45 When Baruch son of Neriah wrote on a scroll the words Jeremiah the prophet dictated in the fourth year of Jehoiakim son of Josiah king of Judah, Jeremiah said this to Baruch: 2 “This is what the Lord, the God of Israel, says to you, Baruch: 3 You said, ‘Woe to me! The Lord has added sorrow to my pain; I am worn out with groaning and find no rest.’ 4 But the Lord has told me to say to you, ‘This is what the Lord says: I will overthrow what I have built and uproot what I have planted, throughout the earth. 5 Should you then seek great things for yourself? Do not seek them. For I will bring disaster on all people, declares the Lord, but wherever you go I will let you escape with your life.’”
(Jeremiah 45:1-5 NIV)
Today’s passage is the last of the thematic texts of this section of Jeremiah’s book. The timing of this chapter goes back to the same timeframe as Chapter 36 when King Jehoiakim was in his fourth year as ruler over Judah.
Put yourself in Baruch’s shoes and role for just a moment. Jeremiah, the controversial prophet, has received instruction from the Lord to write down all the things that the Lord has told him to say thus far in his ministry. Jeremiah has hired you to help in this daunting task of covering several decades’ worth of ministry. You have spent a year recording everything, and are feeling a great sense of accomplishment.
Then Jeremiah tells you to read these scrolls at the Temple because he has been banned by the king. You obey, but with reservations. Your reading is noticed by one, who reports to the government officials. They ask you to read the contents, then tell you and Jeremiah to go into hiding when they say all this to the king. When the government officials notify the king, he demands that the scrolls be read in his presence. The king responds by burning the scrolls one section at a time as they are being read, then orders the soldiers to arrest you and Jeremiah. Then God tells Jeremiah to re-write everything again.
Would you feel the same emotions as what Jeremiah experienced in verse 3? I doubt any of us would have responded differently.
In verse 4, the Lord tells Baruch that He understands his pain. God tells Baruch that He is having to tear down what He built up, and is having to uproot what He has planted. What Baruch is feeling on a personal level, the Lord is feeling on a national scale.
The Lord then tells Baruch to abandon whatever career aspirations he had for himself. Not to leave Baruch without any hope, the Lord tells Baruch that He will spare his life wherever Baruch goes. This promise from the Lord to Baruch is very similar to the same promise the Lord made to Ebed-Melek, the Ethiopian servant in 39:15-18.
This series of events was likely a significant letdown for Baruch, as his grandfather had been the governor of Jerusalem, and his brother would one day be a high-ranking official under King Zedekiah. By associating with Jeremiah, Baruch was committing career suicide.
So what was Jeremiah’s mental and emotional profile while he was going through this ordeal? He was likely feeling a profound sense of loss, fear, hurt, depression, and despair.
But the Lord offers comfort by listening and responding to Baruch, who was not a prophet, but a scribe. The Lord also empathizes with Baruch, letting him know that what Baruch was feeling on a personal level the Lord was feeling on a national level.
May we remember that the Lord calls us to be faithful regardless of our circumstances.
May we remember that we are not the final evaluators of our work, nor are we the ultimate determiners of our fate and destiny. Only the Lord has the last word in life and eternity.
May we live by the words of our Lord:
For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me and for the gospel will save it.
(Mark 8:35 NIV, Jesus speaking)