Try, Try Again

Wednesday, August 15, 2012
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Jeremiah 45:2,5 – Thus says the Lord, the God of Israel, to you, O Baruch: "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." (NKJV)

I remember when ballpoint pens first appeared in the late 'forties. Most teachers in South Africa wanted nothing to do with them. They preferred, actually demanded, that all submitted work be done with either dipping pen and ink or with a fountain pen, if we were fortunate enough to have one. If we handed in work done with a ballpoint pen, it was given back to us with two thick, red lines across each page and "Do it again properly!" across the bottom of the page. It was especially cruel to receive letters written in ballpoint from penfriends in the U.S.A. where children were allowed to use them. Rewriting work was always considered an unfair punishment.

Calligraphy is a pleasant occupation. It requires special nibs and, if available, India ink, which, once dry, will not smudge. Dipping is an art, because just the right amount of ink on the nib is necessary to start the next letters. When felt-tipped pens came onto the market, the "old school" of calligraphers deplored them, because the writing faded, while India ink lasted almost forever. But calligraphy is not always a happy task. After the neat writing is done, if there is a single mistake, it can mean that the entire sheet must be redone.

In Scripture, Baruch was the amanuensis, or the one who does the writing, for Jeremiah. All important writing in those days was done in neat calligraphy. Baruch, whose name means "blessing", was a calligrapher using a brush and ink which he would have mixed himself.

God instructed Jeremiah to take a scroll and dictate to Baruch a warning to Israel to stop being evil and to turn from their evil ways. Baruch wrote down everything that Jeremiah dictated to him with the skill of a calligrapher and all the problems associated with that craft.

However, when the words written by Baruch were finally read to King Jehoiakim of Judah, the king, using his penknife, cut off from the scroll each piece after it had been read, and burned it in the fire, until the entire scroll was consumed. Any calligrapher knows how Baruch must have felt after his work was so badly treated.

But Jeremiah simply took another scroll, and Baruch had to write the warning all over again with the same skill as he did the first time, and with no such thing as going to a folder to copy and paste by the click of a mouse. Baruch had no option but to do the job.

One can imagine Baruch's dissatisfaction and resentment as he wrote down the dictation again. At the end of his life, when Baruch was expecting a great reward for all his work, God said to him, "Do you seek great things for yourself? Do not seek them; … I will give your life to you as a prize in all places, wherever you go." (Jeremiah 45:5 NKJV) Baruch wanted to be important and recognized, and he did not realize that God could give him no greater reward than his life wherever he went, for when God gives life, he gives it "more abundantly". (John 10:10)

So it is for all of us, whether we like it or not. Scripture tells us, "Whatever you do, do it heartily, as to the Lord and not to men." (Colossians 3:23 NKJV) Our reward to ourselves is the satisfaction of having done a good job, but we can never select the reward God has for us.

We must bear to see our work crossed out with thick red lines or burned in strips, and start all over again. When the writing or art teacher says, "I'm sure that you can do better than that" and we have to redo the whole thing, it is only to make us better writers, calligraphers, artists, or illustrators. And when we do things for God's kingdom, we should be prepared to do them over and over again without complaint or asking for a reward, because His reward is always the same: our life.

Prayer: Lord, You know that we are often unwilling to redo work that was difficult enough in the first place. Help us never to stint in anything that we do, so that we may bring no worthless sacrifice to Your altar. May Your pleasure in our work be a sufficient reward for us. Amen.

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Anton Stander

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