Pulpit Commentary Homiletics
I. TO RECEIVE SUCH A COMMUNICATION WAS A DISTINGUISHED HONOUR. In identifying his name with the book he wrote it immortalized him. His work was a comparatively humble one, but it required its own virtues, and these are recognized. Nothing done for God in a right spirit is forgotten by him. Amidst imperial and world wide changes the interests of his servants are ever watched over with special care. When we see the Sovereign Disposer of events, when empires are as small dust in his balance, arranging for the welfare of a single individual, merely because of help given to one of his prophets, shall we not acknowledge how precious in his eyes is even the least of his servants? They are children of the great King.
II. IT MINISTERED TO HIS PERSONAL COMFORT AND PEACE OF MIND. The anxiety and fear which weighed upon Baruch are thereby dissipated. God loves to see his children cheerful and in sympathy with his will. It is just from the "sorrow of the world that worketh death," he seeks to deliver us. The work of Baruch would be easier and less oppressive when he was assured that his own safety would be secured. But how poor is this promise compared with the" life and immortality brought to light in the gospel"! The children of promise are not only delivered from the sorrows and disappointments of this present evil world, but made sharers in the final triumphs of redemptive love.
III. IT CORRECTED A SPIRITUAL FAULT.
1. The caution. "And seekest thou great things for thyself? seek them not." Earthly ambition has often crept into the heart of God's servants. It is not consistent with faithful, single-eyed service. They that would further the kingdom of God in the world must seek it first. Baruch was reminded that this is not our rest. And when the powers of the world were being shaken was no time for self-advancement. His sighs were not pure. He mourned over opportunities lost, not of laying up treasure in heaven, but of accumulating it on earth.
2. The promise. "Thy life will I give unto thee for a prey." It seems poor, compared with his hopes. He perhaps anticipated a slight rebuke and chastisement of Israel, a few changes and adjustments, and the carrying on of the Divine purposes to a speedy issue. This illusion is gently but firmly checked. The world has a severer ordeal to pass through ere the ancient offence can be expiated, and the arena cleared for the Divine future. His hopes are, therefore, not wholly destroyed, but transferred. He will be spared to see the things beyond, and meanwhile it will be his privilege to help on that better time. Happy for him if, thus corrected, he attains to a diviner calm of spirit and a more thorough acceptance of the Divine terms and conditions. He too was but a sinner, whose deliverance was in itself a great and undeserved mercy (cf. Matthew 24.). - M.
Acts 13:13). Both were good and faithful men; both became discouraged; both were reheartened; both found profitable to the ministry and true to the end. Now, as we look on this Divine reheartening of Baruch, we are taught much -
I. CONCERNING GOD.
1. We see his grace. He does not overlook or forget his servants. He notes their distresses and devises means for their relief. "Like as a father pitieth," etc.
2. We see his methods with those who are as Baruch was.
(1) Though animated by love, they were severe rather than soothing; stern rather than gentle and consolatory. We have many parallels to this. Cf. ch. 12., "If thou hast run with the footmen," etc. How stern the dealing of God with Moses! No entreaty could procure the alteration of the sentence of exclusion from Canaan that had gone out against him. See also our Lord's message to John the Baptist in prison: "Go, tell John," etc. No gentle message of sympathy, but rather of rebuke for his failure of faith. So with Paul's thorn in the flesh, the Lord would not remove it. In all these cases there is rather the sharp, bracing, rousing summons to duty than words of soothing pity and tenderness. Far more like Paul's dealing with the recreant Mark - he virtually cashiered him - than that of Barnabas, who, Son of Consolation that he was, was all for comforting him and dealing gently with him.
(2) God tells him that he has heard his complainings. When we talk to ourselves, we often forget that every word is audible to God. The people about our Lord were often talking to themselves concerning him, and, though they said nothing out loud, we constantly read how "Jesus answered and said," showing that he had heard all they said.
(3) He gives him to understand that his purpose is not to be set aside because of his complainings. "The Lord saith thus." It we cannot bring our circumstances to our mind, our wisdom is to bring our mind to our circumstances. Baruch was shown that he must do this.
(4) He implies that a seeking after "high things" for himself had much to do with his complaining. He was of great ability, of noble lineage (Jeremiah 51:59; Josephus, 'Ant.,' 10. 6:2; 9:1), the grandson of Maasiah (2 Chronicles 34:8), and this may well have animated him with hopes of high office in the state, such as his brother had held; or his nearness to Jeremiah may have led him to believe that he should be the prophet's successor.
(5) He promises him that his life shall be spared, though with much difficulty - "given to him as a prey." We cannot tell what afterwards became of him. Tradition varies. There was not much comfort in all this, but rather a "What doest thou here, Elijah?" (1 Kings 19.).
3. His motives. The leaders of an army must not be weaklings. Those who have stern work to do must themselves be stern. Luther, not Erasmus, must head the Reformation movement. Hence God disciplines his most trusted servants by very severe methods. Even our Lord, "He learned obedience by the things that he suffered;" "He was made perfect through sufferings."
4. His success. That which he purposes is ever done. Baruch here, as Mark afterwards, was reheartened and did good service again.
II. CONCERNING THE PROPHETIC WORK. Demands self-denial, involves much suffering, and has much sorrow in it. No wonder that in ancient days men shrank from the pastoral office. "Nolo episcopari" meant something then. Are any thinking of it? Count the cost. Are any in it? Let them, as they need, seek daily strength from God.
"Chief Shepherd of thy chosen sheep, III. CONCERNING YOUNG SOLDIERS OF JESUS CHRIST. 1. There is much that is delightful in them. Their ardour, their zeal, their affection. Elisha to Elijah, Timotheus to Paul, so here Baruch to Jeremiah. 2. But they are apt to be discouraged and desponding. They need enduring power. Melancthon thought he should soon convert men to the truth. But Luther tolls how the old Adam was soon found to be too hard for the young Melancthon. 3. Let them submit cheerfully to the methods of discipline God has appointed for them, and be on their guard against all self-seeking ambition. 4. And they are to remember that, though their life be given to them, it shall be "as a prey." They wilt have to watch, to toil, to contend, to struggle, even for that. "The Son of God goes forth to war...
III. CONCERNING YOUNG SOLDIERS OF JESUS CHRIST.
1. There is much that is delightful in them. Their ardour, their zeal, their affection. Elisha to Elijah, Timotheus to Paul, so here Baruch to Jeremiah.
2. But they are apt to be discouraged and desponding. They need enduring power. Melancthon thought he should soon convert men to the truth. But Luther tolls how the old Adam was soon found to be too hard for the young Melancthon.
3. Let them submit cheerfully to the methods of discipline God has appointed for them, and be on their guard against all self-seeking ambition.
4. And they are to remember that, though their life be given to them, it shall be "as a prey." They wilt have to watch, to toil, to contend, to struggle, even for that.
"The Son of God goes forth to war...
I. CONSIDER THE EFFECT ON BARUCH'S OWN MIND OF WHAT HE HAD HAD TO WRITE. Baruch came in simply to be a scribe and transmitter. Seemingly a friend of Jeremiah, he must have been in considerable sympathy with the prophet in his purposes and predictions. Doubtless he had made himself acquainted with each prophetic utterance as it came forth from Jehovah. But he had never had them all before his mind at one time, as now became necessary, through his having to write them down. Hence we have here an illustration of how more is required than the mere utterance of a word of God in order to produce a deep effect from it. A man may think he understands and receives it, and yet the understanding and reception may be far from what they ought to be. Not till Jeremiah's prophecies stand before Baruch in one mass does he fully discern the trouble coming on his people. Jehovah has spoken many times, and always in the same way, against the wicked and their wickedness. And so we see how important it is to get the impression, not only of successive parts of God's words, but of that Word as a whole. Moreover, if Baruch was oppressed by the consistent mass of threatening, it is equally possible for us to be uplifted and strengthened by a consistent mass of promises and encouragements. We shall ever find in the Scriptures that which we look for and prepare ourselves to find.
II. SOME INDICATION OF BARUCH'S OWN CHARACTER. Baruch seems to have been not exactly what we should call an ambitious man, but still one who wanted to get on in the world. Perhaps he had a position which made it reasonable for him to expect influence and authority. But what can a man of this sort look for in a state rapidly declining to its fall? Baruch had to learn all at once that he must seek for such things as God would have him seek for. Thus we see God combining a lesson for the individual with the message for the nation. Baruch could hardly have been the only man competent to act as a scribe, but God, in taking him, took one who needed correction, needed to have his purposes turned into a more submissive way and a less self-seeking one.
III. TEMPORAL BLESSINGS MUST DEPEND UPON CIRCUMSTANCES. There had been times in the Jewish state when Baruch might have been a very useful man in some high position. But every man must accept the conditions of the time in which he lives. At one time the great temporal blessings may be those of attainment, at another those of escape. And so, to some extent, it is in spiritual things. There are times when what Christ does for us puts on the aspect of salvation; we are glad because of the great evils from which we are delivered. There arc other times when we are not contented with merely thinking of deliverance; we want something positive - growth, fruitfulness, perfection. Then we are seeking great things spiritually - things which are always to be sought. And we may add they are always to be found, however adverse temporal conditions may be. - Y.
I. We cannot tell whether they are designed for us. If they are not, they will bring us only misery; cf. David in Saul's armour. If they are, they will come without our seeking.
II. To make ourselves our supreme object is ever wrong, despicable, and in the end ruinous. The corn of wheat must fail into the ground and die, give up its own life. If it do not, it abideth alone; if it do, it bringeth forth fruit. "He that loveth his life shall lose it, but he," etc. (John 12.).
III. Great things mean great responsibilities and terrible possibilities of great guilt and harm done to others and ourselves.
IV. Whilst seeking them, we let go what is more precious than them all. "Whilst I was busy here and there, lo, he was gone."
V. They tend to tie us down to earth and to fill our hearts with that love of the world which is death. "Ah! Davie, Davie," said Johnson to Garrick, as they wandered through the beautiful demesne of a great nobleman, "these are the things that make it so hard for a man to die." A similar story is told of Cardinal Richelieu, who caused himself, when near death, to be borne into his magnificent picture gallery, and there is reported to have made, to one near him, a like remark. - C.