Last week: Even in the time of judgment, we can trust God and be saved.
Big Idea: Play second fiddle with enthusiasm, excitement and exhilaration.
Leonard Bernstein, the late conductor of the New York Philharmonic Orchestra, was once asked to name the most difficult instrument to play. Without hesitation, he replied: “The second fiddle. I can get plenty of first violinists, but to find someone who can play the second fiddle with enthusiasm – that’s a problem; and if we have no second fiddle, we have no harmony."
“Are you seeking great things for yourself? Don’t do it! I will bring great disaster upon all these people; but I will give you your life (nephesh - one’s total being) as a reward (a prize of war - ESV) wherever you go. I, the LORD, have spoken!” (Jeremiah 45:5, NLT)
In the KJV of the Bible, the word ‘leader’ is mentioned only six times. The word ‘servant’ is mentioned more than 900 times. Serving seems to be thought of more highly by Jesus.
"Humility is a strange thing: the moment you think you have it, is just the moment you have lost it. Only the proud will speak of their humility: the humble confess to having a problem with pride. Until a man is nothing, God can make nothing of him." Anon.
In his brilliant book Outliers, Malcolm Gladwell tells the strangest story about a guy called Christopher Langan – a genius with a staggering IQ of 195 (Einstein's was 150). In school, Langan could ace any foreign language exam just by skimming the textbook two to three minutes before the test. But Langan never made the most of his amazing ability and ended up working on a horse farm in rural Missouri. According to Gladwell, Langan never had a second fiddler – a community to help him capitalise on his gifts. Gladwell summarises his story in one sentence. “Langan had to make his way alone, and no one – not rock stars, not professional athletes, not software billionaires and not even geniuses – ever makes it alone.”
“This is what the Lord, the God of Israel … says: ‘If you stay in this land, I will build you up and not tear you down; I will plant you and not uproot you, for I have relented concerning the disaster I have inflicted on you. Do not be afraid of the king of Babylon, whom you now fear. Do not be afraid of him, declares the Lord, for I am with you and will save you and deliver you from his hands. I will show you compassion so that he will have compassion on you and restore you to your land’” (Jeremiah 42:9-12).
Jeremiah 40-44 is a postscript of sorts, narrating the events that take place in Judah in the aftermath of the Babylonian invasion. The point, however, is to explain how those who remained in Judah rejected God's offer of blessing and restoration, and thus removed themselves and their descendants as candidates to participate in the great restoration promised in Jeremiah 30-33, where God gives his people a new heart, one heart and one way. Ch. 45 is the "deliverance oracle" concerning Baruch, which relates to a lament by Baruch about the burden of his task (Jer 45:3), since he shared firsthand in the grief and frustration of Jeremiah. It contains both a gentle rebuke and a great encouragement.
1: The Call of Jeremiah. “…to uproot and tear down, to destroy and overthrow, to build and to plant” (Jer 1:10).
2-29: Judgment (Prediction). “Return (shuv - v), faithless (shovah - a) people; I will cure you of backsliding (meshuvah - n)” (Jer 3:22).
30-33: Salvation (Consolation). “I will put my law in their minds and write it on their hearts” (Jer 31:33). “I will give them one heart and one way” (Jer 32:39).
34-52: Judgment (Actual).
Rejecting God's Gracious Second Chance (Jeremiah 40-45):
40-43 (events in Judah): It is foolish to reject God and his offer of deliverance; it is even more foolish to do so twice.
- 40-41: The murder of Gedaliah, the governor appointed by Nebuchadnezzar.
- 42: Do not go to Egypt.
- 43:1-7: To Egypt.
44-45 (events in Egypt): When God offers someone a second chance, it is foolish and irrational to reject it.
- 43:8-13; 44:1-30: A final appeal and the refusal to listen.
- 55: A word for Baruch
- What might Baruch know about Jeremiah (11:19; 12:1; 15:10, 20-21; 17:14-18; 20:7-9, 14, 18)?
- What role has Baruch played (36:1-8, 14-15, 17-19, 32; 32:12, 16; 43:6)? Was this easy for him (45:3, 5)?
- Discuss what it means to play “second fiddle.” Make it personal.
- Do you identify more with Jeremiah and his role or with Baruch and his? Discuss the relationship between the one being served and the one who serves.
- Think of someone you know who is invisible and unnoticed and yet plays an indispensable role. What can you do to encourage them and express appreciation?
- Are you seeking “great things” for yourself (45:5)?
- When you find yourself playing second fiddle do you complain “Woe is me!” (45:3)?
Notice five character traits of Baruch: discernment, invisibility, servanthood (Jn 13:3-4; Phip 2:3; Mk 10:42-45), humility (Rom 12:3), agape/love (Rom 5:5). Which trait is weakest in you? What will you do about it?
Name one specific thing that God has said to you today. Share it with the group.