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I Feel Baruch’s Pain

I have a vision for the rest of my life. You may not care for it, but it sure means a lot to me. I want a cabin in the woods, on a lake, miles from the nearest neighbor. I want an office looking out over the water and book shelves all around. I want an entertainment room with a huge flat screen TV, surround sound, comfy wrap around couch seating, and a 9′ slate top tournament pool table with plenty of space to stretch out for any shot I want to take. I want to spend my days in quiet serenity, writing, fishing, reading, drawing, shooting pool, and watching movies.

If what we’ve learned about Baruch, assistant to Jeremiah, is true, he had a vision too. It didn’t pan out so well. His life was much harder, and, in the end, far more important than his own sugar plum dreams would’ve made him. Jeremiah 45 tells the story of his pain at giving it up to serve the Lord.

There are 4 aspects of concern here.

  1. The Character: As a highly educated scribe from a family of scribes, related to the royal house,[1] whose brother becomes quartermaster to King Zedekiah, his personal scribe,[2] Baruch had every reason to imagine a grand life for himself. Luxury, power, reputation, and ease stretching out before him in his mind’s eye.
  2. The Call: In 605 BC, however, in the 4th year of Jehoiakim, the unimaginable happens. As the looming threat of a growing Babylonian empire swirls around them, (Jer 25:1-11) that pesky Jeremiah comes to him… a man who has prophesied so often about the coming defeat of their very own nation that he has been banned from entering the Temple. YHWH calls Baruch away from his plans…. calls him to throw in his lot with Jeremiah. He’s supposed to go into the temple on Jeremiah’s behalf and read yet another message of judgment against Judah… Traitorous! (Jer 36:1-8)
  3. The Cry: “Thus says the Lord the God of Israel to you, O Baruch: ‘You said, “Ah, woe is me! For the Lord has added sorrow to my pain; I am weary with my groaning and have found no rest.” His anguished cry is the result of the penetrating realization of the ramifications of the call. Called to be second fiddle to a hated man, plagued by dangers from the people and dangers from the powers that be. The cry is the result of the tension between earthly ambitions and the call of God. When I was young I was hard on Baruch; I was ready to battle pirates for Jesus, and, though I did not even articulate it to myself, I still imagined that whatever heart’s desires I gave up for Jesus would, in time, come back to me on the waters. As I’ve aged, however, I’ve come to understand his struggle more personally… Baruch is asked to sacrifice everything for which his heart yearns in exchange for a life of sorrow and pain and loss. His heart is called upon to let go of all its sugar plum dreams and to watch even the hope of them die.
  4. The Correction: In the year I was married, a woman, whose house caught fire, fought to get her children to safety. Once they were secured, she bolted past neighbors back into the house. Later, they found her body in the living room… clutching her purse. YHWH sets Baruch straight on the score… there will be no sugar plum dreams for anyone. “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. 5 ‘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. Baruch is not, in fact, sacrificing anything real. Now, if only his heart could know it too.
  5. The Compensation: YHWH is not insensible to his plight. He speaks a word of hope. What will Baruch receive for giving up the phantoms of worldly greatness in exchange for playing this role at the dying of his nation? Life itself, wherever he may go—an unkillable man on an errand of the ages. YHWH does not say it, here, but Baruch will find greatness.  Through his suffering, he will do great things for God, as God does great things through him.

If God grants me fullness of days, I have, perhaps, 35 years remaining to me. I think often of that woman who died retrieving her purse. We are, none of us, getting out of this dying world alive… ‘less rapture comes. I ask myself, What will I be clutching in my hands when they find me dead and departed from this world? What will I give my every dying step to accomplish before I go? Sugar plum dreams?

 


[1] Josephus, “Jewish Antiquities.” x. 9, § 1

[2] Jeremiah 51:59.

[3] media image is from sxc.hu

4 thoughts on “I Feel Baruch’s Pain

  1. Evelyn says:

    Good for us all to think of what we will be clutching on our dying day, hopefully the hand of our Lord.

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