“Thus says the LORD to you, O Baruch: You said, ‘Woe is me! For the LORD has added sorrow to my pain. I am weary with my groaning, and I find no rest.’ Thus says the LORD: Behold, what I have built I am breaking down, and what I have planted I am plucking up—that is, the whole land. And do you seek great things for yourself? Seek them not, for behold, I am bringing disaster upon all flesh, declares the LORD. But I will give you your life as a prize of war in all places to which you may go.” (from Jeremiah 45:1–5).
I like to run trails, but I'm not fast. I'm friends with some runners I could never keep up with and, if they wanted to, they could leave me behind in the parking lot.
Jeremiah was an awe-inspiring prophet, a true man of God. He labored and preached and prophesied with endurance. He was a tough guy to keep up with.
He did, however, have a co-laborer. Baruch wrote down Jeremiah's dictation. One day, Baruch began to say to himself, "Woe is me! For the LORD has added sorrow to my pain. I am weary with my groaning, and I find no rest." Jeremiah was the guy in the pit. Jeremiah was the one thrown into the dungeon. Jeremiah was the persecuted prophet. But Baruch struggled to keep up with him. "Woe is me," he thought.
You see, Jeremiah, Baruch, and guys like them had a tough task. God's people had been disobedient for so long. The prophets had to bear the news of God's judgment upon his nation. The prophetic mission was simple. Hear from God. Write it down. Preach it. Await people's hate and rejection.
Surprise, surprise, but Baruch grew tired of the hard work. "Woe is me," he said. "I find no rest."
God heard Baruch's words and had his own word. If Baruch thought his was a tiring work -- writing down all those words! -- he should think of God's work. God said, "What I have built I am breaking down, and what I have planted I am plucking up -- that is, the whole land."
God had worked hard to build Israel. It pained God to take what he had built up and break it down, to take what he planted and pluck it up. Baruch didn't like his job, but neither did God.
Then God asked Baruch a searching question: "And do you seek great things for yourself? Seek them not." In his complaint, Baruch had a vision. He foresaw great things for himself. Maybe a sweet little cabana, a time to chill, a short reprieve from the fires of ministry life. After all that transcription he was ready to chill.
God told Baruch not to seek those great things for himself. I've heard some explain it as God's way of saying, "Have small dreams. Set little goals. Don't plan on doing or being much in this world." I reject that interpretation. Jesus said, "If you want to be great in God's kingdom," and proceeded to show his disciples the way of service. God is looking for people who want their lives to count.
Baruch's error was in looking for great things for himself, not God. He wanted to quit the hard labor of serving with Jeremiah. His lungs were about to bust. He couldn't keep up with the prophet. He thought he needed to cash it all in and retire.
The Prizeworthy "Great Thing"
So God reminded him of the destruction which was coming. "I am bringing disaster upon all flesh," God said, "But I will give you your life as a prize of war." God had hard work to do. Judgment is God's strange work, but sometimes it's needful. Baruch, however, would live. He would not die. His life would be a prize.
OK, bear with me. Life, as they say, is hard. Serving Christ, standing up and out for him is tiring. There are times Christ's people, his servants, want to quit. We want great things for ourselves. Amid that mood, however, we must remember the life Christ has granted to us. We have avoided death. Christ has given us, by his blood, life.
We used to be dead in trespasses and sins. We used to be utterly alive to sin and dead to God, but now the converse is true. We are alive to God. We are dead to sin. God has taken our faith and connected us to the death, burial, and resurrection of Christ. We are connected to the death of Jesus that we might have the life of Jesus. This is our reward! This is the great thing God has given us.
You see, God had to do the harder work. For the Son to head to the cross and bear the sin of this world was painful and costly for the Triune God. Yes, it might be rough living in a world opposed to him and his message. Jeremiah and Baruch lived that life, and so will we. But God had a harder job than Baruch, and he had a harder work on the cross than us. We must remember the life he has given us.
Cherish your salvation. Love the access to God Christ won for you. It did not come cheap. It was painful and costly. And as you huff and puff through life, thank him that he has given you life, including the Spirit he has placed within you to aid you on the run. He is good. We must not quit.