This article is written in order that we might examine our motives, test our affections for Christ and ask ourselves the serious question, "what honestly are our true priorities in life"? In Jeremiah 45:5 there is a principle to regulate our ambitions, "and seekest thou great things for THYSELF, seek them not...".
Note WHO spoke the words. Jeremiah himself who uttered the words refused a glorious opportunity to leave the doomed city of Jerusalem and go for a life of ease in Babylon. (See ch. 40, vv. 2 to 6). He knew the temptation of the great things of ease and comfort, but he sacrificed the personal ambition. So he had the moral right to speak such words to Baruch. What a man he was! Have we sacrificed anything for the testimony of God and because we love His people and want to stay with them and help them all we can? Many, to pursue their own ambitions, have lost out and Godís things and Godís people have suffered.
Note WHEN the words were spoken. We have to compare ch. 36 vv 1 to 4. So that the address of Jeremiah to Baruch really took place some twenty years earlier. Does it not say much for Baruch who recorded these words? It was God speaking to him. The setting of this chapter returns to the fourth year of Jehoiakim, to the time when Baruch wrote out from dictation the prophecies of Jeremiah, which king Jehoiakim then burnt. What follows is inserted here because Baruch was with Jeremiah, his companion in all these experiences in Egypt.
Note to WHOM the words were spoken. They were spoken to the young man Baruch. He was a young man of high social standing. His brother Seraiah had been chamberlain in attendance on king Zedekiah, but he courted the fellowship of the prophet. He certainly was a true friend to Jeremiah. His name means, "blessed." He was truly a blessing to the prophet. Do we desire to be a blessing to the Lordís servants no matter what it may cost us?
Note WHY these words were spoken. They seem to be addressed to the conscience of the young man. From verse 3 it is clear that Baruch was a disappointed man. Behind his complaint lay a condition of mind that needed to be checked. The words then contain an element of rebuke. Baruch it would seem had great hopes and ambitions as to the kingdom. Another has well said, "the Lord shows Baruch that deeply as he was sorrowing over the judgments he had helped Jeremiah to make known, the Lord Himself was even more profoundly affected, for the kingdom and testimony and people which He had established and cared for, He Himself had now to destroy. Therefore, Baruch, who had hoped for a successful career, must now, in communion with God and His purposes, abandon all such thoughts, for he is to see the fulfillment of those prophecies of judgment which he had written; nevertheless the Lord will watch over him personally and spare his life and wherever he is, the Lord will be with him to deliver him.
In these words then we have before us the snare of selfish ambitions. We shall look at them in the following way:
1. They should CHALLENGE US.
What is the meaning of "great things" here? It is true that not all personal ambitions are selfish. There are the great things of SOCIAL POSITION. Many covet this and live and work to gain it. Even the Christian can be caught up in this. There are the great things of MATERIAL SUCCESS. Are we being affected by the materialistic spirit of the world and thus covet the great things of materialism? Let us remember the words of Paul to Timothy; "No man that warreth entangleth himself with the affairs of this life...". (2 Tim. 2:4). There are the great things of INTELLECTUAL ACHIEVEMENT. The believer also must avoid this. Not that we should not study or seek to do our lessons well or endeavor to pass our exams, but if we give everything to this from a wrong motive and neglect that which is spiritual then adjustment is called for. It has to be freely admitted there is the danger too of seeking the great things of spiritual things or spiritual place or power among Godís people all for selfish ends. May these words to Baruch prove a faithful testimony to us.
2. They should CONTROL US.
The words of our text should come home to us with light and guidance in the decisive hours of life. If we have decisions to make that are going to radically affect our lives, it would be good to listen to this text. It would help us to examine our motives and also ask ourselves, if I do this or decide that or go there will I be doing the will of God? Would my spiritual life and duties suffer? How possible to be so engrossed in the pursuit of great things that we neglect the little things of duty. Sometimes our ambitions are not fulfilled, and also our ordinary obligations are forgotten in the ambition that has taken over our lives. Moses and John the Baptist are both good illustrations of men that sought not great things for themselves (see Hebrews 11:26 & John 3:30). We should not miss the importance of the word "thyself." How much of self enters into our plans and ambitions.
3. They should COMFORT US.
There are times too when Jeremiahís message has been a word of comfort in times of discouragement, caused by the failure of cherished hopes and frustrated ambitions. Better to accept it all and leave it with God. If things have not worked out as planned, maybe God has a better plan for us. Our text then is a word for ALL. For the overseer in the assembly, for the preacher in the field of labor, for the Sunday school teacher working with a few children and for every believer who desires to spiritually prosper in their lives.
Seekest thou great things for thyself? O seek them not!
Earthís wealth will quickly fly, its glory be forgot.
Wouldst thou know wherein true greatness lies?
Get lowest down and thou wilt highest rise.