God’s Rescue From Selfish Ambition

The One Year® Chronological Bible (Tyndale, 2013), August 5

UnknownThe 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, “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.”’ “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. 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.”’” (Jer. 45:1-4).

God had given Jeremiah a command to write his prophecies in a scroll; Baruch actually served as the scribe who wrote them down. Then the LORD sent Baruch to read them to the people of Judah. When word of these prophecies came to king Jehoiakim, he cut up the scroll of God’s Word with a knife and cast it into the fire (Jer. 36:23). He then sent for Jeremiah and Baruch, but they were hidden by friendly officials.

Baruch has been Jeremiah’s amanuensis (the proper name for the scribal secretary) for many years; perhaps he began the ministry under the reign of godly Josiah, when prophets were respected. Times have changed, however, and now Baruch finds himself—an educated, well-bred man—a hunted outcast, servant to an unpopular prophet, hiding and fearing for his life.

Jeremiah records his complaint and his secret ambition (45:3). Baruch has realized he could be so much more; with his education, he could be in the service of the king (his brother Seraiah is identified as the king’s quartermaster in 51:59). He bemoans his lowly estate, his suffering, and his current restlessness. God responds to his hurt by exposing his hidden ambition for a position of status and peace (“great things”). God also reveals His future plan for Judah—destruction—implying that those who currently hold positions of prominence gained by fleshly ambition will suffer later (as they do, being killed by Nebuchadnezzar). God promises Baruch, however, that he will be delivered and that his life will be given him as a prize (45:5).

This story teaches us the following truths:

  • Our secret ambitions and our present frustrations are not hidden from God

  • Our current situation (restlessness, sighing, frustration) may very well be a gift from God, to prevent us from acting out of selfish ambition.

  • Our service to God in difficulty, obscurity, or even apparent rejection brings praise from Him in the present and promise for future reward and blessing.

Questions from today’s chronological Bible reading (Jer. 25:15-38; 36; 45; 46):
What analogy does the LORD use to describe His judgment against the shepherds who lead Israel astray?
What does the scene in Jeremiah 36 reveal about those desiring to respond to LORD who serve under wicked kings?
Instead of humbling himself before God, King Jehoiakim seeks to protect himself for the Babylonians by making an alliance with Egypt. How does God respond to Jehoiakim’s foolishness? What does this reveal about God?