A personal promise from the Lord
Jeremiah 45: I’ll keep you alive through the whole business.
The story of Jeremiah pretty much ends with him in Egypt. Aside from the conclusion to his writings in the last pages of the book we’re about to move to an “appendix” of some of his prophecies concerning other nations. Just before we do that, we find the brief words of chapter 45. Obviously, this is out of place and would fit better back in chapter 36. It’s in that chapter that we find the story of Jeremiah’s dictating his gloom and doom message to his loyal secretary, Baruch. This good man writes it all down, not once, but twice. Baruch, then, is very aware of what’s coming, and frankly that knowledge scares him to death. The king might deny it all and act to silence the messenger. Baruch, though, believes every word he’s written. In an act of mercy, Jeremiah informs his faithful secretary that now he has a message specifically for him. God’s word for this good man is this: “Things are going to get worse, but don’t worry, I’m going to take care of you and see you through this whole business.” I can just imagine Baruch’s blood pressure dropping several points as Jeremiah states these words of assurance to him. I can’t find any prophecies in the Bible with my name on them, but I do find plenty of promises addressed to those who put their trust in the Lord. Like Baruch, then, I have a word from the Lord to hold on to even when things are in the “getting worse” stage. I don’t have to be consumed with worry because God has promised life to me.
Take Away: It’s a great comfort in troubling times to remember that the Lord has promised life to me.
How inspiration works
Jeremiah 36: There were also generous additions, but the same kind of thing.
Babylon isn’t the only threat to Judah during Jeremiah’s ministry. Egypt also invades and conquers the nation. Jehoiakim is made king of Judah by the Egyptian conquerors. It’s during his years in power that the Lord tells Jeremiah to write down a recap of all the prophecies that have been made concerning Israel and Judah. Jeremiah obeys, dictating his messages to Baruch, who serves as his secretary. The prophet sends Baruch down to the Temple to read it all to the people and the message creates uproar. Before long, Baruch, scroll in hand, finds himself before king Jehoiakim. The king, though, isn’t impressed with Jeremiah’s message. As Baruch reads, the king takes a small knife and trims away each column as it’s heard. He then, in an act of rejection, throws what has been cut off into the fire. When Baruch returns to Jeremiah and tells him what’s happened, Jeremiah starts all over again, dictating another message from God, this one more elaborate than the first. Obviously, there’s a lot here, but I find myself thinking about how God brought about the Sacred Writings that make up our Bibles. In this case, God doesn’t dictate a message to Jeremiah to dictate to Baruch. Instead, the Lord just tells Jeremiah to write down a summary of all the prophecies he’s given concerning Israel and Judah. Jeremiah goes to work, dictating to Baruch who faithfully writes down what he hears. The real kicker to me is that when this process is done a second time, we’re told that Jeremiah adds some stuff to it. In other words, there isn’t just one way for this scroll to be written. The Lord wants Jeremiah to tell the story, and I have no doubt that the Lord helps Jeremiah remember many specifics. However, for the second round, Jeremiah wants to add some stuff. It isn’t that he’s making things up; he just remembers more and decides to include it. We have here a pretty neat example of how the Scriptures were given to us. The Lord doesn’t dictate word for word (that is, unless it says he did). Instead, he says, “write about this event or tell the message you received from me.” From there, the writer’s free to frame things in his own words and even from his own perspective. Because of that we hear from the Scriptures not only the “big message” of God’s intentions, but also the “little message” of how the writer views the world. If you think about it, that’s a pretty good example of how God works in this world: partnering with humanity and even accepting some of our limitations.
Take Away: The Lord wants us to partner with him in what he’s doing in the world.