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SIN WHERE THE BLOOD SHOULD BE!
(Chaps. 16, 17)
In the portion of the "Word of the Lord" which now claims our attention, we no longer hear the tender supplication of the seer on behalf of Judah. He pleaded unweariedly while there seemed to be hope of averting the threatened disaster. But there was no repentance on the part of the people, and the holiness of GOD's character demanded that sin, in those so closely linked with His Name, be not passed over lightly.
The present section is a solemn indictment on His part showing why His hand must be against them, however much His heart may still be for them.
The prophet is bidden to refrain from marriage, for connubial bliss was not to be thought of under the present sad conditions. Children born in such circumstances were only being introduced into a scene of sorrow and grief, with the prospect of an unlamented death before them (Jeremiah 16:1-4). Parents and offspring alike would be involved in the general ruin.
He is neither to go to the house of mourning nor to the house of feasting.
In neither are GOD's judgments owned, nor His Word bowed to. Why should he go to join the general lamentation when the mind of the Lord had been clearly revealed? "For I have taken away My peace from this people, saith the Lord, even lovingkindness and mercies" (Jeremiah 16:5). To seek to comfort them in their hardness of heart would be but to turn aside the keenness of the chastisement. He must leave them severely alone. They were in the hand of GOD.
The same thing comes out in the New Testament in connection with discipline in the assembly. Wicked persons are to be withdrawn from and put away from the company of the saints.
The moment there is brokenness of spirit manifested, the compassions of those who are spiritually-minded will at once flow forth; but in any way to condone or encourage persons persisting in ungodliness, and under the Lord's discipline, is only to hinder restoration and blessing.
It is evident from Jeremiah 16:6 that many heathen customs were being regularly practiced by the people of Judah. The announcement that none should "cut themselves, nor make themselves bald" for the dead, would not have been made had it not been practiced; that was a plain defiance of Deuteronomy 14:1-2:
"Ye are children of the Lord your God: ye shall not cut yourselves, nor make any baldness between your eyes for the dead. For thou art a holy people unto the Lord thy God, and the Lord hath chosen thee to be a peculiar people unto Himself, above all the nations that are upon the earth."
Alas, that the Lord's "peculiar people" should have so far corrupted themselves as to have fallen into the most degrading practices of the pagan nations about them! So true is it that "evil communications corrupt good manners." The cutting themselves and making baldness were in honor of heathen deities, notably Baal, the sun-god, who was worshiped under various names.
"Neither shall men tear themselves for them in mourning, to comfort them for the dead; neither shall men give them the cup of consolation to drink for their father or for their mother" (Jeremiah 16:7) This is the first mention in sacred Scripture of drinking a cup of consolation in remembrance of the departed. The Lord JESUS instituted such a feast on that "same night in which He was betrayed." (1 Corinthians 11:23) He gave new significance to the breaking of bread by declaring that it set forth the bruising of His precious body for our sin upon the cross of shame; while the cup became to us "the cup of blessing," even "the communion of the blood of Christ," (1 Corinthians 10:16) "shed for many for the remission of sins." (Matthew 26:28)
It is clear that to have had no one break bread nor drink the cup of consolation in memory of one who had died would have betokened utter forgetfulness .. So our Lord has said, "This do, for the keeping of Me in mind" (literal rendering). Well may our hearts respond -
"With joy and sorrow mingling,
We will remember Thee."
Jeremiah is to join in no memorial feasts, nor yet in seasons of mirth. In the grief and the joy of the people he can have no part. He is forbidden to go into "the house of feasting, to sit with them to eat and to drink. For thus saith the Lord of hosts, the God of Israel: Behold, I will cause to cease out of this place in your eyes, and in your days, the voice of mirth, and the voice of gladness, the voice of the bridegroom, and the voice of the bride" (Jeremiah 16:8-9). So stupefied and insensate had they become that, like their children in the days of Messiah, though mourned unto, they lamented not; though piped unto, they danced not. Neither their joy nor their sorrow led to a recognition of the One who was dealing with them in these various ways; hence their grief should only become deeper, and their laughter be turned into anguish of heart.
It was quite to be expected that, when "all these words" (Jeremiah 16:10) were proclaimed, so seared would be their consciences, that they would ask, "Wherefore hath the Lord pronounced all this great evil against us? or what is our iniquity? or what is our sin that we have committed against the Lord our God?" (Jeremiah 16:10).
The hardening effect of sin is one of its appalling results. Even "when the Son of Man shall come in His glory," and "shall sit upon the throne of His glory," (Matthew 25:31) and all nations be gathered before Him, there will be those who, with amazing effrontery, shall ask, "When saw we Thee ahungered, or athirst, or a stranger, or naked, or sick, or in prison, and did not minister unto Thee?" (Matthew 25:44) while conscious of the fact that they had neglected His servants and His Word all their days.
Jeremiah's reply to the gainsayers is that their fathers had ever been characterized by disobedience to GOD, and they had outdone them by far; therefore they were to be cast out of their land. They had walked after other gods in Canaan: now they should be carried away to the countries where these false deities were especially recognized, and there they should "serve other gods day and night" (Jeremiah 16:11-13).
Their casting off, however, shall not be forever. "He that scattered Israel shall gather him." (Jeremiah 31:10) Just as He of old brought them up from the land of Egypt, so shall it be said in the near future, "The Lord liveth, that brought up the children of Israel out of the land of Egypt, and from all the lands whither He had driven them." and He adds, "I will bring them again into their land that I gave unto their fathers" (Jeremiah 16:14-15).
For centuries "the tribe of the wandering foot" have proved the truth of His Word in regard to their dispersion; and the prophecies relating to their return and restoration shall be as literally carried out. The going up from Babylon, in the days of Ezra and Nehemiah, in no complete sense fulfilled this promise. A few thousand, a mere handful, were brought back at that time, only to be scattered again with their rejection of CHRIST.
When the "times of restitution of all things, spoken of by the prophets" (Acts 3:21) shall have come, Israel shall then be saved; as it is written, "There shall come out of Sion the Deliverer, and shall turn away ungodliness from Jacob: for this is My covenant unto them, when I shall take away their sins" (Romans 11:26-27). Meantime it is the "times of the Gentiles;" (Luke 21:24) the "holy city" is trodden by the Gentiles; blindness is fallen upon Israel "until the fulness of the Gentiles be come in." (Romans 11:25)
This is the universal testimony of the prophets, strangely overlooked by multitudes who, it is to be feared, read their Bibles to find confirmation for theories of their own, in place of reading in the fear of GOD, to get His mind.
It is interesting to notice how complete the ingathering is to be in the latter day - yet only after the people have passed through the last and great tribulation by which the godly and faithful ones are manifested, and the unrepentant apostate part of the nation cut off.
Jeremiah 16:16-18 tell of this:
"Behold, I will send for many fishers, saith the Lord, and they shall fish them; and after I will send for many hunters, and they shall hunt them from every mountain, and from every hill, and out of the holes of the rocks. For Mine eyes are upon all their ways: they are not hid from My face, neither is their iniquity hid from Mine eyes. And first I will recompense their iniquity and their sin double; because they have defiled My land, they have filled Mine inheritance with the carcases of their detestable and abominable things."
From every corner of the earth GOD will seek out His "lost sheep of the house of Israel" (Matthew 15:24) and bring them back to their land. Many return in unbelief, and judgment will be visited accordingly; but the result will be the reestablishment of the repentant remnant in the home of their fathers, and the rebuilding of the tabernacle of David. During all their wanderings His "eyes are upon all their ways." (Jeremiah 16:17) This is most strikingly brought out in the little book of Esther, where He is found watching over and caring for them even though unrecognized and unsought. *
* For an exposition of this interesting and instructive portion of Scripture the reader is referred to "Notes on the Book of Esther," by the same writer.
Do these lines meet the eye of a tried and distressed saint who has been tempted by Satan to believe that GOD has forgotten and cares not for him? Surely the words are as true of every Christian as of every Israelite, "Mine eyes are Upon all their ways." (Jeremiah 16:17)
Oh, look up, dear doubting one, and faint not beneath the chastening of the Lord! for His eyes never lose sight of you for one moment, and His heart is ever concerned about you. He is taking careful note of all your circumstances, and "He hath said, I will never leave thee nor forsake thee." (Hebrews 13:5) Sweet it is to trust where all is dark, and to sing with childlike faith, "My times are in Thy hand!" (Psalms 31:15)
Israel's enlargement shall result in blessing for the nations too:
"For if the fall of them be the riches of the world, and the diminishing of them the riches of the Gentiles; how much more their fulness?" and "if the casting away of them be the reconciling of the world, what shall the receiving of them be but life from the dead?" (Romans 11:12; Romans 11:15).
So we are told in Jeremiah 16:19-21 that the Gentiles shall come to restored Israel and to Israel's GOD saying, "Surely our fathers have inherited lies, vanity, and things wherein is no profit." (Jeremiah 16:19)
Turning to the only true GOD in confession and repentance, He will make them to know Himself.
The prophet gets but a glimpse of that day of glory, as if the Lord would cheer the weak heart of His servant by rolling back the dark clouds for a moment and giving him a sight of Messiah's reign when He shall, as the Sun of Righteousness, arise with healing in His wings. Jeremiah must now return to the sterner business of showing the people their iniquity.
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Text Courtesy of BibleSupport.com. Used by Permission.
Ironside, H. A. "Commentary on Jeremiah 16". Ironside's Notes on Selected Books. https://www.studylight.org/
the Third Week after Epiphany