Video preaching

A Divine rebuke of self-interest

Scripture: Jeremiah 45:1-5

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Sermon notes

This chapter contains a personal message from God to Baruch in which He both rebukes and encourages His servant. How tender the Lord is to such!

Baruch had acted as Jeremiah’s scribe in the transcription of the inspired word of God, v1. The words in view here are those written in a book in 36:2, 4. This was the record of twenty three years of ministry, 25:1 and would later form the bulk of this part of Scripture. It was a time of particularly intense difficulty and opposition. The King, Jehoiakim, at the head of an increasingly apostate kingdom of Judah, would utterly refuse the word of God in dramatic fashion, 36:21-26. This occurred in the wake of 36:9-10.

In the wider context, Nebuchadnezzar had come to power and in this year besieged Jerusalem for the first time and led away a limited captivity, Dan 1:1—uses the Babylonian date but is in fact the same year. It was the beginning of a time of judgment in the land, 2Kings 24:1-3.

In this context, Baruch a very close identity with the word of God and the witness for truth. In some ways his name was as synonymous with the message as Jeremiah the prophet’s. In fact, he is later to be accused of being the instigator of what Jeremiah preached, 43:1-3. He feels the pressure of being so closely identified with the message of God because the people’s treatment of the word is how he too is treated.


  1. God had heard his words. There is no record of who, if any, beside himself these words had been spoken to. Often these things are worked out in the private struggles of the believer’s heart. Cp Ps 73:13-15. But God heard. Nothing can be hidden from Him. Cp Ps 139:1-4.
  2. The misery he felt. He uses many words that express the misery of his disappointed personal ambitions:
  • Woe is me now. Woe is a term often contrasted with blessing. He felt the burden of misery and by using the particle of intreaty calls for others to recognize it and sympathize with him. 
  • Grief. Sadness—Gen 42:38, sorrow…
  • Sorrow. The word employed here is used of physical pain caused by wounds. It is linked to the idea of destruction and ruin.
  • Fainted. He is in the literal idea of the word, gasping with exhaustion.
  • Sighing. Groans and sighs. These are the expressions of pain and despair.
  • No rest. There was no relief, ease or peace. There was a constancy to his circumstances that he found overwhelming! Unremitting, unrelenting, unchanging circumstances he longed for change in!  

3. He traced the cause of this to the Lord Himself. In one sense this is true as the Lord had sovereignly ordained his circumstances and ministry. It is because of his association with the word of God and the message of condemnation on sin that he had to proclaim. And yet, in the sense Baruch speaks of it, he is wrong! The Lord redirects his focus to see that the cause of his pain actually rests in his own seeking for great things.


He has Jeremiah speak to Baruch on this matter.

  1. Primary. This is the first thing that Baruch needs to know. The message stands whether he feels miserable or not! This is a fixed constant that needs to be recognized. God’s word does not change. He needs to Behold this fact. Habakkuk was taught this same lesson, Hab 2:2 having expressed perplexity, 1:12ff.
  2. Divine sovereign rule in justice, v4. What the Lord had built in blessing on obedience He would tear down in judgment on apostasy and departure from Him. He had a sovereign prerogative to act. What He had given, He had the right to take away. Cp Job 1:21.
  3. The whole land. The sentence of God was upon the whole land and would be carried through. There is a completeness and fullness to the message that God insists upon. In other words, what Baruch has witnessed beginning, will be completed.


  1. A conflict. There is often—even in a man like Baruch—a conflict between self-interest and the message God has called us to stand faithfully for. The basic issue here was that Baruch was in misery because of disappointed self-interest! Within the context of serving God in obedience to His word there is no greater enemy than self. The Lord shows Baruch that beside all the opponents to God’s word that were making life hard, his own heart was at fault.
  2. Great things for thyself, v5. These are unspecified. There is no indication that they were inherently sinful! It may have been that he was looking for great influence; a great revival in which he would feature prominently, etc; yet it is clear that, whatever these great things were in his case, they centred on himself. Here is a vital point. We must never allow our ambitions for the work of God to be hijacked by self-interest. There is a very fine line here!
  3. A solemn prohibition. Seek them not… This is a clear, definitive, and emphatic command. Do not search for your own interests. There must be a comprehensive denial of self in order to serve the Lord. It is always for our own comfort and peace that it is so. Here is the paradox of Christian living: in self-denial we are spared th anguish of disappointed self-interest.
  4. A promise of preservation. In Baruch’s case the Lord gives a promise of physical preservation. While he will face many circumstances of conflict and battle, yet he will escape. The suggestion is that he will be forced to move from place to place but will survive. Many of God’s servants do perish physically. All are required to put their life on the line as required. The very same idea is seen in Matthew 10:39. Faithful service of God at any price rather than the pursuit of self-aggrandizement is the key to ultimate self-preservation.

Baruch did continue in the work of God as 36:9-10, 43:3, 6 (approximately 18 years later).

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