Day 178: Dream Big

Jeremiah 45:1-5

The message that Jeremiah the prophet spoke to Baruch the son of Neriah, when he wrote these words in a book at the mouth of Jeremiah, in the fourth year of Jehoiakim the son of Josiah, king of Judah, saying, “Yahweh, the God of Israel, says to you, Baruch: ‘You said, “Woe is me now! For Yahweh has added sorrow to my pain! I am weary with my groaning, and I find no rest.” ’

“You shall tell him, Yahweh says: ‘Behold, that which I have built, I will break down, and that which I have planted I will pluck up; and this in the whole land. Do you seek great things for yourself? Don’t seek them; for, behold, I will bring evil on all flesh,’ says Yahweh, ‘but I will let you escape with your life wherever you go.’ ”

This part of Jeremiah feels like reading the appendix of a book. Here, we jump back to and get some detail about an event that happened between Jeremiah and Baruch. Those who chose to add chapter divisions to the Bible, made this passage into its own chapter. It does appear to be naturally separated from the rest of the book. So, what does God want us to learn from it?

It appears that this happened at the time that Jeremiah was commanded by God to write down God’s message. It appears that when the Baruch the scribe who was writing down the message heard what he was supposed to do, he was filled with anxiety. If you go back and look at chapter 36, when these events happened, you can see that God expected Baruch to not only write down the words but to read them to the leadership. Then both he and Jeremiah were forced to run and hide. God was telling Baruch that he was to become unpopular by simply obeying God. Baruch was the messenger that people would want to kill simply for writing down and reading God’s word! It would appear that this didn’t sit very well with Baruch. I think that this would probably be a challenge for many Americans today as well. Baruch was obviously trained for a special occupation. It appears that he could read and write better than his own leaders could. His career was about to be ruined by simply obeying God’s command. To be honest, I think I would have been pretty disappointed myself. What hope did he have left in his career? How was he supposed to retire?

God asked Baruch a question that I have to ask myself. “Do you seek great things for yourself?” Isn’t that what Americans are supposed to do? God says this to Baruch: “Don’t seek them; for, behold, I will bring evil on all flesh.” To put this in a different light. Suppose I turned 30 in 1928. The stock market was about to crash and the great depression was about to happen followed by a second world war. Let’s say that God decided to tell me all about it in advance. I would feel like my life was about to be ruined in that case too. God is telling us to not place our hope in our lives here in this world. He’s also comforting us by telling us that He can save our lives even through hard times, but we may not get much more than that as the world is being punished for its sin. It can actually be a danger for us to “dream big” in this life. What we need to do is to obey what Jesus said and store up our treasure in Heaven. It may seem like God is telling Baruch to not dream big, but Jesus came and told us the opposite. He said that if we give up good things in this life, we will get 100 times more and experience eternal life. May God help us to see this more clearly so that we can truly experience joy in our lives today and stop worrying about what is happening in our world.

Day 100: Poorly Handling Prosperity

Jeremiah 22:20-23

“Go up to Lebanon, and cry.
Lift up your voice in Bashan,
and cry from Abarim;
for all your lovers have been destroyed.
I spoke to you in your prosperity;
but you said, ‘I will not listen.’
This has been your way from your youth,
that you didn’t obey my voice.
The wind will feed all your shepherds,
and your lovers will go into captivity.
Surely then you will be ashamed
and confounded for all your wickedness.
Inhabitant of Lebanon,
who makes your nest in the cedars,
how greatly to be pitied you will be when pangs come on you,
the pain as of a woman in travail!

It is true that when trouble comes it reveals something about us. When we are in trouble, we find out who we really call out to for help, but this passage shows us something else. What about how we handle prosperity?

Prosperity was Israel’s main problem and I think that it is ours as well. When God gives us prosperity, do we become proud and rebellious and stop trusting in God? That’s what God says about Israel here. Remember that Israel would cry out to God for help when they were in trouble, but as soon as things got good again, they went on with their sinning.

It’s pretty clear that times of prosperity reveal the desires of our hearts. When we have all that we need, what do we choose to do with what we have? As Christians, we choose to give. Our flesh, however, may rise up during times of prosperity and influence us to waste it. The Holy Spirit will bring that to mind and we need to listen and turn away from our fleshly desire to rebel against what God wants us to do. Times of prosperity can be times of temptation.

We have a great example of a man who chose to avoid the temptation of wealth and power. Instead of taking it for himself, he chose to help slaves. I’m talking about Moses. God tells us that he chose to take his reward from God and to lay down his right to become a king in Egypt on earth. Instead, he allowed God to use him to fight for his own people’s release from slavery. He had to run away and become a shepherd for 40 years and then at 80 had to take on a new career as a leader of a very rebellious people. He may not have become king of Egypt, but he did have the privilege of talking to God Himself as a friend and God remarks about it in the Bible.

Israel’s rebellion ultimately cost them their country. No wonder Moses had such a hard time with them. They were living in opposite ways. Because Israel chose to run after other gods and refused to listen to God, they ended up alone with nothing, but Moses ended up with a reward that no one could take away.

Day 93: A Serious Look at Persecution

Jeremiah 20:14-18

Cursed is the day in which I was born.
Don’t let the day in which my mother bore me be blessed.
Cursed is the man who brought news to my father, saying,
“A boy is born to you,” making him very glad.
Let that man be as the cities which Yahweh overthrew,
and didn’t repent.
Let him hear a cry in the morning,
and shouting at noontime;
because he didn’t kill me from the womb.
So my mother would have been my grave,
and her womb always great.
Why did I come out of the womb to see labor and sorrow,
that my days should be consumed with shame?

Jeremiah is one of the men in the Bible that curses his own birthday. Job did the same thing as we read in his book. Both men were chosen by God to suffer persecution at the hands of their own friends. Since we know the end of Job’s story, it’s pretty obvious that Jeremiah is going to be taken care of in the end, but going through persecution is not a good thing. If it were, I’m sure that God would arrange for us all to be persecuted forever in Heaven someday. That doesn’t make any sense does it? Neither does pretending like persecution is good. Jesus did tell us to rejoice when we are persecuted, but He also told us why. Let’s look at that again:

Luke 6:22-23

Blessed are you when men shall hate you, and when they shall exclude and mock you, and throw out your name as evil, for the Son of Man’s sake.

Rejoice in that day, and leap for joy, for behold, your reward is great in heaven, for their fathers did the same thing to the prophets.

Jeremiah didn’t have these words from Jesus yet. These words have been entrusted to us along with the example of Jeremiah’s life. It makes sense that Jeremiah would be given space to complain by God. I’m not sure that Jeremiah and Job were given the knowledge of the fact that there are rewards in heaven. We were told and it is written into the Bible now. We are the ones who know without any doubt that we are going to receive a great reward because we have been treated like Elijah, Isaiah, Jeremiah and Job. We have a great deal of good to look forward to, but the pain and suffering we receive here, are not good. Jeremiah’s words remind us of that fact. We should not have a morbid desire to be persecuted, but we should be happy that we are going to be rewarded with men like Jeremiah for what we had to go through.