If this is your first visit, please see my introduction to these Lenten readings.
24 March. Baruch chapters 4-6
Chapters 4 and 5 are a prophesy during the exile to Babylon, in which Jerusalem is personified as a woman who has been widowed and her children taken away; she is urged to be patient until they come back. Although Baruch is associated with his contemporary Jeremiah, some of the words of chapter 5, with talk of levelled hills and filled valleys, are reminiscent of the earlier prophet Isaiah. This lesson, of being patient in times of trouble and trusting in God to restore better times at the right season, is one that recurs many times in Scripture, and especially in the Prophets. God is never seen as condemning anyone to continual punishment in this life (though the fate of the unrepentant sinner after death is a different matter); turning to God in trust may not result in an instant improvement in our fortunes, but demands patience and hope for the future.
Chapter 6, by contrast, is a letter written earlier, before the exile, by the prophet Jeremiah. It warns in vivid terms of the dangers of idolatry, and especially mocks those who worship wooden idols. However rich their gold leaf, silver ornaments and purple clothing, they have no power, no personality. Jeremiah was obviously concerned that the God-worshipping people of Israel and Judah would be led astray by living in Babylonia where such idols were worshipped.
It is a strong person who, throughout their life, can resist the example and invitation of others to do what they know to be wrong. Why is it wrong, though, rather than merely harmless? For if idols have no reality, what real harm can be said to be done by joining in worshipping them? The point is that one cannot worship both the true God and idols – the heart can only point in one direction, ad it is important to get it right.