Jeremiah 45 – Great Things and Not Seeking Them
A. What Baruch said.
1. (1) The setting of the word.
The word that Jeremiah the prophet spoke to Baruch the son of Neriah, when he had written these words in a book at the instruction of Jeremiah, in the fourth year of Jehoiakim the son of Josiah, king of Judah, saying,
a. The word that Jeremiah the prophet spoke to Baruch: This was the long-time, trusted associate of Jeremiah. Baruch was the penman to the prophet, having written these words in a book at the instruction of Jeremiah. Later, Jeremiah and Baruch were both taken to Egypt against their will (Jeremiah 43:6).
i. “Baruch happens to be the only man from the Old Testament who has been fingerprinted. In 1975 a group of archaeologists purchased some clay document markers from an Arab antiquities dealer. The archaeologists did not decipher the markers – which were the bookmarks of the ancient world – until 1986. When they did, they discovered that one of them bears the seal of Baruch son of Neriah. Since then, another document marker has been discovered that bears not only Baruch’s seal, but also a thumbprint, very probably the thumbprint of the scribe himself.” (Ryken)
b. In the fourth year of Jehoiakim: Chronological order was not important to the one who arranged the Book of Jeremiah. The previous chapters in this section dealt with the time after the fall of Jerusalem and Judah. This chapter deals with a time many years before that catastrophe, something like a flashback in a film or novel.
i. “Chronologically this passage is out of order, and should follow 36:8.” (Harrison)
2. (2-3) Baruch’s grief and sorrow.
“Thus says the LORD, the God of Israel, to you, O Baruch: ‘You said, “Woe is me now! For the LORD has added grief to my sorrow. I fainted in my sighing, and I find no rest.”‘
a. Woe is me now! For the LORD has added grief to my sorrow: As a faithful partner with Jeremiah, Baruch had to endure a lot of opposition and abuse. He certainly suffered much for his faithfulness to God and Jeremiah, and he therefore felt that God could in some way be blamed for his grief and sorrow.
i. “Note the self-centeredness of his attitude indicated by the five personal pronouns in verse 3 (the same number in the Pharisee’s self congratulatory prayer, Luke 18:11 f.).” (Cundall)
ii. “The emphasis in his lamentation is to be placed on the word ‘me’ – ‘Woe is me now.’” (Morgan)
iii. “He had mourned for the desolations that were coming on his country, and now he mourns for the dangers to which he feels his own life exposed; for we find, from Jeremiah 36:26, that the king had given commandment to take both Baruch and Jeremiah, in order that they might be put to death at the instance of his nobles.” (Clarke)
b. You said: The fact that God knew what Baruch said and spoke to him about it was somewhat sobering. God heard and responded to Baruch’s accusation of unbelief against him.
c. I fainted in my sighing, and I find no rest: Baruch was exhausted, probably both physically and spiritually. He felt that God had not blessed or protected him as he had hoped.
i. This makes sense when we think of what Baruch and Jeremiah had to live through. The world was falling apart around them, and while they had been protected to this point, they still suffered. No golden age had dawned yet. There seemed to be nothing to build on, and the future looked darker rather than brighter. The present and future seemed dark and depressing.
ii. “It may be that as he dictated Jeremiah’s words of judgment, and knew in his heart that they were true and would certainly come to pass, he became depressed at it all and was filled with foreboding about his own future.” (Thompson)
B. What the LORD said.
1. (4) The LORD speaks of His power.
“Thus you shall say to him, ‘Thus says the LORD: “Behold, what I have built I will break down, and what I have planted I will pluck up, that is, this whole land.
a. Thus you shall say to him: Baruch was used to writing out what God spoke to Jeremiah for others, not for himself. God had a word for His discouraged, exhausted servant.
b. What I have built I will break down, and what I have planted I will pluck up, that is, this whole land: God spoke to Baruch about His great power, and His great power expressed in judgment. This reminded Baruch of the power and authority of God to do as He pleased, and it also put some of Baruch’s perceived problems into perspective. He was discouraged and exhausted; much worse was coming upon the whole land.
i. God reminded Baruch: I’m not done with My judgment on Jerusalem and Judah. There is more to come until it is complete.
ii. “Jeremiah had to remind Baruch of God’s own sorrow at what was to happen. …Yahweh had built something and was about to destroy it. He had planted and was about to uproot it.” (Thompson)
2. (5-6) The promise of God’s care.
And do you seek great things for yourself? Do not seek them; for behold, I will bring adversity on all flesh,” says the LORD. “But I will give your life to you as a prize in all places, wherever you go.”’”
a. Do you seek great things for yourself: Apparently, some of Baruch’s discouragement and exhaustion came from seeking great things for himself. He expected to be at a better, different place in his life than where he found himself at the time. The disappointment of great things sought and unfulfilled weighed heavily on him.
i. “He may have had hopes of attaining a high office or even of receiving the gift of prophecy. But such expectations were not to be realized.” (Feinberg)
ii. “Baruch was an educated man, qualified as a secretary, whose brother (Jeremiah 51:59) was an officer of high rank under Zedekiah. He may have entertained hopes of some distinction in the nation. But whatever ‘great things’ he sought for himself were forfeited by his loyal support of Jeremiah.” (Thompson)
b. Do not seek them: God turned Baruch away from the path of self-exaltation. God wanted Baruch to have the right mindset – not obsessed or overly-concerned about his own advancement and perceived success.
i. God used this word to Baruch to speak to many throughout the centuries. Dr. J. Oswald Sanders coveted a certain job in a Christian organization, and he almost lobbied some influential friends for it. But walking through downtown Auckland, New Zealand, these words came to him with authority: “Seekest thou great things for thyself? Seek them not!” (KJV). Consequently, he didn’t seek the position, but it later opened to him on its own in God’s timing.
ii. When Charles Spurgeon was eighteen, he applied to Regent’s Park College. An interview was set and Spurgeon rose early and set out, but through a misunderstanding he missed his appointment and was not admitted. Bitterly disappointed, Charles walked through the countryside trying to calm down. Suddenly, Jeremiah 45:5 came to mind: “Seekest thou great things for thyself? Seek them not!” Spurgeon never made it to college, but he went on to become the most effective preacher in England.
c. I will bring adversity on all flesh: God reminded Baruch that one day He would bring judgment on all flesh. Worldly power, popularity, and prestige will be swept away. This should make us less concerned about great things like fame and popularity. We have eternity to deal with.
i. To seek a name for yourself, a place of importance and distinction among men, is to look for the wrong thing in the wrong place. To seek social media greatness or internet notoriety shows a lack of appreciation for the God who will bring adversity on all flesh.
ii. Philippians twice describes a bad kind of ambition, implying that there is a good kind of ambition. The former preach Christ from selfish ambition, not sincerely, supposing to add affliction to my chains (Philippians 1:16). Let nothing be done through selfish ambition or conceit, but in lowliness of mind let each esteem others better than himself (Philippians 2:3).
iii. We could say that Paul was an ambitious man; Peter was an ambitious man; even that Jesus was an ambitious man. Yet they were all ambitious for God’s glory and fame. We may seek great things, but God’s great things, always remembering Luke 14:11: For whoever exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted. We should learn from God’s word to Baruch and instead of exalting self, we should exalt Jesus. We may long to make a big impact on the world, but be perfectly satisfied if our name remains unknown in doing so.
d. But I will give your life to you as a prize in all places, wherever you go: God’s assurance to Baruch was strong. He would take care of him. Even when he was later taken to Egypt with Jeremiah, this promise was sure to care for Baruch wherever he may go.
i. Your life to you as a prize: “The figure is of a soldier barely escaping with his life after a defeat in battle.” (Thompson)
ii. “What it had to leave unsaid…was the fact that these two would earn the gratitude of every generation for what they dared to do.” (Kidner)
iii. “Ironically, the very suffering through which Baruch passed because of his loyalty to Jeremiah gained him honor beyond anything he could have anticipated.” (Thompson)
iv. “The name ‘Baruch’ means ‘Blessed’ and is transliterated in the LXX, Vulgate, and Targum.” (Feinberg)
v. “Never yet did any one do or suffer aught for God’s sake, that complained of a hard bargain.” (Trapp)
vi. “It is obvious that when Baruch arranged Jeremiah’s scroll he put this prophecy right where it belonged. He treasured the promise God gave him. It reminded him of the way God answered him in his despair. So he put it here at the end of his life to show that God was faithful to his promise.” (Ryken)