Jeremiah: "Eating the Scroll"

Graceful Leaders - Biblical Encouragement for Leaders

When your words came, I ate them;
they were my joy and my heart’s delight,
for I bear your name,
O LORD God Almighty.
Jeremiah 15:16

Something dangerous can happen to Christian leaders. It can happen slowly, like a creeping infection. It may not even be noticeable for a time. It’s there, though, eating away at our leadership – like a hoard of termites. Call it an integrity gap. Call it leadership in a vacuum. However you name it, it comes when the ministry of leadership somehow gets separated from the Word of God.

The evidence can be hidden. Leaders – even in the church – may find themselves cheating a bit on statistics, or stretching the truth in a meeting, or thinking the very worst of a fellow Christian with whom they disagree. At other times, the gap between leaders and the Word is as clear as their gossip, their harsh words with one another, their jealousy, or competition for the spotlight. It’s there when people who worship and serve together in the same church stop talking to each other with no plan for reconciliation through forgiveness. It’s as if the Word of God is forgotten.

Sometimes even groups of church leaders can get so corporate, so focused on the nuts and bolts of doing church, that they forget the Word-driven mission of the church – making disciples of Jesus Christ.

That’s where Jeremiah comes in. When God’s Word came to Jeremiah, he and his friend Barak wrote it down on goatskin, and then, amazingly, Jeremiah ate the scroll. He munched on the word. An old prayer of the church prays that that we may “read, mark, learn, and inwardly digest” the Word of God. Jeremiah took the “digest” part literally. He ate the word. He chewed on it. The prophet Ezekiel did the same. So did John in Revelation.  Why eat the scroll? Because the leader and the Word must be inseparable! There could be no gap between Jeremiah and his message. For us, this says that the Word is not just to be heard and talked about on weekends but internalized and practiced in the everyday work of leadership. We as leaders must be inseparable from the Word.

A core value for church leaders honors the Word of God as the source and standard of our life together in Christ. Supporting Scripture for that value is John 20:31, which reads, “But these things are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name.”

As Christian leaders, what we lead toward, why we lead, and how we lead all find life in the Word of God. Our due diligence as Christian leaders is not just to work hard and get the job done well. It is to lead from the Word in the direction the Word would take us and in a way that honors the Word. That’s “eating the scroll.” Today it may not mean munching on the pages of our Bible, but it does mean leading from the Book of Books with a heart delighting in its truths.  

Graceful Leaders is a series of meeting devotions designed for staff and lay leaders of Christian congregations. The series uses Biblical leaders as embodiments of grace-filled leadership in the church. The series is written by Dean Nadasdy, President, Minnesota South District, The Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod. Copies may be made and distributed within local congregations.