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CRITICAL AND EXEGETICAL NOTES.—Chronology of the Chapter.—Immediately upon his having written the roll which was afterwards read to, and destroyed by, Jehoiakim (vide notes on chap. 36); eighteen years before Jerusalem was taken.
Literary Criticism.—Jeremiah 45:4. “Even this whole land.” Perhaps ארץ here may wisely be rendered “earth,” rather than limited to the “land” of Israel; for Nebuchadnezzar’s invasions and conquests were at that time disturbing, not Judea alone, but the known world (see chap. Jeremiah 25:26), Albeit the force of the statement here is emphatic respecting Judea, that as the whole country is under doom, no single individual should be selfishly craving his own aggrandisement, but accept a share in the common distress.
SUBJECT OF CHAPTER 45
BARUCH CORRECTED AND COMFORTED
I. What can be gleaned respecting Baruch’s disposition and character?
(a.) A skilful scholar, and therefore selected by Jeremiah as his amanuensis (Joseph., Antiq. X. ix. 1).
(b.) Faithful in his attachment as a friend (chap. Jeremiah 32:12; Jeremiah 36:4 et seq.)
(c.) Possessed of an ambitious temperament (Jeremiah 45:5); doubtless his noble lineage (Jeremiah 51:59; Joseph., Antiq. X. vi. 2; ix. 1), as the grandson of Maasiah, in Josiah’s time (2 Chronicles 34:8), animated him with hopes of high office in the state; or his close association with the prophet fostered the expectation of becoming Jeremiah’s successor in the prophetic calling.
(d.) These youthful aspirations (for he was young at this period, eighteen years before Jerusalem was captured), when wisely corrected (as in Jeremiah 45:5), did not alienate his attachment to the prophet, nor render him less zealous in serving him.
(e.) Nevertheless he exhibits wounded self-concern, which shows a lack of devoted patriotism and abandonment of self for the nation’s spiritual good. His words (Jeremiah 45:3) “Woe is me now!” indicate this self-concern as unduly prominent, especially at such a crisis.
Oriental tradition exhibits Baruch as offended at being denied the gift of prophecy; of disappointment over the destruction of Jerusalem, and, with it, his hopes of honourable position; that therefore he apostatised from Judaism and adopted the tenets of Zoroaster (Dr. Payne Smith). This is not credible.
II. What is the burden here of Baruch’s discontent and complaint?
(a.) An unpatriotic self-concern (comp. (e.) above). As he writes out the gloomy predictions of Jeremiah he is overpowered with a feeling of deep distress; but on what account? That his city and people were to experience such disaster? No but that he himself was to suffer. “Woe is me now, for the Lord hath added grief,” &c.
(b.) An undevout repining against God for His dealings with him (Jeremiah 45:3). “The Lord hath added grief,” &c. Rescued from the perils of my first writing (chap. Jeremiah 36:26), I am again involved in a similar peril. He lacks hardihood, and a spirit of glad obedience.
(c.) An inconsolable despondency. “I fainted in my sighing, and I find no rest.” Instead of realising his privilege of being allied with God’s prophet in God’s service, he murmurs. Instead of hiding in God’s love and care amid anticipated distresses, he despairs!
(d.) Impatience or distress over his nation’s sinfulness, which necessitates these gloomy prophecies of ruin. But it is not for him to be angry, but pitiful and prayerful.
III. What correction does God address to this complaining and aspiring youth?
(a.) Specific information of God’s absolute purpose of overthrow for Judah (Jeremiah 45:4). So that for him to—
1. Fret over Judah’s overthrow, is to repine against God’s designs.
2. Deplore his own misfortunes, is to reflect on God’s justice and wisdom in allowing him to be involved in his nation’s distresses.
3. Abandon all comfort, is to forget that God, who punishes evil, can also care for those He cherishes.
We must recognise and accept God’s law of justice. It behoves us to check all repining at His judgments. “Shall not the Judge of all the earth do right?” “It is the Lord, let Him do what seemeth Him good.” “Just and true are Thy ways, O King of saints.” Far more wise is this trust in God’s righteousness than to repine against His laws as if He were severe.
We must submit to the Divine retributions of wrong. God punishes sin; shall we lament it? Surely He must not let “the wicked go unpunished.” And when we see Him smite the guilty, we, instead of exclaiming against it, should bow in awe, and say, “I was dumb, I opened not my mouth, because Thou didst it.”
(b.) Positive prohibition of all ambitious self-seeking at such a crisis of the nation (Jeremiah 45:5).
The “whole land” is under doom; no single individual should think to escape his share of misfortune; and certainly it is not seemly to be intent upon earthly prosperity amid prevailing calamities. At such a crisis, when even the elect can scarcely be saved (Matthew 24:22), when the very flower and dignity of the nation’s youth (Daniel, Ezekiel, &c.) will be carried into captivity, no man ought to foster plans of private promotion and prosperity.
It is in cherishing ideas unduly lofty that men make reverses, when they come, the more painful for them to bear.
The world’s frowns would not so much disquiet us if we did not so eagerly covet its smiles.
How unseemly for God’s servants to be building their hopes on mere earthly success, when all is perishing and hastening to destruction!
IV. What word of consolation is conveyed to this affrighted and disconsolate soul?
(a.) Exemption from the slaughtering sword is guaranteed him. With death and destruction imminent, with evil coming “upon all flesh,” his “life” should be secured to him. “Life” is the utmost which the most fortunate and favoured can hope to have preserved to him amid the general conflagration and ruin.
(b.) Yet this shall only be secured by special clemency; as “a prey;” a thing snatched from danger, saved by prompt energy; as “a brand plucked from the burning.”
Is it not a great distinction in a world where “death hath passed upon all men, for that all have sinned,” to be assured of salvation? Even though “saved with fear, pulling them out of the fire.” For this exemption from the common doom is ours whom God loves; “there is, therefore, now no condemnation to them who are in Christ Jesus.”
How supremely satisfied and grateful should we be if, though all earthly hopes and honours perish, we are guaranteed safety of soul! “For I know whom I have believed, and am persuaded that He is able to keep that which I have committed unto Him against that day.”
Comments.—“There is not a word here of praise for his steady attachment to his master. However great might be his personal services, God’s prophet had no honeyed words of flattery for his faithful minister, but only the bare and unseductive message of truth. It tells Baruch to give up his ambitious hopes, and be content with escaping with his life only.”—Dr. Payne Smith.
“Baruch did not act as secretary for hire but for love. He esteemed it an honour and a happiness that by his skill he could serve the Lord, to whom he owed it. Therefore a glorious reward is imparted to him unsought, so that his name and remembrance are immortalised in the sacred record by an oracle addressed specially to him. This honour is to be esteemed still higher than the assurance, that this wretched mortal life should not be taken by violence before its time.”—Naegelsbach.
Jeremiah 45:3. Theme: WORLDLY PROSPECTS SACRIFICED IN GOD’S SERVICE.
I. Born to high social status, he shrank from the disfavour which identification with God’s prophet brought upon him. This association with Jeremiah incurred the wrath of the king, the princes, and the priests of Jerusalem; and thus he was shut out from all court favours and honours.
II. An unpopular career, of fidelity to God and His prophet, was certain to entail great worldly losses. All the avenues to the promotion and preferment of which he had a reasonable expectation, and to which he aspired, he saw closed by his call to the service of God.
III. His faithful service of God placed his life in jeopardy, and entailed obloquy and persecution (chap. Jeremiah 36:26). Here was a severe trial of faith, courage, and self-devotion to God.
IV. His clinging to mere worldly honour was, however, a mistake, for God’s purpose was to destroy all national dignity (Jeremiah 45:4). What would it then have advantaged him to have kept a secular goal in sight? And “what shall it profit a man if he gain the whole world and lose his own soul?” “He that will save his life shall lose it; but he that will lose his life for My sake shall keep it to life eternal.”
Note.—i. It requires both courage and self-devotion to witness for truth in evil days.
ii. Love of the world is inconsonant with a fearless and faithful service of God.
iii. Earthly hopes must be surrendered by those who join the open witnesses for Christ.
iv. Every true follower of Jesus must “take up his cross,” and accept suffering and sacrifice as the earthly price of the eternal gain.
Jeremiah 45:3-4. Theme: MAN’S VOICE MET BY GOD’S VOICE. “Thou didst say;” “The Lord saith thus.”
Here we have two persons, Baruch and God, presented in a manner highly characteristic of each—Baruch absorbed only about himself; God terrible and tender.
The chapter shows that the affairs of individual children of God are of consequence in His eyes; deems them worthy of a revelation, of a personal contact with the afflicted spirit, and of special provision for it.
I. As to Baruch: God would show him the evil in himself, before He showed him the goodness there was in God. “Thou didst say.” It is God’s voice to man saying, “I know what is in thee, as well as what is in Myself.” God had “heard” what Baruch had been saying, as He “heard” the groanings of the Israelites, the affliction of Hagar, &c. (Psalms 106:44).
1. God’s hearing a reason for our humility.
2. There are heart-voices as well as lip-voices. As in Deuteronomy 7:17; Deuteronomy 8:17. God’s ear is listening.
3. The murmuring and selfishness of heart-talk (Jeremiah 45:3). All comes out when a heart fearlessly talks itself into words. And God often hears such talk from us—murmuring and impatient words.
4. The prominence given to “self” in this talk. Not a word about the woes coming on his country, or concerning God’s honour; “I” is omnivorous. Self-love will always discolour and distort our views of God and everything.
5. The discontented thoughts of self love. They make us think we have not been dealt with as liberally as we ought to have been; have been disciplined too much. We think only of the afflictions God has “added,” not of His sustaining and beneficial care, and of God’s purpose and aim.
II. As to God: His heart does not contract because He hears our hearts repining. He is listening; lets us talk on; not check us at once.
1. God taking notice of a sorrowful heart.
2. His manifestation of the one-sidedness of our thoughts.
3. God addressing man in his personality.
4. The decisiveness of God’s correcting word.
5. Let us expect the actings of sovereignty in mercy. We must listen for His “thus;” all must be His way as regards the boon He confers.
6. His way may be strange, but will surely be the right way.
7. He will save us, but not by a weak change in His determination. He will do as He says; perhaps exercising us by vicissitudes, but watching over us with personal care, that we may come forth from our troubles taught of God, taught about ourselves; what there is in ourselves: “Thou didst say;” and what there is in God: “THE LORD SAITH THUS.”—Arranged and condensed from “Breviates,” by Rev. P. B. Power, M.A.
Jeremiah 45:5. Theme: WORLDLY ASPIRATIONS: “SEEKING GREAT THINGS.”
I. Great things have been secured without seeking. And that indicates—
1. That God can confer great things on whom He will. “It is in Thy hand to make great” (1 Chronicles 29:12). Comp. David’s confession (2 Samuel 22:36).
2. That the pathway to greatness is through lowliness to honour. Observe Scripture instances: Moses left the palace, yet became leader of Israel! Solomon craved wisdom only, yet became rich and exalted! David kept his father’s sheep while his brothers hung about Saul, yet was called up to be Israel’s poet and king! Mary crept behind Christ and anointed His feet, yet her name and deed are published “throughout the whole world.” Martyrs, who became “the offscouring of the world,” have become the glory of the Church! Christians, despised by the mighty, are to be sharers of Christ’s throne!
Hence, when we, for Christ’s sake, surrender the “great things” which others seek, we are in the way of gaining “greater things than these.” “Before honour is humility.”
II. “Great things” may be sought worthily and even nobly. For it is to be remembered—
1. That Scripture encourages a spirit of aspiration. “Not slothful in business.” “Seest thou a man diligent in his business, he shall stand before kings.” To aspire is not a proof of impiety, nor of worldly-mindedness.
2. God bestows great worldly power and prosperity upon godly men. For “all things are yours, whether the world,” &c. The high places of life are to be coveted for the sway and power for good they procure.
3. It is only when they are sought for “self” and self-aggrandisement that they are prohibited. For then they ensnare and surfeit and debase the soul.
III. “Great things,” though they allure, do not enrich, the soul.
1. They are not happiest who are highest. “Uneasy lies the head that wears the crown.” King compared with boy swinging on a gate—“Happier than a king!”
2. Great things are not essential to happiness.
3. They are always associated with subtle and ceaseless temptations.
4. Often close the heart to higher influences and purer attractions.
5. Always prove transient and unsatisfactory. “The fashion of this world passeth away.” The heart is not rested, comforted, satisfied by them while they are possessed; and when they “take wings and fly away,” they leave “vexation of spirit.”
IV. Greatest things are assured to Christ’s servants.
1. Greater honours; higher and more lasting titles than earth can yield. “Heir of God,” &c.; “Kings and priests to God.”
2. Greater treasures; more satisfying and elevating.
3. Greater privileges and blessings.
4. Greatest glory in the life to come. “Sit with Me on My throne.”
Yet the Divine principle is this: Through shame to glory. As Jesus, through the Cross to the Throne: “Ought not Christ to have suffered and entered His glory?” As His followers; “If we suffer with Him, we shall also be glorified together.” Hence, seek right things for ourselves. God shall give the “great things” to us!
See Addenda to chap. 41: AMBITION.
Theme: WHY GREAT THINGS SHOULD NOT BE SOUGHT FOR SELF.
i. Because self ought never to be our ultimate object.
ii. Because great things thereby become objects of idolatrous worship.
iii. Because to do so is to subordinate the discharge of duty to their acquisition and enjoyment.
iv. Because in doing so you will involve yourselves and others in much positive suffering.—Rev. James Stewart.
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Exell, Joseph S. "Commentary on Jeremiah 45". Preacher's Complete Homiletical Commentary. https://studylight.org/
the Week of Proper 21 / Ordinary 26