How can people’s reactions be so different?


In Mt. 13:14-15 Jesus said, “In them is fulfilled the prophecy of Isaiah: “ ‘You will be ever hearing but never understanding; you will be ever seeing but never perceiving. 15For this people’s heart has become calloused; they hardly hear with their ears, and they have closed their eyes. Otherwise they might see with their eyes, hear with their ears, understand with their hearts and turn, and I would heal them.’ ”

Jesus was sadly commenting on the refusal of the people of His day to hear God’s message. He quoted from Isaiah, who had penned his words 700 years earlier, commenting on the people of his time and their rejection of God’s message. So people separated by 7 centuries had no use for God’s message. Then is it any surprise that Jeremiah, writing 600 years before the coming of Christ, found people’s ears to be just as deaf? That is the focus of this article; the text Jer. 36.

During the reign of Judah’s evil King Jehoiakim, son of righteous King Josiah, the LORD sent a word to His prophet, Jeremiah, “Take a scroll and write on it all the words I have spoken to you concerning Israel, Judah and all the other nations from the time I began speaking to you in the reign of Josiah till now. 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.”

Jeremiah dictated all that the LORD had given him to his servant, Baruch, who no doubt had writer’s cramps when he was finished. He was then assigned the responsibility of reading God’s words to the people of Judah. Jeremiah’s hopes were similar to those of the LORD. “Perhaps they will bring their petition before the LORD and will each turn from their wicked ways, for the anger and wrath pronounced against this people by the LORD are great.”

Knowing that the words from the LORD were words of judgment, Baruch read from the upper room courtyard of Gemariah; that way all of the people below could hear and he could remain somewhat unnoticed. The response of the people is not recorded, which means that it failed to meet the hopes of the LORD and Jeremiah. However, one young man, Micaiah, was touched and ran to share the message with several of Judah’s leaders, including his father. They asked Micaiah to go find and Baruch and ask him to come and read the scroll to them personally. He did so. How did they respond? “When they heard all these words, they looked at each other in fear and said to Baruch, ‘We must report all these words to the king.’ ”

King Jehoiakim’s response? “… 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. … the king commanded Jerahmeel … to arrest Baruch the scribe and Jeremiah the prophet.” That was as COLD of a response as was possible; refused to listen to the entire message, threw God’s message into the fire, no fear, no remorse, no repentance and ordered the arrest of Jeremiah and Baruch.

Others there at the reading for the King, “… urged the king not to burn the scroll, he would not listen to them.”

Oh, and God’s response? After King Jehoiakim ordered the arrest of Jeremiah and Baruch the scriptures say, “But the LORD had hidden them.”

How could so many people hear the same message from God (who only speaks the truth) and react so differently? A few heard God’s message of judgment and responded with fear and sorrow and repentance. But most heard that same message with deaf ears, one even seeking to destroy it. God had hoped that, “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.” He stood ready to forgive them, but they would not listen and they would not turn from their wicked ways. JUDGMENT followed soon after. What a message for those of us living in America today.

Mike Sublett is a pastor at Hi-Land Christian Church, 1615 N. Banks St., Pampa, Texas 79065. Email him at