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"The sin of Judah," they are told, "is written with a pen of iron, and with the point of a diamond: it is graven upon the table of their heart, and upon the horns of your altars" (Jeremiah 17:1).
This tells the awful tale in a very pronounced way. Their sin was written down where the blood of atonement should have, been. This was why there must be unsparing judgment. GOD had ordained that for the sin of a priest, or of the whole congregation, the sacrificial blood should be put upon the horns of the golden altar, the altar of sweet incense, to make atonement for it, that their fellowship with Himself might be maintained. (See Leviticus 4:7; Leviticus 4:18).
If a ruler, or one of the common people, sinned, the blood was to be put upon the horns of the brazen altar, the altar of burnt offering, that all might know the sin had not caused the Lord to give up the sinner, but to provide a righteous ground to forgive him. (See Leviticus 4:25; Leviticus 4:30).
Alas! in the times of Jeremiah, while the offerings of the Lord were neglected, the offerings of the false gods of the nations were smoking under almost every green tree. Therefore His holy eye sees - not the blood that was ordained to speak of the sacrifice of His beloved Son, but sees the sin of guilty Israel graven upon their hearts and upon the horns of their altars! Therefore the Lord's "Mountain in the field" (Jeremiah 17:3) - Jerusalem - where He had set His Name, the place where His honor dwelt, should be given, with all its treasures, for a spoil and a prey to their enemies, while their high places should be given up to sin in all their borders (Jeremiah 17:3).
It was not that He delighted in judgment, but that they had themselves given up all title to their inheritance. By turning aside from the commandments of the Lord and ignoring the appointed offerings and the sprinkling of blood, they had forfeited all claim to their land. They must be carried away to a country wherein they should be strangers; for He could say, "Ye have kindled a fire in Mine anger, which shall burn forever" (Jeremiah 17:4).
Such is ever man's history when placed in a position of responsibility.
From Adam in Eden, to a world blessed under Messiah in the Millennium, one word gives his story - failure.
He cannot be depended upon. "Cursed be the man that trusteth in man, and maketh flesh his arm, and whose heart departeth from the Lord. For he shall be like the heath in the desert, and shall not see when good cometh; but shall inhabit the parched places in the wilderness, in a salt land and not inhabited" (Jeremiah 17:5-24.17.6).
Israel's history, as well as that of all the race, should surely teach one the important lesson of "no confidence in the flesh." (Philippians 3:3) But alas with most, one at least is considered trustworthy, even one's self.
"Blessed is the man that trusteth in the Lord, and whose hope the Lord is. For he shall be as a tree planted by the waters, and that spreadeth out her roots by the river, and shall not see when heat cometh, but her leaf shall be green; and shall not be careful in the year of drought, neither shall cease from yielding fruit" (Jeremiah 17:7-24.17.8).
This is the blessed man of the first Psalm - the man whose food is the Word of GOD, whose confidence is in the Lord alone - the perfect example of which is our Lord Himself. How little do we, who know Him as our Saviour, practically follow Him in this! When all goes well it is easy to deceive ourselves and think that we are trusting in the Lord, when in reality we are resting on an arm of flesh. The time of trial proves where our confidence really is. "If thou faint in the day of adversity, thy strength is small." (Proverbs 24:10)
But "the heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked;" (Jeremiah 17:9) and GOD Himself asks, "Who can know it?" He answers it by saying, "I the Lord search the heart. I try the reins" (Jeremiah 17:9-24.17.10). The deceitful heart is what all men have by nature - the depravity resultant upon the fall. In Isaiah 44:20 we read that "a deceived heart hath turned him aside;" and in Deuteronomy 11:16 Moses warns against the heart being deceived. In these passages, however, it is not the condition of man by nature, but the result rather of listening to the suggestions of the devil - the arch-deceiver. All have a deceitful heart: those only have deceived hearts who are not subject to the Word of GOD. He who tries the reins and searches the heart is going to give to every man according to the fruit of his doings. "Whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap." (Galatians 6:7) It is vain to fight against the government of GOD, for "as the partridge sitteth on eggs and hatcheth them not, so he that getteth riches, and not by right, shall leave them in the midst of his days, and at his end shall be a fool" (Jeremiah 17:11).
The Lord's throne is high and glorious; yea, He is the high and lofty One that inhabiteth eternity. All men are but as the small dust of the balance before Him. "They that depart from Me," He says, "shall be written in the earth" (Jeremiah 17:13). What a vivid light this casts upon the striking scene in the eighth of John! There, when the scribes and Pharisees brought to JESUS the poor woman taken in adultery, He stooped down and wrote upon the ground. In their lofty pride they pressed Him for judgment. He, looking into man's heart, bade the one without sin among them cast the first stone, and once more stooped down to write them in the earth - the sentence of death is upon them all! Feeling the exposure of His Word, they went forth from the convicting light of His presence one by one, leaving the sinner alone with the Saviour.
In Psalms 22:15 the Lord says, "Thou hast brought Me into the dust of death." "Death," says the apostle, "passed upon all men because all have sinned" (Romans 5:12). The Lord in grace stooped to the dust of death to save all who turn to GOD in repentance. Those who refuse His grace must be "written in the earth;" that is, they are appointed to death from which they might have been saved had they but accepted the Lord JESUS as their Deliverer from the wrath to come. He is "the fountain of living waters," (Jeremiah 17:13) where all who will may drink and have life forevermore.
Jeremiah 17:14 is the prophet's cry, voicing their need of GOD's salvation - “Heal me, O Lord, and I shall be healed; save me, and I shall be saved: for Thou art My praise."
Alas, they only scoff and cry, "Where is the word of the Lord? let it come now" (Jeremiah 17:15). It is the taunt of skepticism. As for Jeremiah, he has no unholy anxiety to see his prophecies of doom fulfilled. He had not desired the woeful day. His own inclinations had not led him assume the role of a prophet, but GOD was witness that what he had given utterance to had been in sincerity as it was revealed to him.
The Lord was his hope in the day of evil, when his adversaries would be confounded and dismayed.
It may seem, at first sight, like a break chain of thought as we pass from what has just been claiming our attention to the paragraph relative to the Sabbath with which this portion of the prophecy is concluded. It should be remembered, however, that the Sabbath was the weekly memorial of Israel's covenant relation with the Lord. It was to be kept sacred as a perpetual reminder of their deliverance from Egyptian bondage (Deuteronomy 5:15); and it pointed forward to the final rest, when, all man's labor ended, the redeemed should enter into the undisturbed bliss of the new creation (Leviticus 23:3). Therefore the state of the people was ever manifested by the estimation in which they held the Lord's holy day. If they "called the Sabbath a delight," (Isaiah 58:13) and rejoiced in its privileges, there was good evidence that their hearts were true to Himself. If on that day they did their own pleasure and neglected the ordinances of the law relative thereto, no further proof need be sought as to their wretched state.
In order to bring this out beyond controversy, Jeremiah is bidden to go and stand in the gate (the place of judgment) and cry in the hearing of the king and all the inhabitants of Jerusalem, as they passed in or out of the city, "Hear ye the Word of the Lord. . . Take heed to yourselves, and bear no burden on the Sabbath day, nor bring it in by the gates of Jerusalem; neither carry forth a burden out of your houses on the Sabbath day, neither do ye any work, but hallow ye the Sabbath day, as I commanded your fathers" (Jeremiah 17:19-24.17.22).
This summons as to the Sabbath would be a reminder of GOD's past deliverance and future promise. But man prefers his useless labor. "They obeyed not, neither inclined their ear," (Jeremiah 17:23) but deliberately turned away from hearing the message and refused the instruction.
Even at this late day they were promised a continuance of the divine favor if they thus returned to GOD, and manifested their subjection to Him by hallowing the seventh day. From all the cities of Judah and Benjamin the people should throng to Jerusalem as in the days of old, and once more sacrifices and offerings should be accepted by the Lord at their hands. But if they persisted in their refusal to hearken unto Him, then the city, with all its palaces, should be utterly consumed. Surely never were a people more tenderly entreated or more faithfully warned; but the "evil heart of unbelief in departing from the living God," (Hebrews 3:12) was in them. Entreaties and commands alike had but fallen on ears willfully closed-bent, as it were, on their own destruction!
It is easy enough to censure them; but oh, reader, let us examine our own ways, and ask ourselves whether we too may not be refusing Him who now speaks to us both by their example and by His Word. Departure from GOD and coldness of heart are the order of the day. The last great apostasy is fast hastening on. The Scriptures of truth are being readily surrendered at the behests of a host of veneered infidels who, parading as Christian ministers, are decrying every fundamental truth of the Bible.
~ end of chapter 8 ~
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Ironside, H. A. "Commentary on Jeremiah 17". Ironside's Notes on Selected Books. https://www.studylight.org/
the Second Week after Epiphany