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MAN PURPOSES, GOD DISPOSES
‘The word which came unto Jeremiah from the Lord.’
I. The King’s anxious question.—It was the last extremity of the siege when Zedekiah sent this message to Jeremiah. His people and he had postponed their compliance with the warnings and invitations of God’s love till the last possible hour, and now they were more eager for immunity from the consequences of their sins than to repent and to return to God. The answer was immediate, that matters must now be allowed to take their course. It was, however, added that even now all who dared to act in faith and go out to the besiegers would save their lives.
What a test of faith was here! It seemed as though it were worth while to risk everything and stay in the city rather than venture out to those terrible hosts that were gathered around. But there was no alternative. To stay in the city was certain death, to go forth into what seemed certain death would secure life.
Men may reach a certain point in wrong-doing, when the disasters their sins have courted are inevitable. As they have sown, they must reap. As they have set the rocks rolling, they must see the devastation wrought on their homes. And yet even then there is a way of escape. Dare to trust God: do what seems most foolish, most likely to land in still greater disaster, because He bids it; be guided by His word.
II. The prophet’s unwelcome answer.—It must have cost Jeremiah a great deal before his timid, sensitive nature could become the mouthpiece of such an unwelcome message to his king and people, in the hour of their dire extremity. But there is always a great need for such a ministry.
(1) To the unconverted.—Of what use are appeals to come to Jesus until the sinner sees the awful peril which he is incurring? Of what avail to extol the balm of Gilead until the sin-sick soul has heard the diagnosis of its fatal condition? The sailor will not take to the life-belt till he is sure his ship is doomed. One of the most important ministries of the servant of God is to destroy false confidence, pull down refuges of lies, and show the utter hopelessness of any efforts to win acceptance with God save through the finished work of Christ.
(2) To those who lack assurance.—When men say that they are believing in Christ, but lack assurance, it very often happens that they have not repaired certain past wrongs. At such times there is room for a deep searching and probing, which will reveal the hidden impediment to the gushing forth of the imprisoned brook.
(3) To those who seek the higher attainments of the Divine life.—As our obedience grows, our light will grow; and as our light grows, we shall see wrong things where before we deemed ourselves without offence. We should gratefully accept any ministry which ploughs up the fallow ground, disinters buried secrets, and leads us through the grave to the best life.
‘King Zedekiah sends word to Jeremiah, that the Lord is to do according to all His miracles, that Nebuchadnezzar may withdraw. A demand rather cavalierly made in such evil circumstances. But the noble are so unfortunate! It is indeed as though it only depended on them to arrange matters with God; as if He were only waiting for them, as if it were a point of honour not to be over-hasty, but first to await a little extremity.… It is a very necessary observance for a servant of the Lord, that he try his superiors, whether there is any trace remaining in them of having been once baptized, well brought up and instructed in the fear of the Lord. If he observe anything of this kind, he must insist upon it, and especially not allow them to deal too familiarly with the Judge of all the earth, but plainly demonstrate to them their insufficiency and nothingness, if they measure themselves by Him. Though Zedekiah had spoken so superficially, Jeremiah answered him without hesitation, definitely and positively, and accustomed him to a different manner of dealing with the Lord.’
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Nisbet, James. "Commentary on Jeremiah 21". Church Pulpit Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/
the Week of Proper 23 / Ordinary 28