/ MULYALE MUTISYA
‘Should you then seek great things for yourself? Seek them not’ ~ Jeremiah 45:5
This statement was said to Baruch amidst news of distress, disaster, and destruction. Baruch was a scribe who wrote down all what God said to Prophet Jeremiah. When Jeremiah received a word, he ‘dictated all the words the Lord had spoken to him. Baruch wrote them on the scroll’ (Jeremiah 36:4). What Baruch penned down had a central theme; disaster is looming. Although messages of hope and redemption were interlined, calamity and seventy years of captivity had to occur. There was no escape, and that did not sit well with most of the hearers. ‘When they heard all these words, they looked at each other in fear’ (v16). In fact, the King ignored the words and actually, ‘cut them off with a scribe’s knife and threw them into the brazier until the entire scroll was burnt in the fire’ (v23). ‘The king and all his attendants who heard all these words showed no fear, nor did they tear their clothes’ (v24). Eventually, many did not take heed of the impending calamity.
Unlike the others, Baruch who wrote down the nature of the impending disaster was somehow disturbed. Although he did not openly express it, the Lord knew what was in his heart. And so God through Prophet Jeremiah tells him, ‘You said, ‘Woe to me! The Lord has added sorrow to my pain; I am worn out with groaning and find no rest’ (v3). However, the Lord knew that the real source of Baruch’s sorrow, pain, groaning, and restlessness was not really the disaster decreed, but what will be left behind when captivity set in. And so God continues to tell him, ‘I will overthrow what I have built and uproot what I have planted throughout the land’ (v4), leading Him to ask Baruch, ‘Should you then seek great things for yourself? Seek them not. For I will bring disaster on all people’ (v5). The only consolation that God gave Baruch was, ‘but wherever you go I will let you escape with your life’ (v5).
Likewise, God only gives us an assurance of life. Other great things may come and go. Positions may come and go, wealth may come and go, fame may come and go, and loved ones may come and go. In fact, God has decreed that ‘The world and its desires pass away’ (1 John 2:17). The only assurance that He gives is eternal life and so ‘the man who does the will of God lives forever’ (v17). When all is said and done, the only thing we can really escape with is our life (if we have one). Jesus says, ‘Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moth and rust do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also’ (Matthew 6:19-21). Essentially, Jesus was alluding to the fact that any investment made in this world has no guarantee. Worldly investments can be uprooted. The only guarantee that God gives us is eternal life- to those who store up treasures in heaven. Heavenly investments are not made like worldly investments. They are done from within, from the heart. And so making heavenly investments is giving our hearts to God, so that our hearts will be set on a secure and everlasting treasure, a treasure we can find even after we leave this life.
Instead of seeking great things for oneself, God says, ‘Seek ye first the Kingdom of God and his righteousness and all these things will be given to you as well’ (v33). Just like Baruch was assured an escape with his life amidst death, destruction, and captivity, Believers are not only assured eternal life, but the trivial things that people seek while on the earth. That’s why Jesus says all these things will be added to you as well. It is an assurance. This is because, when our hearts are right with God, He directs our ventures, gives us knowledge and insight on how to make wealth, gives us skills and abilities that make us excellent and distinguished in what we do, and gives us wisdom on how to manage what we have. In short, God ‘will give you the desire of your heart and make all your plans succeed’ (Psalm 20:4).
The moment we begin to possess and set our heart on what God has given us, exalting it higher than Him, God says, ‘I the Lord will answer him myself in keeping with his great idolatry’ (Ezekiel 14:4). Usually, He causes a shake-up ‘so that what cannot be shaken may remain’ (Hebrews 12:27). In the process, wealth, position, power, fall at an instant and a man is left bare. Bare to clearly see who God is without blinders and distractions. This is what happened to Pharaoh of Egypt who said, ‘The Nile is mine; I made it for myself’ (Ezekiel 29:3). When Pharaoh took God’s gift and in the process misconstrued the gift, and exalted himself above God, a shake-up occurred. God says, ‘Because you said, ‘The Nile is mine; I made it,’ therefore I am against you and your streams, and I will make the land of Egypt a ruin, and a desolate waste . . . It will be the lowliest of kingdoms and will never exalt itself above the other nations’ (v9,15). People who seek great things for themselves only come to ruin and become a byword, for ‘God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble’ (1 Peter 5:5). Because in humility of heart, one does not seek great things for themselves, but rather seek the great God, and the God of great things – the God of ALL things.
‘But God said to him, ‘You fool! This very night your life will be demanded from you. Then who will get what you have prepared for yourself? This is how it will be with anyone who stores up things for himself but is not rich towards God’ ~ Luke 12:21