Sunday, January 12, 2014

A False Bottom - Discovering Baruch's Secret

Recently, I was thinking of writing some posts about obscure or little known characters or scriptures. I'm always curious about the people or verses that are important enough to be in the scriptures but are not commonly known or understood.
I love the book of Jeremiah and coming across the passages speaking about  Baruch, wondered  how many people would, on hearing his name,  immediately  know who he was.
As I sat thinking about Baruch, I  had that 'nudge'  that I recognized as God saying ...  .. There is more to his life story than what immediately meets the eye !

For those of you who are not sure who Baruch is, here is his story in brief.
He is first mentioned in Jer. 32, as the scribe that recorded and filed the legal documents needed when Jeremiah purchased a piece of property.
We see him again  in chapter 36 when Jeremiah again had need of him, this time to record the words of God as God spoke them to Jeremiah.  Then, because Jeremiah was under house arrest, unable to go to the the temple, he asked  Baruch to go in his place and  read the words of the scroll to the temple leaders.  Baruch did so and then also read them before the King when he was commanded to do so. The words angered the King and he tossed the scroll into the fire.   When,  in his rage, he commanded Jeremiah and Baruch to be seized , God hid them.
We see Baruch still with  Jeremiah , staying behind in Israel, after most of the people were taken captive to Babylon.
 Read Baruch's story for yourself and you  see Baruch, as an underdeveloped, background character , simply doing what Jeremiah needed him to do. You glean no sense of who Baruch was as a fleshed out person that would interest you.

BUT .. . there is a false bottom in Baruch' story box.
In chapter 45 of Jeremiah... very near the end of the book and long after we have forgotten about Baruch,  we have a very interesting chapter with one last reference to Baruch.   Here in verse 5 we read this .. ."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 will go."  
These words were spoken by God to Baruch, but they make no  sense.   Why would God promise Baruch his life after he already lived through the threats and danger that were now finally passed? And what great things could Baruch seek for himself ?  His country had been ravished, his people in exile, life become an exercise in survival!
But wait....this is not as it seems !   Look closer and you will see that chapter 45 is not in a chronological sequence.
Verse 1  indicates where chapter 45 belongs in context of Baruch's story.   These words were spoken to Baruch in the fourth year of the reign of King Jehoiakim.  Chapter 44 ends long after that !
When was the the fourth year of King Jehoiakim's reign in our story?  It was a very narrow window of time placing this word to Baruch in chapter 36, just after Jeremiah's first dictation when  Baruch is told that he will have to go read it in the temple.

Wow...  put this passage into its rightful place in the story and Baruch becomes a very interesting character !
Look at the first words... "Do you seek great things for yourself ? Do not seek them."  
We know Baruch was not just an ordinary scribe.  He was sought out as the one who handled important documents.. a lawyer , a scribe of scribes.   His career was building, he was gaining influence in high places.
But then, he is pulled into Jeremiah's service. It would not be politically correct to be seen as a Jeremiah supporter , since Jeremiah was the number one political/public enemy.  Standing with Jeremiah, in any way would not only put his career at risk but his very life !
Even though Baruch had high hopes for his place in Israel society, he was a godly man.  When faced with a life changing decision, we are told that he struggled, considering the probable consequences of doing what Jeremiah was asking of him. He cried out ...  maybe while pacing the floor in the dark torment  of night...  "Woe is me now! For the Lord has added grief to my sorrow. I fainted in my sighing and I find no rest. !!"  
God heard his cries, and sent Jeremiah to him with a message from God's mouth.
Not only does God tell him that his own plans for success are not what he should be focused on, but God also says that He will reward him by giving him life..  Baruch, no matter where he went could be assured that his life was in God's hands and God promised to keep him safe.
NOW, we understand why Baruch so calmly did all that Jeremiah asked him to do. He knew his life was not in danger!  
We see in Baruch an example of faith even when his own plans were crumbling or his heart quaked in fear!

Do we take God's promises so to heart that no matter how dark the world gets  around us, we just keep doing what we are called to do, steadfast without an anxious heart ?

** more insights under the 'false bottom'  in Baruch's story... next time ..


ellen b. said...

It's how we hope we will react...that's for sure. Interesting digging, Julie!

Judy ~ My Front Porch said...

Thanks, Julie....for the reminder to keep doing what we were called to do...even through 46the storm.