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CHAPTER SEVEN FAMINE - TEMPORAL AND SPIRITUAL
(Chaps. 14, 15)
Of old, when the Lord "led Jacob like a flock," and brought the people of His love out of the cruel bondage of Egypt, He set before them blessing and cursing, life and death, good and evil. Earthly prosperity and honor were to accompany fidelity to GOD. No foe could harm, no drought afflict, no famine or sickness decimate Israel, so long as they were careful to obey the word of the Lord and walk according to His statutes. On the other hand, all these sore trials should certainly follow in the wake of indifference to GOD and rebellion against His Word.
It is therefore quite in harmony with His ways that we find the people of Judah in great distress for lack of food and water.
The real famine was within. The outward misery was but the reflection of the moral state. Deeply touching, and highly poetical too, is the seer's description of the desolation wrought in the land:
"Judah mourneth, and the gates thereof languish; they are black unto the ground; and the cry of Jerusalem is gone up. And their nobles have sent their little ones to the waters: they came to the pits, and found no water; they returned with their vessels empty; they were ashamed and confounded, and covered their heads. Because the ground is chapt, for there was no rain in the earth, the plowmen were ashamed, they covered their heads. Yea, the hind also calved in the field, and forsook it, because there was no grass. And the wild asses did stand in the high places, they snuffed up the wind like dragons; their eyes did fail, because there was no grass" (Jeremiah 14:2-6).
The language is most pathetic, the condition of the people heartrending. The children cried, with parched tongue and fever-cracked lips, for drink; but there was no water to be had.
They went in vain, at the behest of the hopeless nobles, to the dry wells. There was no refreshment there. All farming operations were at a standstill. No rain meant no crops and no food. The very beasts of the field shared in the general desolation. The hind, tenderest of animals, forsook her offspring "because there was no grass;" (Jeremiah 14:5) the eyes of the wild asses failed as they looked for a few spears of herbage.
There was no yearly overflowing river for Canaan. "It was a land that drank water of the rain of heaven;" a land that the Lord watched over continually. He it was who gave refreshing showers in abundance, or who withheld according to the state of His people.
The river of Mizraim might flow on unceasingly, and flood its valley year by year, let the condition of the Egyptians be as it would, but it was otherwise in the land of the Lord. And we may learn from this to-day. Men of the world are often allowed to prosper despite utter ungodliness. Alas, they are lifted up on high to fall more terribly in the end!
On the other hand, the children of GOD are under His special care, and "whom the Lord loveth He chasteneth" (or disciplineth) (Hebrews 12:6) for their eternal good. The sheep of CHRIST have not wool so thick but that if they wander from the Shepherd's side they feel every cold blast of this world. A Christian out of communion must pass under the rod.
To Israel it was said, "You only have I known of all the families of the earth; therefore will I punish you for your iniquities." (Amos 3:2) The principle is the same for us now.
In the next three verses Jeremiah again takes the place of the mediator, and tenderly pleads for those who were called by the name of the Lord. He acknowledges their sin as his own. It is "our iniquities," "our backslidings," and "we have sinned." Merit he does not plead; but "for Thy name's sake" is his cry. (Jeremiah 14:7)
“O the hope of Israel, the saviour thereof in time of trouble, why shouldest Thou be as a stranger in the land, and as a wayfaring man that turneth aside to tarry for a night? Why shouldest Thou be as a man astonied, as a mighty man that cannot save? Yet Thou, O Lord, art in the midst of us, and we are called by Thy name; leave us not" (Jeremiah 14:8-9).
The grief of the prophet, and yet his implicit faith in the Lord, alike stir the soul. He who would have delighted to show mercy to His people had become as a visiting stranger, so far as their realization of His presence was concerned. In the rejected One, however, is the only "hope of Israel." (Jeremiah 14:8)
He had not actually withdrawn Himself. The Shekinah was still in the temple. His abode "in the midst" (Jeremiah 14:9) of them though unrecognized and unsought by the mass.
His answer is, "Thus have they loved to wander, they have not refrained their feet, therefore the Lord doth not accept them; He will now remember their iniquity, and visit their sins" (Jeremiah 14:10). It was impossible that the Holy One could go on with iniquity. Judgment must begin at the house of GOD. He loved them too much to let them take their own way with impunity. So He says, "Pray not for this people for their good." (Jeremiah 14:11)
In the New Testament we read, "There is a sin unto death: I do not say that he shall pray for it" (1 John 5:16). If chastisement is despised, and the Spirit of grace insulted, there comes a time when it is too late for supplication or entreaty. As a last act of GOD's holy government, the erring one is cut off, and the case left for the Judgment Seat of CHRIST.
- We have examples of this in Ananias and Sapphira, both of them cut off in their transgression.
- So with some in the Corinthian assembly that dishonored the Lord at His table in the memorial Supper. The Holy Spirit says, "For this cause many are weak and sickly among you, and many sleep." (1 Corinthians 11:30)
- And so it was with Israel in the case before us.
It was too late for grace alone to be exercised. They must know to the full the government of GOD. Neither fasting nor offerings would be of any avail to turn aside the sword, the famine, and the pestilence (Jeremiah 14:12).
Jeremiah, however, continues to plead; and now on the ground that the people had been misled by false prophets, who had spoken smooth things, and thus led their hearers to suppose that sin was a light thing. For answer, the Lord tells him these evil teachers shall bear their judgment, and be consumed with the rest; but this cannot free their followers, who delighted in them because of their own wicked desires. "If the blind lead the blind, both shall fall into the ditch!" (Matthew 15:14)
In these verses what a solemn picture we have of Christendom as we know it!
Satan's ministers turning their hearers away from the truth unto fables! Wolves in sheep's clothing posing as servants of CHRIST, yet shaking the confidence of the simple in the truth and authority of the Scriptures, ridiculing and assailing the great and holy truths of the atonement and the eternal judgment awaiting those who trample underfoot the blood of CHRIST! But alas, the listeners will fall in the doom of the preachers! Wanting smooth things, they refuse the truth when presented to them, and cling to deceivers from sheer love of sin. Together they shall "perish in the gainsaying of Core" (Jude 1:11).
The pathos of the balance of the chapter is beyond description. The prophet, broken-hearted, is inconsolable. He forms one of a trio, with Moses and Paul, who could all alike be cut off themselves if their people might but be saved.
The famine and the sword were doing their deadly work in city and field, and there was no healing. So stirred is his soul that he cannot but continue his agonized intercession: "Do not abhor us, for Thy name's sake; do not disgrace the throne of Thy glory: remember, break not Thy covenant with us" (Jeremiah 14:21).
It is like Joshua's cry of old, "The Egyptians will hear of it."
But when the people of GOD dishonor Him by their lives, He will not spare needed discipline, even though the uncircumcised glory over Him. Better that "the cause of Christ" be disgraced before the world than that His people be permitted to go on in sin. GOD will vindicate His name in His own way and time.
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Ironside, H. A. "Commentary on Jeremiah 14". Ironside's Notes on Selected Books. https://www.studylight.org/
Eve of Ascension