Today we begin a short series on Bibliology and the prophet Jeremiah. Our focus falls on chapter 36. In this chapter we find at least four relevant themes: 1.) inspiration, 2.) transmission, 3.) textual criticism, and 4.) the status of the original. Let us begin with the first theme – inspiration. Jeremiah writes in Jeremiah 36:1-2,
“And it came to pass in the fourth year of Jehoiakim the son of Josiah king of Judah, that this word came unto Jeremiah from the Lord, saying, Take thee a roll of a book, and write therein all the words that I have spoken unto thee against Israel, and against Judah, and against all the nations, from the day I spake unto thee, from the day of Josiah, even unto this day.”Jeremiah 36:1-2
In the general discussion surrounding the immediate inspiration of the Scriptures there often arises a series of questions. These questions include: How did inspiration take place? What was imported to the penman’s mind via inspiration? To what degree did the penman retain his will? Who chose the words to write? Here in Jeremiah 36:1-2 we get answers to all of these questions.
First we see that God commissioned the writing of this book. The command to write is followed by an act of obedience and of worship on the part of Jeremiah. God not only condescended to man to command the writing of the text, but He also provided the very words to be written. Jeremiah records God saying, “write therein all the words that I have spoken unto thee.”
Second, who chose the words? God did. God gave the words to Jeremiah to write. Did this act usurp Jeremiah’s will in some way? Not any more than the words of a lawyer may be said to “usurp” the will of the stenographer or the words of the executive may be said to “usurp” the will of the secretary. Jeremiah is in a state of obedience to his Lord as he writes. God is his King and Jeremiah is the herald of this royal and divine message.
Third, note the nature of the command. God commands that Jeremiah write all the words God spoke to him from the time Josiah [Jehoiakim’s father] until the present time. Anyone want to recount all the words which God spoke to you over the last year? Especially after God commanded that you write all of them?
The point being that because the words spoken in the past are God’s words, and the command in Jeremiah’s present is also composed of God’s words, then the potential element of human frailty via forgetfulness is immaterial. These words are not Jeremiah’s words. He did not formulate and order them. God did. So what was imported to the penman’s mind via inspiration? The present words of chapter 36 as well as the words which God spoke to Jeremiah back in the time of Josiah up the point of chapter 36. And this is not the only time such a phenomenon happens in Jeremiah 36. That we will discuss in the fourth part of this series.
What then does it look like when holy men of God spoke as they were moved by the Holy Ghost? It looks like what happened here in Jeremiah 36:1-2: God commanded. Jeremiah freely obeyed that command and wrote down the immediately inspired words which God gave him, both present and past. All while God did not “take control” of Jeremiah and usurp his will.