Lesson 13: Baruch – Building a Legacy in a Crumbling World
Two interns. Two very different outcomes. The career of one, Gehazi, blazed brightly for a short time but then ignited into a fireball of shame and burnt out. The career of the other, Baruch, as far as we know, stayed the course despite some serious obstacles. Both men were in the service and employ of powerful prophets of God. Both men observed God’s leading, direct communication with man, and the transforming power of God. The experience of the prophets could have rubbed off on both men. In Baruch’s case, we see that the experience actually stuck.
The story of God’s intervention as a result of Judah’s depraved moral state unfolds in Jeremiah 7. The people were in steeped in all sorts of falsehoods, exploitation, idolatry, and hypocrisy. For the millionth time, it seems, God warns them of the consequences that will ultimately occur because of their actions. At the same time, however, through Jeremiah, He gives them an alternative.
But this thing commanded I them, saying, Obey my voice, and I will be your God, and ye shall be my people: and walk ye in all the ways that I have commanded you, that it may be well unto you. – Jeremiah 7:23
God always offers alternatives. He is constantly pleading with His people, then and now – pleading with them to choose life rather than death.
Since the day that your fathers came forth out of the land of Egypt unto this day I have even sent unto you all my servants the prophets, daily rising up early and sending [them]: Yet they hearkened not unto me, nor inclined their ear, but hardened their neck: they did worse than their fathers. – Jeremiah 7:25, 26
In verse 27, God basically tells Jeremiah that in spite of all the warnings and pleadings, the people will still refuse to listen and to change their ways. They will “not receive correction.” (vs. 28) Thus is the frustrating life of a prophet, it seems, to be sent to proclaim God’s word to people who people who, more often than not, will not heed it.
The point is that God has given us not only His Word but also very good reasons for trusting in that Word, even when we come to parts that we don’t understand or sections that offend our sensibilities. The Bible doesn’t save us, Jesus does; but He has revealed Himself to us more fully in the Scriptures than He has anywhere else.
Baruch enters the scene from the shadows of history in Jeremiah 36. God has once again directed Jeremiah to prophecy against Judah and bring to their consciousness how far they have deviated from God. Although God knows the future and what will happen, yet He gives us opportunity after opportunity to turn back to Him. In Jeremiah 36:3, we see God’s ultimate purpose the the ensuing pronouncement: it is His hope that the people of Judah will realize their wicked ways and will turn back to God. He, in turn, promises to forgive their sins. At this point, we get a fascinating inside look into how inspiration works. God speaks through Jeremiah, and Jeremiah tells his scribe, Baruch, to transcribe the prophecy. This was a painstaking and labor intensive process. Baruch is then instructed to take this very unpopular message to the masses in Jeremiah’s stead. Refreshingly, the prophet’s scribe does exactly what he was told and presented the prophecy in the hearing of the people (Jeremiah 36:10). Some princes of King Jehoiakim hear his pronouncement and request a private reading. Perhaps their hearts were stirred – perhaps they were convicted through the message. They thought it necessary to bring the message before the king.
Here is the point of conviction, the point of potential change. The story could have gone two ways. The king could have realized his errors, and the errors of the nation, in light of God’s judgement and made the move to repent. Instead, he showed blatant disregard for God’s word and part way into the recitation of the scroll, he slashed the parchment and threw it into the fire. Their hearts were not moved (vs. 24). Baruch and Jeremiah had already gone into hiding. Remarkably, God tells them to rewrite the scrolls and to try again.
And here we see Baruch, probably frustrated beyond belief and afraid for his life. What did he feel when he learned that his hard work had been so carelessly destroyed? How did the news of the king’s disrespect and ignorance cause him to feel? Did he throw up his hands in defeat at a people who obviously did not care about God’s Word?
God cares about His workers – those who follow His will and do His bidding. He reaches out to the dejected scribe and sends him a personal message:
You said, “Woe is me now! for the LORD has added grief to my sorrow. I fainted from the stress of all of this and I find no rest or consolation.”
Jeremiah, tell him that the LORD says this: “Behold, everything that I build, I will break down, and those things that I plant will I uproot, even this entire land. It is my prerogative to do so. Do you seek honor and higher status for yourself? One word: Don’t. Why? Because I will bring evil upon everyone. However, you have done My bidding and because of that, wherever you go, I will spare your life and you will escape from harm, even when the world is crumbling around you.” – Jeremiah 45:3-5, my paraphrase
Through Baruch’s experience, we are reminded of an important fact: despite bad things that may transpire in life, especially when we are doing what we know to be God’s will, God is ultimately in control and He will sustain us. (see Matthew 6:25-34)