The prophecy of Jeremiah is the longest book in the Bible. Psalms may be larger, but is composed of 5 collections of individual psalms, so cannot compete with the book of Jeremiah. 52 chapters in our English versions and in the Tanakh.
Gael and I have been reading a chapter (or part of a chapter) a day for quite a while, and are approaching the end of this prophecy. 52 chapters is a long way from start to finish.
Not only does it record the many direct “words” from the Lord, but it also records quite a few historical matters that took place during the time of Jeremiah’s life.
Chapter 45 is only 5 verses in total, and is worth quoting:
The word that Jeremiah the prophet spoke to Baruch the son of Neriah, when he had written these words in a book at the instruction of Jeremiah, in the fourth year of Jehoiakim the son of Josiah, king of Judah, saying, “Thus says the Lord, the God of Israel, to you, O Baruch: ‘You said, “Woe is me now! For the Lord has added grief to my sorrow. I fainted in my sighing, and I find no rest.” ’ “Thus you shall say to him, ‘Thus says the Lord: “Behold, what I have built I will break down, and what I have planted I will pluck up, that is, this whole land. And do you seek great things for yourself? Do not seek them; for behold, I will bring adversity on all flesh,” says the Lord. “But I will give your life to you as a prize in all places, wherever you go.” ’ ”
It’s an interesting passage for a number of reasons:
First, because the Lord does not speak directly to Baruch, in spite of the fact that Baruch had been faithful in writing down all the words that Jeremiah spoke; not once, but twice. You will remember that the king cut the scroll off, column by column, and put it in the fire the first time. It’s not easy to figure out how large the scroll would have grown to when the king did that, but it would not have been a trivial task to write it all down the second time.
Second, because it would appear that the prophecies of doom had affected Baruch to the point of his saying what the Lord accused him of saying.
Third, because the Lord saw behind the “groan” to the essence of Baruch’s complaint. Baruch was falling into the same trap that Habakkuk did, in protesting to the Lord that what the Lord was doing was too much.
Fourth, because the Lord answers Baruch in essentially the same way He answered Habakkuk: “It is my nation, I raised it up, and I will bring it down; I have that right.”
Fifth, because the Lord recognizes that Baruch was worthy of a special promise; in all of the desolations that would follow, he would not perish.
For some reason I have been thinking quite a bit recently about the “collateral” of the Lord’s dealing with nations. Were there no righteous in Edom when the Lord brought total destruction on that nation? If Jonah’s story had turned out a little differently, what about the lives of the sailors?
I was comforted by the fact that the Lord knew all about these things, and that in the midst of it; promised that Baruch would not be “collateral damage”.