And seek you great things for yourself? seek them not: for, behold, I will bring evil on all flesh, said the LORD…
Baruch, the companion of Jeremiah, to whom these words were addressed, was a young man of learning, who had probably formed large expectations of distinction, which were sadly disappointed by the calamities which befell his country. The prophet checks his aspirations in the strong language of our text: "Seekest thou great things for thyself? seek them not." It is the selfish seeking of the great things of this world and the eager pursuits of them, as if they were of supreme importance, which is censured by the prophet.
1. They who thus seek them are least likely to attain them. It is said there is a fiery light which appears in marshy places, floating just above the surface of the earth, so volatile in its nature that the least breath moves it, and consequently those who rush towards it most eagerly, create a current of air which drives it from them, and it thus leads them on to miry places for their destruction; while, if they would quietly sit down it might float near them, or rest upon them when there was no agitation in the atmosphere to repel it. So is it with the great things of this world, they often fly from those who pant in the chase after them; they frequently rest upon those who reach after them more quietly. One of the wealthiest individuals in a distant city, who spends immense sums for benevolent purposes, was heard to say, that he hardly knew how his property came to him; it seemed to increase without effort on his part, and whether he would or no. The reason may have been because he was not selfishly eager in the pursuit of it, and because he consecrated it to good objects, and therefore God blessed him as He did Solomon.
2. They who selfishly and eagerly "seek the great things" of the world, are apt to have some sore trial coupled with success, if they are successful. Look at all history; when were its great men so wretched, as when they had attained the highest point of exaltation! "He has gained everything," said a companion of Napoleon, when he was in the zenith of prosperity, "and yet he is unhappy." So true is this, that one almost dreads entering upon a state of great worldly aggrandisement, or to see others entering upon it, lest some. thing should happen to mar all. We feel as we do when one is on a lofty spire, admiring his elevation, but almost afraid to look at him lest he should fall God has wisely connected such checks with worldly greatness, to teach us not to set our hearts upon it, and to enforce the prophet s warning, "Seekest thou great things for thyself? seek them not."
3. The thought of death should teach the vanity of the selfish and eager pursuit of worldly greatness. How one severe fit of sickness will change the aspect of all the glitter of the world! In health it is like the panoramic view where splendid palaces and cities pass before our delighted eyes; in sickness the glass is taken away, and a little painted daub is seen, no bigger than one's hand. And death shuts out even that from our sight. "Millions for an hour of life," was the dying exclamation of one of England's proudest queens. It is further humiliating to all worldly aspirations to see how small, a vacancy one makes among the living by his death. Think of any person, however great he may have been, who has been two years dead, how little is he missed! how everything goes forward just as smoothly without him! What then, in conclusion, is the view of the great things of this life to which such reflections lead? The proper view seems to be, not to despise the things of this world, but to be sure that our supreme affections are on those of another and a better; not to reject the good gifts of this life, but neither to toil for them as if they were all in all to our happiness, nor to use them, when gained, for our own selfish gratification.
(W. H. Lewis, D. D.)
Parallel VersesKJV: And seekest thou great things for thyself? seek them not: for, behold, I will bring evil upon all flesh, saith the LORD: but thy life will I give unto thee for a prey in all places whither thou goest.