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Jeremiah, the Wailing Prophet
The ten tribes of Israel had passed into captivity before God called Jeremiah. Judah was following hard in the path of her sister nation. Sin and iniquity were raging. Baal was being worshiped, and the abominations of the nations was Judah's delight.
1. Jeremiah was a man called of God. God said unto him, "I formed thee * * I knew thee * * I sanctified thee * * I ordained thee a Prophet unto the nations."
2. Jeremiah was called of God in a time of great need. The Lord spoke unto him in the days of Josiah. If ever a people needed warning from God, Judah needed it,
3. Jeremiah felt his own inability. He cried out, "Ah, Lord God! behold, I cannot speak: for I am a child."
4. Jeremiah was encouraged of God. The Lord said, "Say not, I am a child." "Be not afraid * * I am with thee."
5. Jeremiah was a man with God's message. "The Lord put forth His hand, and touched my mouth." "Behold, I have put My Words in thy mouth."
6. Jeremiah was a man with Divine credentials. God said, "I have this day set thee over the nations and over the kingdoms."
7. Jeremiah was sent to accomplish both a destructive and a constructive work. He was sent to pull down, and to destroy, and to throw down. This much for his destructive work. He was sent to build, and to plant. This is descriptive of his constructive work.
The believer of today must pull down as well as build up. He must destroy as well as construct. Jesus Christ came to seek and to save that which was lost, but He also came to undo the works of the devil. We need to lift men up, and place their feet on the solid rock; we need to establish the faith, but this by no means completes our task. We are sent to meet every evil work in an aggressive way.
I. THE MESSAGE OF JEREMIAH (Jeremiah 2:1-2 )
The ministry of Jeremiah began with a twofold message.
1. A message concerning the past. The Lord said unto Jeremiah, "Go and cry in the ears of Jerusalem, saying, Thus saith the Lord; I remember thee, the kindness of thy youth, the love of thine espousals, when thou wentest after Me in the wilderness, in a land that was not sown." Those were wonderful days the days of Israel's first love. Israel was holiness unto the Lord.
2. A message concerning Israel's apostasy. The Lord said, "What iniquity have your fathers found in Me, that they are gone far from Me, and have walked after vanity?" It is also impossible to conceive that a people who had had such a marvelous fellowship with God, and who had known so much of His power and grace toward them could have gone so far from Him.
Israel even denied the Lord, saying, "Where is the Lord that brought us up out of the land of Egypt?" The nation had changed from her God unto the gods of the nations about them, which were, in fact, no gods. They had changed their glory for that which did not profit.
Jeremiah cried out, "Be astonished, O ye heavens, at this, and be horribly afraid." We need today another Jeremiah to sound forth the warnings, because God's people who bear His Name have forsaken Him, the Fountain of Living Waters, and are hewing out for themselves cisterns that hold no water. They are scattering their ways under every green tree. Oh, that the Church would return to her Lord!
II. THE PLAINTIVE CRY OF THE PROPHET (Jeremiah 4:19-21 ),
1. A call to repent. As we open the fourth chapter of Jeremiah, we hear the Prophet's call to the Children of Israel to repent. He says, "If thou wilt return, O Israel, saith the Lord, return unto Me." Had Israel repented and put away her abominations, God would have established her in all her ways. She would have been unto the Lord for a name, and for a praise, and for a glory, unto the ends of the earth.
2. A warning of disaster. Jeremiah declared unto Jerusalem that if she did not repent and turn from her sins God would bring evil against her from the North and a great destruction. He described the coming of the Gentiles against His people, as a lion coming out of its thicket to make the land desolate, and to lay the cities waste.
Sin never pays. If a Christian imagines, because he is under Grace, he can, therefore, live as he list, he is sadly mistaken. Whom the Lord loveth He chasteneth.
3. Jeremiah's heartaches. The Prophet cried, "I am pained at my heart * * I cannot hold my peace, because thou hast heard, O my soul, the sound of the trumpet, the alarm of war." In the destruction that was about to fall upon Israel, Jeremiah saw a people whom he dearly loved being spoiled. He knew that they were foolish and without understanding, and yet he wept for them.
We can never, as servants of God, be what we should be until the burden of the people is our burden, until their sufferings and chastisements cut us to the heart. God told an angel to mark every one who sighed and cried for the abominations done in Israel. Do we sigh and cry for the sins of the Church?
III. THE PROPHET'S GREAT AMEN (Jeremiah 11:5 )
1. The Jehovah covenant. The Lord spoke unto Jeremiah, saying, "Thus saith the Lord God of Israel; Cursed be the man that obeyeth not the words of this covenant." Here is the covenant: "Obey My voice, and do them, according to all which I command you: so shall ye be My people, and I will be your God: that I may perform the oath which I have sworn unto your fathers, to give them a land flowing with milk and honey, as it is this day."
Salvation is always by grace, but covenant promises of plenty are based upon personal or national fidelity. God will do things for us if we will follow Him and obey His voice. The moment, however, that sin comes into the heart and we walk in wickedness, that very moment we make it impossible for God to smile upon us and bless us.
2. The Prophet's amen. When the Lord spoke to Jeremiah of His covenant and oath, the Prophet answered and said, "So be it, O Lord." Here was a loud amen. Every one of us should sound forth as hearty an "Amen" as did the Prophet. There are many promises which are yea and amen in Christ Jesus, and yet, they are made workable only as we walk in the Name of the Lord, and fulfill all His will.
IV. THE PROPHET DESPISED (Jeremiah 11:18-19 )
1. Perilous times had come. The opening words of chapter fourteen describe Judah's dilemma. "Judah mourneth, and the gates thereof languish; they are black unto the ground; and the cry of Jerusalem is gone up." The story is pitiful in the extreme.
Once more perilous times are upon us. Saints have had a form of godliness without the power thereof. They have given themselves over to lasciviousness and have become lovers of pleasure more than lovers of God. The land is being run over with violence; the covetous, the boasters, and the proud, the blasphemers, the unthankful and the unholy, are filling the earth.
2. The conspiracy. The Prophet Jeremiah stood in the days of Judah's apostasy proclaiming the judgments of God. He sounded forth the sword and the famine that was about to consume them. Then it was that the people entered into a conspiracy against Jeremiah that they might destroy him.
Jeremiah's words remind us of Isaiah's prophecy of Christ's crucifixion: "He is brought as a lamb to the slaughter." The difference lies in the fact that Jeremiah did not know that the enemy devised his destruction, but Christ did know.
It is still sadly true: the people will not accept the truth. They are still saying, "Prophesy unto us smooth things." They want to hear, "Peace, when there is no peace." They want men to prophesy lies unto them. When a prophet arises who proclaims the coming judgments of the Great Tribulation, they cry out, "Away with him!"
V. THE PROPHET'S PRAYER (Jeremiah 14:7-8 )
1. The Prophet made their sins his own. Jeremiah was pre-eminently a man of prayer. As he prayed, he said, "Though our iniquities testify against us, do Thou it for Thy Name's sake: for our backslidings are many; we have sinned against Thee." Jeremiah did not hesitate to link himself in with the sins of his people. He was one of them, and he suffered with them.
We have before us a model in prayer. We do not ask God's blessings upon us because of any good that there is within us. We plead for "His Name's sake." It is His righteousness which lies always upon our tongue. We see in ourselves nothing but filthy rags.
2. The Prophet saw in Christ the hope of Israel. He prayed, "O the hope of Israel, the Saviour thereof in time of trouble." The Lord Jehovah had always been Israel's hope, and He is still her hope. If God had not preserved His people, and watched over them, they would long since have ceased to be a nation upon the earth.
The Lord was not alone Israel's hope, but Israel's Saviour. Why should Israel perish, when the Lord was near? Had she only cried aloud, she had been saved.
The Lord is likewise the Hope, and the only Hope, of every poor, lost sinner. He is the Saviour, who is able to take away our sin. Let the sinner, therefore call upon Him while He is near.
3. The Lord's rebuke. The Lord said to Jeremiah, "Pray not for this people for their good." He said that He would not hear their cry, nor would He receive from their hand an offering. God knew that the cup of their iniquity was full. He knew that their prayers would be insincere. If we expect mercy from God we must come with clean hands and a pure heart.
VI. JEREMIAH IN SHADOW AND SUNSHINE (Jeremiah 20:9 ; Jeremiah 20:13 )
1. An impossible vow. Jeremiah became wearied as he pled with Judah, and as he saw his pleas trampled beneath their feet. He saw that the Word of the Lord was made a reproach and a derision. He cried, "I am in derision daily, every one mocketh me." Then it was that Jeremiah made a rash vow which he found he could not fulfill.
The Prophet said, "I will not make mention of Him, nor speak any more in His Name." Jeremiah felt that he was casting his pearls before swine. When, however, the Prophet would have sealed his lips, he found that the Lord's Word was in his heart as a burning fire shut up in his bones, and he was weary with his forebearing, and he could not stay.
2. Sighing turned to singing. While Jeremiah is commonly known as the wailing Prophet, yet, we see him now with his lips filled with praise. God has shown him the deliverance which He gives to the souls of the poor from the hand of evildoers.
Did you ever see one, for the moment full of grief and sorrow, borne down by the darkness of despair? and then, suddenly, through the rift of the cloud the sun seemed to burst forth in its glory, and the heart that wept was filled with song? It is always so in the midst of our distresses, God gives light; in the valley of Achor there is hope.
VII. JEREMIAH'S VISION OF COMING GLORY (Jeremiah 33:14-16 )
Shut up in the court of the prison, Jeremiah looked out and saw Israel's marvelous future. God let him know that He would not utterly cast off His people. Therefore, chapter thirty-three carries a vision of wonderful anticipatory blessing.
1. A message of pardon. The Lord told the Prophet that He would cause the captivity, both of Judah and of Israel, to return; that He would build them as at the first; that He would cleanse them from their iniquity, and pardon them for their transgressions.
2. A message of praise. The Lord said that His people should be to Him for a name of joy, and for a praise and an honor before all the nations of the earth. He said that in Jerusalem should be the voice of joy and of gladness, the voice of the bridegroom and the bride, and the voice of them that praised the Lord.
3. A message of peace. Pardon and praise was to be followed by peace. The land that had been desolate was to be inhabited. The people who had been driven out were to be brought back home, and the cities of Judah were to be reestablished in peace.
4. A message of prosperity. In the days of Israel's restoration, the fertility of the soil was to be restored, and the hills to be filled with flocks of sheep. Other Prophets proclaimed how the ploughman would overtake the reaper, and the sower of seed would follow him who gathered the grain.
5. A message of political glory. In the days of Judah's glory, God promised that the Branch of Righteousness should grow up unto David, and He would execute judgment and righteousness in the land. This Branch of David is none other than the Lord Jesus, the Heir of David's throne.
"' As many times the sun shineth when the rain faileth, so there may be in the soul a mixture of spiritual rejoicing and holy mourning; a deep sense of God's love, and yet a mourning because of the relics of corruption.' All spiritual persons understand this. The inexperienced ask how a man can be 'sorrowful, yet always rejoicing.' But this is no puzzle to a Christian. Our life is a paradox. Never in the world elsewhere is there such sunshine of delight as we enjoy, and never such rain as that which damps our joys. It seems at times as if Heaven and hell met in our experience. Ours is a joy unspeakable, and yet an agony unutterable. We rise to the Heavenlies in Christ, and sink to the abyss in ourselves. Those who have seen fire burning on the sea, trees living and flourishing upon a rock, feathers flying against the wind, and doves vanquishing eagles, have begun to see a list of marvels, all of which are to be found within the believer, and much more of equal or greater singularity.
"Lord, when my own experience puzzles me, let me be comforted by the thought that it does not puzzle Thee. What I know not now Thou hast promised to make me know hereafter; and there I leave it."
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Text Courtesy of BibleSupport.com. Used by Permission.
Neighbour, Robert E. "Wells of Living Water Commentary on Jeremiah 1". "Living Water". https://www.studylight.org/
the Week of Proper 25 / Ordinary 30