CRITICAL AND EXEGETICAL NOTES.—1. Chronology of the chapter. Section 1-16 has been declared spurious (by De Wette, Movers, and Hitzig), its authenticity disputed, a late interpolation by either the pseudo-Isaiah (Movers) or by a Babylonian exile. Even Naegelsbach affirms, "Who was the author, and when and by whom" the section was written, "cannot be ascertained." Two difficulties lead to this severance of the section from the book: 1. The continuity of thought is abruptly broken by these verses; 2. The topics treated therein belong to the time of the exile. Graf, Keil, Henderson, and Speaker's Com. contend for the genuineness and authenticity of the section; and affirm that Jeremiah here views his people "proleptically as in captivity," that he addresses them in exile, and places himself among them merely for the sake of argument (Hend.); that the train of thought in these sixteen verses is but an enlargement of the truth in Jer, and that the fragmentary disconnected form of this chapter is, probably, owing to the fact "that only portions of the concluding part of Jeremiah's temple sermon were embodied in Baruch's roll" (Speaker's Com.). Thus Dr. Payne Smith and Keil date this chapter as synchronous with chap. 9, a part of the same discourse. Henderson isolates the chapter, but suggests no date. Dr. Dahler supposes it to be a separate discourse, delivered in the fourth year of Jehoiakim, after the first capture by Nebuchadnezzar, when the chiefs among the Jews were borne into Babylon—B.C. 605; Assyrian chronology, B.C. 586. This seems satisfactory: so we may venture with Bagster to separate this chapter from the foregoing by an interval of three years. The section 17-25 is by some referred to the eleventh year of Jehoiakim, the year of the king's death at the hand of the Chaldean monarch, Nebuchadnezzar.
2. National History; see chap. 7, in loc. Judah's experience of captivity began in the fourth year of Jehoiakim, when Nebuchadnezzar, acting as Nabopolassar's lieutenant, besieged Jerusalem, and carried away, together with the spoils of the Temple, the youths of highest rank in the land, "the principal persons in dignity, 3000 in number" (Josephus), among whom were Daniel, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego—cousins of Jehoiakim. A mournful event; for in their loss the nation was deprived of well-nigh all the persons of piety and virtue whose influence in court tended to restrain the reckless, godless king, and to befriend Jeremiah in his sacred ministry of witness for righteousness and Jehovah. The solitary flower was plucked; the hope of Judah was now gone.
3. Contemporary History. Egypt retained international supremacy, and Judah was a vassal kingdom under Necho, until the fourth year of Jehoiakim. In that year Nebuchadnezzar defeated Necho at Charchemish, and Judea, wrested from the Egyptian empire, became subject to the now Babylonian domination.
4. Geographical References. Jer . "Tarshish," probably Tarsessus, in south of Spain, emporium of the Phœnicians, and mart for trade (cf. Eze 27:12). Heereen says that Spain "was once the richest country in the world for silver," and that "the silver mountains were in those parts which the Phœnicians comprised under the name of Tarsessus or Tarshish." "Uphaz," thought to mean Ophir. Henderson suggests that a copyist may have changed the original word אופר, Ophir, into אוּפָז, Uphaz. But Dr. Payne Smith contends that "the word is not to be regarded as an error for Ophir upon the authority of the Syriac; probably Uphaz was a place in the neighbourhood of the river Hyphasis, the Sanscrit name for which is Vipâçâ."
5. Natural History. Jer . "The signs of heaven," Chaldean astrology, which professedly gathered from the position of stars and celestial signs predictions as to the career and destinies of nations and individuals. Jer 10:5. "Palm-tree," formerly abundant in Judea (re-Jericho, Deu 34:3); grew to great height, often 60 to 100 feet; always "upright;" winde had no power over its erect growth; threw out from its crown feathery leaves, each from 4 to 8 feet long, and from 40 to 80 in number; it lives about 200 years; yields dates. Jer 10:9. "Blue and purple." Both colours were purple, but the "blue" had a dark violet tinge, the "purple" a light reddish hue; both were obtained from a secretion of shell-fish found on the shores of the Mediterranean. Jer 10:22. "Den of dragons." See on Jer 9:11.
6. Manners and Customs. Jer . "Dismayed at signs of heaven … heathen are dismayed at them." Astrologers read the startling celestial phenomena, eclipses, comets, meteors, unusual conjunctions of the stars, as precursors of nearing calamities, and used them for working upon the superstitious fears of the people. Jer 10:9. "Silver spread into plates." Silver is so malleable that it may be beaten out into 100,000th part of an inch thick; gold into 200,000th part of an inch. Images for idolatrous worship were overlaid with the precious metal (Hab 2:19). These "plates" brought from Tarshish were "like those on which the sacred books of the Singhalese are written to this day" (Dr. W. Smith). "Blue and purple is their clothing." Robes of these colours were worn by kings (Jud 8:26; Mat 27:28), by the highest civil and religious officers, and by the wealthy and luxurious (Luk 16:19). Jer 10:20. "Tabernacle is spoiled, cords broken." Tents were still largely in use, emphatically so in the pastoral districts, where the nomadic life was retained.
7. Literary Criticisms. Jer . "Dismayed at signs of heaven." The verb expresses apprehension, dread; not homage. Jer 10:6. "There is none like unto Thee," i.e., no one, a double negative, intensifying the denial; מֵאֵין, no nothing; the strongest form of negation. Jer 10:7. "To Thee doth it appertain; יָאָתָה, from יָאָה, to be beautiful, decorous, suitable. "Unto Thee is it (fear) due" (Naeg.). Jer 10:8. "The stock is a doctrine of vanities," i.e., their doctrine, that in which they are taught to trust, is wood. Keil: "The teaching of the vanities is wood." Speaker's Com.: "The instruction of idols is a piece of wood." Lange: "Vain instruction? It is wood!" Noyes: "Most vain is their confidence; it is wood." Blayney: "The very wood itself being a rebuker of vanities." Henderson: "The tree itself is a reproof of vanities." Ewald. "The wood is more vain teaching." Jer 10:10. "The true God." אֱמֶת, truth, in contrast with הֶבֶל, vanity (Jer 10:3). "Jehovah, God in truth." Jer 10:11. "Thus shall ye say," &c. This verse is in Chaldee, on which account some critics reject it as a gloss (Venema, Ewald, Henderson); but Seb. Schmidt suggests that Jeremiah gave to the Jews this retort to the Chaldeans, for use when exiled and taunted in Chaldea—"Ut Judaeis suggerat, quomodo Chaldaeis (ad quos non nisi Chaldaice loqui poterant) paucis verbis respondendum sit." Dr. Payne Smith thinks the verse "a proverbial saying, which Jeremiah inserts in its popular form." Jer 10:14. "Every man is brutish in his knowledge," i.e., without knowledge every man is brutish (Keil. Henderson, Lange); or, as others render the words, every man is rendered brutish by his skill, i.e., in idol-making (Jamieson, Fausset, &c.). Jer 10:15. "The work of errors," i.e., of mockeries; the idols themselves deserving only derision and contempt, or inflicting on their worshippers only delusion and ridicule. Jer 10:17. "Thy wares," i.e., thy bundle, packages; not goods for trading, but articles for use. "Inhabitant of the fortress," inhabitress of the siege. Jer 10:18. "That they may find it so." Find what? The Syriac upplies the word, "Me"—"that they may find Me." But the Targum renders the word find, "feel"—"I will distress them with the rigours of a siege that they may feel it." (So Hitz, Umbr., Naeg., Hend.).
HOMILETIC TREATMENT OF SECTIONS OF CHAPTER 10
Jehovah, the true and eternal God, contrasted with idols.
Judah's mournful distress; prayer for Jehovah's mitigating mercy.
Section 1-17.—JEHOVAH, THE TRUE AND ETERNAL GOD, CONTRASTED WITH IDOLS
This appeal, addressed to "house of Israel," the whole covenant race. It may, however, be (as in chap. Jer ) a distinct address to the then scattered Israelites, in exile already among "the heathen;" or an inclusive appeal to the entire nation; Judah soon to go into exile, and Israel already there.
I. Superstitions and idolatries censured and contemned. "Learn not the way of the heathen" (Jer ); "for the customs of the people are vain" (Jer 10:3).
1. The casuistries of astrology censured (Jer ). The creation of "the heavens" is Jehovah's handiwork (Jer 10:12), and His "signs" there must not be regarded superstitiously, nor be associated with false deities, as is "the way of the heathen;" but be regarded with intelligent admiration, with adoring homage of Him whose glory and goodness they reveal. (Addenda on Jer 10:2. "Signs of heaven.")
2. The vanities of idolatry contemned. Observe (1.) how these idols originate (Jer ); (2.) how senseless and helpless they are when made (Jer 10:4-5); (3.) how little power they possess over men, either for "evil" or "good" (Jer 10:5); (4.) how ridiculous (Jer 10:8) they are, notwithstanding their gorgeous decoration (Jer 10:9); (5.) how certainly they who make and trust in them will be put to derision (Jer 10:14); (6.) how prophecy foredooms them all (Jer 10:11; Jer 10:15).
II. Sublime representations of Jehovah's glory and Israel's resources in Him. "Who would not fear Thee, O King of nations?" (Jer ).
1. The majesty of Jehovah's attributes. (1.) His incomparable greatness appeals to universal reverence (Jer ). (2.) His eternal glory and sway admonish those who provoke Him (Jer 10:10). (3.) All creation asserts His grandeur and illustrates His power (Jer 10:12-13). Thus He is God of "the nations" (Jer 10:7), and men of every nationality and in every land should own and revere Him. Moreover, false deities shall "perish" (Jer 10:11), but Jehovah ever liveth, "the true and living God, the everlasting King" (Jer 10:10); hence there is no hope of evading Him. Yea, and the wide universe testifies of Him (Jer 10:12-13), therefore He everywhere commands man's recognition, even as everywhere He extends to man His providential care. (Addenda on Jer 10:6; Jer 10:10.)
2. The grandeur of Israel's heritage in God. To His chosen people the double blessing avails: (1.) God is their portion (Jer ); "the portion of Jacob" is "the Former of all things." What wealth, therefore, they have in Jehovah? "My God shall supply all need according to His riches in glory." (2.) Israel is God's inheritance, chosen by Him as His peculiar treasure; therefore, "all things were theirs"—covenants, promises, adoption! What could they want with other and vain gods, having Him who was the Creator and Governor of the universe as their own God, who claimed and loved them as "the rod of His inheritance?" Had they been satisfied with God, He would have satisfied their souls with His infinite fulness.
Section 17-25. JUDAH'S MOURNFUL DISTRESS: PRAYER FOR JEHOVAH'S MITIGATING MERCY
It would soon be Judah's melancholy fate to go after Israel into captivity and degradation. "Gather up thy wares out of the land" (Jer ). This had become a stern necessity in consequence of Judah's spiritual revolt, and God Himself would secure its accomplishment: "Behold I will sling out the inhabitants," &c. (Jer 10:18).
I. The anguish of exiled Judah. "Woe is me for my hurt," &c. (Jer ). Language either of pathetic bemoaning or of sullen repining. Suggests 1. Terrified realisation of punishment: "Woe is me!" She had "looked for peace," thought to sin on with impunity, dreamed not that "sudden destruction" would come, imagined herself secure in her ungodliness; but "behold bitterness!" Note the aspect of her suffering: "hurt" something real, injurious, painful; not a mere terror, but a keen pang. Such are God's chastisements and punishments. 2. Poignant experience of distress: "wound grievous." And a grievous wound is both a pain and a peril, dreadful to bear and threatening fatal issues. 3. Sullen submission to calamity: "But I said," when about to lament my lot, what good will come of making ado? "Truly this is a grief, and I must bear it!" Stoical hardness: "I cannot remedy it, so I must bear it. Fretting will not alleviate it, so I will keep silence!" How different this from penitence for the cause of the misery, and patient submission to consequences, which find solemn expression in, "It is the Lord; let Him do what seemeth Him good!" 4. Hopeless reconciliation to misery: "I must bear it!" Not, "Come and let us return to the Lord, for He hath smitten and He will heal us!" She will not seek Divine healing for her "wounds" (chap. Jer 8:21-22), therefore she sees no hope in her anguish; for being "without God," she is "without hope in the world."
II. The devastations of the Holy Land. The figure, "tabernacle" (Jer ), suggests the idea of (1.) weakness and insecurity; for though the Jews prided themselves in Jerusalem as a strong and fortified city, it would prove as defenceless as a tent. The "tabernacle spoiled and cords broken" suggest (2.) the total dissolution and destruction of the Jewish state: the government had broken up, the nationality had collapsed. Thus the lament declares, 1. The overthrow of the theocracy: "Tabernacle spoiled." 2. The banishment of the people: "Children gone forth," &c., either exiled or slain: "they are not." 3. The rulers are defeated: "pastors become brutish; not prosper; flocks scattered (Jer 10:21); they were impotent to repair the ruined state: the explanation being, "they have not sought the Lord;" they ignored the fact that His hand was in this overthrow, and hence they ignored the fact that to Him must they look for deliverance and redress. 4. The enemy was triumphant: "To make the cities desolate, a den of dragons" (Jer 10:22): the Chaldean avarice would spare nothing. What direful ravages follow in the train of sin!
III. The prayer for Jehovah's intervention. Though the suffering nation repudiated God, there was one intercessor—Jeremiah—who cried to Jehovah for mercy. Yes; and though the world ignores God now, still there in "One Mediator between God and man, the Man Christ Jesus;" whose pleading voice goes up even for the fruitless thing—"Let be this year also?" Preaching had done little good, so the prophet turns to prayer. Words addressed to God may be powerful when words addressed to men are powerless. He will hear though they forbear. 1. Acknowledgment of God's supreme providence. Man's designs are subordinate to God's purposes (Jer ). We cannot have everything according to our own mind, and here Jeremiah surrendered his desires to God's will; he will not ask God to do other than He deems best, sad though he is for his nation's nearing ruin. Yet also the prophet seems to imply that the army of Nebuchadnezzar will not be allowed by God to do other than as He wills: enemies are not unrestrained; God worketh according to His will among armies and over men. 2. Appeal to Divine pitifulness. The prophet identifies himself with his nation, and entreats that the necessary punishment may be mercifully tempered and restrained. We deserve "correction," need chastisement, but could not survive "anger." 3. Imprecation of God's wrath upon Judah's oppressors; for the Chaldeans, though used by God, were malevolent, implacable, and impious, and merited punishment even while carrying out God's designs. God may permit oppression of His people, may even use it to chasten them; but oppressors, who deny God and work malicious projects, shall in their turn feel the crushing rebukes of a mightier Power (Psa 75:8).
HOMILIES AND COMMENTS ON SUCCESSIVE VERSES OF CHAPTER 10
Jer . Theme: INFLEXIBLE GODLINESS. "Learn not the way of the heathen."
Cast among "the heathen" by exile, Israel was not to accommodate herself to the religious or irreligious aspects which there environed her.
"The way" means either their mode of life or their customs in worship. The phrase is used in the New Testament as descriptive of the Christian discipleship. ἠ ὁδὸς—comp. Act ; Act 19:9.
I. Concession to the order of things surrounding us is a specious temptation. Among "the heathen" do as they do. 1. Convenient: for saves us from the annoyances which self-assertion and individuality provoke. 2. Advantageous: for it appeases and gratifies others, and lays some worldly gains within our reach. 3. Pleasant: there is a novelty and a relaxation and an enjoyment in this self-adaptation; good for us to bend a little.
II. Conformity to the dominant religion is not to be our ruling habit. It may be needful to stand apart from "the way" which the state supports and wealth fosters. Do "not learn" it even: have nought to do with it. There are different forms of religion abroad; and more, there are antagonistic forms of religion. Are we to conform to any "way" which favour and fortune patronises simply because in that locality or country we find it dominant? 1. Religion asks unswerving allegiance of the soul. If we are unstable, God's covenant and promises will not stand good for us. 2. God asks us to witness for Him against false religious in irreligious scenes and in irreligious times. The dominant religion may be plausible, it may be imperious; but whether baited with seductions, or armed with persecutions, if it be not right, refuse compliance. "Learn not the way."
III. Fidelity to conscience and to God must be uncompromising. In all scenes, under all circumstances, at all times. A pliant godliness is: 1. Cowardly: contrast with it Daniel, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego. 2. Contemptible: the "man of God" sinks down into a mere time-serving hypocrite. 3. Condemned: for it not only degrades the man himself, and dishonours God, for hom he should be valiant and bold, but it denies to Jehovah His due; for He has rights in His people; they are "not their own, but bought with a price, and hence should glorify Him in body and spirit, which are His;" and His people owe obligations to Him in return for the revelation and the grace He has bestowed on them. Hide not "light under bushel;" "Even in Sardis defile not your garments;" "Have no fellowship with unfruitful works of darkness, but rather reprove them." (Comp. 2Co .)
Illustrations of unyielding constancy: Moses refused to be called son of Pharaoh's daughter, and joined himself valiantly with the despised Hebrews. Daniel, who prayed, despite the royal edict. Our Lord Himself, who repudiated the religious habits and ideas which prevailed. Paul, who "approved himself to God in much patience, in affliction, in distress, in stripes," &c. (2Co, sq.). Indeed, godliness has produced martyrs in every age whose sole crime, civil or ecclesiastical, was, that they would "not learn the way" which those in power would have enforced. (Comp. Heb 11:32. sq.) "Quit you like men, be strong!"
Jer . Theme: SUPERSTITIOUS TERROR AT THE MARVELS OF NATURE:
"Be not dismayed at the signs of heaven."
Eichorn supposes a reference to some astronomical portent which was then causing "dismay." Hitzig thinks these "signs" were some alarming celestial appearances intended as heralds of impending judgment. Naegelsbach, however, believes the reference to the permanent constellations and usual signs of the firmament; nothing extraordinary or portentous. But Kiel and Dr. P. Smith well argue that the word "dismay" suggests, not adoration such as the heathen might yield to ordinary celestial appearances, but alarm and consternation, consequent upon some unwonted phenomena.
Before such "signs," wonder but not worship; admire the heavens, but do not adore; ponder them intelligently, but do not prostrate yourself before them idolatrously.
I. Ignorance and idolatry are alike in this: they fall into superstitious terror of natural things.
The crude and uninformed mind is startled, bewildered, and appalled by celestial phenomena. Nor by these alone; terrestrial marvels equally awaken superstitious dismay. They drive the ignorant to terror, the idolatrous to worship. Eclipses or earthquakes, comets or tempests, unusual constellations or calamities, fill with consternation. This indicates that:
1. The wonders of nature are very majestic and solemn. Sufficient to impress men everywhere with the supernatural; speaking to them of vast and hidden realities.
2. The benighted mind of man is fruitful of fears. Sees terrors and portents everywhere. And "fear hath torment." How much better the "perfect love which casteth out fear," which assured reliance on God secures! Religion is the antidote of the miseries of superstition.
II. Sacred enlightenment reveals God as above all nature's wonders. "The heathen are dismayed;" but a people knowing God should not be dismayed. They adored celestial appearances, bowed in terror before nature's marvels, because they knew not the Great First Cause. Astrologers taught that events depended on the stars which were possessed with power; and Plato thought them endued with spirit and reason. (Addenda on Jer, "Signs of heaven.")
1. The benefit of natural knowledge, of physics, science, &c., which reveal to us that nature is not a fitful, capricious omnipotence, but is obedient to law, regulated in all occurrences; that a Supernatural Ruler controls and directs all events.
2. The blessings of sacred revelation, which opens the hidden world to us, makes clear to us this fact that a Father governs the universe, who loves man, who asks man's loving trust, not slavish terror.
3. The joyfulness of spiritual enlightenment, which goes beyond a sacred knowledge, and dwells in personal enjoyment of God; not only as the Lord of the universe, who "works all things together for good," but as the Father of Jesus, who claims and cherishes us as His children, which enables us to say,
"This awful God is ours!"
which sees His love in Christ, and by that light interprets all that occurs.
III. Possession of God's favour enables man intelligently to enjoy His works. "The Lord speaketh unto you, O house of Israel (Jer ), Be not dismayed," &c. And theirs were the covenants and promises, &c. They were a people "whose God is the Lord."
1. God's works call forth amazement and admiration, even where intelligence alone is possessed; yet this is not equal to the childlike gladness of the Christian which revels amid the wealth and loveliness of the "Father's house."
2. In God's works the Christian finds sublime illustrations of God Himself. Scientific men pause at the works; the Christian passes on to the Worker: "through nature up to nature's God." "When I consider the heavens, the work of Thy hands, the moon and stars, which Thou hast ordained," &c. They alone truly enjoy nature who "also joy in God through our Lord Jesus Christ" (Rom ). What beautiful and inspiring aspects of God's attributes do the glories of nature supply to us! (Comp. Isa 40:25-31.)
Jer . Theme: IDOL MANUFACTURE. (Addenda on Jer 10:3.)
I. The original materials to which the idol owes its existence. "A tree out of the forest" (Jer ). Only like other trees, which still remain trees!
II. The industrious toils to which the idol owes its formation. "The work of the workman" (Jer ). Not divine in its structure.
III. The formative instrument to which the idol owes its dignity. "The axe." No supernatural appliances or aids came to its help; merely a hatchet.
IV. The process of adornment to which the idol owes its attractiveness. "They deck it with silver," &c. (Jer ).
V. The ingenious arrangement by which the idol is invested with a decent posture. "They fasten it with nails and with hammers, that it move not" (Jer ).
VI. The clumsy workmanship which denies to the idol becoming stateliness. A god ought to be of fair and graceful form, but it is "upright as a palm-tree" (Jer ); stiff, inelegant pillars. Many commentators render the words thus: "They are like pillars in a cucumber garden;" i.e., the shapeless blocks set up to scare away birds.
VII. The generous attentions to which the idol owes its movements. "They must needs be borne, for they cannot go." (Addenda on Jer .) So that all an idol is and does, it owes to man! It could not make itself, it cannot help itself.
Hence, 1. How degrading this for a god! 2. How degrading this for a worshipper! Surely (Jer . "the customs of the people are vain." What need to lead the people to "turn from dead idols to serve the living God!" For as the idols cannot help themselves, neither can they help their worshippers, unable to speak or stir, to render them any service. Without life or power.
VIII. The natural treatment which the idol merits. "Be not afraid of them; for they cannot do evil nor good." (Comp. Isaiah 40, 41, from which doubtless Jeremiah drew his illustrations, he being familiar with Isaiah's writings.)
Jer . Comments:
There cannot be two highest Beings, or there would be none. In the idea of the Absolute there is involved that of uniqueness. Polytheism has therefore no highest Being in the absolute sense. Where, however, traces of such are found, polytheism is about either to rise to monotheism or to dissolve into pantheism.—Lange. (Addenda on Jer .)
"None like unto Thee, O Lord;" none of all the heroes which the heathen have deified, the dead men of whom they made dead images, and whom they worshipped. Some were deified and adored for their wisdom, but "among all the wise men of the nations" (Jer ), the greatest philosophers or statesmen, as Apollo or Hermes, there is none like Thee. Others were deified and adored for their dominion, but "in all their royalty" (so Jer 10:7 may read), among all their kings, as Saturn and Jupiter, there is none like unto Thee. What is the glory of a man who invented a useful art or founded a flourishing kingdom, what the glory of the greatest prince or potentate (and on such grounds did the heathen deify men), compared with the glory of the Creator of the world?—Henry.
Jer . Theme: JEHOVAH'S UNCHALLENGEABLE CLAIM ON HUMAN REVERENCE.
To worship any other than Him is an infringement of His inalienable prerogative.
I. The universal scope of God's dominion. "King of nations;" not only "King of the Jews," nor only "King of saints," but all nations are within His domain. Hence, therefore, not Israel alone should yield Him fealty and homage, for the Lord of all should be worshipped and obeyed by all. He reigns over all mankind (Psa ); all mankind should render loyal reverence to Him. God's sway is over each, as well as all; over me, as well as over nations; and each must therefore for himself own Him King.
II. The impressive manifestations of Divine power. As "King of nations," God's "name is great" (Jer ); it is a lofty and imposing title. Does Jehovah sustain by deeds this universal dominion? "Thy name is great in might" (Jer 10:6): the King rules royally as far as His name and domain extend. "Name great in might," means displaying itself in acts of might. Great in renown, God justifies His title by manifestations of majesty and power. His footsteps are on every scene, His hand doeth wondrous things in every man's experience and career: "Marvellous are Thy works, and that my soul knoweth right well." Therefore I should revere Him.
III. The incomparable perfections of God Himself. The possession of glory and power does not always coincide with personal worth and goodness. But with Jehovah, "among all the wise men, &c. (Jer ), none like Thee." Omit "men;" for "wise" includes gods also, the authors of heathen oracles. "In all their kingdoms," properly, their royalty or kingship, none so royal as Jehovah. (1.) Unapproachable wisdom. (2.) Incomparable royalty. Contrast the "wisdom" of pagan gods, even their most clever oracles; and what are they when set over against the benignant wisdom of the Creator evident in all His works, and the redeeming wisdom, the wondrous graciousness of God's plan, shown in the Gospel, in "Christ the wisdom of God." Contrast the royal dignity and nobleness of idols with Him whose "glory the heavens declare," and whose highest manifestation of "glory is in the face of Jesus Christ." How blessed are we, having Him as "our Lord and our God!"
IV. The solemn appropriateness of human homage. "To Thee doth it appertain." (See Crit. Notes, supra.) "Fear," i.e. trustful reverence, the lowly homage of love. Not (1.) Terror; that is for the vanquished, for slaves. (2.) Nor worship alone, rendering Him the adoration, devotedness, and love which the eminence of His perfections demands. But (3.) Restful and happy trust; a "fear" which finds in Him all occasions for our own happiness if we do His will and please Him, yet which recognises His power to consume the disobedient—realising that life and death are with Him. It is a happy "fear" with those who are "hid with Christ in God;" but a deep dread of His disfavour if by guilt we incur His frown. (See Jer .)
There is an appropriateness and a rightness in our loving reverence of God; it is the dutiful child resting in the Father's embrace, reverently contemplating His graciousness, and gratefully adoring him in return. (Addenda on Jer, "None like Thee, O Lord," and "Thy Name is great.")
Jer . Comments:
"They are altogether brutish. Brutishness here does not refer to a vicious state, but to the senseless stupidity of savages, who know no better than to adore a "tree." "Altogether brutish;" rather all alike: the "wise" (Jer ) and the "heathen" (Jer 10:2) equally on a level with "brutes." Note that in Daniel and Revelations how often the power which opposes and ignores God is personified in a "beast." Man forfeits his dignity, and even his humanity, and sinks to the level of a "brute," when he severs himself from God (Psa 115:8).
"Their stock is a doctrine of vanity." (Cf. Lit. Crit., supra.) The idols are vanity; hence, also, their doctrine is vanity. From such senseless gods what could their worshippers learn? Ex nihilo nihil fit. Thus Keil remarks, "The heathen, with all their wise men, are brutish, since their gods, from which they should receive instruction, are wood."
"Silver spread into plates," &c. (Cf. Geographical References, and Manners and Customs, supra.)
"However much the wood ("stock") be decked out with silver, gold, and purple raiment, it remains but the product of men's hands; by no such process does the wood become a god."—Keil.
Jer . Theme: THE ONLY TRUE GOD.
Observe with what unity of assertion the Scriptures, Old and New, affirm this of Jehovah: He is "the true God" (text); "That they might know Thee, the only true God" (Joh ), &c. (Addenda on Jer 10:10, "The true God.")
I. In contrast with the "vanity" of idols (Jer ; Jer 10:8; Jer 10:15) Jehovah is Truth. Not merely "true" in word and deed, veracious and faithful, but truth in essence, in Himself, as a quality of His being. And also a God who is no mere imaginary Being, but a sublime reality. God is a FACT. And being real, He is essentially true. And because in Himself true, He will deceive and disappoint none who trust in and seek Him. As He has revealed Himself, so He is; no insincerity in Him, no misrepresentation of Himself. That being so, how cheering to turn to the revelation He has made—to Moses as "merciful and gracious," &c., and in Jesus as the Friend and Father of man—and to know all this is really so: "The Lord is the true God."
II. In contrast with lifeless idols (Jer ) Jehovah lives. He is "the living God." Not a mere impersonal all-pervading Force; not a self-evolving Law; but a BEING. And because He lives, He has life in Himself, underived, and is Himself the Fount of Life, dispensing vitality to humanity. "Who only hath immortality." "In whom we live," &c. "As the Father hath life in Himself, so hath He given the Son to have life in Himself." "In Him was life." "Christ is our life."
III. In contrast with the temporary duration of idols and idolatry (Jer ; Jer 10:15) Jehovah is eternal. Idols are but of yesterday, and they shall perish; but the Lord is "everlasting," and therefore they who are His have an imperishable Hope, a never-failing Refuge, a deathless Friend. And the human soul wants more than the transient. "When heart and flesh faileth, God is the strength of my heart and my portion for ever." Here is the confidence of the righteous: God will never fail them. Here, too, is the terror of the disobedient: they will never evade the "everlasting God." The like attribute is assigned to Jesus (Heb 1:12), and He is "the same yesterday, to-day, and for ever."
IV. In contrast with the impotence of idols (Jer, "Cannot go; cannot do evil nor good") God is King. A monarch so mighty that his wrath fills "earth" with trembling; so terrible that "nations" fail at His anger. Men do well to "fear" Him (Jer 10:7), and by reverent homage to abide in His favour. Alarming as is such a presentation of God's monarchical majesty, it is only the manifestation suited to defiant sinners. There is a gentler side of the character of God: view it revealed in "the Son, who was in the bosom of the Father, and hath declared Him." "God is love." (Addenda on Jer 10:10. "The true God.")
Jer . Theme: AN APPEAL TO GOD'S WORKS
A challenge seems suggested: judge of the idols by their works. What have they done? (Jer, "Not made heavens and earth"). But estimate Jehovah by His creative power (Jer 10:12), and by His providential operations in nature (Jer 10:13). It was in effect the like challenge to that of Elijah, "He who answers by fire, let Him be God"—decide by the works. So Jesus asks, "Believe Me for the very work's sake." It was an old Greek saying, "Whoever thinks himself a god besides the One God, let him make another world." (See Psa 96:5.) Contemplate—
I. God as manifested in His original work of creation. Three distinct acts recorded (Jer )—"made," "established," "stretched out;" and three distinct attributes marked—"power," "wisdom," "discretion."
1. God's formative power: "Made the earth by His power." And consider the size, the materials, the wealth and beauty stored within the earth, and the loveliness and variety with which He has clothed it, setting man thereon "over the works of His hands." What a conception of God is supplied! What have idols "made"?
2. God's ordering and controlling wisdom: "Established the world by His wisdom." Separating the waters from the land, regulating the seasons, making the habitable parts suitable for the living creatures and serviceable for man, and, amid all natural changes, securing the world from convulsions which would destroy life from the surface of the world, or overthrow the healthful and happy order which prevails. What have the idols arranged for man's daily good, and enjoyment of unmolested safety in the world?
3. God's benignant discretion: "Stretched out the heavens by His discretion." The "heavens" are full of proof of intelligent design in themselves, and of gracious consideration for God's creatures (Gen ; Jer 31:35). But "the gods have not made the heavens," &c. (Jer 10:11).
II. God as manifesting Himself in His perpetual work of providence; controlling and caring for the world He made (Jer ).
1. All parts of the universe yield their stores at His command. "The heavens" their waters; "the ends of the earth" their vapours; the chambers of "lightning" and the caves of the "wind" their "treasures." So that there is no recess of nature, celestial or terrestrial, whereinto His controlling will does not penetrate. Hence God's providence pervades all scenes, and He has the universe under His control. But idols are "fastened with nails" (Jer ) to one spot, and have no power to move from it, nor wield a sceptre over any scene.
2. All forces of nature implicitly obey His bidding. The thunder utters His command: "uttereth His voice." The "waters in the heavens" hear, and accumulate in "a multitude." The clouds, "vapours," ascend in recognition of His sway, for He "causeth" them to rise in clouds from the ends of the earth, the seas and rivers responding to His laws. "Lightnings" are His "making," and also "rain." And as for the "winds," they only escape from their recesses as "He bringeth them forth." All forces of nature are within His sway, and they serve His will. (See Psa ; Psa 147:15-18). But what resources can idols command?
This is the argument of Natural Religion—God's pervading power and goodness, manifest in His works, and those works manifesting Him to man (Rom ), making an appeal to man's reverence, gratitude, and love (Rom 1:21; Rom 2:4).
But what are these utterances in the heavens, and these voiceless wonders of nature, and these startling accompaniments of storms as heralds and witnesses of God, compared with the tenderer and more solemn revelations of Him in Christ? Not in the earthquake, tempest, or fire did Elijah discern God, but in "the still small voice." And God's highest argument, His unchallengeable claim to human reverence and love, bases itself less on the wonders of His works in the world around man than on the wonders of His grace within the human soul. There He asserts His supreme worth to man; it is His undisputed empire, His rightful throne.
Jer . Theme: REFLEX INFLUENCE OF THE OBJECT OF WORSHIP UPON THE WORSHIPPER.
Text means: His skill in making idols, or his acquaintance with idols, debases and brutalises him, deadens the sensibilities of his nature, and degrades the dignity of his manhood. Thus:—
I. Acquaintance with false gods debases men. "Knowledge" in this region renders men "brutish." Such is the universal consequence of idolatry. Heathenism shows how damaging to the finest instincts and noblest virtues of humanity idol-worship becomes. (Addenda on Jer .)
This applies not alone to material idols, graven and fashioned by the heathen, but to those heart idols which the irreligious man, and even the worldly Christian man, makes to himself. The thing which he allows to usurp God's place in his soul, that is his idol, and it will give a tone to his character and career. Worship acts reflectively on the Worshipper.
II. Confidence in false gods deludes men. The "founder is confounded by the graven image." Why? "His molten image is falsehood"—a deception, without spirit or "breath." Idols are delusions; they fulfil not our hopes; they embitter our hearts by their "falsehood." They are themselves "vanity" (Jer ). Their creation was a "work of errors," a profound and hollow mockery, and covering with ridicule their votaries and worshippers.
God prophesies their doom. "In the time of their visitation they shall perish;" i.e., when God visits the idol-worshippers, the idols shall be destroyed. It was so when God visited these idolatrous Jews in Babylon; He destroyed their idols by Cyrus. So have they perished everywhere when God has "visited" the deluded with better knowledge. And as the Gospel spreads, idols shall be cast down, and the enslaved soul find emancipation and illumination in Christ.
Jer . Theme: GOD'S COVENANT HERITAGE IN ISRAEL.
Notwithstanding Israel's desertion of Jehovah for idols, observe how they are here spoken of as if still united and inseparable. God continues to be "the portion of Jacob," and "Israel the inheritance" of the Lord. This relationship is not to be easily or lightly severed or ignored. More; as Jehovah is "not like" idols, so neither is Israel like idolaters; for they have this glorious God as their portion—a crowning distinction that!
I. What a lavish estimate God forms of Israel's worth.
1. He prized Israel as His peculiar possession; calls them His "inheritance," something upon which He sets His heart, cherishes jealously, prizes greatly. (Comp. Eph, "What the riches of the glory of His inheritance in the saints.") It amazes us that God should so value His people.
2. He bestows Himself on Israel in exchange for this "inheritance;" becomes in return "the portion of Jacob." This expresses how highly He esteems His people; He holds back nothing in order to secure their love and allegiance. See this bestowing Himself fully illustrated and enacted in Christ, "who loved us, and gave Himself for us."
II. What a glorious supremacy distinguishes Israel's God.
1. By emphatic dissimilarity with false gods: "Not like them." They are themselves "vanity" (Jer ), and they delude their votaries (Jer 10:14).
2. By the sublimity of His works: "The Former of all things." Creation reflects Him; the boundless universe shows who God is.
3. By the dignity of His name: "The Lord of Hosts;" i.e., the hosts of heaven, the nations of earth (Jer ). He is The Highest therefore; and the highest is God, God alone.
Israel's honour and happiness in possessing the one true God as a "portion." With whom should this God be exchanged? "The Lord is the true God, living God, everlasting King" (Jer ). What dignity the possession of such a Deity imparts to Israel; what a firm basis for faith is supplied in having such a God as He!
III. What an infinite inheritance Israel has in Jehovah.
1. Consider the resources God has in Himself: "He is the Former of all things." The firmament shows His glory, the earth is full of His riches; all these things His hand made. What cannot He do? What is beyond Him? Is there anything He cannot perform or produce, or procure for Israel, if necessity demands it? Yet this outgoing of Power in Creation is less an assurance to us than the outgoing of Love in Redemption; and "He that spared not His own Son, but freely delivered Him up for us all, how shall He not also with Him freely give us all things?"
2. Consider the forces God has at His command: "The Lord of hosts is His name." (See Psa .) "Thinkest thou that I cannot now pray to My Father, and He shall presently give Me more than twelve legion of angels" (Mat 26:53). No man can number the hosts of God. In part they were shown to Elisha's attendant (2Ki 6:17); Daniel saw something of the host (Dan 7:12); the Apocalypse revealed the "armies of heaven" more fully (Rev 5:11). And "are they not all ministering spirits, sent forth to minister for them who shall be heirs of salvation?" (Heb 1:14).
God is Israel's treasure, and all His wealth is theirs: we are "heirs of God, and joint heirs with Jesus Christ." "All things are yours, for ye are Christ's, and Christ is God's."
Jer . Theme: IMMINENT EXILE.
A new section: discourse addressed (not to Israel, as the foregoing, but) to inhabitants of Jerusalem. Be in readiness to start for captivity.
I. The situation of the people. She is an "inhabitress of the fortress" besieged. The time of this prophecy is probably at the end of Jehoiakim's reign. Nebuchadnezzar is at the gates of Jerusalem, the city assailed by Babylonian forces; but a brief interval and the foe will be occupant of the citadel.
II. The issue of the siege. The "fortress" will be vanquished. The people are urged to use the short opportunity remaining for "gathering up their packages" ready, thereby making what preparation they can for their migration as captives into "the north." All resistance is now impotent.
III. The sentence of Jehovah. "I will sling out the inhabitants." God's hand was in their defeat and misfortunes. It would be effected with violence: "sling out," properly "hurl out." It would be thorough: "at this time"—hitherto hostile invasions had ended with plundering and imposition of tribute. It would be painful: "distress them." It would have a definite purpose: "that they may find," i.e., feel, either their sin, or "feel" after Me. (See Lit. Crit. on verse.)
Jer . (See "Noticeable Topics.")
Theme: GREAT AFFLICTION AND SORROW OF HEART.
We may learn what it is to bow under the mighty hand of God. It is
i. That a man recognise the suffering as his suffering; i.e., (a.) as that which he has himself prepared; (b.) as that which is right for him, not too heavy and not too light, but exactly corresponding to its beneficent purpose.
ii. That a man accept his suffering willingly; (a.) in patience; (b.) in hope.—Lange.
(Addenda on Jer . "Sore affliction.")
"Some make this the lamentation of the prophet for the calamities and desolations of his country. In mournful times it becomes us to be of a mournful spirit: "Woe is me!" But it may be taken as the language of the people speaking as a single person. Some among them would thus bemoan themselves, and all of them, at last, would be forced to do it.
i. They lament that the affliction is very great, very hard for them to bear it, and more so because they had not been used to trouble, and now did not expect it. "Woe is me for my hurt;" not for what I fear, but what I feel. Not a slight hurt, but a "wound," and a wound that is "grievous."
ii. That there is no remedy but patience. They cannot help themselves, but must sit still and abide it. Theirs is the language of sullen rather than of gracious submission. It argues a want of those good thoughts of God which we should have even under our afflictions; saying not, God can do what He wills, but "Let Him do as seemeth Him good."—M. Henry.
(Addenda on Jer .)
Jer . Comments:
The Targum paraphrases the verse thus: "My land is desolate, and all my cities are plundered; my people are gone into captivity, and are no longer here."
"The suffering was unmerited in so far as the prophet and the godly amongst the people were concerned, but it was inevitable that he and they should take it upon their shoulders along with the rest."—Graf.
"Jerusalem laments that her tent is plundered, the cords which kept it erect rent asunder, and her children carried into exile, and so are not—are dead (Mat ), either absolutely, or dead to her in the remote land of their captivity. They can aid the widowed mother no longer in pitching her tent, or in hanging up the curtains round about it."—Speaker's Com.
"My children are gone forth from me." "The jealousy of the Saviour is so strict, that He will have His children directed to Him (Isa ); and the idea of the pastoral office (see Jer 10:21) with which some good teachers are infected—of regarding and treating souls as their souls, sheep as their sheep, "children" as their children—is in the highest degree opposed to His will. Hence He often, for a just judgment, does not allow their joy in souls to last, but lets them see and conclude more of their decline and less of their success than there really is. For He will not give His glory to another, and the teachers are not Christ, but sent by Him before Him."—Zinzendorf.
Jer . "The pastors are become brutish," &c. "As sheep must either starve or be led to filthy and poisonous pasture, if their shepherds are fools, who do not know how to manage sheep; so is this much more the case in the spiritual pastorate."—Cramer.
"The cause of this calamity is that the shepherds, i.e., the princes and leaders of the people, are become "brutish," have "not sought Jehovah," i.e., have not sought wisdom and guidance from the Lord. And so they could not "deal wisely," i.e., rule the people with wisdom. "Prosper" is not here, have prosperity, but show wisdom, deal wisely, securing thus the blessed results of wisdom."—Keil.
"Therefore they shall not prosper." Rather, have not governed wisely. The verb has the sense of (1) acting prudently, (2) being prosperous as the necessary consequence. Here all the versions take in the first sense. The kings and rulers, having sunk to the condition of barbarous and untutored men, could not govern wisely, and so "all their flocks," literally, their pasturing, that which they governed, "are scattered."—Speaker's Com.
Jer . "Behold, a voice is heard! it comes!" &c. "A last watch-call and signal, which denotes that the enemy so frequently announced is present."—Lange.
"Already is heard the tremendous din of a mighty host which approaches from the north. The great commotion is that of an army on the march, the clattering of the weapons, the stamping and neighing of the war-horses."—Keil.
"Bruit," rumour of invasion. The antithesis is between the voice of God in His prophets, to which they paid no heed, and the cry of the enemy, to which they must attend.
"There is a contrast to be understood between the voice of God, which had constantly resounded in Judea, and the tumultuous clamours of enemies. The prophet declares that new teachers were now come, who would address them in another and unusual manner. ‘I have spent my labour many years in vain. I now turn you over to the Chaldeans; they shall teach you.'"—Calvin.
Jer . Theme: MAN'S CAREER UNDER GOD'S CONTROL.
The Jews regarded this as asserting that Nebuchadnezzar could not do as he listed. God's will ruled his action and restrained his fury; he came to the land by Divine leading, he could deal with the people only as God permitted. More properly this declares that the Jews themselves had been relying on their own counsels and devices for the national safety and welfare, negotiating with Assyria when danger was apprehended from Egypt, and with Egypt or Babylon when Assyria was dreaded; but the national policy was futile, their hopes and designs were of no avail. True of us; our life and career are not wholly in our keeping; our planning is often frustrated; a Divine direction and determination overrule our movements.
I. Conscious liberty. "The way of man;" his own way. He obeys only (so far as he feels and knows) the impulses of his own nature, the determinations of his own judgment, the resolutions of his own will.
II. Unconscious control. "The way of man is not in himself." His way is in God's power and God's purpose.
III. Unsurrendered volition. "Man that walketh." As these Jews were doing, in defiance of the prophet's appeals and God's warnings. As Nebuchadnezzar would walk in obedience to his lust of empire. As we walk, "turning every one of us to his own way." Man insists on his right of self-government.
IV. Insufficient discernment. "Not in man to direct his steps," i.e., he is (1) bewildered in judgment, so that he often does not know how to walk, what to do—can act, but not foresee issues; (2) inconstant in will, so that he changes his course frequently in life, influenced by his own caprice or by altered circumstances; (3) incapable in self-government, for he finds a warfare raging within him, "so that he cannot do the things he would;" he cannot carry out his own resolutions—weakness arrests him; he is not the master of his own nature—evil is there, passion vanquishes his purposes, fear makes him cowardly, indolence holds him in the snare of indifference or inaction.
V. Involuntary submission. "O LORD, it is not in man." In whom then? God holds the impulses of our nature in His control. He has free entrance into the secret chambers of our affections and thoughts. His Spirit can "witness within us" and "work within us to will and to do of His good pleasure." He can alter the circumstances around us which lead us to modify our plans. He can lay inducements in our path. He can check our course by affliction, &c. He can help us to do otherwise impossible things.
Believers bow their wills to God as an act of filial submission, but the grace to do it was God-given. Sinners yield their love and faith to Christ, but the persuasives thereto were Divine. Rebels rise in defiance against Him, but He curbs their fury, uses their rage, and "restrains the remainder of their wrath." "Hitherto shalt thou come and no farther."
(Addenda on Jer . "God's control of man's career.")
Notes: Blayney, following the Syriac, renders the verse, "I know Jehovah, that His way is not like that of men; nor like a human being doth He proceed to order His going." It is inadmissible: את should have preceded "Jehovah," marking the objective case.
"He first acknowledges that man cannot direct "HIS WAY," his path in life, himself; dependent as it is only in part upon his own will, and in part upon the conduct of others, and everywhere upon God. There is an antithesis between "man," i.e., any man, in the first clause, and the word "man" in the second clause, i.e., man in his strength. The strong man may fancy that at least each single "STEP" is under his own control, even if his whole path, or "way," be not; but God declares otherwise. (Pro ).—Speaker's Com.
"Theme: MAN PROPOSES, GOD DISPOSES. This is—i. A humbling of our pride, ii. A strong support of our hope."—Naeg.
Jer . Theme: MERCIFUL CHASTISEMENT. "Correct me not in anger, lest Thou bring me to nothing."
Israel had wished in his own strength to walk in his own way, contrary to the will of God (Jer ). He now recognises the sinfulness of this wilful rejection of God's control, and submits to the merited chastisement—be it even national humiliation and exile; but, while bowing to this, pleads for the utmost possible mildness and forbearance. This prophetic language sets forth Israel's future repentance and restoration.
I. Surrender to gracious chastisement. The soul recognises it as needful, and bows resigned; and there is no agony of dismay in the thought, "Let me fall into the hands of the Lord." "O Lord, correct me."
II. Shrinking from full retribution. "Correct me, but with judgment." With mildness, in opposition with "anger." The transgressor cannot bear the treatment he deserves, and for which his sins make demand. It would issue in destruction. No soul could survive. Hence the plea, "with judgment," as "knowing our frame and remembering we are dust;" with moderation and leniency.
III. Terror of God's wrath. "Not in anger." For "we are consumed in Thy wrath." The soul of man stands in dismay before the thought of Omnipotence wielding itself in anger! The child of God trembles in the anticipation of His displeasure. Suffering and even calamity can be borne, but not a Father's wrath. That would give the keenest pang to heaviest affliction; but the stroke will not crush the heart if God only corrects in mercy. Who will dare provoke and brave the "wrath of Almighty God"?
IV. Consequences of Divine severity. "Bring me to nothing." Surely so; if the rocks tremble and the earth smokes at His "look," if angels must veil themselves from His glory, how can frail man other than perish at His rebuke, how survive His anger? Is this annihilation? Not in text; but only "diminish me," make me little (margin): i.e., reduce Judah to an insignificant people. Calvin, however, says, "The prophet takes diminution here for demolition." But the history of the nation shows the people not destroyed, but only diminished and dishonoured. Such is the issue of Divine displeasure.
Happy they who by prayer and propitiation (in Christ) avert the "anger" and find mercy. (Addenda on Jer, "Lenient correction.")
Jer . Theme: FURY FOR THE IMPIOUS OPPRESSOR. (Addenda on Jer 10:25.)
i. Guilty of cruelty to God's people. "Eaten up Jacob, devoured and consumed him."
ii. Gratifying thus their hatred to true religion. Not acting reverently, as agents of God's purpose, but impiously. "Know Thee not; call not on Thy name."
iii. Meriting therefore the fury they have poured out on others. "With what measure ye mete," &c. "He that toucheth you, toucheth the apple of Mine eye." "Pour out Thy fury upon the heathen."
iv. Suffering the doom of enemies of God. For the malicious deeds of the Babylonians showed them impious, implacable, foes of Jehovah as well as His people. They treated His holy Temple and its sacred treasures with ruthless scorn, and blasphemed His great name. Hence, having insulted God, they should suffer "His fury." "So let Thine enemies perish, O God."
Note:—This verse is reproduced in Psa, which was written during the exile, or at least after the Chaldeans had destroyed Jerusalem.
"Theme: How we should behave under the chastisements of God. i. Humbly submit to them as necessary and wholesome means of improvement, ii. Be certain that they will not then transgress those bounds, nor proceed to our destruction."—Lange.
NOTICEABLE TOPICS IN CHAPTER 10
Topic: BEREAVED OF CHILDREN. Text: "My children are gone forth of me, and they are not; there is none to stretch forth my tent any more" (Jer ).
The cry of dread from aged Jacob, "If I be bereaved of my children, I am bereaved;" the anguish of Rachel's lament, "weeping for her children, refusing to be comforted, because they were not;" and this pathetic dirge of Zion, "Woe is me for my hurt! my wound is grievous: my children are not!"—all denote this loss of children to be one of life's heaviest yet commonest sorrows.
Danger when in trouble of thinking our case wholly and hopelessly dark: "All things against me!" But see: "Truly this a grief!" Terrible indeed, yet only one, standing alone amid ten thousand kindneses, and after long years of forbearance and grace. Bright days, sunny and happy, go on multiplying without our heeding them; suddenly one day of gloom and storm breaks the order; then we properly say, "This is a dreary day, but we must not murmur." And so the years of life go by in peace and prosperity; suddenly a grievous sorrow interrupts the course of enjoyment; shall we not say, "Truly this is a grief, and I must bear it"—not sullenly but submissively,—"remembering the years of the right hand of the Most High"?
I. Desolating bereavement. "Children gone forth from me, and they are not," Then it is so that—
1. "Children" may be taken away. They seem to belong to us; we entwine our love around them, and rest hopes on them, as though none could or should touch them. But they are not ours; "no power over spirit to retain it." Let parents heed it, and hold them from God, for God. They may not live to inherit our worldly substance; lead them early to know Christ, and "lay hold on eternal life." Let the young heed it: children may die: early seek and serve the Lord!
2. Home is desolated by their loss. "Tabernacle spoiled, cords broken." Seems now that light of home is all darkened, flowers, all withered, music all silenced. Suggests for children and the young—your power to make home beautiful and glad. Let your life there be a joy and perpetual blessing.
3. Hopes built upon our "children" may fail us. "There is none to stretch tent," &c. Naturally we look to them for our earthly future, to surround us with comfort, "set up curtains;" to minister to and solace us in hoar years. This makes their loss so sad: destroys our hopes, and leaves us helpless against years and infirmities. Oh, how often warned against "making flesh our arm." "Put not trust in man, whose breath is in his nostrils," &c. God is needful to us all, and He not fail. Christ essential, and He "same yesterday, to-day, and for ever." Rest not on what is so fleeting: "They are gone forth, and are not." Our sweetest earthly hopes may perish.
II. Bitterest grief. "Woe is me for my hurt! my wound is grievous."
1. The distress over bereavement finds outlet in lamentations. Natural to mourn: "Jesus wept." Let the stricken spirit raise its bitter outcry, even as Rachel. God does not forbid or despise tears. "In all your afflictions He is afflicted." Remember "the Man of Sorrows, acquainted with grief." He would bear your sorrow, and open to you the sympathy and solace of His tender heart.
2. There was sore occasion for such grief. Calamity had befallen Zion. Look at those words, "woe," and "my hurt." They tell that a sudden blow had fallen heavily on her. All disastrous everts fall suddenly; we never prepared for them; strike us to the earth alarmed, "hurt;" and we cry, "Woe is me for my hurt!" In such sudden sorrow we want the Saviour's instant succour: "Brother born for adversity." More: "My wound is grievous." The stroke makes a "wound" not to be quickly healed: "grievous," indicating the severity of the hurt, the depths of the pang. "My children are not"—it means a lifelong wound. "My tabernacle is spoiled"—the joy of earth can never be complete again. Not mock the stricken with the assurance "Time will heal." No, "the wound is grievous:" rather speak of the restoration; tell Zion of exiles' return to her; tell bereaved of nearing day, when "no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying, nor pain, but former things are passed away."
III. Patient resignation. "But I said, Truly this is a grief, and I must bear it." First comes the wild outcry of "Woe!" succeeded by the hushed sob of submission.
1. It was felt that the loss would not be alleviated by abandonment to grief. To nurse our sorrow only leads to repining; then life becomes "a waste, howling wilderness." Not yield to fruitless anguish, but seek grace to bear it with composure, and to turn ourselves with all possible courage and heartiness to what duties are around us, and to what comforts Heaven has preserved.
2. It was recognised as from the Lord, and therefore bowed to with submission. Sudden, desolating, terrifying the calamity, but the hand of God was in the event. Not easy to say, "Thy will be done!" "It is the Lord, let Him do," &c. Yet make the endeavour and say, "Truly a grief, and I must bear it!" "God cannot afflict willingly nor grieve the children of men." Doubt not His love, His wisdom, His grace. "Oh, rest in the Lord." Draw near Him for comfort, and cast on Him the burden of your loneliness and grief. "He hath torn, and He will heal us; He hath smitten, and He will bind us up." (Addenda on Jer, "Bereaved of children.")
Topic: PROGRESSION AND DIRECTION. Text: "It is not in man that walketh to direct his steps" (Jer ).
Self-distrust the teaching of long discipline: the more tried and advanced the believer, the more unreservedly will he say, with Solomon, 1Ki ; and that saying, as then, will "please the Lord."
I. Natural action. "Man that walketh." Man's action in life complex, involving two distinct parts, of which he has only one in himself—the power of natural action.
1. Its ease. It is just the simple putting forth of the power of life; going on, without thinking if right or wrong. Danger of forgetting a deficiency in this part-progression: mistake a part for the whole. We think we can act aright, simply because we have the power of action at all. It is as if ship could reach the port just because she has undoubted capacities for sailing, though no helmsman or compass.
2. This mere power of natural action has a tendency to mislead. It makes a man unreflective. Proneness to slight the invisible, because it does not intrude itself upon us, although the things of this life have inseparable association with those hidden from sight in another world. Thus man's "walk" may do much as regards this life, but alas! how little effect for the world beyond! Leads to a waste of strength; for toil where nothing can be taken, and inaction where much might be won. We often wonder there is so much failure where there is so much energy. The value of pausing amid the bustle of action.
II. Needful direction. Direction is often the remedy for all this failure (Psa ; Psa 119:105). Once let us be persuaded we cannot guide ourselves, and we would never willingly lose all the results of our labour by working at random.
1. Take care to go out of ourselves for direction. Shall not remedy the matter by taking more thought. When we have done much in that way, it will only be "man that walketh" directing his own steps; doing it more carefully, but still doing it himself. This going out of self may be humiliating.
2. The advantages of this going out of self. There will flow in upon us "the wisdom from above;" from the Father of lights. He will show us things in new lights altogether, that see them in their entirety.
3. But we must yield ourselves to God to be ordered. Content to be led "by ways we know not." Not troubling ourselves with continual questionings on the subject. Trust Him to choose the road; even though it seem to lead away from the desired end. St. Augustine said, "I am a little child, but my Father is my sufficient guardian."
4. Ways are not really open because apparently so. Not because we can do this thing or that, is it therefore right. Because of this error, we have often gone into spheres where God is not, and where we should not have been.
5. Success before the world is not, therefore, a proof of our being right, nor of success in our relationship towards God. Failure here, leaves our work but as "wood, hay, stubble." Danger of being too eager for success. So that what appears success to us may not be so at all, and may be a prelude to heavy loss.
6. Learn not to put implicit confidence in energy or action. It is likely to mislead; it may make the "man" prominent in us, and not God. And a very little thing may put a sudden stop to it.
Conclusion: Bind together the two ideas of our own foolishness and God's wisdom. We never learn a depressing truth concerning ourselves without an encouraging one concerning God. We are to be emptied out of ourselves to be filled with Him. Under His guidance, our calm progress in "ordered ways" will lead in God's own time to happy ends.—Abstract of "Breviates," by P. B. Power, M.A.
ADDENDA TO CHAPTER 10: ILLUSTRATIONS AND SUGGESTIVE EXTRACTS
Jer . "The signs of heaven." Which the blind heathens feared and deified, and none did more than the Syrians, the Jews' next neighbours. Experience frequently confuteth those vain astrologers that pretend to read men's fates and fortunes in the heavens, as it did Abraham the Jew, who foretold by the stars the coming of their Messiah A.D. 1464; and Albumazar, a Mohammedan wizard, who predicted an end of the Christian religion A.D. 1460 at utmost. A great flood was foretold by these diviners to fall out in the year 1524, cum planetæ comita in piscibus celebrarent. This caused the Prior of St. Bartholomew, in London, wise-man-like, to go and build him a house at Harrow-on-the-Hill, for his better security. Mulcasses, king of Tunis, a great star-gazer, foreseeing by them, as he said, the loss of his kingdom and life together, left Africa that he might shun that mischief; but thereby he hastened it, A.D. 1544. God suffereth sometimes such fond predictions to fall out right upon men for a just punishment of their curiosity.—Trapp.
Jer . Idol manufacture. In India, it is computed, there are 30,000,000 of idols. British Christians should remember the idolatry of their ancestors. "In Scotland there was a temple of Mars; in Cornwall, of Mercury; in Bangor, of Minerva; in Bath, of Apollo; in Leicester, of Janus; in York, where St. Peter's now stands, the temple of Bellona; in London, on the site of St. Paul's Cathedral, the temple of Diana; and at Westminster, where the Abbey rears its venerable pile, a temple of Apollo."—Dr. Plaifere.
Jer . Idols "must needs be borne." Missionaries in India were once proclaiming the glorious Gospel of Jesus Christ, when one of the audience cried, "Jesus is the true God!" Others caught the cry and reiterated it, till the whole group burst into response. Then they shouted "Come with us, and pull down our temples, and cast our gods down the hills." They led the way, and soon the helpless idol was carried along—for though it had legs it could not walk—to the brow of a neighbouring hill and flung contemptuously over.
It is a fact and a sight to be met with any day in Madras and other large European cities: a set of hired bearers will carry one day on their shoulders a hideous idol, ornamented with gold and gems, and the next day the same hired bearers will carry forth in state the Virgin Mary.—Biblical Treasury.
Jer . "NONE LIKE THEE, O LORD." All things in the natural world symbolise God, yet none of them speak of Him but in broken and imperfect words. High above all He sits, sublimer than mountains, grander than storms, sweeter than blossoms and tender fruits, nobler than lords, truer than parents, more loving than lovers. His feet tread the lowest places of the earth, but His head is above all glory, and everywhere He is supreme.—Beecher.
"THY NAME IS GREAT IN MIGHT." A Jew entered a Persian temple, and saw there the sacred fire. He said to the priest, "How do you worship fire?"—"Not the fire: it is to us an emblem of the sun and of his animating light," said the priest. The Israelite continued, "You dazzle the eye of the body, but darken that of the mind; in presenting the terrestrial light you take away the celestial." The Persian asked, "How do you name the Supreme Being?"—"We call Him JEHOVAH ADONAI that is, the Lord who was, who is, and shall be."—"Your word is great and glorious, but it is terrible," said the Persian. A Christian approaching, said, "We call Him, "Abba, Father." Then the Persian and the Jew regarded each other with surprise, and said, "Your word is the nearest and the highest; but who gives you courage to call the Eternal thus?"—"The Father Himself," said the Christian, who then expounded to them the plan of redemption.—Krummacher.
Jer . "THE TRUE GOD." "How many Gods are there?" was once asked of a boy. "One."—"How do you know there is only one?"—"Because there is no room for more, for He fills heaven and earth."
The Egyptian hieroglyphic, representing God, was a winged globe and a serpent coming out of it: the globe to signify God's eternity, the wings His active power, and the serpent His wisdom.—Bowes.
Two gentlemen were once disputing on the divinity of Christ: one of them, who argued against it, said, "If it were true, certainly it would have been expressed in more clear and unequivocal terms." "Well," said the other, "admitting that you believed it, were you authorised to teach it, and allowed to use your own language, how would you express the doctrine to make it indubitable?"—"I would say," replied he, "that Jesus Christ is the true God."—"You are very happy," replied the other, "in the choice of your words, for you have happened to hit upon the very words of inspiration; for John, speaking of the Son, says, ‘This is THE TRUE GOD, and eternal life.'"—Wilson.
Jer . AN APPEAL TO GOD'S WORKS.
"Who guides below and rules above,
The great Disposer and the mighty King;
Than He none greater, next Him none
That can be, is, or was:
Supreme, He singly fills the throne."
An Arab, when one day asked, "How do you know there is a God?" turned indignantly upon the questioner, and replied, "How do I know whether a man or a camel passed my tent last night?" His own footprints in creation and providence testify of Him.
Jer . WORSHIP OF IDOLS DEBASES THE WORSHIPPER. The gods of Greece and Rome had at least human features, and modelled after the likeness of men; but among the millions of the gods of India affecting the character of their worshippers, there is not one which represents a virtue, not one which is not a monster of iniquity. Brahma is acknowledged by the Hindoos themselves as too bad to be worshipped. Their god, Shiva, is distinguished for his revenge and malignity; Krishna bears a character of a notorious licentious profligate; Juggernaut is represented by an old idol without legs and arms, because the legs and arms of the god were cut off by a sentence of the gods for his incurable iniquity. What but impurity and cruelty can be the result of a religion which has such patrons in its god?—Dictionary of Illustrations.
"Any opinion which tends to keep out of sight the living and loving God, whether it be to substitute for Him an idol, or any occult agency, or a formal creed, can be nothing better than the portentous shadow projected from the slavish darkness of an ignorant heart."—Hallam.
Jer . SORE AFFLICTION.
As they lay copper in aquafortis before they begin to engrave it, so the Lord usually prepares us by searching, softening discipline of affliction for making a deep, lasting impression upon our hearts.—Nottidge.
There is as much difference between the sufferings of the saints and those of the ungodly as between the bandages wherewith the tender surgeon binds his patients and the cords with which an executioner pinions a condemned malefactor.—Arrowsmith.
One in affliction, when asked how he bore it so well, replied, "It lightens the stroke to draw near to Him who handles the rod."
Jer . BEREAVED OF CHILDREN.
"Death lies on her, like an untimely frost
Upon the sweetest flower of all the field."
Bengel had twelve children, of whom half died in infancy. He said, when speaking of his loss, "As little children give their sweetmeats to their parents to keep for them, so my pleasant things are safer in God's keeping than in that of my own treacherous heart."—Bowes.
Elliot said of the death of his children, "I have had six children, and I bless God they are all either in Christ or with Christ, and my mind is now at rest concerning them."—Ibid.
"I cried, ‘Lord, spare my child!' He did; but not as I meant. He snatched it from danger, and took it to His own home."—Cecil.
"See, father," said a lad, "they are knocking away the props from under the bridge. What are they doing that for? Won't the bridge fall?"—"They are knocking them away," said the father, "that the timbers may rest more firmly upon the stone piers, which are now finished." God only takes away our earthly helps that we may rest firmly upon Him.
A lady in one day, during her husband's absence from home, lost both her children by cholera. With a mother's anguish of heart she covered a sheet over them, and awaited her husband's return. "A Person lent me some jewels," she said when she met him, "and now he wishes them again? What shall I do?"—"Return them, by all means," said her husband. Then she led the way, and silently uncovered to him the forms of his dear children.—Dictionary of Illustrations.
Jer . GOD'S CONTROL OF MAN'S CAREER.
"The wish, which ages have not yet subdued
In man, to have no other master but his mood."—BYRON.
"Our indiscretion sometimes serves us well
When our deep plots do pall: and that should teach us
There's a Divinity that shapes our ends,
Rough hew them how we will."—SHAKESPEARE.
"A wheel within a wheel's the Scripture notion,
And all those wheels traverse and cross in motion.
All creatures serve it in their place; yet so
As thousands of them know not what they do:
At this or that their aim they do direct,
But neither this nor that is the effect.
Men are, like horses, set at every stage,
For Providence to ride from age to age;
Which, like a post, spurs on, and makes them run
From stage to stage, until their journey's done;
Then takes a fresh: but they the business know
No more than horses the post-letters do.
Yet though its work be now concealed from sight,
'Twill be a glorious piece when brought to light."—FLAVEL.
"Certum est, nos velle, cum volumus, sed ille facit, ut velimus bonum, de quo dictum est, quod præparatur voluntas a Domino (Pro ). Certum est, non facere, cum facimus, sed ille facit, ut faciamus præbendo vires efficacissimas voluntati, qui dixit; faciam ut in justificationibus meis ambuletis et judicia mea observetis (Eze 36:26-27)."—Augustine.
Jer . Lenient correction. "Correction is not simply to be deprecated. The prophet here cries, ‘Correct me;' David saith, ‘It was good for me;' Job calleth God's afflicting of us His magnifying of us (chap. Jer 8:17). Feri Domine, feri clementer; ipse paratus sum, saith Luther,—Smite, Lord, smite me, but gently, and I am ready to bear it patiently. King Alfred prayed God to send him always some sickness, whereby his body might be tamed, and he the better disposed and affectioned towards God."—Trapp.
Jer . Fury for the oppressor. This is not a New Testament aspect of God; gracious towards Israel, tempering affliction with mercy, but severe and wrathful, with no restraining of anger, towards the heathen. Rather, "Go ye into all the world and preach the Gospel to every creature." "Pray for them that despitefully use you." Hence the true piety of the Prayer-Book petition: "That it may please Thee to forgive our enemies, persecutors, and slanderers; and turn their hearts."
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Exell, Joseph S. "Commentary on Jeremiah 10". Preacher's Complete Homiletical Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/
Second Sunday after Epiphany