“The word which Jeremiah the Prophet commanded Seraiah the son of Neriah, the son of Maaseiah, when he went with (or, on the behalf of, marg.) Zedekiah the king of Judah into Babylon in the fourth year of his reign. And this Seraiah was a quiet prince. So Jeremiah wrote in a book all the evil that should come upon Babylon, even all these words that are written against Babylon. And Jeremiah said to Seraiah, When thou comest to Babylon, and shalt see, and shalt read all these words; then thou shalt say, O Lord, Thou hast spoken against this place, to cut it off, that none shall remain in it, neither man nor beast, but it shall be desolate for ever. And it shall be, when thou hast made an end of reading this book, that thou shalt bind a stone to it, and cast it into the midst of Euphrates: and thou shalt say, Thus shall Babylon sink, and shall rise no more from the evil that I will bring upon her: and they shall be weary. Thus far are the words of Jeremiah” (Jer. 51:59-64).
Seraiah, if not the same personage under another or secondary name, was, at any rate, brother to Baruch, as Jeremiah 32:12 clearly indicates (“Baruch the son of Neriah, the son of Maaseiah”).
He accompanied, or was sent on behalf of, Zedekiah to Babylon. It was probably the latter, as there is no scripture record of Zedekiah himself having gone to the Chaldean capital at this time; and Calvin translates, “when he went on behalf of Zedekiah.” It is supposed that he was sent on this embassy by his master to allay or quiet the suspicions of Nebuchadnezzar when that prince was already treacherously plotting against his authority, in collusion with the kings of Edom, and Moab, and Amman, and Tyrus and Sidon (see Jer. 27).
This Seraiah was a quiet prince, we are told, or “a man of rest” (cf. 1 Chr. 22:9). “I find no rest,” was the conclusion of Baruch’s complaint (Jer. 45:3). How many today are like him. “Ye shall find rest unto your souls,” is the promise of that adorable Master whose yoke is easy and whose burden is light. So few find rest because they refuse or fail to take His yoke of submission upon them and learn of Him those lessons of self-abnegation and disinterested service with which His unique and holy life abounded.
A close study of the story of the mission of Seraiah to Babylon will, we believe, reveal to us the secret of his restfulness of spirit; and it will at the same time disclose the reason why so many among the children of God today find their prototype in Baruch, who found no rest, rather than in the man of rest, Seraiah. The clue to the situation is found wrapped up in the command of Jeremiah to the Hebrew envoy; in it, we believe, is contained the source or foundation of Seraiah’s rest. For so the words of the prophet to him are described — it is termed a command, “When thou comest to Babylon, and shalt see, and shalt read all these words,” he says. He was going, duly accredited, to the gay, brilliant court of the mightiest monarch on earth. As a prince he would be accorded all the privileges and distinctions due his rank. And accustomed as he was to the almost rustic simplicity of his own master’s court he would be in great danger of being captivated by great Babylon’s pomp and magnificence. It would very naturally appeal strongly to him; and the surest safeguard against being bewitched or influenced in the least by it was in obeying the command of God by the prophet to him. On his arrival at the gay capital, when he saw its dazzling magnificence, and read its doom in the book he carried with him, he was to confess his intelligence as to its certain and soon destruction by saying, “O Lord, Thou hast spoken against this place, to cut it off, that none shall remain in it, neither man nor beast, but that it shall be desolate forever.” And then, to make the prophecy the more vivid, he was ordered to bind a stone to the book and cast it into the river Euphrates; and there, standing by the waters’ brink, as both stone and roll sank beneath the swirl of its rushing tide, he was commanded to proclaim, “Thus shall Babylon sink, and shall not rise from the evil that I will bring upon her.” And appended to this graphic prediction of the great city’s fall are the five strikingly significant words, “And they shall be weary!” They form a fitting finale to the prophet’s testimony, the last word concerning great Babylon’s vaunted wealth and glory and power.
How instructive all this is to our own souls here and now, living as we do in the midst of a Babylon greater and more bewitching by far than that builded by Nebuchadnezzar of old. The world about us is all a-glitter with a glory and possessed of a charm that even the Christian if not on his guard, is apt to be influenced by, if not entirely carried away with it. He sees spread before him, like Seraiah at the Chaldean court, the “lust of the eye,” and the “pride of life”; and the flesh within him, though crucified with its affections and lusts, is not actually dead; Eyegate is still an avenue by which the enemy of Mankind would enter. But we, like Seraiah, have placed in our hands a Book; and in this Book, “God’s Word written,” we have told us distinctly and repeatedly this great world-Babylon’s doom. “Reserved unto fire,” we see everywhere written across its most treasured possessions and over its most attractive allurements. We read its doom long since pronounced by Him for whom it has no place, “Now is the judgment of this world.” This breaks the spell of its witchery for faith. Knowing the certainty of its destruction, the Christian is kept from harbouring in his heart its love. Like Seraiah he is sent into it with a message; he is commissioned to declare its doom; his business here is to be a witness against it; but more, he is what Seraiah could not be, an “ambassador for Christ” to proclaim pardon to its dwellers, on condition of their repentance towards God and faith towards our Lord Jesus Christ.
And doing this his heart has rest; it is immune from the burning fevers of its lusts, its crazy pleasures, its mad ambitions, its wild dreams, its groundless hopes of better days to come. He is, like Baruch’s princely brother, “a man of rest.” “I find no rest,” was Baruch’s complaint; and he found no rest because he sought something for himself in a land that was devoted to destruction (Jer. 45:5). Seraiah was “a man of rest,” because he bowed to the judgment of God concerning the city to which he was sent. “They shalt be weary,” God had said, and Seraiah knew it to be so.
Christian reader, are you “a man of rest”? Have you found “rest unto your soul”? The vast majority of believers in Christ have not; and why? why their disquietude, their lack of a settled calm in the midst of trying circumstances, sickness, loss of property, want of success in business, and the thousand and one things of life that harrow the heart, and torment the soul, and from which none may hope to escape — for none are promised immunity? The answer is simple — it is wrapped in allegorical form in the story of these brothers, Baruch and Seraiah. Most Christians have a mind fashioned more after the pattern of Baruch than that of Seraiah; they are ambitious, they hope for something in life apart from, or in addition to, Christ. They do not in their hearts really submit to the judgment of God pronounced in His word against this world; and they consequently seek something here in this scene of sin, either for themselves or for their children. And these things are not always evil in themselves; nor is the mere possession of them wrong or inconsistent in a child of God; it is in the seeking of them that the evil lies. “One thing have I desired of the Lord, that will I seek for” confessed the psalmist. This was not anything of earth, but that he might dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of his life (not just to go to heaven when he died), to behold the beauty of the Lord, and to inquire in His temple (Ps. 27:4). It was a purely spiritual ambition, he coveted earnestly what it is lawful for us all to long for. And this brings rest, this maintains the soul in quiet and unbroken calm in the midst of a groaning, toiling, restive world, never satisfied, and altogether unbelieving concerning the judgment hanging over its head, or the suppressed volcano boiling for vent beneath it.
The conclusion of the prophet’s pronouncement against great Babylon and her inhabitants is this: “So that the peoples will have laboured in vain, and the nations for the fire: and they shall be weary” (Jer. 52:58, N.T.). And this is just the poor mad world’s occupation and condition today — they are labouring in vain, their dreams of universal, permanent peace and disarmament, their enjoyment of a golden age without Christ and conversion, are only dreams, and destined never to be realized. Their statesmen, their reformers, their social waiters, their builders, all are but labouring for the fire, and weariness, utter weariness, and disappointment is their predicted portion. And knowing this, how can the Christian enter into the spirit of it and allow himself to share its groundless hopes and unhallowed (because unscriptural) aspirations?
The Lord in His grace give us all to be like the man of rest, Seraiah, happy in the knowledge of a portion above, with Christ; and satisfied with this, to labour, not for the fire nor yet in vain, for we know that our labour is not in vain in the Lord (1 Cor. 15:58). Strangers here, and envoys of the Almighty to a world whose sins cry loudly for vengeance, may we be kept from every ambition but to please Him.