The word that Jeremiah the prophet spoke to Baruch the son of Neriah, when he wrote these words in a book at the dictation of Jeremiah, in the fourth year of Jehoiakim the son of Josiah, king of Judah: “Thus says the Lord, the God of Israel, to you, O Baruch: You said, ‘Woe is me! For the Lord has added sorrow to my pain. I am weary with my groaning, and I find no rest.’ Thus shall you say to him, Thus says the Lord: Behold, what I have built I am breaking down, and what I have planted I am plucking up—that is, the whole land. And do you seek great things for yourself? Seek them not, for behold, I am bringing disaster upon all flesh, declares the Lord. But I will give you your life as a prize of war in all places to which you may go.” – Jeremiah 45:1-5 ESV
This chapter appears to be a bit out of place, at least chronologically. But God had Jeremiah place it here in the narrative for a reason. If we go back to chapter 36, we find the first mention of Baruch in the book of Jeremiah, and it seems that chapter 45 is intended to provide further insight into the events surrounding this man’s life and his reaction to the role he was required to play. If you recall. Jeremiah had been told by God to put in writing all the words of prophecy that he had spoken to the people of Judah. To do so, Jeremiah called in Baruch to write the words in a scroll while he dictated them. When this process was done, Jeremiah told Baruch to take the scroll and head to the temple, where he was to read in the hearing of all the people, the words written on it.
Then Jeremiah said to Baruch, “I am a prisoner here and unable to go to the Temple. So you go to the Temple on the next day of fasting, and read the messages from the Lord that I have had you write on this scroll. Read them so the people who are there from all over Judah will hear them. Perhaps even yet they will turn from their evil ways and ask the Lord’s forgiveness before it is too late. For the Lord has threatened them with his terrible anger.” – Jeremiah 36:5-7 NLT
Jeremiah had been banned from going to the temple. So, the job of relaying all the previous prophecies to the people was left up to Baruch. And all chapter 36 tells us is, “Baruch did as Jeremiah told him and read these messages from the Lord to the people at the Temple” (Jeremiah 36:8 NLT). Fairly matter-of-fact statement. We are given no indication that Baruch had a problem with this command. He doesn’t seem to display any reservations or put up any argument about having to play the role of the prophet. He would have been well-acquainted with the kinds of reactions Jeremiah typically received from the people when he spoke on behalf of God, but there seems to be no apprehension on Baruch’s part. Until we get to chapter 45. It clearly states that Jeremiah gave this message to Baruch, “after Baruch had written down everything Jeremiah had dictated to him” (Jeremiah 45:1 NLT). And what Jeremiah had to say to Baruch reveals that God knew what was going on in Baruch’s heart. He may not have said anything or even showed any signs of resistance when told what he was going to have to do, but God revealed to Jeremiah was Baruch was really thinking.
“This is what the Lord, the God of Israel, says to you, Baruch: You have said, ‘I am overwhelmed with trouble! Haven’t I had enough pain already? And now the Lord has added more! I am worn out from sighing and can find no rest.’” – Jeremiah 45:2-3 NLT
Whether or not Baruch ever stated these words out loud where anyone could hear them is not clear. But God knew his thoughts. And it would be easy to jump to the conclusion that Baruch is being a little over-dramatic. After all, how difficult was it to write down some words on a scroll and then read them out loud? But we have to remember that Baruch’s little adventure as Jeremiah’s prophetic stand-in hadn’t stopped at the temple. Word about the events taking place at the temple made its way to the palace and officials of the king were dispatched to get to the bottom of the matter. So Baruch found himself being interrogated and had the scroll confiscated. And the last thing Baruch was told was, “You and Jeremiah should both hide. Don’t tell anyone where you are!” (Jeremiah 36:19 NLT). Not exactly comforting words.
The king, Jehoaikim, ended up cutting up and burning the scroll in anger. Then he had sent guards to have Jeremiah and Baruch arrested. “But the Lord had hidden them” (Jeremiah 36:26 NLT). But God was not done with them. He commanded Jeremiah to take another scroll and to have Baruch copy down the words of prophecy yet again, and this time He would add a special warning the King Jehoiakim.
“So Jeremiah took another scroll and dictated again to his secretary, Baruch. He wrote everything that had been on the scroll King Jehoiakim had burned in the fire. Only this time he added much more!” – Jeremiah 36:32 NLT
And it was most likely at this point that Baruch had expressed his reservations at the events surrounding his life. Whether he put his thoughts into actual words where Jeremiah could hear them or just kept them to himself, it didn’t matter, because God knew. And God gave Baruch a message. This poor man was distraught. He had been placed in a very uncomfortable position by Jeremiah. He was not a prophet. He had not received a call from God to be His spokesman. He had received no assurances from God that he would protected. He was essentially a secretary. He was obviously an educated man, but he was not wired to be a prophet. And all the events surrounding the last few days of his life had left him in a state of despair. He thought, “I am overwhelmed with trouble!” He knew the king was out to have him arrested. His association with Jeremiah had got him into hot water. He had a bounty on his head and the outcome was not going to be good. It was keeping him awake at night. He asks, “Haven’t I had enough pain already?” He had done what Jeremiah had asked, not once, but twice. He had risked his life. He had experienced what it was like to have the people glare at him in anger and indignation when he read the prophecies of God written on the scroll. He had seen the concern on the faces of the court officials when they interviewed him. And he had sensed their soberness and seriousness when they had warned him to hide. Then, he had received news that the king had burned the scroll and was seeking to have him arrested. And his reaction was, “And now the Lord has added more! I am worn out from sighing and can find no rest.” Baruch had reached the end of his rope. He was at his wit’s end.
But God had a word for Baruch. And He revealed some insight into Baruch’s thinking that was influencing his reaction. God said, “Are you seeking great things for yourself? Don’t do it!” (Jeremiah 45:5 NLT). Baruch was well-connected and, evidently, well off. His brother would end up being an official on King Zedekiah’s staff. His grandfather had been the governor of Jerusalem during Josiah’s reign. It may have been that Baruch saw himself as a potential candidate for a place in the king’s administration, but now, that hope had been blown. He was a fugitive. Any hopes he had of moving up the corporate ladder had been dashed by his role in the temple affair. But God wanted Baruch to let go of his dreams and to place his trust in Him. God told him, “I will bring great disaster upon all these people; but I will give you your life as a reward wherever you go” (Jeremiah 45:5 NLT). God was promising Baruch with lifelong protection. Because of his willingness to do what Jeremiah had requested of him, Baruch would find himself covered by the best insurance policy imaginable: God Himself. Nothing would happen to him. No harm would come to him. While the nation of Judah and the city of Jerusalem would fall, Baruch would stand firm. God would give him his life as a reward for his faithfulness. He had obeyed and now God would repay him for his obedience.
Yes, Baruch’s dreams of success were a thing of the past. He was going to have let go of his aspirations to be a part of the administration. But God was actually protecting him by keeping him away from Jehoaikim and any other king that might come to power in Judah. Because God was going to bring about the fall of the house of David. He was going to bring an end to this charade and all the officials of Zedekiah’s court, including Baruch’s brother, would eventually be taken captive and transported to Babylon when the city of Jerusalem fell. But Baruch would live. He would have his freedom. He would enjoy God’s good pleasure and lifelong protection of his life. Yes, Baruch’s efforts on behalf of God had cost him. But God would repay him in full. While everyone around him was dying during the fall of the city, Baruch would be spared. While all his well-heeled friends were being hauled off in chains to Babylon, Baruch would be spared. His faithfulness to God was going to result in God’s faithfulness to him.
English Standard Version (ESV)
The Holy Bible, English Standard Version. ESV® Permanent Text Edition® (2016). Copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers.
New Living Translation (NLT)
Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright © 1996, 2004, 2015 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.