The house had just disappeared.
I couldn’t believe it. It was literally gone. My husband, Gerald, and I had often spoken about the little white house bordering on the park route we walked almost every Sunday morning. Then one day, after having been away for a few weeks, we realized that the house was gone—a little house, nestled in the middle of a grassy lot. Yes, it was just a little house and it needed some repair, but still it looked cozy.
We walked over to take a closer look. All that was left of the little house was a small driveway and a mailbox—nothing more. The demolition crew had worked quickly and thoroughly. Within a few weeks the grass had grown over the spot where the little house had stood.
Somehow, I felt sad. I wondered about the people who had worked hard to pay for that house. I imagined that it must have been someone’s dream house. I thought of all the spare time they had spent painting and repairing over the years. I thought of the many hours they had spent cutting the lawn. I wondered if they had sometimes lain awake in that little house worrying about paying the rent. Now there was nothing to show for all that investment of time, emotional energy, and money.
The disappearance of the little house made me sad because I identify with the little house or the people inside. I work, I worry, I invest time and energy, then I wonder what will last. I’d like to leave more than a grassy spot.
Really leaving something that will last seems hard to do. Our schooling is for the most part preparation for the world of yesterday and not tomorrow. Things change so quickly.
Countries considered peaceful and stable can quickly erupt in riots, civil war, even genocide. Ideologies that have dominated the political landscape for decades can change overnight. A virus can leave the whole world reeling.
Countries considered peaceful and stable can quickly erupt in riots, civil war, even genocide.
I’m reminded of Baruch. He also lived in a world that was about to turn upside down and inside out. His country, Judah, found itself a pawn in the power game for world supremacy between Egypt and Babylon. As much as they would have liked to forge their own path and do their own independent thing, they were constantly being forced to take sides.
I can identify with Baruch. There are many similarities between his world and ours. We are all collectively and individually caught up in the cosmic conflict between God and Satan. In the end, there will be no neutral ground. Through the prophecies of Jeremiah, faithfully copied down and distributed by Baruch, God clearly told His people and the larger world which side to invest in. For nearly 50 years God sent detailed messages through Jeremiah, foretelling what the consequences would be for their choice of allegiance. We have much more than 50 years of prophecy to look back on. God has given us in the Bible a prophetic picture of what our future will hold, depending on where we put our priorities.
What did this all mean for Baruch as he tried to build a life for himself?
Baruch, a talented man with good connections, made his choice for God and tried to support God’s cause by being Jeremiah’s scribe. Under the promising reforms of King Josiah, he probably hoped that he could be part of something big, make an impact on his world, and leave a lasting legacy. All around him people were striving to get ahead in life. Baruch, with his good education, may have dreamed of a distinguished career at the royal court that would bring with it a beautiful home and a high standard of living.
Soon enough, however, Baruch came to the realization that his career choice was not the dream job he had hoped for. Baruch found himself hiding as the angry ruling class turned on him and blamed him for Jeremiah’s messages (Jer. 43:2, 3).
We live in a materialistic world. We know the pressure to be more and have more. It’s easy to carry that mindset over to our spiritual lives. We begin to measure our life worth, our legacy, and even God’s favor by looking at what we have and what we can do rather than who we are. Following God doesn’t always mean that we find the perfect spouse, have a wonderful, meaningful job, and lead a sunny life that all will call “blessed.” Perhaps we all need moments like Baruch’s to bring a sense of perspective to our lives.
When the king of Babylon finally came and put Jerusalem under siege, all that people were living for suddenly became inconsequential. Of what consequence was a good career in court as Jerusalem suffered an 18-month famine? The great walls would be breached. Soon their city would be a pile of rubble. The beautifully furnished homes that had been the envy of the neighborhood would be nothing but ransacked, burnt shells. The Temple that the people regarded as their security would be destroyed. The important positions that everyone desperately wanted would soon be the most dangerous.
Until that day came, Baruch had to live by faith with an eye to the future, even as the wicked were living around him in apparent prosperity. Perhaps God’s special message to Baruch is also a message to me when I feel discouraged: “ ‘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’ ” (Jer. 45:5, NKJV).*
Baruch learned to see his everyday life in the light of Judah’s end-time. Rather than seeking great things for himself, he made his legacy by finding and fulfilling his own small duty in supporting the larger purposes of God.
Perhaps today would be a good moment to rethink the investment portfolio of my life. Am I investing in eternity? Am I laying up for myself treasures in heaven by investing in those around me today?
*Bible texts credited to NKJV are from the New King James Version. Copyright © 1979, 1980, 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.
Chantal J. Klingbeil serves as an associate director of the Ellen G. White Estate.