Bible Study Opportunities
Are You Seeking Great Things For Yourself?
By Jon W. Quinn
It may have been that he could have served in some prestigious governmental position. His brother was an officer in the king's court. He was of a prominent family. With a little ambition and drive, he could have really gone places, as long as he would not allow anything to stand in his way.
But, there was something standing in his way. It was his duty and loyalty to God. He had made the same choice that Moses had made eight centuries before; “By faith Moses, when he had grown up, refused to be called the son of Pharaoh's daughter; choosing rather to endure ill-treatment with the people of God, than to enjoy the passing pleasures of sin; considering the reproach of Christ greater riches than the treasures of Egypt; for he was looking to the reward.” (Hebrews 11:24-26).
“This was the message which Jeremiah the prophet spoke to Baruch the son of Neriah, when he had written down these words in a book at Jeremiah's dictation, in the fourth year of Jehoikim the son of Josiah, king of Judah, saying...” (Jeremiah 45:1).
Our mystery guest is Baruch. Baruch is not an extremely well known Bible character, but he is the one being described in the first two paragraphs. He was like Moses in the sense that he, too, passed by a promising career to occupy what, by the world's standards at least, was a much lower position. Instead of serving along side his brother on the king's court, he had become the scribe of a prophet who was unpopular with the leaders of the land. Thus, his promising career had gone nowhere fast, and from all appearances, that was precisely where it would end up.
Baruch was Jeremiah's scribe. As such, it had been Baruch who had penned the prophecies of doom for the apostate nation and their wicked leaders. His city, its temple, its people; all he held dear were facing catastrophic ruin. The very words he had written were hated by the leadership and unpopular with the people. All his own personal aspirations had been cast aside, and now he was in hiding with Jeremiah under threat of execution by the evil king Jehoikim. He had stood for what was right, and now the question had crossed his mind as to whether it had all been worth it.
Why Is This Happening to Me?
“Thus says the Lord the God of Israel to you, O Baruch: You say, 'Ah, woe is me! For the Lord has added sorrow to my pain; I am weary with my groaning and have found no rest.” (Jeremiah 45:2,3).
Many times there are huge costs to pay for faithfully serving the Lord. Many times it means taking stands which are unpopular. It may mean facing ridicule. It may mean ostracism. It may mean being treated unfairly. It may call for sacrifice of material things and the goodwill of man in order to have the approval of God (John 12:42,43). Many are unwilling to pay the costs. Are you? Or will you make the compromises the world expects you to make to avoid paying the costs? Will you refrain from speaking the truth or taking a stand for right when it may prove too costly in terms of losing the world's approval?
Baruch had been willing to serve, but had become discouraged and had begun to question his decision. As he contemplated the losses he had endured, he wondered if it had been worth it. There seemed no relief in sight. Somewhere along the way, Baruch had lost something that is very important to every child of God; a simple, trusting confidence that yields peace even during the roughest storms of life. That was what he needed to find once again (Philippians 4:4-8).
If such questions should arise within us during trials as arose in Baruch, then let us remember our assurance in Christ Jesus; “Therefore, do not throw away your confidence, which has great reward. For you have need of endurance, so that when you have done the will of God, you may receive what was promised. 'For yet in a very little while, He who is coming will come and will not delay. But My righteous one shall live by faith; and if he shrinks back, My soul has no delight in him.' For we are not of those who shrink back to destruction, but of those who have faith to the preserving of the soul.” (Hebrews 10:35-39).
The Lord's Answer to Baruch
“Thus you shall say to him, 'Thus says the LORD, “Behold, what I have built I am about to tear down, and what I have planted I am about to uproot, that is, the whole land. But you, are you seeking great things for yourself? Do not seek them; for behold, I am going to bring disaster on all flesh,” declares the LORD, “but I will give your life to you as booty in all the places you may go.” (Jeremiah 45:4,5).
Baruch was grieved over “what might have been” but the Lord was grieved over losing what already was; the nation of Israel. He had built the nation, cared for it and provided for it. Now, He was going to destroy it. Who was it that was suffering the greatest loss? God or Baruch?
What have you or I sacrificed that compares to God's sacrifice in our behalf.? “For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though He was rich, yet for your sakes He became poor, that you through His poverty might become rich.” (2 Corinthians 8:9). God loved us to the extent that He “gave His only begotten Son” for the world. The Son's anguished cry, “My God, My God, why hast Thou forsaken Me?” reminds us of the extent of that sacrifice for our sins. How can we not allow the love of Christ” to constrain us to serve the Lord?
They say be careful what you ask for, you may get it. If Baruch could have gone back in time and chosen over again, would he really want to choose differently? The Lord asked him, “But you, are you seeking great things for yourself?” Would he really have wanted to be in a high place on evil Jehoikim's court? A leader of faithless men? A member of the apostate government? Loved by the wicked? Enriched by his position which had been gained by disloyalty to Jehovah God?
The Lord invited Baruch to think again. Those men in high places were about to be brought down to horrible destruction. The wages of their sins was coming due. Disaster was coming, and far better to be as far as possible from those places of prestige and power. Jerusalem was soon to be judged for its apostasy.
Baruch would escape the coming conflagration with his life. That was far better than the outcome for most of those in high places. It is the same for those who live by faith today. Do not aspire to greatness at the expense of loyalty to God. The weak and poor who are faithful will have a much better outcome than those who are great in the world's eyes but have failed to render to the Lord His due. “What will a man be profited if he gains the hold world and forfeits his own soul?”
The final outcome? Baruch overcame his doubt and stayed by Jeremiah's side. He continued to faithfully serve the Lord, and faced further trials in the following years. He saw the judgment come and those he had, for a moment, thought he would have liked to switch places with go down into horrible destruction. He won the victory over his doubts and in later passages we find no hint of his ever faltering again.
Recently, archaeologists were excited to find in Israel some signet rings used to seal written documents. What made these finds particularly interesting was who the rings belonged to. They were Baruch's, no doubt used by him to seal some of the very documents that now make up the book of Jeremiah. If you aspire to greatness, let it not be greatness by the world's standards, but by God's (Matthew 20:25-28).
Reprinted From the Bradley Banner Bradley Church of Christ Bradley, Illinois September 22, 1996