3 Thou didst say, Woe is me now! for Yahweh hath added grief to my sorrow; I fainted in my sighing, and I find no rest.
Are we not often distressed with a similar experience arising from a similar cause? By the truth we have become companions of the Despised and Rejected of men, who said,
"It is sufficient for the disciple that he be as his Master."
Companions of his companions, we may often feel cast down like Paul, but not destroyed: fainthearted and unrestful like Baruch.
"Denying ungodliness and worldly lusts" is not exhilarating. We may often feel dreary in the performance. Let us not be too much dejected. The present world is an evil world under any circumstances. Evil is ingrained in the constitution of things.
"Man is born unto trouble as the sparks fly upward."
People in effect imagine we can escape it by one contrivance or another. They constantly tug at their chains. It is a vain struggle. We are in the grasp of sin's bondage and we cannot be free except in the way provided in Christ.
It is better to quietly and finally accept our fate with resignation, and lay hold of the blessed hope God has given us in the gospel. It is a help in the doing of this to remember that the prophets and their companions have been sighing, sorrowing men who have had to fortify themselves by the consolation of the truth.
God sent a message to Baruch by Jeremiah. What a great honour that the God of Israel, the Almighty Creator of all things, should send a message to a mortal man to comfort him! It may be said that here, at all events, the case of Baruch differs from ours. For a time no doubt it does; but it is only a question of time. There is a time for everything.
Our times and circumstances do not admit of individual messages as appropriate just at present, but there is a message waiting for us all. Christ comes with a message to every man who will appear before him. It will be individual to each man at the judgment seat. This may appear afar off and not analogous to the message sent to Baruch. It will not seem either when the time arrives. It will be near and pointed and practical and appropriate. It will be a message of comfort to the sorrowing and faithful.
"He will satiate the weary soul, and replenish the sorrowful soul" (Jer. 31:25).
He will "comfort all that mourn." He will give unto them
"beauty for ashes, the oil of joy for mourning, the garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness."
For this joyful consummation, if we are among Zion's mourners, we have only to wait. It is difficult to wait, perhaps, but this waiting is the only attitude full of promise.
"They shall not be ashamed that wait for me."
"It shall be said in that day, Lo, this is our God; we have waited for him . . . we will be glad and rejoice in his salvation."
Therefore, as Paul exhorts,
"Cast not away your confidence . . . which hath great recompense of reward. For he that shall come will not (always) tarry."
5 And seekest thou great things for thyself? seek them not: for, behold, I will bring evil upon all flesh, saith Yahweh: but thy life will I give unto thee for a prey in all places whither thou goest.
Baruch had evidently been turning his eyes in the direction of great things. It was not much of a wonder. He had become weary of the continual self-denial involved in his companionship with a derided prophet of the Lord. He saw everybody around him looking after themselves, "seeking their own," as in Paul's day (Phil. 2:21).
"From the least of them even to the greatest of them everyone was given to covetousness" (Jer. 6:13).
From which it follows as a reasonable conclusion that most of them were partly successful and well-to-do. Baruch had evidently begun to think that he might as well try among the rest, or, at all events, make some effort to place himself beyond the reach of evil. God's advice in the case is before us:
"Seekest thou great things for thyself? seek them not."
Why was this advice recorded? Not for Baruch's exclusive benefit. It is doubtless true here what Paul says of another case:
"Now it was not written for his sake alone that it was imputed to him; but for us also, to whom it shall be imputed if we believe."
The advice to Baruch is advice to every son of God.
"Seek them not."
It is advice conveyed in many forms:
"Mind not high things, but condescend to men of low estate."
"Labour not to be rich."
"Having food and raiment, let us therewith be content."
These are some of the forms in which the same exhortation is delivered directly to ourselves. They are meant as practical counsels. We may disregard them now, and join the world in its race for distinction and wealth; in that case the day will come when we shall discover that our eyes and ears have been strangely sealed to the monitions of wisdom.
The reason connected with the counsel given to Baruch was personal to himself, but is nevertheless not lacking of application to us. God said,
"For, behold, I will bring evil upon all flesh."
This doubtless referred to the deluge of calamity that was about to break upon the whole country of Judah, by the hand of the Babylonian army, and sweep everything before it, as intimated in verse 4:
"The Lord saith thus, Behold, that which I have built will I break down, and that which I have planted I will pluck up, even this whole land."
The applicability of such a reason to us lies in the fact that a similar fiat has gone forth concerning the kingdoms of the Gentiles, in the age in which we live. A time of trouble such as has never yet visited them, is about to come; and the present order of things is to be broken up, in anger and great judgment, and the kingdom of God to be established over all.