be ready for every opportunity of preaching. He was to have his stated season for preaching (sunday morning, sunday night, wednesday night, etc.), so that men might know when they can hear the word; but he is also to preach beyond the stated season.
The preacher must have a since of urgency in every part of his work. He must create opportunities where he cannot find them; he must work at times both convenient and inconvenient to himself; he must approach the willing opportunity, and the unwilling opportunity.
He must "reprove," or convince, those in error as to doctrine.
He must "rebuke" the unruly, or immoral in life.
He must "exhort with all long-suffering and doctrine"--exercising due patience, and using all the resources of a sanctified understanding, to encourage men to keep the ways of good doctrine (bible philosophy) and holiness.
2 Timothy 3:15. And that from a child thou hast known the holy scriptures, which are able to make thee wise unto salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus.
16. All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness:
17. That the man of God may be perfect, throughly (completely) furnished unto all good works. (kjv)
The Bible is inspired by God (it is the words of God) (2 Timothy 3:16), and therefore has all the power of heaven behind it. It is like a high voltage power line coming from a great power plant. Everything that is hooked to this power line has all the resources of all the generating capacity of the entire power plant behind it.
It will cool our homes in the summer and heat them in winter. It will light the homes and streets in the whole city. It is an amazing force, an awesome power.
But remember when the connection is broken, on any device that is plugged into the line all the power of the entire power plant is shut off from that appliance or instrument, and it ceases to function normally.
The same is true in our preaching. As long as we keep our sermons hooked up to this line, it has all the resources of the universe behind it.
"It is profitable for doctrine."
The holy scriptures are sufficient to satisfy all spiritual and emotional needs of the people. They are the only true guide for giving instructions on how to live and get along with our fellowman. The scriptures have the only sure words of how to obtain eternal life. They are the best of all words at comforting the sorrowful. The hope and meaning of life is contained in the Bible. The scriptures are food for the soul (1 Peter 2:2-3), And nothing else will satisfy the hungry soul.
More than half the occurrences of the word "doctrine" In the New Testament are found in 1 & 2 Timothy where Paul is advising young pastor Timothy on how to educate the church in the things of God. Heresy and error in the church (in belief and practice) begin when Christians stray from the pure teaching (doctrine) of the Word Of God.
Do not unhook a scripture from the power source by taking it out of context (that for which the author intended), and trying to make it say something it does not mean. Then it does not have the backing of the power source in heaven.
The same is true of misinterpretation. A minister should study and pray that God will help him to have the proper understanding and application of the scripture, so that the power of God himself will work through it.
It is easy to misapply a scripture, or misuse it to make a point you are wanting to get across. this does not make good effective preaching. It is only through the true gospel of God's Word can a person grow and become stable and settled in the truth.
Every minister needs to try to think for themselves when reading and studying God's Word. There is so much false doctrine going around, that unless one knows what the Bible really says, there is a danger of being led off into it.
Paul warned the elders of Ephesus that false teachers would arise, even from among themselves, and draw many away from the truth of the gospel (Acts 20:29-30).
The reason there are so many denominations and religious sects is because of false interpretation, and misapplication of scripture.
When reading or studying the scripture think of THE FIVE "W BOYS." THE "W BOYS," are who, when, where, why and what. Who this scripture is written to, why was it written, what is being said, and how does it relate to us?
RULE OF THUMB TO GO BY,
1. Always think for yourself.
2. Don't believe everything you hear, no matter who says it.
3. Don't believe everything you read in all the religious books and magazines.
4. Don't take other people's opinions without examining them.
5. Try to find out the truth for yourselves.
6. If you hear a very strong opinion on one side of a question (doctrine), try to hear an opinion on the other side, then decide for yourself.
There is so much propaganda of all kinds, some of it true and some of it is not. It is very important that every minister all over the world should learn to find out the truth for themselves.
Jesus looked upon the multitude in Matthew 15:32 and said, I will not send them away hungry."
In the scriptures there is an abundance of seed-corn for the ministers study and nourishing food for the people's souls. King Zedekiah asked Isaiah, "Is there any word from the Lord?" (Isaiah 37:17) That should be the question the minister attempts to answer every time he steps into the pulpit, and the only place he will find the answer is in the scriptures.
The apostle Paul says, "So then faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God." (Romans 10:17)
"Thoroughly furnished (equipped) for every good work."
Applying our hearts to understand the things of God is the only way to become wise in this life (Proverbs 2:1-10). It is Jesus Christ who enables us for the ministry (1 Timothy 1:12); And it is only through His word, revealed by His spirit, that we know his enablement.
People of the Book (Bible) love the word of God more than anything else in this world. David said, "Thou hast magnified thy word above all thy name" (Psalms 138:2). With the living word filling our heart, and the living word filling our mind, we become "Thoroughly equipped for every good work."
If you have never decided that the Bible is the most valuable book--your most valuable possession and resource--would you make that decision today? Don't let your heart or hand, your word or your will offend when it comes to the word of God. Be a person of the Bible until Jesus comes.
J. THE INDESTRUCTIBLE WORD OF GOD
by James L. Thornton
This is another in the series of THE MINISTRY OF THE WORD. In this study we will discuss how the word of God has survived the onslaughts of all the forces that Satan has hurled against it. No other book in the world has been prepared and preserved like the Holy Scriptures, and no other book in the world deserves our sacred honor and devotion.
1 Peter 1:23. Being born again, not of corruptible seed, but of incorruptible, by the Word of God, which liveth and abideth for ever. (kjv)
In this lesson we would like to bring some examples of the permanency of the word of God. Many have tried (in vain) to circumvent (to avoid, or get around, by artful maneuvering) the word of God. Others have tried (in vain) to out-right (blatantly) destroy the word of God.
But the Word Of God is more permanent than the Rocky Mountains or the continent of South America. In fact the scriptures tell us that it will abide (to continue to be sure or firm; endure) the destruction of the world at the end time. In fact the word of God will be our judge in the final judgment. (John 12:48)
We will look into the Old Testament in the book of Jeremiah chapter 36 for this study. We will divide this chapter into three different scenes.
Scene #1, Jeremiah 36:1-19
In a quiet room somewhere in the city of Jerusalem Jeremiah, shut in by man (Jeremiah 36:5), is dictating to his faithful friend Baruch. God had told Jeremiah to record a full record of his prophetic ministry. It was abounding with judgment intermingled with mercy.
As Jeremiah dictated, the enemy was nearing the gates of the city of Jerusalem. As John the Baptist would later declare, "The axe is laid at the root of the tree." (Matthew 2:10). In other-words judgment is near, yet there is hope.
Baruch finished writing, and at the urging of Jeremiah, hastens with the "roll" to the gate of the city.
It is the "eleventh hour."
It is the "last hour."
It is the "last appeal."
It is the "last hope."
Baruch reads this roll from God in the ears of those gathered in the "high gate." He read it in the ears of all the people. Jeremiah was hoping that they would hear the dire warnings from God and repent and turn from their evil ways that God also might turn from his fierce anger towards them. (Jeremiah 36:7)
Then Baruch read the words of the book in the house of the Lord (verse 10), then he went down into the king's chamber and into the scribe's chamber to declare all the words that were in the roll before the princes, the chief men and scribes. He must have audience with the king. When they heard the words of the Lord concerning judgment upon the land they were afraid, and went to tell the king what God had said. (Jeremiah 36:15-16)
Scene #2, Jeremiah 36:20-26
In a splendid room, it is winter time, and there is a roaring fire going in the fireplace. The king and his court are assembled. A secretary is directed to read the roll out loud.
The king listens at first as Jehudi reads the first three pages,
Thoughts that burn,
Words that breathe.
The king's face changes,
From indifference, to annoyance,
From annoyance, to anger,
From anger, to fury.
The king takes a pen-knife and cuts the pages from the book then he throws them into the fire, and watches them go up in smoke. This he did until all the pages are consumed in the fire that was on the hearth. (Jeremiah 36:23)
Jeremiah 36:24. Yet they were not afraid, nor rent their garments, neither the king, nor any of his servants that heard these words.
There was no compunction, no feeling of guilt, no remorse, no apprehension of the coming judgment. And, worst of all, no misgivings, or second thoughts, arose when the Word Of God was cast into the fire, but confidence that it had been nullified.
Jeremiah 36:25. Nevertheless El-na-than and Del-a-iah and Gem-a-ri-ah had made intercession to the king that he would not burn the roll: but he would not hear them.
The next verse tells us that the king commanded them to lay hold upon Baruch and Jeremiah but God hid them from danger.
The king, in not taking heed to the Word Of The Lord, and then burning it, and attempting to lay hold on God's anointed messengers, sealed his doom along with his nation.
Scene #3, Jeremiah 36:27-32
Back in the room where Jeremiah is hiding. Again the word of the Lord came to Jeremiah. Jeremiah speaks to Baruch same words and other words, words of the impending punishment and destruction of the nation. (Jeremiah 36:32) There is no suggestion to send it back. God's word has been rejected, but, it will not go away. It remains the indestructible word of God.
GOD HAS SAID,
"Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words shall never pass away." (Matthew 24:35)
When God speaks to man he must listen, he may not speak again. Let us listen Ss e-li-hu, the fourth and youngest of Job's friends as he reasons of the way that God speaks to man.
Job 33:14. "For God speaketh once, yea twice, yet man perceiveth it not.
15. In a dream, in a vision of the night, when deep sleep falleth upon men, in slumberings upon the bed;
16. He openeth the ears of men and sealeth their instruction,
17. That he may withdraw from man his purpose, and hid pride from man.
18. He keepeth back his soul from the pit, and his life from perishing by the sword.
19. He chastened also with pain, upon his bed, and the multitude of his with strong pain.
26. He shall pray unto God, and he will be favorable unto him:
God will send messengers, it could be a dream, it could be a sickness, a tragedy which causes great pain and heartache. These come to turn men from their evil ways. And if any repent, God will pardon and turn from his wrath.
The word, or messenger may be rejected, even despised, even burned and mutilated, but never destroyed. IT WILL LIVE TO JUDGE YOU.
The end of our story of Jeremiah 36, The dead body of the king lies out in the night. There is none to bury him. The roll of Jeremiah was God's last message to him. It was left for other generations to read and to heed. IT IS INDESTRUCTIBLE.
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by James L. Thornton