November 3 | Daily Devotion

Lectio Continua: a continuous reading of every verse

Lectio Semi-continua: shorter reading selections from the passages

Lectio Divina

“Whenever Jehudi had read three or four columns of the scroll, the king cut them off with a scribe’s knife and threw them into the firepot, until the entire scroll was burned in the fire. The king and all his attendants who heard all these words showed no fear, nor did they tear their clothes.” ~Jeremiah 36:23-24

OLD TESTAMENT

I don’t think I’ve ever stepped off the stage after preaching a sermon and heard someone say, “You’d better hide.” Jeremiah knew exactly how chilling those words could be though. His message was held in such contempt that he had reason to fear for his life.

The prophet is still in custody and unable to preach in the temple, so he calls for his personal assistant, Baruch. Baruch writes down the sermons Jeremiah wants preached and delivers them during worship in the temple (this prophet-to-scribe relationship is most likely the reason we have so many of Isaiah’s sermons). A man named Micaiah, presumably a court official or a devotee of the king, hears these sermons and reports their content to the king’s officials, who ask for a private reading. Jeremiah’s sermons hold out hope for the people: “Perhaps when the people of Judah hear about every disaster I plan to inflict on them, they will each turn from their wicked ways; then I will forgive their wickedness and their sin” (Jer. 36:3). However, the message was uncompromising. The people needed to repent. After the court officials hear the actual words of Jeremiah, they send word to Baruch, “You and Jeremiah, go and hide” (Jer. 36:19).

The king then sends for the scroll. After the reader finishes a few columns (similar to pages), the king takes up a knife, defiantly cuts the offending words from the end of the scroll, and tosses the scrap into the fire. The king and his officials are unfazed by Jeremiah’s calls for repentance. Even with Babylonia threatening, King Jehoiakim remains defiant.

It is amazing how defiant people can be in spite of encountering the word of God again and again. I have seen this sort of thing among those who call themselves God’s people, and it is baffling. As a minister, you scratch your head, wonder what you are doing wrong, determine to pray harder, and perhaps preach with more clarity and compassion. And yet, the same people refuse to listen. There is a warning here for all of us, even the most soft-hearted. When we hear the Word preached, or read the Word that has been written to us, we must always listen to what the Spirit may be saying to us. Rather than burn the Word, we must let the message of the Word burn our hearts with conviction. If God has been speaking to you about something, listen! Don’t be like the king and his people, who paid a terrible price for their stubborn ways. Listen, change, and receive God’s mercy!

NEW TESTAMENT

This beautiful little letter is from Paul to his friend Philemon intervening for a runaway slave named Onesimus. Apparently Onesimus fled from his master (Philemon), came to the city of Rome, and somehow came under the influence of Paul. Onesimus was converted while Paul was in prison and became the apostle’s “son while in chains” (Phm. 10). Paul knows the law, and he recognizes the legal rights of Philemon, but he gently presses him on the basis of Christian charity to accept his slave back without reprisal. In fact, Paul asks Philemon to accept Onesimus as a brother in the Lord.

I think Philemon is one of the great peacemaking letters of the Bible. It provides an example for us as Christians to intervene when we can to bring reconciliation between brothers and sisters in Christ. This world could use a whole lot more peace, and as Christians we are called to be peacemakers. What an awesome calling. One lesson we can learn from Paul is that peacemaking requires courage and creativity. Don’t you just love Paul’s loving but challenging way with his friend, Philemon?


Lectio Divina is written by F. Lionel Young III, who serves as the senior pastor of Calvary Church in Valparaiso, Indiana. He is the author of A New Kind of Missionary, a popular introduction to global Christianity.