Thursday, December 23, 2010

Baruch: Building a Legacy in a Crumbling World

“Baruch: Building a legacy in a Crumbling World”
The theme of our studies the last three months has been “Background Characters in the Old Testament.” As I’ve thought about this title, it has occurred to me repeatedly, that there are “background characters” only from our perspective – never from God’s perspective. In God’s view of reality, everyone is a “foreground” character. In God’s sight, there is no one more or less important than another. We tend to view someone as important in Scripture based on how much “face time” they get in the stories of the Bible. The more times you’re mentioned, or the more people you have under you, or following you, then the more important – or the more “foreground” – you are. But that’s our perspective, not God’s.
I have had the privilege over several years to go on medical humanitarian trips. Many days we’d be out in some village – just a shanty-town of corrugated metal, one-room, dirt-floor, shacks. When I first saw the houses, I thought they were chicken coops, but they were actually people’s homes. As we waited for our bus to take us all back to our hotel, the kids would pour out of the shacks to get candy from us (not so good on the health evangelism side). As I looked at these dozens of little kids, it was almost reflexive to see them as “background” characters in God’s plan. They were dirty, uneducated, poor, and from an insignificant town in an insignificant part of the world. I on the other hand, was educated, affluent, clean, and from the most powerful country in the world. I belonged to the remnant church, worshipped on the right day, ate the right food, knew my Bible, had daily devotions, etc. This wasn’t a conscious thought process, it was a reflexive feeling or sense of myself in contrast to them.
But in the perspective of eternity, a soul is a soul. “The relations between God and each soul are as distinct and full as though there were not another soul upon the earth to share His watchcare, not another soul for whom He gave His beloved Son” (Ellen White, Steps to Christ, page 100). God’s love, Jesus sacrifice, the angel’s interests, are just as strong and significant in relation to the children in a distant third-world country as in relation to any of us. In eternity, it won’t matter how educated, affluent, clean, or “with-it” we were. It will matter how our hearts resonated with the God who has no background characters. We are all, every one of us on planet earth, in God’s foreground. Each of those children had a guardian angel who works just as hard, and is just as hopeful, and just as energetic in working on their behalf as my guardian angel is on my behalf. 
We are all part of the great web of humanity, and in this world, there are no background characters. Every one of us matters to God. We are all impacting those around us in significant ways. May we see how much God values us, and relate to others as He has related to us. May there be no “background” characters in our sphere of influence.
This week, as our title reminds us, we see that Baruch was living in a “crumbling world.” Our world is also crumbling. As if speaking of the contemporary world, the first line of the lesson says, “The world, as Baruch knew it, was drawing to a close. Jerusalem and Judah were in their final moments.” 
The world, as we know it, is drawing to a close. Probation is in its final moments. As Winston Churchill said in reference to the period immediately before World War II, “The era of procrastination, of half-measures, of soothing and baffling expedients, of delays, is coming to its close. It its place we are entering a period of consequences.” Like the Jewish nation of Baruch’s time, we are entering a period of final consequences.
Baruch aligned himself with God’s prophet, for the benefit of the nation. His choice ultimately resulted in his own salvation. It is time for us, also, to align ourselves fully and finally with God’s side in the great controversy. Even though the world is in a state of progressive “crumbling,” we have an opportunity to “build a legacy.” This legacy is an understanding of the character of God as manifested in the life of Jesus Christ. Such a knowledge of God bears fruit in individual characters that are changed into the same character as Jesus had. Baruch refused to be distanced from supporting the unpopular Jeremiah with his friendship and his service as time was running out. We can learn from him the value of allegiance to God and cooperation with those whom He chooses as His messengers.
We are privileged to have the repeated warnings and prophetic insights of Biblical wisdom. May we heed this saving wisdom as we move through a world that will become even more chaotic and crumbling than was that of Baruch and Jeremiah. We have a Savior who has proven Himself faithful, and worthy of our devotion. He is a safe hiding place for those who choose Him in the face of all that the final moments of history have in store for us.
--Bob Hunsaker