Today’s Old Testament lesson (Jeremiah 36:11-26) offers a story that might seem somewhat irrelevant to our day and age, but which, I fear, is all too contemporary. The Lord speaks a word of warning to the prophet Jeremiah — a word that declares judgment against the people and their leaders if they refuse to turn from wickedness. Jeremiah dictates this prophecy to his secretary Baruch and tells him to read the Lord’s message in the temple; and as Baruch follows these instructions, God’s truth is heard by several of the king’s advisors, who are cut to the heart by its message. They inform the king, who commands that the scroll be brought and read in his presence. But as the prophetic warning is read, the king cuts off pieces of the scroll and throws them into the fire.
It seems like a tale from long ago and far away, doesn’t it? And yet, I can’t help but wonder if we, too, are sometimes guilty of spurning truth rather than allowing it to change our hearts. Social commentators far more perceptive than I have noted our tendency to create “echo chambers” that feed us only the “news” and perspectives that reinforce our existing biases. And especially when it comes to heeding the messages of scripture, I can’t escape the feeling that — even among those of us who claim submission to God’s Word — some on the “left” have “cut up and burned” the pieces that have to do with personal holiness…and some on the “right” have “cut up and burned” the pieces that have to do with corporate justice…and many of us all over the spectrum have managed to spurn God’s warnings about a “comfortable idolatry,” which maintains a veneer of religiosity but lacks wholehearted devotion.
Is there a solution for this conundrum? I wish I knew. But at the very least, we can pray that we will be open to hearing and responding to the full counsel of God. Rather than “spurning and burning” the difficult truths that challenge our biases and vested interests, let’s humble ourselves and ask the Lord to use His Word to remake us in his image. As Paul puts it in one of his letters:
Every part of Scripture is God-breathed and useful one way or another—showing us truth, exposing our rebellion, correcting our mistakes, training us to live God’s way. Through the Word we are put together and shaped up for the tasks God has for us. (2 Timothy 3:16-17, The Message)