We all imagine great things for ourselves and seek those things. But recently, those things have become harder to imagine and to seek.
About 2,626 year ago, that was the situation for a fellow named “Baruch.”
Baruch was Jeremiah’s secretary. And in the midst of astounding prophecies for Israel, Judah, Egypt, Babylon, and all the world, in chapter 45, the Lord speaks his Word to Baruch.
“Thus says the Lord… to you Baruch: You said ‘Woe is me! For the Lord has added sorrow to my pain. I am weary with my groaning, and I find no rest.’ Thus you shall say to him, Thus says the Lord: Behold what I have built, I am breaking down, and what I have planted I am plucking up—that is the whole land [eretz: “earth”]. And do you seek great things for yourself?”
Well, we all seek great things for ourselves, don’t we?
We seek great things for ourselves, and then when we get those things, we find out that they’re not all that great.
When I seek great things for myself, I often find myself incredibly anxious, driven, insecure, and alone…even if the “great things” really are great.
Is Righteousness great? Yes. But if you seek it for “yourself,” might you become self-righteous?
Is Jesus great? Yes. The Pharisees were jealous, so they took his life on the tree in the garden; not so great!
Is Salvation great? Yes. So why did Jesus say, “He who seeks to save his soul will lose it”?
Do you seek Righteousness, Jesus, and Salvation…for yourself?
Jeremiah 45:5 · “And do you [Baruch] seek great things for yourself? Seek them not, for behold, I am bringing disaster on all flesh…”
“All flesh,” not “some flesh.”
The problem with “flesh” is not that it’s “physical,” but that it’s self-centered. Your flesh feels only its own pleasure and pain, so it only seeks great things for itself. “Flesh” refers to your physical body and your psychic body, your “psyche,” your soul, your ego. The flesh is that self that seeks great things for itself.
Whenever you feel insecure, anxious, driven, or alone, ask yourself, “Self, are you seeking great things for yourself?” And I bet you’ll find that you are. The Lord says, “Stop it; I’m bringing disaster on all flesh.” Why would you want more flesh if God is bringing disaster on all flesh?
We will all get wasted. That’s the judgment of God.
In the Old Testament, God’s Judgment is “a cup of staggering.”
Why do sad and lonely people say, “Let’s get wasted”?
Aren’t they hoping to forget themselves, stop seeking great things for themselves, and actually commune with one another…because that’s pretty great?
Scripture says, “Don’t get drunk with wine, for that is dissolution, but be filled with the Spirit.” In the Cup of the Lord there is wine that is blood, which contains the Breath, the Spirit. It burns away arrogant flesh, forms a river of Life, and brings the body of Christ together in an ecstatic communion of endless joy.
“I’m bringing disaster on all flesh.” Sounds painful… but it hurts so good.
“I’m bringing disaster on all flesh, declares the Lord. But I will give you [‘have given you’] your life [nephesh: soul], as a prize of war, in all the places you may go.”
On the Sixth Day of Creation, God breathed his life [hayim] into dust and made Adam’s soul [nephesh]; he made, and is making, your soul—your unique life.
Each person is of infinite worth, for each person contains the indestructible Life of God.
And each person has a unique and individual value, like one piece of a jigsaw puzzle—it’s the unique and wonderful shape of the Life of God in you.
You cannot create your worth or your unique value, but you can discover your worth and become uniquely valuable to the people around you. And yet, for the children of Adam, the process of doing so is very counterintuitive, for we have believed a snake, and not knowing what great things are, we have sought great things for ourselves and covered the great thing that God has made.
We compare ourselves to each other and hide our differences in fig leaves, flesh, and ego—trying to make ourselves a “great thing.”
And then in fear and shame, we refuse to give ourselves away, in order to protect the “great thing” that in reality has become the worst thing—a prison called death and hell.
My mom loved jigsaw puzzles, and sometimes she’d say, “Why don’t you help me?”
She’d hand me a piece and say, “Here Peter, this is your piece.”
Imagine if I held on to that piece and said, “Wow, my piece! I’ll wrap it in bubble wrap and keep it in a box. I’ll never lose it or give it away. Thanks, Mom!”
She’d say, “No, Peter–it’s no fun unless you give it away. This is a puzzle, and when it’s all together, it makes a beautiful picture. Your piece is worth the whole puzzle, but it’s no fun until you discover how it fits, and then give it away. You lose it and find it in the puzzle. Get the picture?”
Sometimes she’d give me the last piece (the eschatos piece); I’d give it away, and discover the meaning of all things—the whole picture. And I would love that picture that we had constructed together, immensely more than the picture printed on the box.
Well, you’re not a piece of a jigsaw puzzle; you’re a living stone in the New Jerusalem; you’re a member of the Body of Christ.
You will discover your unique and infinite value; you will “find your soul” as you “lose your soul” for Christ’s sake and the Good News of the Kingdom—the Great Thing, the Picture.
You will find your soul, for he is giving it to you as a prize of war in every place that you may go.
Jesus not only sought you; he fought for you, and you are his prize.
We took his Life on the tree in the garden.
And there he gave us his Life on the tree in the garden: body broken and blood shed.
He gave, and he gives, himself to you in every place you may go: a communion of Life.
In each moment, you will discover this, not as you seek great things for yourself, but as yourself gives great things away.
God is Love, and God is Great.
Stop imagining great things for yourself, so you can be the great thing that God has imagined.
And then, you will discover great things all around you; you’ll join the party—the Kingdom of God—and that’s pretty great.
You will be—because you are—”Baruch.”
In Hebrew, “Baruch” is literally the word “Blessed.”
That’s not a “great thing” for yourself, that is yourself: God’s great thing.