Jeremiah 9

 

 

1   The Hebrew more correctly attaches this verse to Jeremiah 8.  “Oh that my head

were waters, and mine eyes a fountain of tears, that I might weep day and

night for the slain of the daughter of my people!”  A quaint conceit, it may be

said.  The tone of complaint continues in the following verse, though the subject

is different.

 

                                    Grief for Others (v. 1)

 

I. THE RIGHT SPIRIT IN WHICH TO REGARD THE MISERIES OF

OTHER MEN IS ONE OF GRIEF. A less worthy spirit is too common.

 

1. Self-congratulation. The evil condition of others is simply used as a dark

background on which to throw out in relief our own superiority.

 

2. Indifference — the spirit of Cain, which cries, “Am I my brother’s

keeper?”  (Genesis 4:9)

 

3. Vindictiveness. Jeremiah denounced the sins of Israel, and threatened

punishment. Yet he regarded these sins with no Pharisaical sternness, and

he could not contemplate the punishment of them with indignant

satisfaction. Even if men are deserving punishment, that punishment is still

pitiable. Sin inclines a good man to sorrow as much as to anger.

 

II. GRIEF FOR THE MISERIES OF OTHERS WILL BE INDUCED BY

A TRUE APPRECIATION OF THOSE MISERIES IN A SPIRIT OF

SYMPATHY.

 

1. A spirit of sympathy. Jeremiah felt the distresses of his nation as private

sorrows. He was a true patriot. We must feel one with men before we can

rightly regard their troubles.

 

2. A true appreciation of the miseries of men. Sympathy implies

knowledge. We do not feel aright because we do not take the trouble to

inquire into the condition of others. Much apparent hardheartedness arises

simply from ignorance — but culpable ignorance. True sympathy will feel

distress for the real evil of others, not only for their transient moods. It may

need to weep over those who foolishly rejoice, and rejoice for those who

weep wholesome tears of penitence.

 

III. GRIEF FOR THE MISERIES OF OTHERS MAY BE OUR BEST

MEANS FOR HELPING THEM.  Barren pity is a mockery when active

aid is called for.

 

1. But genuine sympathy is the strongest motive to help.

 

2. We can intercede in prayer most effectually when we make the sorrows

of others our own. Christ’s sorrow for men was an important element in

His intercession.

 

3. Sorrow for others may move them to view their condition in a true light.

Tears may avail where warnings are lost. We have no greater motive to

repentance than can be furnished by a right feeling of what Christ has

suffered through our sin.

 

IV. GRIEF FOR THE MISERIES OF OTHERS IS NOT ALONE

SUFFICIENT FOR THEIR DELIVERANCE.

 

·         Jeremiah wept over his nation, yet the threatened desolation was not averted.

·         Christ wept over Jerusalem, but Jerusalem was destroyed.

 

Though God is “grieved” at our sin, we may fall into ruin. His grief is a strong inducement to repentance, but every man must repent and seek deliverance

for himself.

 

 

                                    Vicarious Grief (v. 1)

 

It is a common occurrence in the history of God’s Church that when

general indifference to religious truth, to impending judgments, or

depraved spiritual condition, etc., is exhibited by the multitude, one or at

most a few are sensible of the nature and extent of the evil. Knowledge in

such a case is nearly always sorrow. This is intensified when remonstrances

are unheeded, and efforts of reform are defeated. It is the righteous man,

the reformer, who is most affected by the situation, and who feels most

keenly the disgrace and danger.

 

I. IN THE HIGHEST THINGS IT IS THE FEW THAT MUST FEEL

FOE THE MANY. This has been the law from the beginning. It is a

necessity of nature. It is a Divine appointment. Pure feeling, even when

painful, appears as a stewardship in one or two hearts, perhaps in one alone.

 

·         Joseph is moved to tears at the heartlessness of his brethren.

·         Jonathan is ashamed for his father Saul.

·         Elijah laments in loneliness and despair the apostasy of Israel.

·         Jesus weeps over Jerusalem;

o       painfully wonders at the slowness of heart to believe exhibited

by his own disciples;

o       is “sore amazed “at the cup of iniquity He has to drink.

 

Jeremiah is here evidently in the same succession of vicarious suffering.

We see the same principle working in our own circle of acquaintance.

Men, women, sorrowing and suffering for others, who are themselves

unconscious or are partially so.

 

II. WHAT ARE THE COUNTERVAILING ADVANTAGES WHICH

LIGHT UP THIS MYSTERY? It cannot be wholly to the detriment of

those in whom it is illustrated. The justice of God is involved in the

question.

 

1. The keenest joys spring from or coincide with the deepest, purest sorrows.

2. By-and-by the sorrow will transfer itself to its objects, in the grace of

    repentance.

3. In at least one illustrious instance, it exerts an atoning, mediatorial

    influence for sinners with God.

 

 

 

                        The Testimony of Tears (v. 1)

 

Tears are an unusual, a strange sad sight in a strong man. But here

Jeremiah appears utterly broken down. He abandons himself to a very

agony of sorrow. His tears remind us of those of our Lord and of St. Paul.

But they are also a relief to the overburdened heart. Like the cry of the

sufferer in sore pain. We are glad when we behold one enduring some

crushing sorrow enabled to pour forth his grief in tears. The heart-broken

prophet has evidently felt them to be such a relief. His thoughts of his

country’s sorrows, when they lie too deep for tears, are greater than he can

bear. He would, therefore, that he might be able continually to weep. But

tears are admonitory. They bear a very powerful testimony, which we shall

do well to give heed to. For they bear witness:

 

I. TO HIS PROFOUND CONVICTIONS.

 

1. In regard to the truth of the message he has delivered. When we behold

God’s servants, such as Jeremiah and St. Paul and others, laboring with all

energy of soul, with infinite self-sacrifice, exposed to every form of ill, and

“with many tears,” we are constrained to inquire the motive of such a life.

But only one of three suppositions is possible.

 

(a) Either he who labors is a deceiver. He is consciously acting a part. But

this supposition in regard to prophets and apostles of God’s Word has long

been given up. “The world has renounced almost to a man this hypothesis.

It refuses to believe in the possibility of a hypocrite whose writings

inculcate and whose conduct exemplifies the highest order of moral

excellence; it refuses to believe in a benevolent, modest, self-denying, highminded, humble, magnanimous liar, in whom falsehood speaks with the

very tongue, looks through the very eyes, and personates the very gestures

and tones of truth; it refuses to believe that a man with no earthly motive

for it, and every earthly motive against it, should spend the best part of a

lifetime in cheating men into truth and virtue which he had himself utterly

renounced” (H. Rogers). But if this hypothesis be rejected, then there is

another.

 

(b) He has deceived himself. He is the victim of enthusiasm, the

unconscious agent of a bewildered and disordered brain. But this

hypothesis also will not bear investigation. For such enthusiasms are

generally short-lived, they are soon detected, and the common sense of

mankind refuses to participate in them. No instance can be found of a mere

enthusiaist persuading whole nations and convincing the purest, the most

sober, and the most thoughtful of whole communities, and in such manner

that the falsehood thus originated shall live on and acquire power over

men’s minds increasingly. And there are other tests whereby enthusiasm

may be discriminated from the deliberate convictions of the sober mind,

and every one of such tests, when applied to the history of faithful

witnesses for God’s truth, fail to show that these witnesses were, though

not dishonest, yet merely mistaken enthusiasts. There remains, therefore,

 

(c) only the other alternative, that the message which they delivered with

so much earnestness was true. And the tears of the prophet and apostle do

alike bear this testimony, and its force men have everywhere felt. And

would we convince an unbelieving world of the truths we profess to hold,

we must manifest more of a like conviction. If some wan, worn, emaciated

preacher, bearing on him evidently the marks of the Lord Jesus, whose

whole life had been, like that of Jeremiah or St. Paul, one long sacrifice for

the truth, — if such a one could appear amongst us, then would the world

believe, as it now altogether refuses to whilst those who profess belief

show such few tokens of the reality of their belief.

 

2. In regard to the dread peril of those who disobey God. We know with

what impassioned earnestness Jeremiah had pleaded with his infatuated

countrymen; how he had exhorted, implored, and wept in his endeavor to

win them from their wicked ways. And now, when it seemed all in vain, we

behold him sunk in sorrow, dissolved in tears. Wherefore this? Were the

theory of the universalist true, that there is no “fearful looking for of

judgment”  (Hebrews 10:27) that all will be made blessed in the coming hereafter, irrespective of what they have been or what their conduct in this life,

then such tears as we are contemplating now would be unmeaning. Had the

prophet held such views, had our Lord, had St. Paul, their deep distress

would have been inexplicable, because altogether uncalled for. Or even if

the theory of those who hold that “death ends all” been that of God’s

servants, still such distress would be far more than could be accounted for.

Or even if it were that only the blessedness of the righteous were missed,

and all others would simply perish, then too the future of the ungodly

would call for no such sorrow. Or that by such devices as those of the

Romish Church — Masses, indulgences, and the like — the guilty soul,

though indeed its doom were terrible, yet it might by these devices be

rescued from such doom, — then too there could have been no tears such

as these. But contemplating the overwhelming sorrow of men like Jeremiah

when beholding the judgment of the ungodly, we are shut up to the

conviction, which evidently possessed him so profoundly, that it is a fearful

thing for an unforgiven man to fall into the hands of the living God.

(ibid. v. 31)

 

3. In regard to the exhaustion of all present resources of help. Could

Jeremiah have done anything to turn aside that judgment which he so

vividly and with such distress anticipated, he would not have given himself

up to tears. They are the evidence that all resources are exhausted, that

nothing more can be done, that as he says (ch. 6:29), “The

bellows are burned.” The language of such tears is the voice of God saying,

concerning the hardened and impenitent, “He is joined to his idols: let him

alone.”  (Ephraim - Hosea 4:17) God save us all from having to shed, and

still more from causing, such tears as these. But they bear witness also:

 

II. TO PROFOUND COMPASSION. He who has known the compassion

of God for his own soul will, in proportion to the depth of that knowledge,

feel compassion for the souls of others. Indifference and unconcern are no

longer possible to him who knows the love of God when he sees men

perishing in sin. “The love of Christ constraineth him (II Corinthians 5:14).

And the same compassion, thus begotten, leads him to mourn when the offer of

God’s mercy is refused. Such tears, being interpreted, tell of his passionate but

useless desire that the sinner’s doom had been averted. Comparee David’s

exceeding hitter cry, “O Absalom, my son, my son Absalom!” would God

I had died for thee, O Absalom, my son, my son!  (II Samuel 18:33)  And they are

made to flow the more freely by the remembrance that that lost condition

might have been so altogether different. There was no necessity for it. That

which could not have been avoided, which we feel to have been inevitable,

we bear with more calmness. But when there is the consciousness, such as

David had concerning Absalom, that he might have come to an end so

different, to an end as honorable and blessed as this was disgraceful and

miserable, that reflection made his tears flow faster than before. And when

it is not mere folly but grievous sin which has brought God’s judgment

upon men, then the compassionate heart grieves yet more; a further drop of

bitterness is infused into the cup, and such tears as we are contemplating

have this sorrow in them as well as the others we have spoken of. And that

NOW THERE IS NO HOPE, NO REMEDYthis is the last and worst

reflection which wrings the compassionate heart with uttermost grief. Jeremiah

beholds the house of Judah “left unto them desolate;” the daughter of his

people not merely “hurt,” BUT SLAIN!  How is it that, with like reasons for

such compassion as that of Jeremiah, we know so little of it? “Rivers of

waters run down mine eyes, because they keep not thy Law” — spoke

God’s servant in Psalm 119:136)  But who can say that now?

Compassionate Savior, give us of thy mind!

 

III. TO THE BEHOLDERS OF SUCH GRIEF.

 

1. Are you workers for God? Then remember that disappointment and

present failure have been the lot of many of the noblest of the servants of

God. There is a goodly fellowship of such.

 

2. Are you believers in God? Then remember His sure promise as to what

shall follow this “sowing in tears,” this going forth weeping, bearing

precious seed.”  (Psalm 126:6)  We are not to think that we have seen the last result of our toil because that which we do see is so distressing.

 

3. Are you rejecters of God? Then remember that God puts such tears “in

is bottle” (ibid. 56:8)and they are treasured by him; and their testimony,

whilst it will be for the salvation of those who have shed them, will be far

more terrible judgment against those who have caused them. “Weep not

for me,” said our Lord on his way to the cross, “but weep for yourselves,

and for your children If they do these things in a green tree, what shall be

 done in the dry?” (Luke 23:28-31) Yes, these tears tell of the sorrows of

God’s people, but they predict a worse sorrow still for His hardened foes.

Look, then, O thou who hardenest thyself against God, and ask thyself,

“If this be the sorrow I have caused, what shall that be which I shall

have to bear?” Remember that it is not only here that there are tears, but

in the future abode of the impenitent it is distinctly declared,There shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth..” (Matthew 8:12)  Then cease to cause such

tears here, that you may never have to shed tears far more bitter thereto.

 

 

 

            Incessant Weeping Over the Calamities of Israel (v. 1)

 

We have here still another measure of how great, in the estimation of the

prophet, the calamity was which had fallen upon his people. Other

measures have already been given, in the despoiling of the tombs

(ch. 8:1-2), in the exile worse than death (ibid. v. 3), in the visitation of

serpents which were beyond the charmer’s power (ibid. v. 17), and in the suffering through the sin of his people, which even a true servant of God could not escape

(ibid. v. 21).  And now this extraordinary desire of the prophet comes in to make

plain from yet another direction how great he reckoned the impending calamity

to be. We may well imagine that as he set before Jerusalem these gloomy

prospects, the people in their light-heartedness replied, “Why make all this

ado? Why try thus to alarm us by these threatenings and cries and tears?”

The exclamation of v. 1 guides us to what the prophet’s answer would

be. “My tears, which you count so causeless, rather fall short — short

beyond all expressing — of the occasion for them.” The fact is that the

deepest, tenderest human pity and sorrow, when compared with the actual

needs of fallen man, are but as a slight thaw that vainly struggles with the

penetrating frost of the heart. Not that human beings lack the power of

deep emotion. Whole peoples will be responsive enough to certain touches.

But who is to bring before the hearts of all men a sufficient perception of

what it is that underlies and perpetuates the misery of the whole world?

The thing wanted is an abiding pity for men lying in the suffering of sin. It

is perfectly true that there is not pity enough for men because of their

poverty, their bodily defects and infirmities, and all miseries that are visible

to the natural man. But the real reason why even this pity falls so

lamentably short is that there is no searching consideration of what lies

deeper than any visible miseries. Nothing effectual can be done with the

seen unless the unseen is put right. Then we may be sure of it that the seen

will come right with wonderful quickness and stability. We must make our

hearts to dwell with the utmost pity on those who are

 

·         NOT YET BORN AGAIN,

·         not yet living the life of faith,

·         not yet in living union with the great Source of eternal life,

·         not yet rejoicing with the joy of the Holy Ghost.

 

If we ourselves are really in process of salvation, and with our increased

knowledge of truth comprehending more and more what salvation will

bring with it for ourselves, then it will not appear to us extravagant and

rhapsodical rhetoric that a prophet should wish his head to be waters, and

his eyes a fountain of tears. It is unmanly and utterly despicable to weep for

trifles, to weep over some spoiled gratification of self; but what sort of a

heart must that man have who can watch, free from the deepest agitation,

his brethren going on heedlessly into perdition? Jeremiah would have been

unworthy of his call and his visions as a prophet if he had fallen short of his

exclamation here. Not, of course, that we are to make too much of the

mere shedding of tears. In the case of the prophet copious tears were the

index of a heart within right in its thoughts, steady in its purposes. But

there are many instances where copious tears have no such value. They

come and go like a thundershower, lasting us briefly and leaving as little

trace behind. Men of few tears may be men of a large, wise, far-seeing

kindness. He who never gives to beggars in the street may yet be doing

much to make beggary cease altogether. Jeremiah’s wish, then, was the

wish of a man who saw deeply into the confusions of his time; and yet he

did not see as deep as Jesus. Those few tears that Jesus dropped amid the

bereaving agonies of Bethany, had in them more of a pure and profound

pity over men than all the tears that sinners themselves have shed. No sinful

man can imagine that ideal of human life which was ever before the eyes of

the Son of God.

 

·         He alone knows how far man has fallen;

·         He alone knows how high fallen man can be raised.

·         He sees what men miss who do not repent and believe in Him.

·         He sees what possibilities of remorse and shame and self-condemnation

      may be opening up in eternity to the negligent and the impenitent.

 

What wonder, then, that He spoke of the worm that dieth not, and the fire that

is not quenched!  (Mark 9:46) What tears must not be shed over

those who choose to sow the wind, seemingly forgetting that they must

reap the whirlwind!  (Hosea 8:7)

 

 

 

                        The Moral Degradation of Women (v. 1)

 

The expression, “the slain of the daughter of my people,” suggests this

subject. Therefore we may thus apply the prophet’s Words. Note:

 

I. THE MORAL DEGRADATION OF THE DAUGHTERS OF A

PEOPLE IS A JUST CAUSE FOR THE DEEPEST SORROW. For think

of what and how much is slain in these slain ones. The ruin of health, and

the early and often dreadful death, are the least that is slain. Happiness is

slain — that of the victim, and of those to whom she was once precious.

The joyous hopes once cherished. The influence which might have been so

pure and purifying, now corrupt and corrupting. The character once

honored, now dragged in the mire. The son, in all its moral worth and

spiritual energies and desires, that too is slain. Therefore, when

contemplating such cruelly slain ones, the prophet’s piteous cry of anguish

is no more than such utter woe constrains.

 

II. BUT SUCH SORROW SHOULD TURN INTO SCORN AND

WRATH FOR THE SLAYERS OF THESE SLAIN. Beware of the

hideous complacency with which the world regards such murderers. Pray

to be kept from the paths of such bloody men.

 

III. BUT SUCH SORROW SHOULD NOT FORGET THAT THERE IS

A DIVINE SPIRIT THAT CAN BREATHE UPON THESE SLAIN,

THAT THEY MAY LIVE. The Spirit of Christ did so breathe upon one

such, and she lived. He said to her, “Thy sins are forgiven ....Thy faith hathsaved thee; go in peace” (Luke 7:36-50).

 

Complaint of the treachery and folly of the people and lamentation over their

consequences (vs. 2-22)

 

2   “Oh that I had in the wilderness a lodging place of wayfaring men;”

a “khan” or “caravanserai,” to use the terms now so familiar from Eastern travel,

where“wayfaring men” could at least find shelter, and the means of preparing

their provisions. Compare Psalm 55:6-7 - “that I might leave my people,

and go from them! for they be all adulterers, an assembly of treacherous

men.” (see ch. 2:20; 3:8-9; 3:20; 5:11).

 

 

                          Sighings After the Wilderness (v. 2)

 

The text reminds us of Psalm 55:6, “Oh that I had wings like a dove!  For

then would I fly away and be at rest.” of Elijah’s longing that he might die; of the similar dejection of Moses. Even our Lord said, “O faithless generation, how

long shall I be with you? how long shall I suffer you?” (Mark 9:19)  But such

desire as that of the text is in itself:

 

I. UNNATURAL. We are formed to mingle with our fellow-men, to live

with them, not away from them.

 

1. It is in interaction with them life becomes interesting to us. We are

taken out of ourselves, fresh sources of pleasure and advantage are

continually opened up to us.

 

2. Sympathy also is in fellowship. Our joys are more than doubled and our

sorrows more than halved by the power of that sympathy which solitude

can never know.

 

3. Opportunities of doing good are not to be had “in the wilderness,” and

when we “leave” our people.

 

4. Nor are the benefits they can confer on us to be found there. Heart and

mind and soul are blessed by companionship and injured by solitude and

isolation. Hence such wish as that of the text is, apart from the motive

given, unnatural.

 

II. AND IT MAY BE WRONG.

 

1. It is so when it is the child of impatience. Doubtless there is much often

to try our patience, and to make us wish that we could have done with it

all. But we should not think much of the laborer who, because the toil was

arduous, threw up his work ere the day was done; or of the soldier who

deserted in the midst of the campaign.

 

2. Yet more culpable is it when it springs from sloth. There are many

who dislike real work in any form. Exertion and effort are shrunk from

everywhere. And in their religious life it is the same. And from such poor

motive such wish as that of the text sometimes springs.

 

3. Still worse is it when it comes of unbelief. When all faith is gone, and

the dark, dread falsehood begins to get hold of a man, that rest is only to

be gained by breaking out of this life altogether.

 

III. BUT IT MAY PROCEED FROM CAUSES WHICH CAN ONLY

EXCITE OUR COMPASSION.

 

1. Extremity of suffering: Job, Paul.

 

2. Experience of human infidelity, as in Psalm 55.

 

3. When all the purposes for which God ordained us to live in fellowship

with one another are unattainable. Such was the case with Jeremiah.

Pleasurable interest in such fellowship as was his could not be for him, but

only daily vexation of his righteous soul (compare Lot - II Peter 2:7-8).

Sympathy he could neither give nor find. Ever so desirous of doing them

good, they spurned and despised all his efforts. And as to gaining

good from them, it was but a continual contact with pollution.

What wonder, then; that Jeremiah longedto be away from such a scene?

The hermits of the East, the anchorites (asetics) of the desert, are more

closely  linked with ourselves in feeling than some at first may think. Our

impulses are often identical with theirs; and if our actions vary it is

because our standard of right, not our nature, is changed. In the life of

each man there are hours when he sighs for the desert; hours

when, bowed down by the sense of sin in himself and the sight of it in

others, wearied out by striving to teach a stiffnecked generation,

disheartened at seeing the ‘good cause’ advance so slowly, he car scarcely

refrain from following, in his small way, the example of that emperor who

exchanged the palace for the cloister (a walk in a monastery), and the

crown for the cowl (a hood on the dress of a monk).” These are moments

such as came to Jeremiah now. “The Emperor Charles uttered

in deeds what we have all breathed in sighs. We do and we must long to

flee away and be at rest; but then it must remain a longing, and nothing

more” (G. Dawson).

 

IV. AND GOD HAS MADE PROVISION FOR ITS SATISFACTION.

Not by giving us permission to retire to desert solitudes, except, as with

Elijah and Paul, it may be for a while to prepare for future and higher

service. But in the manner that the psalmist suggests as above in Psalm

55:6  where he says, Yes, wings like a dove will bear us into the present rest

of God. The dove is the emblem of meekness.  Like the lamb amongst the beasts,

so the dove amongst the birds is the symbol of lowly meekness and gentleness.

But lowly meekness is the way to rest, the rest God gives, the peace of God.

Listen to our Savior: “Come unto me, all ye that labor... Take my yoke for

I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls”

(Matthew 11:28-30). The dove is the emblem of purity. It was not only amongst

those birds that were counted clean, but was especially selected for presentation

to God in sacrifice, as that which was pure alone could be. The doves were

allowed to fly about the temple and to rest on its roofs and pillars (see H. Hunt’s

picture of the ‘Finding in the Temple’ below).

 

File:William Holman Hunt - The Finding of the Saviour in the Temple -  Google Art Project.jpg - Wikimedia Commons

                                                                                    (wickimedia commons)

 

But purity opens the door of heaven, and enraptures the beholder with the beatific

vision there. “Blessed are the pure in heart; for they shall see God.” (Matthew 4:8)Wings are these, therefore, well  likened to those of a dove, “covered with silver,

and her feathers with yellow gold.” (Psalm 68:13)  Yes, “keep thyself unspotted

from the world”  (Doctrine and Covenants 59:9) and God shall

so manifest Himself to thee that thy soul shall be at rest, let the wicked rage

around thee as they may. And the dove was the selected symbol of the

Holy Spirit. “I saw the Holy Spirit descending like a dove” (John 1:32) said

John the Baptist. But His wings will bear thee where thou mayest see the fatherly

love of God, His wisdom guiding all, and His gracious purpose being more

and more accomplished. “He will take of the things of Christ and show

them unto thee.” (see John ch. 16:12-15)  And in them thou shalt have peace.

The psalmist’s passionate longing may then be fulfilled for us, We may have

“wings like a dove.” These, of meekness, purity, and the blessed Spirit of God.

And so, without quitting the station assigned us or departing to any

wilderness, we may have even now the rest of God.

 

3   “And they bend their tongues like their bow for lies: but they are not

valiant for the truth upon the earth;” - .” rather, and they bend their

tongue as their bow of falsehood, and they use not their valor in (literally,

according to) good faith – “for they proceed from evil to evil, and they

know not me, saith the LORD.”  There is a sad, stern irony in these words,

which remind us of Isaiah’s (Isaiah 5:22) “valiant men — for drinking wine”

and of our own prophet’s repetition of himself in ch. 22:10,  “Their valor is —

untruth.” A less pointed form of the same figurative statement is that of the

psalmist in Psalm 64:3.

 

 

 

 

                        The Lodging-Place in the Wilderness (v. 2)

 

I. WHAT IT IS THE PROPHET WISHES FOR. The occurrence of the

word “wilderness” may easily mislead us into thinking that the prophet’s

wish was for solitude, and thus we may be disposed to reproach him, as if,

Timon-like, he wanted to get away from his fellow-men altogether. But it

is not on the word “wilderness” that we must fix our attention to discover

the prophet’s feeling. The reference to a travelers lodging-place is the main

thing to be considered. It is not between some hermit’s humble, solitary

shelter and the well-built house, which is but one out of many making up

the stately city, that the contrast is made, but rather between the inn of the

traveler and the abode of the man who, day after day, has to mingle busily

in the society of which he forms a part. If you are staying at an inn for the

night, it matters very little, so far as acquaintance is concerned, who your

fellow-guests may be. You scarcely meet them; you are in their company

for a few hours, and on the morrow each takes his several way. Jeremiah

prefers to live in an inn, whore he would see a succession of strange faces,

to living even amongst his own people. Then that the inn should be in a

wilderness was a sort of necessity, to round his wish off and make it

perfectly express the state of his mind. Travelers had often wide stretches

of wilderness-land to cross, where, just because it was wilderness, some

sort of shelter needed to be provided for the night. But it might not be an

inn in anything like our understanding of the word — perhaps nothing

more than a rough enclosure, where only that was provided which the bare

necessities of the moment demanded.

 

II. WHY THE PROPHET WISHES FOR THIS. The settled society in

which the prophet has been living has become rotten in all its important

relations. Jeremiah has a people whom he must describe as “my people.”

He is connected with them by a tie of nature which no repugnance of his

can destroy. But, though they are his people, that cannot make him to

overlook, excuse, or tolerate their iniquities. Nay, the very fact that they

are his people helps to make the iniquity more burdensome to him; for with

one’s own people one has so much to do. A righteous son of Sodom, if

such a character were imaginable, sickened with all the abominations

around him, might well have left his kinsfolk, if they would not listen to his

warning or profit by his refusal to join in their wrong-doing. And Jeremiah

may be looked on here pretty much as if he had been a dweller in Sodom,

for Jerusalem was spiritually Sodom. Adultery, knavery, habitual lying and

wrong-doing, — these were sad elements to be charged as going to the

substance of the social life of the people. And the prophet wished to be free

from all entanglement with such. Of course we are not to take his wish

literally. It is but an emphatic way of indicating how separated he was in

the spirit of his mind from such considerations as ruled in only too many

hearts of Israel. Though among his people, he was not of them. United

according to the flesh, there was a great gulf between them according to

the spirit. His people though they were, he yet was compelled to look upon

them as travelers whom he casually met just for a little time. And so must

God’s people ever learn to look upon many of those whom they are

continually meeting on earth. For enduring society there must be

something more than natural ties, frequent intercourse, or community of

intellectual tastes and pursuits. It is a small thing to be brought together in

the concerns of time if we are not also brought together in the concerns of

eternity. Sad it is to think that there may be a closer bond between those

who have never met on earth than between those who, on earth, have lived

for years together!  Those who are traveling to the same place may never

meet by the way, but when they do meet it is not in the traveler’s mere

lodging-place, but where there are many mansions, (John 14) and whence

they “go out no more for ever.” A mansion is itself a place that abides, and those

who dwell in it are meant to abide also.

 

 

 

 

                        The Man of God’s Longing for Seclusion (vs. 2-3)

 

I. IT IS THE NATURAL RECOIL OF A PURE HEART FROM

WICKEDNESS. When the knowledge and love of God are in the heart, sin

appears more loathsome. The love of goodness will show itself in a hatred

of evil, and a desire to be separated from its workers. In some this love of

God and goodness overpowers even the natural attachments and ties of

life. And it may be carried to such an excess as to become a spiritual

disease, in its way as sinful as the causes that give rise to it. Monasticism

has its root in a good and proper feeling carried to excess, and without the

restraining and modifying considerations that ought to accompany it. In the

instance before us (and like instances):

 

II. IT SPRINGS FROM NO SELFISH MOTIVE. Jeremiah did not seek

for the “luxury” of grief; sufficient the wanderer’s tent, or the comfortless

caravanserai of the desert. Nor has he any desire to attitudinize (adopt an

attitude just for effect). It is a loneliness that shall not be conspicuous; a losing

of himself amongst strangers who care not for him and notice him not. Nor did

he seek to evade the duties of life. If he separated himself, it was not to escape from

the impending dangers he had announced; nor to intermit his spiritual

activities. “He wished there to weep for them” (Zinzendorf); to study the

problem in fresh and more hopeful aspects; to recover his mental and

spiritual calm; to recruit his spiritual energies for a new and more

successful effort. So in our own day, the underlying motive must ever

determine the lawfulness, the character, and the continuance of our

spiritual retirements.

 

III. GOD DID NOT REBUKE IT, BUT HE DID NOT SEE FIT TO

GRATIFY IT. Here the longing, if it ever grew into a prayer, was not

answered, at least at once, or in the way conceived of. Whilst the day of

grace lasted, and God’s people were open to repent and to be influenced

by his words, he is detained amongst them. When all possibilities were

exhausted, then the dungeon of the king’s prison or the shame of the

Egyptian exile might serve the purpose. But even then the essential craving

was satisfied. There is a longing that is its own answer. To some it is given

to experience solitude and spiritual detachment in the midst of the busy

throng of transgressors for whom they yet ceaselessly work. This

centrifugal tendency may be productive of greater concentration, real

compassion, and capacity for usefulness, when it is controlled and

overcome by a sense of overmastering responsibility, and a “heart’s desire

and prayer to God for Israel, that they may be saved.”  (Romans 10:1).

 

 

 

 

Wickedness Prevailing, and Why It Prevails (v. 3)

 

“These wicked people,” says the prophet, prevail, but their prevailing

does not come by truth and good faith.”

 

“They bend their tongue like their bow; Lies and not truth prevail in the land;

For they proceed from evil to evil, And they do not know Me,” declares the ...

 

I. WE HAVE HERE AN ADMISSION THAT WICKEDNESS

PREVAILS. It is, indeed, one great consideration in the prophet’s

unutterable grief that wickedness is so strong and successful. Man, weak

and puny as he is in some respects, is in others strong to achieve very

impressive results. In mere physical strength there are many brutes that far

excel him, but he has faculties which so multiply his strength as to put the

rest of creation under his feet. That man, with his peculiar nature, should

be strong to do good, means that if his choice so falls he may also be

strong to do evil. The prophet looks out, then, upon wicked men who

prevail in their plots and schemes. He has no wish to minimize their

success. He uses a strong word to indicate it. The word used to indicate

the prevailing of the waters at the Deluge is the word also used to indicate

the prevailing of the wicked here. The wickedness is not only extensively

present, but manifestly successful. There must be no shirking of this fact. It

is another matter, indeed, what the success may be worth, and how long it

may last; but there it is, such as it is. The wicked prevail:

 

גָּֽבְר֛וּ  19   ἐπεκράτει

 

וַיִּגְבְּר֥וּ  18   ἐπεκράτει

 

Jer. 9:3  יָצָ֛אוּ

 

·         by putting the good into prison, and even to the taking away of their lives.

·         by seducing the weak and self-indulgent into temptation.

·          by deceiving the simple.

 

They go upon the maxim that everything is fair, and has in it the highest necessity

if it helps toward the attainment of their ends. And their ends they do attain, making

a boast of their success, and sneering at the scrupulosity of those who will not follow

in their steps.

 

II. THE INSTABILITY OF THIS PREVALING IS HINTED AT.

Integrity, truth, good faith, are thrown to the winds. The prophet does not

need to have extorted from him an admission that the wicked prevail; but

along with the admission he makes an assertion which, even in the midst of

his melancholy, gives him confidence and a measure of satisfaction. This

prevailing, great and proud as it is, cannot last, for it lacks the essential

constituents of endurance. The man who gains his ends by deceit and

perfidy must of necessity deceive himself as much as he does others. He

persuades himself that he will never grow weary of what he so much

enjoys. He forgets, too, that every one whom he deceives may be thereby

learning a lesson which some day may come back in unexpected and

terrible treachery to himself. There is not a single instance of wicked

prosperity that need alarm or perplex us. The more wickedness raises its

head in boasting, the more sudden may be the final overthrow.

 

III. THOSE WHO CLEAVE TO TRUTH ALWAYS PREVAIL IN THE

END. They do it by the best kind of prevailing — that of vanquishing the

evil in their own hearts; and, so far as their overcoming is also an

overcoming of others, they do it in such a way as provokes no retaliation.

He who has a settled regard for what is real and true and abiding, keeps

out of his future those very things which bring confusion to the wicked.

The prevailing of the righteous may not, indeed, be exhibited so as to

impress the eyes of the world; but that is a small matter. He who

overcometh looks forward to God’s rewards, which are such that the

world cannot appreciate them. The great thing is to be calmly conscious in

our own breasts that we are winning the victory God would have us win.

 

4   “Take ye heed every one of his neighbor, and trust ye not in any

brother:” - Such was the result of clinging to an unprogressive religion —

one which refused to be spiritualized by the prophets. Certainly, if the

established religion was so inefficacious, it was self-condemned. Here we

find the prophet depicting a state of society in which the elementary bonds are

already dissolved (Psalm 11:3),  and suspicion becomes the natural attitude

even of a good man. We find a very similar picture in the last chapter of Micah

— a chapter, it is true, which stands apart from the rest of the book, as it implies

a greater development of wickedness than the rest of Micah and the contemporary

prophecies of Isaiah would lead us to expect. Are these prophetic descriptions just

and accurate? We may allow something, no doubt, for the warmth of feeling

natural to every human preacher, even under the influence of inspiration;

but we must not allow ourselves to explain away the obvious meaning of

the prophets. The latter and their disciples were “the salt” of their country;

and in proportion as their influence declined, the natural effects of a non-moral,

purely ritualistic religion showed themselves on a larger scale - “for every

brother -  i.e. every fellow-tribesman or fellow-citizen. - will utterly supplant,

and every neighbor will walk with slanders.” - there is nothing in the

context to suggest an allusion to Genesis 27:36 (Jacob). The verb has its

common sense of deceiving.  The tense should be the present, not the future,

both here and in the next verse. Will walk; rather, goeth about (see ch. 6:28).

 

5   “And they will deceive every one his neighbor, and will not speak

the truth: they have taught their tongue to speak lies, and weary

themselves to commit iniquity.” -  again an intimation of the unnaturalness

(in the higher sense) of vice (compare ch. 2:33).

 

6  Thine habitation is in the midst of deceit; through deceit they

refuse to know me, saith the LORD.”  They can trust no one; for they

are surrounded by deceit on every side.”

 

 

            The Self-Opposition and Futility of the Sinner’s Life (vs. 2-6)

 

A strong argument against the practice of a thing may often be found in the

supposition that it should become universal. This is valid in the case of the

practices and desires of wicked men. The idea of Hobbes concerning the

original state of human society is ingenious and conceivable from this very

reason, were it not contradicted by the world’s history.

 

I. ONE SIN ENTAILS ANOTHER, AND CRIME LEADS TO CRIME. (v. 3.)

 

II. UNIVERSAL WICKEDNESS PRODUCES UNIVERSAL DISTRUST AND MISERY. (v. 5.)

 

III. EVIL-DOING IS A WEARY AND FRUITLESS TOIL.

 

IV. ITS FUTILITY CULMINATES WHEN IT ROBS A MAN OF THE

KNOWLEDGE AND FELLOWSHIP OF GOD, AND EVEN OF THE

DESIRE FOR THEM. (v. 6.)

 

7 “Therefore thus saith the LORD of hosts, Behold, I will melt them

and try them;,” It is the same word as that used in Malachi 3:3 of the “refiner

and purifier of  silver.” Purification, not destruction, is the object of the

judgment which is threatened! Strange that mercy should find place, after the

offence of the criminal has been found so grievous!  But, lest we should expect

too favorable  an issue, the prophet adds, in the name of Jehovah, “for how

shall I do for the daughter of my people?” - or rather, How should I

act? How otherwise should I act? The continuation is a little doubtful. The

Hebrew has, “by reason of the daughter of my people;” but this can hardly

be right. We naturally expect something to justify the preceding statement.

The reading of the Septuagint answers to our anticipations by rendering

ἀπὸ προσώπου πονηρίας θυγατρὸς λαοῦ μου - apo prosopou ponaerias

thugatros laou mou - “I will do thus for the wickedness of the daughter

of my people” - and this is confirmed by the parallel passage ch.7:12 –

(compare ch.11:17; 32:32).

 

 

 

                        The Doings and Doom of Deceit (v. 7)

 

The verses from v. 2 to the text set forth its doings, and the text and

remainder of the chapter foretell its doom. Note:

 

I. DECEIT. It is a terrible indictment that the prophet brings. He affirms

that deceit is:

 

1. Universal. Ver. 2, “They be all,” etc. Ver. 6, “Thine habitation is in the

midst of deceit;” i.e. it is everywhere, all around you. That:

2. It has broken up the most sacred relationships: “They be all adulterers”

(Ver. 2).

3. It has turned their solemn assemblies into a conclave of liars (Ver. 2).

4. It is practiced deliberately. Ver. 3: as a man deliberately bends and takes

aim with his bow.

5. It has mounted the judge’s seat (Ver. 3; cf. true translation of phrase,

“They are not valiant for the truth”).

6. It has smoothed the way for all evil. “They proceed from evil to evil”

(Ver. 3).

7. It has destroyed all confidence

(1) between neighbors,

(2) between brethren (Ver. 4).

8. It is diligently studied. Ver. 5, “They have taught,” etc. “They take the

utmost pains to go crookedly.”

9. It is cruel and deadly in its aims (Ver. 8). In view of a condition of things

so horrible, how unanswerable is the demand of Ver. 9, “Shall I not visit

them for these things?” etc.! It will be found in all the judgments of God

upon nations that those judgments have never come until there was no

other way of dealing with such nations, if the moral life of the world was to

be maintained.

 

II. ITS DOINGS.

 

1. It had made dwelling amongst them intolerable to the righteous. (Compare

v. 2.) Jeremiah longs to get away from them. The most desolate solitude

would be preferable to living amid such a people as this. It is an ominous

sign for a community when the godly, however compassionate, however

long-suffering, can no longer endure to dwell in their midst.

 

2. It had made the thought of God intolerable to themselves. vs. 3, 6,

“They know not me, saith the Lord.” Just as a man may meet one whom he

desires to have nothing to do with, but when he meets him will pass him as

if he did not know him; so deceit had made these people, as it makes all

such, desirous of having nothing to do with God. Therefore they will not

recognize or acknowledge Him in any way.

 

3. And at last it had made them intolerable to God. V. 7: God asks,

“What else can I do for the daughter of my people?” (See Exposition).

There was nothing now but for the judgment of God to go forth against

them. Therefore note:

 

 III. ITS DOOM. V. 7, “Therefore thus saith the Lord of hosts, Behold I

will melt them, and try them....” etc. And down to v. 22 these awful judgments

of God are set forth. Inquire, therefore, what there is about deceit which renders

it so hateful in the sight of God.

 

1. There can be no doubt that it is so. Lying tips are an abomination unto

the Lord” (conpare Psalm 15.; Acts 5.). “All liars shall have their part in the lake that burneth with fire and brimstone:  which is the second death.”

 

2. And some of the reasons are:

 

(a) Deceit cometh from Satan, who was “a liar from the beginning”

(John 8:44) and “the father of lies.” It was by his lies that our first

parents were deceived and sin was brought into the world.

 

(b) It is the source of infinite misery and distress. It is the deceits of the

world, the flesh, and the devil  which still work well-nigh all our sorrow

and our shame.

 

(c) It tends to the destruction of human society. All our well-being and

comfort depend upon good faith being maintained between man and man.

“But now, where fraud and falsehood, like a plague or cancer, comes over

to invade society, the band which held together the parts compounding it

presently breaks, and men are thereby put to a loss where to league and to

fasten their dependencies, and so are forced to scatter and shift every one

for himself. Upon which account every notoriously false person ought to

be looked upon and detested as a public enemy, and to be pursued as a

wolf or a mad dog, and a disturber of the common peace and welfare of

mankind; there being no particular person whatsoever but has his private

interest concerned and endangered in the mischief that such a wretch does

to the public” (South). A sin, therefore, so destructive of the well-being of

His children cannot but be abominable in the eyes of the Father of us all.

 

3. It shuts God out of the heart altogether. God has made us for Himself,

but deceit bars fast the door of man’s heart against Him. God can only be

worshipped in spirit and in truth; but deceit renders this primary condition

of such worship unattainable.

 

4. But God in his anger remembers mercy.  V. 7, “Behold, I will melt them, and try them,” that is to say, He will, as the smelter casts the metal into the fire not to destroy but to refine it, to purge away its dross, and then, that being done, tests and tries it to see that the process has been effectual; so God will send His judgments upon His people, not to destroy, but to purify them, and

He will afterwards test them again, give them another opportunity of serving

Him. He might have destroyed, but this He will not do. He “will melt them, and try them.” But less than this He cannot do. “What else?”  He asks. It is a dread

process; Judah and Jerusalem found it so, and all who compel God to cast

them into such a crucible find it to be a dread process. Our blessed Savior

wept over Jerusalem, although He told them that when next they saw Him

they should say, “Blessed is he that cometh in the Name of the Lord.”

(Luke 13:35)  It was the thought of that furnace for fire through which they

must pass ere they would come to this better mind that drew forth those tears.

Let none, therefore, deem the judgment of God a subject for trifling with,

because, as here, God says its purpose is to “melt and try,” rather than to

destroy.  (“For God sent not His Son into the world to condemn the

world; but that the world through Him might be saved.”  John 3:17)

 

·         CONCLUSION. Let this consideration of the doings and doom of deceit

lead us to listen to the Lord’s appeal, “Oh, do not this thing that I hate!”

 

8   “Their tongue is as an arrow shot out; (as a murdereous arrow)

 it speaketh deceit: one speaketh peaceably to his neighbor with his

mouth, but in heart he layeth his wait.”  (Compare Psalm 55:21)

 

 

 

                                    Falsehood (vs. 4-8)

 

I. SIN CULMINATES IN UNIVERSAL FALSEHOOD. The intellectual

aspect of sin is untruth. Every sin is a lie. The triumph of sin is the

overthrow of all truth and trust.

 

II. FALSE RELATIONS WITH GOD LEAN TO FALSE RELATIONS

WITH MEN. Religion and morality mutually influence each other. The

worship of a god known to be false develops a life of falseness. The

hypocritical service of God is likely to be accompanied by dishonest

dealings with men.

 

III. HABITS OF FALSEHOOD ARE FATAL TO HUMAN WELFARE.

Society reposes on trust. Commerce is impossible without good faith.

Universal distrust must involve social disintegration. The state, the family,

all mutual organization, must then fall to pieces. Falsehood only succeeds

by abusing trust; but by so doing it tends to destroy trust; and when it has

accomplished this end it will be ineffectual. Universal lying would be

useless to everybody.  (I wonder when it will dawn on the media that they

are  in the process of destroying society?  CY - 2023)

 

IV. FALSEHOOD IS REGARDED BY GOD AS A PECULIARLY

WICKED SIN. For this especially the people must be punished (v. 9).

Deceit amongst men is a sin against GOD WHO IS TRUTH ETERNAL!

 It is a spiritual sin, a sin most near to the diabolical (John 8:34). It is a sin

which is peculiarly injurious to the spiritual nature of the sinner, tending to

destroy conscience (“But if thine eye be evil, thy whole body shall be full of

darkness, how great is that darkness!”  Matthew 6:23). It involves both injustice

 and cruelty towards men.

 

 

 

                        The Social Bond a Rope of Sand (vs. 4-8)

 

This is very strong language for a man to use concerning the society in

which he lives, but it harmonizes with the strength of the language which

the prophet has been using with respect to himself in vs. 1-2. A very bad

state of things cannot be described by mild words. Such descriptions as

that in this passage make plain how just and necessary the impending

desolation of Jerusalem was. He who has just expressed such wishes for

himself must speak with words that startle when he comes to counsel all

who, in the midst of many perils, would wish to act prudently.

 

I. THERE IS AN IMPLICATION HERE AS TO WHAT SOCIETY IN

ISRAEL MIGHT HAVE BEEN. Without looking for perfection, it was

reasonable to expect something a great deal better than what the prophet

saw. There is the strength and help coming from real friendship. The more

men are brought together the more chances they have of making most

precious friendships. Modern facilities of interaction have probably done

much to enlarge such relations. Men meet oftener and communicate more

easily than they were once able to do. But it ought to be especially true of

those living near one another that neighborhood and acquaintance, other

things being equal, should lead on to friendship. The claim of friendship is

recognized as something special — beyond the claim of kindred, humanity,

and common country. In time of trouble we look to friends as those to

whom we have a right to look, and we must be ready for similar claims

upon ourselves, the prophet indicates also the claim of brotherhood.

Brother should help brother. Not, of course, that mere natural nearness can

compensate for deeper differences of disposition and temperament; but the

remembrance of a common parentage should have at least the negative

effect of destroying all temptation to injure. Then there is general integrity

in all dealings between man and man. It is one of the most reasonable of

all expectations that we shall so live and act that our word shall be as good

as our bond. That which is fair and just towards every one should be

wished and provided for. The good name of each should be the care of all.

 

II. THERE IS A VERY BOLD STATEMENT AS TO WHAT THE

SOCIETY IN ISRAEL ACTUALLY WAS. The man who could speak

thus must have been a man of great courage — a man into whom God had

put a spirit of resolution agreeing with the words he had to speak. Stern,

unsparing words are only belied and made to look ridiculous when uttered

by a faltering lip. If the prophet’s words here were true, this was a society

only in name. Some may say that such words could not be true — that

things could not possibly be so bad. But, remember, these are the words of

a prophet of God, and God is He who searches the heart and can tell

exactly how far advanced in corruption a society is at any particular time.

Note how a skilled physician will assert the existence of mortal mischief in

a patient when as yet there is no sign of it to others, and also predict with

tolerable correctness how long it will take the mischief to run its course.

And shall not God be much more discerning? All doleful statements as to

the rottenness of society have come to be called jeremiads (a long, mournful 

complaint or lamentation; a list of woes), as if they were

really in the same class as the statement of Jeremiah here. But very often

such doleful statements are only the result of ignorance and partial views,

coming from a defect in him who sees and not in the thing seen. Jeremiah

stated the simple truth here. If there had been hopeful signs they would

have been mentioned, for God never lacks in an encouraging recognition of

the preservative elements in society. To one who notes the warnings of

Isaiah it will be nothing wonderful that the evils perceptible in his time

should have strengthened into the deplorable universality indicated here.

And even now, in places where the outward signs of Christianity abound,

there are proofs that society might, in no very long time, approach the

description of Jeremiah. The same evils are continually present, though

kept in check. No one trusts a stranger. He must first of all take the lowest

place, and do such things as need the least amount of trust, and so

gradually work himself into the highest place of esteem. No one complains

that he cannot win confidence at the first. Family jars and disputings are

proverbial. Jesus, we know, divides brother against brother; but it is

nothing new that He thus brings into society, for Jacob is the supplanter of

Esau, and brother complains against brother to this very Jesus, because he

thinks himself defrauded of his rights in the inheritance. There were two

couples of natural brethren in the company of the apostles, and in their

carnal days they were found hotly embroiled in the dispute as to who

should stand greatest in the kingdom. There are abundant seeds of evil in

society which are mercifully prevented from having free scope, else the

result might soon show us that Jeremiah was in no wise going beyond the

essential truth in what is said here.

 

9  Shall I not visit them for these things? saith the LORD: shall not

my soul be avenged on such a nation as this?”  A repetition of ch. 5:9, 29)

 

 

 

 

                                    A Visitation of God (v. 9)

 

I. CHASTISEMENT IS A VISITATION OF GOD. The phrase “a

visitation of God’ has been too much confined to calamitous events. God

visits us every hour in gentleness and mercy. Still, it is important to

recognize that He also comes in chastisement. He comes, does not simply

order, but Himself executes chastisement.

 

1. We should recognize the Divine visitation. Outwardly the trouble may

have a human origin. The calamities of the Jews arose out of a Chaldean

invasion, but the prophets saw above and behind that invasion a Divine

purpose. God was in those armies from Babylon. God is in our troubles.

 

2. This fact should make us dread to incur chastisement. We cannot resist

it, for if God is in it, all his might and majesty are there.

 

3. This fact should make us submit to the chastisement when it comes as

just and good. Its origin is not Satanic, but Divine. If God is in it He must

ever be true to His character; His fiercest anger can never break the bounds

of what is just and fair; He must always be ready to show mercy when this

is possible (Habakkuk 3:2).

 

II. CHASTISEMENT IS DETERMINED BY THE PERSONAL

RELATIONS BETWEEN GOD AND MEN. It is God’s soul being

avenged. God’s vengeance is quite unlike ours; it is never cruel or

intemperate; it is always governed by justice and consistent with

unchanging love. It is, however, more than judicial punishment. It is an

action arising out of personal feeling and determined by our personal

offences against God. Sin is more than transgression of Law, — it is

ungrateful rebellion against God; and punishment is more than the cold

vindication of Law, it is the result of the provoked anger of God. Such

anger is right, for it is not kindness but weakness that allows a father to

receive insult from a child unmoved. The greater the love, the greater will

be the righteous anger when this is wronged.

 

III. CHASTISEMENT IS NECESSITATED BY THE CONDUCT OF

MEN. It is “for such things” and “on such a nation.” God does not love

vengeance. He does not send punishment as an arbitrary exercise of

sovereignty. Therefore our chastisement is virtually in our own hands.

Even after meriting it, we alone are to blame if the full force of the blow

falls upon us. For God has provided a way of escape, and offers

forgiveness to all who repent and submit. Therefore it is foolish for men to

complain of their hard lot in falling under the storm of a visitation of God

in wrath.

 

IV. THE NECESSITY FOR CHASTISEMENT MAY BE

RECOGNIZED BY OUR COMMON INTELLIGENCE. The text is an

appeal to reason, a question which unbiased minds could answer only in

one way. If chastisement is not seen to be reasonable, it must be either

 

(1) because the depth of guilt is not felt, or

(2) distorted views of chastisement have been entertained. This will be

      such as befits the offence.

 

V. THE PERSONAL CHARACTERISTICS OF CHASTISEMENT

INVOLVE PERSONAL ELEMENTS IN REDEMPTION. Hence the

necessity for a “propitiation.” Thus Christ redeems us by becoming a

Propitiation for our sins (1 John 2:2).

 

The next seven verses contain a description of the sad fate of the sinful

land and people. At first the prophet speaks as if he saw it all spread out before him.

Then, in the character of a surprised spectator, he inquires how this came to pass,

and receives the Divine answer, that it is the doom of self-willed rebellion.

 

10  “For the mountains will I take up a weeping and wailing, and for the

habitations” - the habitations should rather be pastures -  “of the wilderness

a lamentation, because they are burned up, so that none can pass through

them; neither can men hear the voice of the cattle; both the fowl of the

heavens and the beast are fled; they are gone.”  The country, once covered

with grazing flocks and herds, is now so utterly waste that even the birds cannot

find subsistence.

 

11  “And I will make Jerusalem heaps, and a den of dragons;” - rather,

jackals. and I will make the cities of Judah desolate, without an inhabitant.” 

Notice how the  utterances of the prophets stand side by side with those of Jehovah.

A true prophet has no personal views; so that whether his revelations are expressed

in the one form or the other makes no difference.

 

12   “Who is the wise man, that may understand this? and who is he to

whom the mouth of the LORD hath spoken, that he may declare it,

for what the land perisheth and is burned up like a wilderness, that

none passeth through?”  Wherefore hath the land perished, is it burned

up like the wilderness with none that passeth through.

 

13   There is no answer, for the wise men are ashamed (ch. 8:9); so Jehovah Himself

takes up his speech. “And the LORD saith, Because they have forsaken my

law which I set before them,” - not in reference to the publication of the Law on

Sinai, but to the oral exhibition of the Torah by the prophets -  “and have not

obeyed my voice, neither walked therein;” - viz. in the Law. (On the precise

contents of the term here rendered “Law,” see note on ch.8:8.)

 

14   “But have walked after the imagination of their own heart, and after

Baalim, which their fathers taught them:” - Imagination; rather, stubbornness

(see on ch. 3:17).  Baalim. The Hebrew has “the Baalim;” practically equivalent

to “the idol-gods” (see on ch. 2:8). Which their fathers taught them.

“Which” refers to both clauses, i.e. to the obstinacy and the Baal-worship.

 

 

 

 

 

                                    Hereditary Sin Real Sin (v. 14)

 

God here declares that He will punish those who have walked “after

Baalim, which their fathers taught them.” Therefore the fact of their having

been trained in this sin by their fathers is not held to acquit them of guilt in

what they do. Their sin, though hereditary, is real.

 

I. THIS SEEMS UNJUST. It has often been objected to that because the

fathers ate sour grapes the children’s teeth should be set on edge

(Ezekiel 18:2). Why should I be punished for another’s man’s sin?

 

II. BUT IT IS THE DIVINE LAW. The sins of the fathers are visited on

the children. “By the offence of one all men were made sinners” (Romans

5.). And in daily life how perpetually we see this law in ruthless operation!

— children punished in health, fortune, character, reputation, in mind,

body, and soul, all through their fathers’ sin. They walk in the ways of

Baalim because their fathers taught them. And yet, unjust though their

punishment may appear:                                                          

 

III. CONSCIENCE ENDORSES IT. Who knows how much of that

strong passionate nature which led David into such dreadful sin may have

been inherited? Indeed, he says, “Behold, I was shapen in iniquity, and

in sin did my mother conceive me.”  (Psalm 51:5). But this does not hinder him

from taking all the blame of his sin upon himself. All the way through we hear his confession —

 

·         “my sin,”

·         “my transgression,”

·         “mine iniquity.”

 

And never does the conscience awakened to a sense of sin think of palliating

such sin by the plea of its being the result of inheritance. Thus conscience

witnesses to the righteousness of the Divine Law.

 

IV. AND SO DOES HUMAN LAW. What judge ever pardoned a

criminal because he had a bad father? We execrate “bloody Queen Mary”

notwithstanding she had a bloodthirsty father.

 

V. THE EXPLANATION IS:

 

1. That hereditary sin does not destroy conscience. That speaks in all; it is

“the light that lighteth every man that cometh into the world” (John 1:9)

the inward monitor which ever condemns crime and approves righteousness (compare Romans 2:14-15).

 

2. Nor does it destroy understanding. Teachers of righteousness are on

every hand, from whom all may learn.

 

3. Nor does it destroy the power of will. It may weaken, but it does not

destroy. Therefore, in spite of hereditary sin, every man knows, and can

choose if he will, that which is right; and therefore he is held accountable

before every tribunal,  that of:

 

            (a)  God,

            (b)  conscience, and

            (c) man.

 

4. But there is yet another reason given by St. Paul: “God hath concluded

all in unbelief, that he may have mercy upon all (Romans 11:32; one of my

favorite scriptures ; Galatians 3:22 - CY - 2023). A cruel Roman emperor

wished that all Rome had but one neck, that he might kill it with one blow.

God hath in His infinite grace gathered up all our humanity into one, even in Christ, so that, as sin had destroyed all by one stroke (Romans 5:15), the grace

of God in Christ might save all by the one righteousness of the One; so that “where sin did abound, grace did much more abound.”  (ibid. v. 20)That gathering up of humanity into one in Adam, which seems at first sight to have worked such injustice, is altogether met, and far more than met, by the again gathering  up of all in One, even in Christ, which works such grace. But that ultimate redemption which is in Christ does not hinder, but that meanwhile, and for a weary while, hereditary sin may work woeful sorrow and harm. Therefore:

 

VI. THIS FACT APPEALS:

 

1. To all parents. Seek to cut off the entail. We may have received such

sad inheritance, but let us, as we may, reject it for ourselves, and in so

doing refuse to hand it on to others. Again and again has God given grace

to some one member of a godless house — as to Josiah, son of that Amon

of whom it is said, “But Amon sinned more and more”  (II Chronicles 33:23)

— who has for himself and those who come after him broken the bad succession and begun a new and blessed departure. When we have done our best, our

children will have a sufficiently heavy burden to bear; let us not make that

burden heavier, life more terrible, and holiness and heaven far less

attainable for them, by handing down to them a legacy of evil example and

of unhallowed habits and propensities inherited from ourselves. Do not let

us sin so against our children. Yet many do.

 

2. To all children. Your fathers sin will not excuse yours. God has turned

judgment away from many an evil son because he had a godly father, but

never because he had an ungodly one. Therefore if yours be the sad and

too frequent lot of those who inherit evil from their parents, reject that

inheritance, and seek and gain from your heavenly Father, though you may

not be helped herein by your earthly one, the better, the most blessed

inheritance of the children of God.

 

15   “Therefore thus saith the LORD of hosts, the God of Israel; Behold,

I will feed them, even this people, with wormwood, “and give them

water of gall to drink.” - Figures for the bitter privations of captivity (compare

Lamentations 3:15, “He hath filled me with bitterness, he hath made me

drunken with wormwood”). Wormwood and gall — i.e., the poppy — are

combined again in Deuteronomy 29:18.

 

 

 

                   The Inquest on the Slain of Judah and Jerusalem.

                                                (vs. 12-15)

 

I. GOD DEMANDS IT.

 

1. For His righteousness is impugned. Men had not failed, could not fail, to

notice the terrible judgments which God had sent upon Judah and

Jerusalem, and, as is implied by His own declaration of their causes (v. 12),

they had either not seen or had denied the righteousness of what had

been done. This questioning of the Divine righteousness and equity is a

procedure all too common still.

 

2. And thus the Divine hold on the loyalty of men’s hearts is threatened.

For unless men regard God as righteous, just, and good, no power in the

universe can make them yield Him the homage of their hearts. How much

of the alienation of heart in the present day may be attributed to the

representations of God which a false theology has set forth! Men will not,

for they cannot, love such a being as too many preachers represent God to

be. They may be threatened with everlasting perdition, but it will make no

difference. For God Himself has given us a nature which renders impossible

our yielding our hearts’ homage to any one-be he whom he may — that

our hearts do not regard as worthy of that homage.

 

3. But God’s supreme solicitude is for this homage of our hearts. Hence

what threatens it must be intolerable to Him. Therefore He seeks for

vindication before the hearts of men, and demands this inquiry.

 

II. AN UNIMPEACHABLE JURY IS IMPANELLED. It is not just any

one who can be trusted to make this inquiry. The frivolous, the

unthoughtful, would fail to grasp the problem involved, and the ungodly

who suffered these judgments would be sure to assign them to any and

every cause rather than the true one. Therefore those who are summoned

to this inquest are:

 

1.  the wise — those who will intelligently consider all the facts of the

     case; and

 

2. those to whom the Lord hath spoken”those, that is, who have

    been divinely enlightened, who are in sympathy with truth and

    righteousness. God summons such, and fearlessly demands, now as of old,

    the most thorough investigation into the righteousness of all His ways.

 

III. THEY ARE BIDDEN WELL AND TRULY TRY THE CASE

BEFORE THEM. He would have them so consider it that they may

“understand” it in all its bearings, reasons, and ends. He tells them what He

has done and what He yet will do, and what are His reasons for His conduct.

He does not conceal that His judgments are tremendous, notorious, certain

to excite inquiry, to be challenged, and by many to be condemned. But He

appeals to the “wise,” and to those “to whom the Lord hath spoken,” to

consider and understand what He has done. God calls not for mere

credulity from any of us; He asks for no mere blind faith; but it is to a

“reasonable service” He summons us, and this reasonableness He would

have us consider and “understand.”I speak as to wise men; judge ye what

I say:” such is His appeal.

 

IV. AND WHEN THEY HAVE “UNDERSTOOD” THE

RIGHTEOUSNESS OF GOD THEY ARE TO “DECLARE” IT. There is

no greater service that can be rendered than “to vindicate the ways of God

to man;” to “commend the truth to every man’s conscience in the sight of

God.” (II Corinthians 4:2)  The believer is established, the waverer brought to

decision, the sinner — like as Felix, when Paul “reasoned of righteousness and judgment” is made to tremble (Acts 24:25), the scorner and the atheist

are silenced.

 

V. THE EFFECTS OF THAT VERDICT WILL BE VARIED.

 

1. It will strike terror to the hearts of the enemies of God; for it will rob

them of the comfort they had in regarding God’s judgments as unjust.

Even this “drop of cold water” they may not have.  (Luke 16:24)

 

2. It will give great peace of mind to all beholders of God’s strong rule; for

it will show that His rule is not strong and supreme alone, but absolutely

righteous.

 

3. It will make God’s people “sing unto the Lord a new song,” because “he

cometh to judge the earth” (Psalm 96.). It will assure them of the triumph

of righteousness, and the utter impotency and impermanency of wrong.

But let each one ask himself, “How will that verdict affect me”

 

16   “I will scatter them also among the heathen, whom neither they nor

their fathers have known:” -  (compare Deuteronomy 28:64; Leviticus 26:33) –

 “and I will send a sword after them, till I have consumed them.” Even in the

land of their captivity they shall have no rest. A special prophecy to the

same effect was addressed to the Jewish fugitives in Egypt (ch. 44:27). In both

cases it is the unbelievers who are referred to; the nation as such was, through its

Divine calling, indestructible.

 

 

 

 

                        The Causes of National Disaster(vs. 12-16)

 

I. IT IS PROFITABLE TO INQUIRE INTO THE CAUSES OF

NATIONAL DISASTER.

 

1. Intellectually, this is a subject of profound interest, dealing with

fundamental principles and the vast issues to which they lead when

working on the largest scale.

 

2. Morally, it is of great practical importance for the warning it supplies to

all nations. The sight of terrible ruin rushing down upon a people is

appalling, but the awe with which it strikes us will not have much

wholesome effect till we have an intelligent appreciation of the sources

from which it comes, and are thus enabled to watch them and guard

against them.

 

II. SPIRITUAL WISDOM IS REQUISITE FOR THE DISCERNMENT

OF THE CAUSES OF NATIONAL DISASTER. They do not lie on the

surface. No study is more difficult than that of the philosophy of history.

Unless the mind is awake to spiritual facts, the inquiry will not go beyond

secondary causes, or attempting more will commit injustice. The prophets

needed inspiration for this as much as for the prediction of future events.

No mere literary historian is fit for the work. Only a prophet can be fully

equal to it, and other men can only pursue it with safety when they walk in

his footsteps. Hence the immense value of the historical elements of the

Old Testament to the statesman.  (And remember the words of the Apostle

Paul, “Now all these things happened unto them for ensamples and they

are written for our admonition, upon whom the ends of the world are come.”

(I Corinthians 10:11)

 

III. THE CHIEF CAUSES OF NATIONAL DISASTER ARE MORAL.

Material causes are visible on the surface, such as famine, plague, invasion,

revolution. Political causes lying deeper may be easily discerned, such as

diplomatic complications, class divisions, violent changes in popular

sentiment. But beneath all such influences there are great moral causes.

 

1. These act through providence. God takes note of the conduct of

nations, judges, ministers.

 

2. They also act directly.

 

            (a(  Luxury is enervating;

            (b)  injustice destroys the confidence of a people in its government.

 

IV. ONCE REVEALED, THE MORAL CAUSES OF NATIONAL

DISASTER ARE SIMPLE AND INTELLIGIBLE. The prophets make

these clear to us in the case of their own nation.

 

1. Negatively, the causes were traced to disobedience to the will of God,

culpable because this was well understood — “ set before them.”  (v. 13)

 

2. Positively, they were found in willful stubbornness and demoralizing

idolatry. God was the shield of His people. WHEN HE WAS

FORSAKEN they were defenseless. Nations are only secure while they

are governed by the will of God, by justice and humanity. Godlessness, bearing fruit in:

 

            (a) falsehood,

            (b) cruelty, and

            (c) vicious lawlessness of passion,

 

is a sure source of national ruin. The state of the public conscience is more important to a nation than that of ITS ARMY!

 

In the next six verses a new scene is introduced. To give an idea of the

greatness of the impending blow, all the skilled mourners are sent for to

raise the cry of lamentation. But no, this is not enough. So large will be the

number of the dead that all the women must take their part in the doleful

office. The description of the mourning women is as true to modem as to

ancient life in the East. “And, indeed,” says Dr. Shaw, a thoughtful traveler

and an ornament of Oxford in the dark eighteenth century, “they perform

their parts with such proper sounds, gestures, and commotions, that they

rarely fail to work up the assembly into some extraordinary pitch of

thoughtfulness and sorrow” (‘Travels in Barbary and the Levant,’ 2nd

edit., p. 242; compare Amos 5:16; Ecclesiastes 12:5).

 

 

 

 

   The Affliction of God’s Professed People an Enigma to be Explained

                                                (vs. 12-16)

 

I. THE MYSTERY. This consists partly in the particular subjects of it, and

partly in the degree to which it has gone. It is spoken of here prophetically

as a future thing that has already taken place; and the problem is stated

accordingly as a realization, and not a thing only conceived of. From time

to time the history of Israel and Judah presents such scenes. It is by no

means one of uninterrupted progress. There are backboard movements,

standings still, interruptions, sharp and humiliating national disasters, and

long epochs of civil war, political nonentity, or foreign captivity.

 

1.  Yet have there not been many gracious promises to the contrary!

 

2. On the whole, the past reverses of Israel have been retrieved, and a

measure of continuous progress attained.

 

3. The special affliction referred to is unprecedented, and its result would

almost appear to be final. The history of the Christian Church and of

individual believers presents features analogous to this.

 

            (a) The slow progress of the world’s evangelization.

            (b) The comparative absence of spiritual blessing in the midst of God’s

                  children.

            (c) Their divisions, scientific skepticism, or unscientific superstition, like                         parasites, strangling the tree of the Church and draining away

                  its life.

 

Or the mystery appears in the individual Christian. His creed is orthodox, his behavior outwardly presenting little that is blameworthy; and yet worldly

business is a constant series of reverses and dishonorable compromises; his influence is lost; afflictions come upon him, and he cannot bear up under

them; the peace of Christ is not his!

 

II. THE POINT OF VIEW FROM WHICH IT IS TO BE REGARDED.

This is very important to be determined. The apostate people of God fail to

realize the extent to which they have fallen, and confound the formal rites

of religion with its spirit and reality. They at first attribute it to natural

causes, or treat it as a temporary thing that will right itself. The

heathen, looking on ab extra (from without), imagine that the Jehovah of Israel

is no longer able to deliver, or that He has ceased to care for her. Here it is

declared to be a judgment upon apostasy — utter departure from truth and

righteousness, and the sterner because of that fact. And when we look at

all the circumstances of the case, this interpretation seems more probable

— to carry, as it were, its evidence with it. The key, therefore, is for the

most part an inward one; at first, at any rate, wholly so. This it is which

constitutes the main element of difficulty in the troubles of God’s people.

Hence the room there must be for mistakes, and the ease with which a

wholly erroneous view may be taken with superficial probability. And this

suggests how large a part of the Churchs function is fulfilled in merely

being a problem and a mystery to the carnal mind. When judgment begins

at the house of God, it is time for all attentively to look on and inquire why

it is so. Greater perils lie on the side of unfaithfulness than of mere

unbelief. And in the last resort conscience must be appealed to in

explanation of mysteries of reverse and trouble. Thereby God is knocking

at the door of the heart both of the world and the Church. It is of the

utmost importance that we settle the question between us and Him.

 

III. AN INTERPRETER WANTED. (v. 12.) When men are at a loss,

or there is radical difference of opinion, it is evident that some authority is

required to decide the question. The world and its canons are by the nature

of the problem ruled out of court. And the apostate is too blinded with his

own sin and too callous through repeated acts and prolonged habits of

wrong-doing to be trusted in the matter. At this juncture the advantage of

revelation and of the prophetic office appears. So far as God is concerned,

the seer speaks with the authority of direct inspiration; so far as the culprit

is concerned, he occupies a representative position, and as one of those

implicated, yet himself innocent, acts as general conscience. This is God’s

way — to raise a testimony and extract a confession from the heart of the

transgressor himself, or from the midst of those upon whom His judgments

fall. And the same end is accomplished now through the Spirit and the

Word. The saint becomes the mouthpiece of the Savior, and the world is

convinced of “sin, of righteousness, and of judgment.”  (John 16:9-11)

 

17  Thus saith the LORD of hosts, Consider ye, and call for the

mourning women, that they may come; and send for cunning women,

that they may come:” 

 

18  “And let them make haste, and take up a wailing for us, that our

eyes may run down with tears, and our eyelids gush out with waters.”

- a justification of this artificial system-The piercing notes of the hired mourners

are to relieve the sorrow of the afflicted by forcing for it a vent.

 

19   “For a voice of wailing is heard out of Zion, How are we spoiled!

we are greatly confounded, because we have forsaken the land,

because our dwellings have cast us out.” - rather, they have cast down

 our dwellings.

 

20   “Yet hear the word of the LORD, O ye women, and let your ear

receive the word of His mouth, and teach your daughters wailing,

and every one her neighbor lamentation.”

 

21    “For death is come up into our windows, and is entered into our

palaces,” -  “Death,” equivalent to “pestilence” (as ch. 15:2), the most

dreaded foe of a besieged population. (For the figure, compare Joel 2:9) –

“to cut off the children from without, and the young men from the streets.”

The ideal of Zechariah is that “the streets of the city should be full of boys and

girls playing in the streets thereof” (Zechariah 8:5). But the pitiless reaper,

Death, shall cut off even “the playful child from the street” (so we might

render more literally). Streets, in the parallel clause, means the “broad places”

where men congregate to tell the news.

 

 

 

 

            The Death of the Wicked Contrary to Nature (v. 21)

 

Various respects in which this is so: it is sudden; it defies all the resources

of comfort and protection; it is untimely, and cuts off the young in their

bloom — the children for the fathers’ sin, the hope of the nation and the

family. “Death will not, as an enemy lurking without, attack those only

who venture out to him, but will assault the people, penetrating into all

their houses, to fetch his sacrifices” (Naegelsbach, in Lunge). Why so?

 

I. IT IS BECAUSE THE LAWS OF GOD AND OF NATURE HAVE

BEEN SHAMEFULLY VIOLATED.

 

II. THE TRIAL AND PUNISHMENT OF THE CONFIRMED SINNER

ARE SWIFTLY REMOVED TO ANOTHER JUDGMENT-SEAT.

 

III. IT IS INTENDED AS A DEMONSTRATION AGAINST EVIL

AND A TERROR TO EVILDOERS.

 

22   “Speak, Thus saith the LORD, Even the carcases of men shall fall as

dung upon the open field, and as the handful after the harvestman,

and none shall gather them.” -  i.e. as thickly as one heap of corn succeeds

another under the deft hand of the reaper.

 

 

 

                        The Terrible Threatenings of Love (vs. 10-22)

 

There are few more awful passages of Scripture than this. The doom

denounced on the guilty people is indeed dreadful. Nevertheless that doom

had not yet descended. There was a merciful pause, during which space

was given for repentance. Meanwhile the prophet was bidden to utter these

threatenings. Notice:

 

I. HOW TERRIBLE THEY ARE.

 

1. In themselves.

 

(a) The fertile hills and pastures of their country shall be laid

      waste, so that no living creature can find food (v. 10).

 

(b) Jerusalem is to be utterly destroyed and desolate (v. 11).

 

(c) The deep anguish of the people their very meat to be as “wormwood,”

      and their drink as “water of gall” (v. 15).

 

(d) They shall be carried captive and scattered among the heathen,

      and even then shall not escape the sword (v. 16).

 

(e) They shall be overwhelmed with sorrow, their eyes shall gush out

      with tears (vs. 17- 19).

 

(f) Death shall reign everywhere (v. 21); and shall be accompanied with

deepest degradation (v. 22).

 

It is not possible to conceive of more hopeless misery than is portrayed in

these vivid descriptions of the wrath that was to come.

 

2. Because of their righteousness. Unrighteous suffering can be borne, and

those who bear it are bidden by the Lord to count themselves as “blessed”

because of it (Matthew 5:11-12). And sorrows that come to us in the

course of Gods providence, and the reason of which we do not know,

these we can bear sustained by the faith of the Father’s love. But when

sore suffering is sent to us as the direct punishment of sin, and the

righteous because so deserved anger of God is evident, then those

consolations which are open to us under other sufferings are closed to us

under these. The bitter reflection, “It was all our own fault; it might, it

ought to have been avoided,” makes the pain we endure, and the calamities

that overtake us, more terrible than otherwise they could possibly be. We

take refuge from man’s anger and from ordinary sorrows in God’s love, but

sin that has brought down God’s righteous judgment has also closed

against us that most blessed shelter and every shelter, and we are left

without defense. And another element in their terribleness is:

 

3. The certainty of their fulfillment, “God is not mocked: whatsoever a

man soweth, that shall he also reap.”  (Galatians 6:7) The threatenings of God are not, as are many of the threatenings of men, mere empty vapor, great

swelling words, never designed to be fulfilled. Let the records of all human history, of all human lives, whether told of within or without the pages of the

Bible, attest the absolute certainty of fulfillment which evermore

characterizes the threatenings of God. When and where has He ever

threatened and failed to fulfill His threat? Let:

 

            (a) the Fall,

            (b) the Flood,

            (c) the destruction of Sodom,

            (d) the plagues on Egypt,

            (e) the deaths of the generation of unbelievers in the wilderness,

 

and ten thousand instances more, all prove the steadfastness of God to His word. And it is this fact of the absolute certainty of His threatenings being fulfilled that adds to them a yet further terribleness. There is no chance of

escape, no hope of God’s relenting; as certain as the fixed laws of nature

are these awful denunciations of God to him who persists in bringing them

upon himself.

 

II. BUT THEY ARE THE THREATENINGS OF LOVE.

 

1. He who utters them is the God who in His very nature and essence is

love. How manifold are the proofs of this in creation, in providence, in

grace! He, therefore, has no pleasure in the death of the wicked; judgment

is His “strange work” (Isaiah 28:21)

 

2. Those against whom they are uttered are the objects of His love. His love

for them is deeper than His anger against them. Hence it is that the contrite

sinner never fails to gain the pardon he seeks. “Fathers of our flesh” may

chasten after their own pleasure, but he for our profit” (compare v. 7;

Hebrews 12:9-10).

 

3. His purpose in these threatenings is a loving purpose. He would compel

by the scourge of fear His rebellious children to abandon their evil ways.

 

4. And if at length He is compelled to execute His threatenings, it is out of

love that He does so. For the love of God is towards His children, not to

any one particular child, and the welfare of the family is the chief

consideration. Salus populi suprema lex (The health [welfare, good, salvation, felicity] of the people should be the supreme law") . . If consistently with that

the transgressor can be restored, he will be, but not else. Hence, as an earthly

father would not permit one of his children, ill with terrible and contagious

disease, to mingle with the other children; or, as in the far more sad case of

utter moral wickedness, social contact with the rest would be forbidden; so,

for the sake of the rest of His children, God will separate them from the

wicked and the wicked from them. But it is love which constrains to this,

and hence it is that the seeming contradiction is true, that He who is the

God of love is also “a consuming fire.” (Hebrews 12:29)  The very fatherhood

of God is the most fearful fact of all others against the persistently rebellious

and ungodly soul. Hence:

 

III. SUCH THREATENINGS ARE EVER THE MOST TERRIBLE OF

ALL, Compare the threatenings of our Savior. The most awful utterances to be

found in the whole Bible proceeded from His lips-the lips whose words

were wont to be so “gracious” that the people “wondered” at them. It is

HIs sayings which have lit up the lurid glare of the fires unquenchable of

hell, and it is He who has made our souls shudder at the sight of “the worm

that dieth not,” and of the “outer darkness” where there is “weeping and

wailing and gnashing of teeth.” See, too, the Revelation of St. John. That

apostle, whose great theme is the love of God, whose soul was more

attuned to the music of love than that of any other, wrote that awful book,

which is full throughout of “mourning, lamentation, and woe;” and which

almost reeks with the blood and fire and smoke of torments of which it

tells. These facts can only be accounted for — and there are more like

them — on the ground that the threatenings of love are ever the most

terrible of all. And they are so, for such reasons as these:

 

1. Love so hates what tends to the harm of those it loves. Hence it brands

with its deepest curse that sin which harms God’s children most of all. One

chief argument with many minds for the retention of capital punishments is

that only so can a government or nation mark its sense of the supreme

wickedness of the crime it so punishes. Punish it as other crimes are

punished, and it will come to be regarded as no worse than they. And in

like manner God would inspire us with a holy abhorrence of sin by the

awful condemnation that He has pronounced against it.

 

2. Love so yearns to rescue those .it loves The rope may cut and wound

the hands of the drowning sailor to whom we have thrown it, but we do

not mind that if thereby he be drawn safe to shore. The knife of the

surgeon may cut deep and cause fearful pain, but if it saves the imperiled

life we are thankful notwithstanding. So God sends forth these stern,

rough, and terrible threatenings, that souls under the spell of sin may be

awakened, alarmed, made to tremble, and to “seek the Lord while He may

be found.” No gentler means will avail; therefore these, so love resolves,

shall not be left untried. It will shrink from nothing to accomplish its

compassionate purpose of rescuing from the murderous sin the soul it

loves.

 

3. And there is no wickedness so deep as that of outraging love. Men will

never see sin in all its hatefulness until they see it as outrage done to love.

Whilst they are taught only that it is disobedience to sovereign rule rather

than despite and shameful wrong done to a Father’s heart, they will not

look upon it as they should, nor repent of it as they must. Even in human

esteem, outrage done to a loving heart adds intensity to the condemnation

with which we view and sentence disobedience done to law. We all

recognize that such wickedness is the worst of all. We cannot wonder,

then, that the threatenings against wrong persistently done to the love of

God are terrible as they are, and the most terrible of all.

 

·         CONCLUSION.

 

1. Beware of bringing upon yourselves such threatenings as these. Those

which are  forth by hatred, or by pride, or by sovereignty, or by

law, these, though they may be terrible, are not to be compared with those

that we have been considering. “The wrath of the Lamb” is the most awful

of all.  (Revelation 6:16-17)

 

2. Beware of despising them. So far from believing what has now been

shown, men argue in directly opposite way, and, because the threatenings

are those of love, they conclude that they may safely be disregarded, they

will never be carried out. But what has now been shown proves that this is

the very last thing we can venture to do.

 

3. Beware of concealing them. It is to be feared that, in these soft, easy

days on which we have fallen, the Lord’s watchmen do very often fail to

“blow the trumpet and give warning”  (Ezekiel 33:6)  From blood-guiltiness

such as that let us pray to be delivered. For are there not many now whom nothing but the startling peal of the trumpet of God’s threatened

judgments will ever arouse or alarm? Assuredly there are. Therefore,

in view of the doom of the ungodly, as well as by the love of Christ, let us “beseech men to be reconciled to God.”  (II Corinthians 5:20)

 

 

 

                                    Death’s Doings (vs. 21-22)

 

Behold:

 

I. DEATH’S CARNIVAL. In many an ancient continental city you may

see portrayed in still vivid colors, on the roofs of their covered bridges,

across on that of the old bridge at Lucerne, — on the walls of their

churches, and elsewhere, the grim’ Dance of Death.’ These verses remind

of those paintings, and tell in yet more fearful form of Death’s dread

carnival. With what diabolic zest he is represented at his work here! He is

shown to us, not as coming in in ordinary manner to the sick-chamber,

where his coming has long been expected and may even be welcomed; but

as breaking in roughly, unexpectedly, cruelly, like a thief coming in at the

windows. Nor as drawing near to the poor, the defenseless, the miserable;

but entering into our palaces, the abode of the great, the rich, the strong.

Nor as calling home those whose day’s work is done, who have lived their

life, and to whom eventide has long ago arrived; but as cutting ruthlessly

down the dear young children in the very blossom of their days. Nor as

ridding the earth of the cruel and vile; but tearing from us the innocent, the

children. Nor are vigor, strength, and promise any more a defense against

him than decrepit old age; for “the young men” are his victims even as

others. And no multitude of slain will satiate him. V. 22 represents the

numbers of the dead as so great that they have to be left unburied and

uncared for to rot upon the open field. It is true that this frightful picture is

taken from the awful experiences of a besieged city, but with slight

modifications it is true everywhere and always. This life is the carnival of

Death. What are men but a long succession of mourners? As the poet says

 

“Our hearts like muffled drums are beating

Funeral marches to the grave.”\

And when we contemplate the cruel consequences of this carnival of

Death, which is going on still, the mind and heart reel, and faith in the

fatherhood of God would fade utterly out of men’s souls were it not that in

brighter colors still the Word of God portrays :

 

II. DEATH’S CONQUEROR. Christ has abolished death. The broken

pillar, the turned-down torch, the “Vale, vale, in aeternum vale,” of the old

Pagan world, have now no appropriateness because no truth. Death is

sorrow still, even to those who believe in Him who is “the Resurrection and

the Life;” but it is not and cannot be that hopeless, unutterable,

unfathomable woe which it was till He came who hath abolished death. No

doubt this terrible verse (v. 21), which tells of Death’s dread doings, is

yet far more true than we would like it to be, and often and often, in the

blank desolation and shattered hopes which earth’s bereavements bring to

us, we fail to derive all the consolation and help which Death’s glorious

Conqueror has given to us. But, nevertheless, He has given them, and it is

true that “Blessed are the dead which die in the Lord, Yea, sayeth the Spirit,

that they may rest from their labors and their works do follow them.” (Revelation

14:13) Let us see to it that we are, by a living abiding trust, “in the Lord,” and then, though we sorrow, and sorrow bitterly still, yet it will not be, it is not, “as those thathave no hope.”  (I Thessalonians 4:13)

 

23  “Thus saith the LORD, Let not the wise man glory in his wisdom,

neither let the mighty man glory in his might, let not the rich man

glory in his riches:”  “Compare Habakkuk 3:17-18. There the prophet looks

forward to a complete desolation resulting from the Chaldean invasion, and yet

declares that he can even exult in his God. So here. All subjects of boasting have

been proved untrustworthy; but one remains — not wisdom, not valor, not riches,

but the knowledge of the revealed God.

 

24  “But let him that glorieth glory in this, that he understandeth and

knoweth me, that I am the LORD which exercise loving-kindness,

judgment, and righteousness, in the earth: for in these things I

delight, saith the LORD.” The knowledge of God relates to three leading

attributes, the combination of which is very instructive:

 

  • First, loving-kindness. This is not to be understood in a vague and

      general sense of the love of God to all mankind; the term has a special

      connotation with regard to the Israeli people. God shows loving-kindness

      to those with whom He is in covenant; hence the combination “loving-

      kindness and faithfulness” (Psalm 85:10), and as here (compare

      Psalm 5:7-8; 36:5-6), “mercy and righteousness.” Israel is weak

      and erring, and needs mercies of all sorts, which Jehovah, in His

      “loving-kindness,” vouchsafes.

 

  • Next, judgment, or justice. Jehovah is a King, helps the poor and weak

      to their right, and punishes the wrong-doer (compare ch. 21:12).

 

  • Then, righteousness — a similar but wider term. This is the quality which

      leads its subject to adhere to a fixed rule of conduct. God’s rule is His

      covenant; hence “righteousness” shows itself in all such acts as tend to

      the full realizing of the covenant with Israel, including the “plan of salvation.”

      It is by no means to be confined to exacting penalties and conferring rewards.

 

 

 

 

 

 

            The Knowledge of God the Only Real  Glory of Man

                                                (vs. 22-24)

 

Comparison of the earthly acquisitions and properties of the natural man

with those which are spiritual and Divine are frequent in Scripture. In history

and in life they are seen in competition. It is not that the one class of gifts is

to be wholly despised and the other alone sought. A correct perspective

must be established. It is the “glory” of a man that requires in the first place

to be determined. After that is settled, all other things will take their due

place and precedency.

 

I. THE GLORY OF MAN MUST DEPEND UPON THE END FOR

WHICH HE HAS BEEN BROUGHT INTO EXISTENCE. This is:

 

·       written in his nature,

·       confirmed by providence, and

·       made clear by revelation.

 

In the words of the Westminster Catechism, “The chief end of man is to glorify

God, and to enjoy Him for ever.” Everything else must be subordinated to

this; but if pursued in its place, will show itself to be a perversion of his

nature, and will end in calamity and misery. How very few care to satisfy

themselves upon this momentous question! Hence the necessity for the

teachings and warnings of experience.

 

1. The “glory” of man will be declared by the manner in which the

circumstances of his earthly lot affect it in the working out of that end.

Each of the qualities and properties upon which men usually pride

themselves has been tried in this way and found deficient. The wisdom of

the world has a thousand times been shown to be foolishness before God.

There are a myriad problems for which it has no key.  (I Corinthians 1: 27-28)

 

            (a) “Might” has been reduced to nothingness by the least of the duties

                  and experiences of the spiritual life. Disease and death can bring

                  down the mighty from their seats, and stay the greatest worker at

                  his task. Many a time has the cherished object after which one has                           labored with apparent success been snatched away just when about

                  to be attained. And

 

            (b) “wealth” is similarly discredited. The moth and the rust can corrupt                         the treasures of earth, and the thief breaks through and steals them                              from their most guarded security. The accident of fortune may give

                   or take away the greatest fortune. And when death comes, all these                      earthly possessions have to be left behind. They cannot avail for                       what lies beyond. How seldom are these gifts used for the highest                               end! And how unavailing of themselves would they be to secure it!

 

2. The glory of man must depend upon the success with which it

contributes to secure that end.

 

II. THE KNOWLEDGE OF GOD IS INDICATED UNMISTAKABLY

BY THESE TESTS AS THE ONLY TRUE “GLORY” OF MAN. God is

identified with the ultimate aim of our being. He made us, and it is for Him

we live. Consequently, the better we know Him, the better shall we be able

to serve Him.

 

            1. Imitation of God will spring from the knowledge of Him. The more we

know of Him the more we must love Him, and admiration will lead to

resemblance in spirit and in life. “We love Him, because He first loved us.”

(I John 4:19)

 

2. Knowledge depends on and leads to obedience. (John 7:17.) The

knowledge of God sheds light upon the universe and life, and directs the

soul and body into the channels of health, happiness, and usefulness.

 

3. It is connected with and culminates in Divine fellowship. In this way the

character and presence of God are brought into closest contact with the

spirit of man, His character is molded into the image of the Divine original,

and the joys of communion deepen and enlarge into the blessedness of

heaven. “This is life eternal, [even now] to know thee the only true God,

and Jesus Christ, whom thou hast sent.”  (John 17:3)

 

 

 

                        False Boasting and True Confidence (vs. 23-24)

 

I. FALSE BOASTING.

 

1. We are inclined to overvalue our own possessions. The wise man thinks

wisdom the one source of security, the strong man strength, the rich man

riches. That bulks most largely which lies most near to us.

 

2. The very good that is in a thing may deceive us by tempting us to

overvalue it. Wisdom, strength, and riches are all good in their way.

Trust in them is very different from trust in fraud and violence. Not regarding

them as enemies, we are in danger of confiding in them as saviors instead

of simply employing them as servants.

 

3. The number of earthly resources leads us to assume that security must

be found in some of them at least; for when one fails we can fall back on

another. But if the best do not protect in the extremity of danger, will

inferior aids suffice? Wisdom is greater than strength, and strength than

riches. If wisdom fails, what can the rest do for us?

 

4. The variety of advantages contained in earthly resources deceives us as

to their value. Wisdom promises to outwit the enemy or devise some

means of evading ruin. Yet the wisdom of the wisest Jews was defeated by

those who came from the land of “the wise;” and how can it avail against

the supreme wisdom? Strength as physical prowess and national power

may be imposing and yet not almighty. Samson was weak under a woman’s

wiles. Goliath fell before the sling of the stripling David. Riches may buy

much. They could not prevent the Chaldean invasion. They cannot buy

off sickness, disappointment, death, the punishment of sin. Nebuchadnezzar

found the possession of the world no security against the most humiliating

affliction (Daniel 4:28-33). The rich fool was mocked by his own prudence

(Luke 12:16-21).

 

II. TRUE CONFIDENCE.

 

1. This is to be sought in the knowledge of God. Wisdom, the best of

earthly resources, is not sufficient for protection, but it is the type of a

higher wisdom, wherein is the secret of safety. This is a wisdom which

concerns itself, not with petty devices, subtle schemes, cunning, and

cleverness, but with the highest knowledge, bearing fruit in “the fear of

God” (Psalm 111:10). We must know God to trust Him.

 

2. The knowledge of God will reveal to us the special grounds for

 confidence in Him, viz.

 

(a) loving-kindness, disposing Him to help the needy;

 

(b) justice, making it apparent that He will concern Himself in human

affairs as the King ruling all into order; and

 

(c) righteousness, showing that in the broadest way He will maintain the

right. Hence it will be apparent that God can and will help us only in

accordance with these principles of His character; and we must know

them, not only to learn thereby to confide in Him, but also to bring

ourselves into that spirit which will justify us in:

 

            (α)  expecting His mercy,

            (β)  reconciliation to His love,

            (γ)  submission to His government, and

            (δ)  obedience to His righteous will.

 

 

 

 

 

                                    The Chief Good (vs. 23-24)

 

The people had little reason to glory in their wisdom, or power, or wealth.

These natural resources had utterly failed them as a safeguard against the

avenger and destroyer. The prophet directs them to an infinitely surer

ground of trust, a higher cause of rejoicing. These words are a striking

appeal to faith, all the more remarkable because of the desperate

circumstances of the time. In spite of all the desolation of the land, the

wreck and ruin of all their pride as a nation, let them hold fast to their faith

in the living God, and especially in those attributes of His being and

principles of His government — loving-kindness, judgment, righteousness

— which such circumstances tend to obscure and seem even to disprove.

We fix our minds now simply on this thought — the knowledge of God and

personal fellowship with Him are immeasurably more worth our seeking

and rejoicing in than all those endowments which to the carnal eye are so

full of charm. There is a natural tendency in men to rejoice unduly in the

good that they derive by birth, or education, or the favor of providence,

forgetting that the chief good is something of a different kind, something

that must come to them in a different way. Nothing that tends to enrich and

adorn and gladden our life in this world is to be despised; but if we

measure things by a true standard, and esteem them according to their real

and relative value, we shall place everything else that men call good or

great beneath that which connects us directly with God and heaven and

immortality. Note respecting this higher good:

 

I. IT IS MORE TRULY OUR OWN THAN ANYTHING ELSE CAN

EVER BE. This is seen if we consider:

 

1. The way in which it becomes ours. The surface acquirements and

adornments of life — wealth, social position, favorable circumstances, etc.,

cannot be called “ours” in the sense in which that which is an inherent

element of our individuality is ours. And even as regards personal qualities,

there are important differences. Whatever natural gifts belong to us, our

own will has had nothing to do with our possession of them. Their

development may be dependent on it, but in their origin they are not so.

Whereas the affections that connect us with God tell how the deepest

depths of our being were stirred at their birth within us. Nothing so truly

ours as that which has thus become ours.

 

2. The absolute satisfaction it brings. All the “springs of our being” are in

God. He is the true Home and blissful Center of rest for every human

spirit. “The good man is satisfied from himself” (Proverbs 14:14), not

because of anything in the resources of his own finite being, but because he

has learned by the utter renunciation of all trust in these to find his true “self”

in God.

 

3. Its perpetuity. We may soon be bereft of all other endowments; this we

can never lose. There is no possession over which a man can rejoice in this

world which is not precarious and uncertain. And though the sense of this

need not check our free use and hearty enjoyment of it, it will always cast

some slight shadow over the sunshine of our delight. But there is no

shadow here, no sense of insecurity, no fear of disappointment. Have your

soul in conscious fellowship with God, and you may rest in the thought

that “nothing shall ever be able to separate you from His love” (Romans

8:38-39). “This is life eternal, to know thee the only true God.”(John 17:3). “The water that I shall give him shall be in him, shall be in him a well of

water springing up to everlasting life.” (ibid. ch. 4:14).

 

II. UNLIKE OTHER FORMS OF GOOD, IT IS INCAPABLE OF

ABUSE. What natural gift is there that men may not turn, and have not

actually turned, to some purpose contrary to that for which it was given?

The false use grows, not so much out of any quality or tendency in the

thing itself, as out of the innate perversity of our human nature. And there

is nothing in the thing itself, or in the fact of our possessing it, that

necessarily acts as a cure for that perversity. Intellectual capacity, genres,

literary culture, rank, wealth, etc., — how often have these been allied with

moral corruption, and given their possessors the ability to inflict

incalculable mischief on the human race? The graces of holy character

which spring from fellowship with God cannot, in the nature of things, be

thus abused. You cannot conceive of their being prostituted to evil ends.

They bear within them the pledge of THEIR DIVINE USE AND ISSUE!

 

III. IT ENABLES US, AS NOTHING ELSE CAN, TO APPRECIATE

ALL THAT IS TRUE AND GOOD IN THIS PRESENT WORLD. You

must know God before you can rightly understand and realize the highest

profit of the world in which He has placed you. There are two popular

errors in this direction —

 

·         one is the error of supposing that the apprehension of the truth of nature

      depends solely on mental capacity and scientific investigation. Does not the          inability of some of the most illustrious thinkers of every age to find out

      the Divine in nature, rather show that it is more a question of spiritual sympathy than of intellectual power?

 

·         The other error is that of supposing that the power to procure the

good of this life is the same thing as the power to enjoy it. And yet how

many pampered children of wealth and fashion are there who bear upon

their faces the marks of weariness and discontent! Their souls are withered

by excessive physical indulgence and artificial culture. They have lost the

capacity of pure and simple enjoyment, and childlike wonder and delight

are things to them unknown. Let your spirit be in fellowship with God, let

your “heart be set to hallow all you find,” and the deepest treasures of truth

and the sweetest satisfactions of life are within your reach. God has made

purity of heart the condition, not only of knowing himself, but of knowing

the best of His gilts. It both creates and verifies:

 

“The cheerful faith that all which we behold

Is full of blessing.”

 

“Godliness with contentment is great gain” (1 Timothy 6:6). “Blessed are the

meek, for they shall inherit the earth.”  (Matthew 5:5). “All things are yours

.....And ye are Christ’s, and Christ is God’s.”  (1 Corinthians 3:21-23).

 

IV. IT GIVES US THE POWER TO CONFER HIGHEST BENEFIT

ON OUR FELLOW-CREATURES. We are disposed sometimes to envy

the talents, the range of influence, the means of usefulness, that others

possess. It seems a grand thing to us to be in certain commanding

positions, and have resources that may be used at pleasure for the working

out of certain desired ends. Remember, however, that what can alone give

worth to these things are precisely those personal, moral qualities that are

within the reach of all. The influence of godly character is deeper, more

radical, more productive of enduring fruits of blessedness than any other

kind of influence. Who would not rejoice in the power to confer this

highest good upon the world?

 

 

 

 

Exultation of Heart and Life According to the Will of God

                                                (vs, 23-24)

 

I. MAN IS SET BEFORE US HERE AS BEING IN A STATE OF

VERY LIVELY EMOTION. He is spoken of as glorying; and the Hebrew

word used is such as suggests the idea of a man, not only intensely pleased

within his own breast, but whose pleasure, like heat bursting into flame,

finds vent in words and songs of exultation. The glory and exultation felt

by the mind within may appear in many ways — in the face, in the gestures,

in the speech; but the prophet indicates here the highest kind of expression,

that of poetic and musical utterance. Genius comes in to render permanent

certain experiences of exultation, the record of which would otherwise

speedily pass away. There is thus set before us a certain state of mind and a

certain expression of it. And be it observed that this state of mind is not

condemned in itself; nay, it is rather invited and encouraged. It is only

condemned when it is produced by a wrong consideration of the objects

exciting it, and there is a plain direction how to produce it in the right way.

Hence we see how God intends man to be raised into great activity of

emotion. It is a wicked thing to repress and starve the feelings. Some there

are who act as if the expression of emotion were a thing to be ashamed of;

they seem to think they are doing a good work in trying to kill everything

like living feeling within them. Now, it is perfectly certain that God would

encourage everything which gives the emotions a large part to play in

human life, and particularly the joyful emotions. Notice, for it is an

interesting thing to notice, how it is Jeremiah, the weeping prophet as he is

called, who here points out to his erring brethren the way to the best sort

of exultation. The truth is that Jeremiah was a rejoicing believer as well as

a weeping prophet. He wept over Jerusalem, as did the greater One who

came long after; but it is plain that he must also have had deep joys in his

own soul, even as Jesus had. God wishes us to cultivate the singing,

exultant heart; for that we all may have, even when we lack the singing lip.

We are to have much grief and pity, continual sorrow of heart, because of

the world’s sins, but it argues a great lack and a great loss if we have not

much joy because of God’s salvation. The exultation which comes from a

selfish use of the world and a selfish success must be put away, but only

that another and purer kind of exultation may take its place.

 

II. THE WARNING LEST THIS EXULTATION, WITH THE

CONSEQUENT EXPRESSION OF IT, SHOULD BE PRODUCED IN A

WRONG WAY. Three classes are spoken of — the wise, the strong, the

rich. Wise and strong by natural endowments; rich by the acquirement of

visible, tangible possessions. And wise, strong, and rich men may rejoice

and boast and sing when, perhaps, their feelings should rather tend to the

other extreme, of mourning and humiliation. A word on the warning to

each of these classes.

 

1. The wise. The existence of the wise man is recognized. A wise man is

not of necessity to be always contrasted with the foolish. He has a right to

the name of wise if his practical faculties of mind rise above the common

level. When such a one has shown himself foreseeing and cautious, patient

to wait when action would be hurtful, yet prompt to decide when decision

is necessary — when, in short, he has obtained a general reputation for

wisdom — it is then only mock-modesty for him to pretend that his gifts

are not beyond those of common men. Wisdom is the strength of the mind,

and the man who has it cannot be unconscious of it, any more than the man

strong in body can be unconscious of his strength. But this wisdom, while

it is to be used, disciplined, made the most of, is not a thing to glory in.

The more it is looked at, the more its limits will be seen. See how easily it

can be misused. It was said of Burke that he gave up to party what was

meant for mankind, although he would strenuously have maintained that,

through party, he got his best means for serving mankind. But of many it is

only too true that their great faculties of intellect, meant for the good of

men and the glory of God, have been deliberately given up to that which

hurts men. Wisdom, as wisdom, is not to be gloried in. It must be an

instrument in a higher hand before it can work out such a result as will fill

the contemplating mind with exultation and praise.

 

2. The strong. How much men admire strength — strength of body, or

strength to maintain and carry out some settled purpose! The young men

who contended in the Grecian games gloried in their strength, and so did

their kinsfolk and all the people who took pride in the land that produced

such. And yet glorying of this sort would not bear reflection. Assuredly it

could not endure in a renewed mind to think that the prize of victory had

been gotten by the defeat and humiliation of a brother man. Glorying in

strength means looking back on victories of brute violence, such victories

as Goliath was wont to rejoice in. Glorying in strength means sitting down

at the banquet with the bleed-stained conqueror, and singing of his

achievements amid the flush and insolence of wine. And it means also the

encouragement and the formation of similar hopes and purposes for the

future. Such feelings of glorying in mere strength the beast of prey may

have as he goes up and down in the forest, but they are not the feeling of a

man considering the possible range of his thoughts and aspirations. A

strong man must employ his strength usefully, recollecting that it was given

so that, with a devout and obedient mind in a strong body, he might serve

God in his day and generation.

 

3. The rich. Rich men glory in their wealth, and not without plausibility.

They find that it stands excellently well in the place of wisdom and

strength. They can buy the wisdom and the strength of others; and the

more freely they expend, the more also, in certain ways, they obtain. He

who professes to despise wealth never gets credit for sincerity; and yet it is

perfectly certain that those who profess to glory in this same wealth are

preparing for themselves, in one way or another, a terrible humiliation. Let

them lose their wealth, and they will waken to the discovery that they have

also lost their attractions. There is more to be said for glorying in one’s

wisdom and strength than in one’s external possessions; for the wisdom

and strength, whatever their shortcomings, are really a part of the man,

while the external possessions are little better than an accident.

 

III. MAN IS DIRECTED TO A CAUSE OF EXULTATION WHICH,

WITH THE UTMOST CONFIDENCE, HE MAY ALLOW TO

OPERATE FREELY ON HIS MIND. There is a song for man to sing

worthy of his highest powers — a song in which he may glory with respect

to himself, because he has become somewhat of that which he ought to be.

We are not allowed to sing exultingly and proudly of our own natural

powers, even if they were the powers of a Plato, a Shakespeare, or a

Newton; but there is a sure standing-place for us to exult lawfully in what

we have become. The least in the kingdom of heaven is greater than the

greatest born of women. We may always magnify humanity when we see

one of ourselves coming to a true knowledge of God. The peculiar

possibility of glory to man is that he is able to know his Maker.

Understand and know. Surely these words mean a great deal; one can

hardly put too much of meaning and encouragement into them. Through

Isaiah, Jehovah said, “The ox knoweth his owner, and the ass his master’s

crib: but Israel doth not know, my people doth not consider.” And yet, if

Israel will only consider and turn, it is capable of knowing God as no brute,

however docile, attentive, and faithful it be, can ever come to know its

master. The brute gives to its master a brute’s recognition; it does the

utmost its faculties enable it to do; but in coming to man we come to one

who can be so altered as to know God even as a child knows its father.

The true glory of the worst of men is that he can be regenerated. The

glory of the best of men is that he has been regenerated. The great end to be

aimed at is that every man should exult in his having been made a partaker

of the Divine nature. The more he thinks of his Savior, the more he will

glory in this — that he, in spite of all his spiritual ignorance and blindness,

has had in him a power to be so renewed and uplifted; that he has become

one of the exceeding great multitude, who owe eternal blessedness to the

work of Christ. To speak of the possibility of such glorying as comes from

the knowledge of God was a great matter in relation to these children of

Israel. They had fallen into the most appalling errors as to the character

and disposition of deity. They had come to have gods many — gods who

were the patrons of cruelty, rapacity, tyranny, injustice, lust, and

covetousness. They had to practice, as a matter of religion, things opposed

to those very things in which Jehovah here represents Himself as delighting.

What was required from them, therefore, was to listen humbly and

attentively to those prophetic expostulations which pointed towards light,

truth, redemption, and a new song to be put in their mouths by Jehovah

Himself. And a similar way is to be ours if we would be sure of glorying in

the Lord. The way of God in this matter is by the truth as it is in Jesus, and

into that way God’s Spirit must lead us, and keep us in it even to the end,

amid all the difficulties arising from the natural pride of human hearts.

 

The last two verses further enforce the doctrine that no outward privileges, if

dissociated from inward moral vitality, will avail.

 

25   “Behold, the days come, saith the LORD, that I will punish all them

which are circumcised with the uncircumcised;” - rather, all the circumcised

in uncircumcision, or, “all the uncircumcised-circumcised.” But what does

 this enigmatical expression signify?  It has a twofold meaning: that, as applied to

the Jews, it means circumcised in the flesh, but not in heart, and, as applied

to the heathen, simply uncircumcised (the one-half of the phrase neutralizing the

other, like “a knife without the blade,” “angels with horns and hoofs,” etc.).

The latter meaning, however, is surely very improbable, and it would only become

necessary if it were proved that circumcision was practiced by none of the nations

mentioned but the Jews. This is not the case. There is no doubt that the Egyptians

were circumcised in very early times (see the drawing of a bas-relief in the

Temple of Chunsu at Karnak, given by Dr. Ebers in his ‘Egypten und die

Bucher Meets’). The assertion that only the priests underwent the

operation has no older evidence than that of Origen (edit. Lommatzsch,

4:138), “in whose time it is quite possible that the Egyptians, like the later

Jews, sought to evade a peculiarity which exposed them to ridicule and

contempt.” As to the Ammonites and Moabites, we have, unfortunately, no

information. With regard to the Edomites, it is true that, according to

Josephus (‘Antiq.,’ 13:9, 1), they were compelled to accept circumcision

by John Hyrcanus. But it is still quite possible that, at an earlier period, the

rite was practiced, just as it was among the ancient Arabs, the evidence for

which is beyond question (see the writer’s article, “Circumcision,” in

Encyclopaedia Britannica, 9th edit.). (On the statement that “all these [the]

nations are uncircumcised,” see below.)

 

26   “Egypt, and Judah, and Edom, and the children of Ammon, and

Moab, and all that are in the utmost corners, that dwell in the

wilderness:” All that are in the utmost corners; rather, all that are

corner-clipped; i.e. that have the hair cut off about the ears and temples.

Herodotus tells us, speaking of the Arabs, “Their practice is to cut the hair

in a ring, away from the temples” (3:8); and among the representatives of

various nations, colored figures of whom are given in the tomb of Rameses

III., we find some with a square place shaved just above the temples. The

hair below this shaven place was allowed to grow long, and then plaited

into a lock. It is to such customs that Jeremiah alludes here and in ch.25:23;

49:32. A prohibition is directed against them in the Levitical Law (Leviticus 1

9:27; 21:5).  for all these nations are uncircumcised, and all the

house of Israel are uncircumcised in the heart.” -  rather, all the nations.

Another obscure expression.  Does it mean (taken together with the following

clause), “The Gentile peoples are uncircumcised in the flesh, and the

 people of Israel is equally so in heart?” But this does not agree with facts

(see above, on v. 25). It is safer, therefore, to assume that “uncircumcised” is

equivalent to“circumcised in uncircumcision (v. 25). The next clause will

then simply give the most conspicuous instance of this unspiritual obedience to

a mere form.

 

 

 

                                    Impartial Justice (vs. 25-26)

 

I. SPECIAL PRIVILEGES DO NOT INTERFERE  WITH THE

IMPARTIAL EXERCISE OF DIVINE JUSTICE. Judah is specially

privileged, and prizes circumcision as a seal of the peculiar favor of Heaven

(Genesis 17:9-14). Yet Judah must take its place in the indiscriminate

catalogue of corrupt nations. If privileges are noted in God’s exercise of

justice, this can only be as an aggravation of guilt. The citizens of favored

nations, the heirs of rank and wealth, persons whose lives have been

peculiarly successful and unvisited with the usual amount of trouble, all

stand in this position. Their present happy condition is no guarantee for

favor in the day of Divine judgment, but, on the contrary, a reason for

regarding the ingratitude of sin as, in their case, the more culpable.

 

II. THE OBSERVANCE OF EXTERNAL ORDINANCES HAS NO

INFLUENCE ON THE IMPARTIAL EXERCISE OF DIVINE JUSTICE.

Their utility is solely as regards their effect on men. They are profitable

only in so far as they assist the corresponding spiritual acts, which are all

that God takes note of (Colossians 2:11). The circumcised in body who

are not circumcised in heart will suffer just as if they had never been

circumcised at all. The ordinance without the spirituality is an offence

rather than a pleasing thing. It shows knowledge; it is a mockery to God.

This must be so:

 

(1) because God is spirit, and can only be served spiritually; and

(2) because the highest justice is concerned with thoughts, motives, deeds

of the soul, rather than with the ambiguous actions of the outer life.

 

III. NO EXCEPTIONS WILL BE MADE TO THE IMPARTIAL

EXERCISE OF DIVINE JUSTICE. All kinds of nations are classed

together. Cultivated Egyptians and wild Arabs, scrupulous Jews and

idolatrous Ammonites, all come before the same judgment-bar, all have the

same fair trial-and righteous sentence.

 

1. The heathen are not excluded from Gods judgment; for

 

(a) He is the God of all the earth, and of those who ignore Him as well

as of those who recognize Him;

(b) the heathen have a light of nature and a conscience by which to guide

their conduct;  (Romans 2)

(c) God’s judgment is reasonable, and can adapt requirement to

opportunity, so that the heathen will have as just treatment as those who

are more privileged.

 

2. The Jews and professedly religious are not excluded. Many people

make an utterly unwarrantable assumption that their respectability,

position in the Church, etc., are such that the stern ordeal of the

judgment is not for them. In His vision of judgment Christ made no such exceptions (Matthew 25:31-46).

 

 

 

 

                        Whereof to Glory. (vs. 23-26)

 

One annot understand these prophecies without a knowledge of

the history of the times. This is true of all prophecies, and especially of

these. Therefore we will glance at such history as we proceed. Note:

 

I. THE GLORYING THAT IS CONDEMNED.

 

1. That of the wise man in his wisdom. The statesmen of Jeremiah’s days

had been thus glorying. They had prided themselves in their political

sagacity. For many years they had formed alliances, now with one power

and now with another. And they seemed to have managed well, for, for

nearly a whole century, Judah had been, though so weak a power and so

valuable a prize, left unattacked. Therefore no wonder that the wise men

gloried in their wisdom. But now political trouble was beginning again.

Egypt had become a great power, and was warring against Assyria. In this

war the king Josiah sided with Assyria, and was slain in the battle of

Megiddo. Thus they were without their king, and compelled to ally

themselves with Egypt and to share in her fortunes, which to the eye of the

prophet were the reverse of bright. Great troubles were drawing near, and it is in view of them that Jeremiah says, “Let not the wise man glory

in his wisdom.”

 

2. The strong in their strength. The army of Judah was large, their fortressof Jerusalem was all but impregnable, but Jeremiah saw that all this would not avail. Their utter overthrow was fast hastening on. The great Babylonian power which had absorbed the Assyrian should accomplish this. Hence the word, “Let not the strong mighty man glory in his might.”

 

3. The rich in their riches. The long continuance of peace had enabled the nation to accumulate vast wealth. But this only made them yet more an

object of desire to their approaching invaders. Their wealth was their woe.

 

4. The children of Abraham in the covenant, of which circumcision was the sign (vs. 25-26). From the time of Hezekiah’s reformation until the time when Jeremiah wrote, Judah and Jerusalem had professed the ancient faith. The temple service had gone on, the sacrifices offered, etc. There had been a short, sad interval during Manasseh’s reign. But so far as profession went they had been worshippers of God. And of late years Josiah’s reformation had led to still louder profession. And in this profession we know they trusted very implicitly (compare Jeremiah ch. 7). But it had not preserved them from  the Divine displeasure in days gone by, nor in the present, nor would it in days to come. For beneath all this profession the moral and spiritual condition of the nation was most evil. Even in Hezekiah’s day Isaiah had told the people that, in spite of all their profession, “the whole head was sick,” (Isaiah 1:5). And that this was so was shown by the readiness with which they followed Manasseh in his idolatries, and joined in the persecution of the faithful servants of God. And when Manasseh repented, and there was again an external profession, it was scarcely any better. But the monstrous conduct of Amon, who “sinned more and more,” made the people desire the old ways. Hence, when Josiah came to the throne, they were prepared for his reforms. But again it was only a change of custom, not of character; outward, but not inward. Jeremiah sought to help forward

a true reformation, for it was indeed needed (see his description of the

moral condition of the people, vs. 2-8 here).  Hence it was that

he told them their circumcision was no better than uncircumcision. Apply

all this to ourselves:

 

(a) As a nation. We have all these several advantages above named: wise

statesmen, great strength, vast wealth, universal religious profession; but

all these, apart from moral and spiritual worth, will go for nothing. It is

“righteousness,” and that alone, that exalteth a nation.”   “Sin ia

a reproach to any people.”  (Proverbs 14:34)

 

(b) As individuals. We are not to despise any of these things. They are

God’s good gifts; but they will not save us. We may not glory in them as a sure safeguard.

 

II. WHEREOF WE MAY AND SHOULD GLORY. (Compare v. 24.) This

means that them should be:

 

1. Intellectual apprehension of the truth in regard to God. His character is

shown:

 

(1) In His exercise of loving-kindness. (Psalm 63:3) It is well to be open-eyed to the many and varied proofs of this — in creation, providence, redemption,

grace. And it is well to be able to trace these proofs and to show that God

is good.

 

(2) In His exercising judgment. He has given proofs of this also, and that is

but a partial and therefore most misleading theology that shuts out of view

the sterner aspects of the Divine Father. As in Christ we see most of all

how God exercises loving-kindness, so too in Him we may see the sure

warnings of His judgment. If they do these things in a green tree, what

shall be done in the dry?” (Luke 23:31)  “If the righteous scarcely be saved, where  shall the ungodly and sinner appear?  (I  Peter 4:18)

 

(3) In His exercise of righteousness. How full the proofs of this also! How

manifest in Christ, His teachings, life, death, His Spirit’s work now, etc.!

Now, it is most desirable to understand all this, for the mind to grasp these

sure truths. Too much of the religiousness of the day is weak, flaccid,

unstable, because there is wanting knowledge and understanding in the

truth. We are apt to be satisfied with an emotional religion, with the play of

feeling and the outgoing of the affections. But for all this to be reliable we

must understand as well as feel.

 

2. In that he knowethas well as understandeth. This is more than to

understand. For “to know” continually means, in Bible language, to

approve, to be in sympathy with, to delight in, etc. (compare I will not know a

wicked person” (Psalm 101:4)  “The Lord knoweth the way of the righteous”

(ibid. ch. 1:6_  This is life eternal, to know thee the only true God, and Jesus

Christ, wh om thou hast sent.  John 17:3). And so here to know God is to have

moral sympathy, personal experience, inward approval and delight in

regard to God. He who thus understandeth and knoweth God hath

“whereof to glory.” The prophet desired that his people might have this

glorying, for this would save them, whilst all the other things in which they

gloried but left them to perish. Appeal to all who profess religion and who

instruct others, Can you thus glory? Do you understand? Better still, Do

you know God in His loving-kindness, judgment, righteousness?

 

 

 

 

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