“Harden Not Your Hearts”

I wonder how many of you have a penknife or pocket knife?

When we were young, this was a prized possession of many young people, and with its various blades, it had many uses. For example: wood could be carved, corkscrews on bottles could be opened, pencils could be sharpened. But of course, it is possible to misuse a tool like this. Much care needs to be taken, so there is no danger to others. In our day, more than one penknife was confiscated at school because it was used for a wrong purpose by its owner.

In the prophecy of Jeremiah chapter 36, we read of a king named Jehoiakim, who used his penknife for a wrong purpose. It was winter, and a fire was burning in the hearth. His advisers were reading to him from a scroll. The tidings in the scroll were not what the king wanted to hear. The Lord had told His prophet Jeremiah to write that the kingdom of Judah would be overthrown by the Chaldeans, because the nation of Judah had forsaken God and His ways.

What did Jehoiakim do when he heard the prophecy?

Instead of acknowledging it as God’s Word and repenting of the sins which had brought God’s anger, he took his penknife, cut out the pages that offended him, and threw them into the fire, thinking that the message was destroyed.

How foolish he was!

The Bible tells us that neither the king nor his men were afraid, either of the solemn warnings or of the king’s rebellion. But God had seen. God told Jeremiah to rewrite the prophecy, and even more warnings were added to it, all of which came to pass when the Chaldeans overthrew Jerusalem.

There are lessons for each of us in this sad incident.

First, to cut anything out of God’s Word, especially those parts which tell us of our sins and need of repentance, is a very solemn sin of which God will take notice. He says in another place: “Harden not your hearts, as in the provocation” (Hebrews 3.8).

Second, despite man’s unbelief and distaste for His Word, God will still fulfil it. Jesus said, “Heaven and earth shall pass away, but My words shall not pass away” (Matthew 24.35). God will not change His Word to suit man’s sin. It is man who needs to change, not God. It is the work of His Holy Spirit to produce this change in His children.

Third, may we be given the courage of Jeremiah. Despite being imprisoned, he would not compromise God’s Word; he faithfully proclaimed it, even though it was not popular. He would have said, “Let God be true, but every man a liar” (Romans 3:4).

By Gerald Buss

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