Kings, especially kings in David’s line, should protect as they lead. As the scribe Baruch delivers Jeremiah’s words of warning by way of the Lord, many of Judah’s officials are shaken by the message. Jehoiakim, King of Judah does not share their concern. As Jehoiakim listens to the words of the scroll, he symbolically clips them into the fire, acting as if those words had never been spoken. This king seals not only his fate, but also the fate of the thousands trusting him to heed the word of God. Though he destroyed God’s word with fire, God simply has the same words written on a different scroll. Jehoiakim however, will only be remembered for his foolishness and the great harm he caused Judah, when he could have been used as instrument to bring God’s mercy.
We might question the fairness of one person having such a say in the fate of so many. The truth is, their fate had been sealed long ago, from a human standpoint. However, we have already seen God decree the death of Hezekiah during the days of Isaiah, only to show kindness at Hezekiah’s petitions. Judah did not have the sort of king who had learned to bow to God in the days of Jeremiah. So, off the people of God go to exile when they were formed to radiate God’s saving power to the nations. This story warns us as God’s people both to choose our leaders wisely and to recognize we are ultimately creatures of God’s word. We may ignore it, but like Jehoiakim, we are nothing without it.