CRITICAL AND EXEGETICAL NOTES.—1. Chronology of the Chapter. The reference in Jer to the "queen" is regarded as determining the date of this chapter. Ewald, Hitzig, Umbreit, Dahler, Hend., and Dr. Payne Smith agree in identifying her as Nehushta, the queen-mother of Jehoiachin. For, although it is conjectural whether Jehoiachin (Jeconiah) was eighteen years of age at his accession (see 2Ki 24:8) or only eight (comp. 2Ch 36:9), certainly his mother shared with him the responsibilities of royalty and of government; and together the mother and son were dethroned: of which event this verse is peculiarly descriptive. But Keil and Bleek incline to put the prophecy in Jehoiakim's reign, explaining that the "queen," his mother Zebuda, in common with all queen-mothers, would retain prominence and power (comp. 1Ki 15:13; 2Ki 10:13), and the mention of her does not necessarily imply the king's minority. The reason for preferring Jehoiakim's reign to that of his successor Jehoiachin, is that after the fourth year of Jehoiakim's reign the northern foe is uniformly definitely spoken of as the Chaldeans; whereas in this chapter the allusion is indeterminate. But there is a general appropriateness in this whole chapter to Jehoiachin's reign which prevails to fix its date: i.e., B.C. 597; or, according to Assyrian chronology, B.C. 579.
2. Cotemporary Scriptures.—2Ki ; 2Ch 36:9-10.
3. National Affairs.—Jehoiachin abandoned himself to flagrant ungodliness immediately upon his accession; and as promptly asserted his revulsion from the now Chaldean domination, for only three months pass ere we find Nebuchadnezzar's generals again besieging Jerusalem. The power of resistance was gone; help from Egypt was no longer available after the defeat at Charchemiah, while also the harassing inroads of the "evil neighbours" (see on chap. Jer ) had kept the Jews in irretrievable subjection. Consequently, without offering more than a show of resistance the king and queen-dowager surrendered themselves, and both they and the princes, troops, artificers, and principal inhabitants of Jerusalem, together with Ezekiel the prophet, were carried captive to Babylon (comp. 2Ki 24:14-16; Jer 52:28).
4. Cotemporary History.—Egypt prostrate under Chaldean ascendancy. Nebuchadnezzar incited armed bands of the Moabites, Ammonites, &c., to frequent incursions of Judea, thus maintaining his conquest, and keeping the Jews impotent and defenceless.
5. Geographical References.—Jer . "Euphrates:" here called Phrath; most frequently mentioned simply as "the river." It was distinctively the river of Western Asia, rising in the Armenian Mountains, flowing through the wildest districts of Armenia by a tortuous course towards the Mediterranean, diverted by the ranges of Amanus and Lebanon, whence it moves onward for above 1000 miles towards the Persian Gulf: its entire course being calculated at 1780 miles, 1200 miles of which is navigable by boats. An annual inundation occurs in May, occasioned by the melting snows on the Armenian heights. Mentioned as one of the four rivers of Eden (Gen 2:14). See Lit. Crit. on verse, below. Jer 13:19. "Cities of the South:" Grotius regards this as a reference to Egypt (comp. Isa 30:6; Dan 11:5), indicating that no help could come to them from thence. More properly, the southern cities of Judah, which are blockaded by the enemy: hence flight to the south is no longer possible (see on chap. Jer 6:1).
6. Personal Allusions.—Jer . "The king and the queen": see supra, on Chronology of the Chapter. Jer 13:23. "Ethiopian:" Heb. Cushite: "inhabitant of Abyssinia, or the African Cush" (Hend.). The Cushite of Arabia, whose colour would not be so swarthy in comparison with the inhabitant of Palestine as to render the reference to "his skin" specially significant, could scarcely be here meant; but the Cushite of Africa, i.e., the negro, would supply at once an emphatic suggestion.
7. Natural History.—Jer . "The leopard hit spots:" see on chap. Jer 5:6. The ordinary Hebrew word for leopard is נָמֵר, so called from being spotted. But in this verse the word is חֲבַרְבֻּרוֹת, from the root חָבַר, to be marked with stripes or lines, variegated: the striped panther. As the Hebrews had no name for the tiger, this animal was probably comprised by them under the same descriptive word.
8. Manners and Customs.—Jer . "Linen girdle:" the common girdle, worn by both sexes in the East, was of leather; the linen girdle was sometimes embroidered with either silk, gold, or silver thread, and studded with gems, fastened with a clasp of silver or gold. Jer 13:11. "The girdle eleaveth to the loins of a man:" comp. Isa 5:27; Isa 11:5. Jer 13:12. "Every bottle shall be filled with wine:" various words rendered "bottle:" nod, chémeth, ob, chemah', bakbuk', and nébel: by these two latter probably earthen vessels are denoted; nébel being rendered (Lam 4:2) by "pitchers;" for evidently other bottles than those made of skin and leather were in common use (Jer 19:1); while also these "bottles filled with wine" could be "dashed one against another" (Jer 13:14). The word is more appropriately rendered jar, the "potter's vessel" of Isa 30:14. Jer 13:22. "Skirts discovered, and heels made bare:" allusion to "the long flowing robes ( שול is a train rather than a skirt) worn by ladies of rank" (Speaker's Com.). These robes would be violently upturned (cf. Jer 13:26): Hend. = "thrown up:" and the heels made bare, rather ill-used, roughly treated: Hend. = her sandals torn off with violence: Chr. B. Michaelis = loading the feet with chains: Hitzig = affront done to the person suggested by mention of the heels: Keil and Payne Smith = she would be driven forth into exile barefoot, with violence and the rod. Cf. Nah 3:5. It describes "an ancient mode of punishing prostitutes" (Hend.). Jer 13:27. "Neighings:" cf. notes on chap. Jer 5:8. "On the hills in the field:" in the most conspicuous localities she had carried on an incestuous traffic with idols, revelling in the shameless heathen orgies (cf. Notes on chap. Jer 2:24, Jer 5:7).
9. Literary Criticisms.—Jer . "Euphrates:" פְּרָתָה. The LXX., Vulg., and other ancient versions give Phrath as Euphrates. The word occurs in fifteen other places; in twelve instances the word river is prefixed; in three it stands, as in this chapter, alone; and in all those cases Phrath means the Euphrates. But the word Phrath is here used (Jer 13:4-7) four times, and not once is the word river added; and this difficulty, the LXX. met by supplying ποταμόν. Bochart, Venema, Dathe, Hitzig, Henderson, and others prefer to take Phrath as an abbreviation of Ephrath, אֶפְרָת, the original name of Bethlehem. This rendering avoids the difficulty of the fact that a journey of over 200 miles would have had to be taken twice by Jeremiah if the Euphrates be meant; whereas Bethlehem was distant but six miles. Jer 13:18. "The queen:" גְּבִירָה, the great-lady; once applied to the queen-regnant (1Ki 11:19), but usually means the queen-mother (Speaker's Com.). "As the Jewish kings generally married subjects and lived in polygamy, the king's mother took precedence of his wives" (Hitzig). "Your principalities:" מַרְאֲשֹׁתֵיכָם, i.e., the ornaments of your head, namely, your splendid crown. Jer 13:21. "to be captains, chief over thee:" Keil and Speaker's Com. render the verse, What wilt thou say, when (or if) He set over thee for head (for a head) those whom thou hast taught to be thy bosom friends (hast accustomed to thee as thy familiar friends)! The Jews had courted the friendly alliance of the Chaldean king and princes; now they would become their tyrannical rulers. The translation of the verse turns upon the meaning given to אַלֻּפִים, rendered in A.V. "captains." Luther, and after him Gesenius, Rosen., and Lange render it princes—"Whom thou hast trained to be princes over thee:" this meaning is sustained in Gen 26:15, Zec 9:7. But its more ordinary signification is familiar, friend (cf. Psa 55:14, Pro 16:28, Mic 7:5). It occurs in chap. Jer 11:19, tame, domesticated (see Notes in loc.). Jer 13:25. "Trusted in falsehood:" cf. Notes on chap. Jer 10:8. Jer 13:27. "When shall it once be?"—Lit. After how long yet! A conjectural outlook on the far distant purification of the now polluted nation.
HOMILIES ON SECTIONS OF CHAPTER 13
An acted parable—the spoiled linen girdle.
A parable in speech—intoxicating judgments.
An iniquitous nation openly degraded.
Jer . AN ACTED PARABLE—THE SPOILED LINEN GIRDLE
Symbolic acts sometimes teach more impressively than eloquent words. A clean linen girdle purchased and worn, but never washed: then carried away to the Euphrates and buried for many days: finally disinterred, found to be marred, and pronounced worthless. Thus facts are portrayed to Jeremiah's observers: Judah girded into closest connection with Jehovah, yet her impurity was never removed: in consequence she was to be carried to Babylon and lost among the heathen for a long period: ultimately, when brought back, she is found "profitable for nothing:" "For as the girdle cleaveth to the loins of a man, so have I caused to cleave unto Me the whole house of Israel and the whole house of Judah, saith the LORD that they might be unto Me for a people, and for a name, and for a praise, and for a glory; but they would not hear."
NOTE.—Great contention among commentators whether this journey to Euphrates was actual or merely visionary. It is objected to the occurrence being literal, that the Euphrates was nearly 250 miles distant, that two journeys would have entailed long absence of the prophet from the scene of his urgent ministry. Several scholars, to avoid this supposed difficulty, incline to the locality being not Euphrates but Ephratha, as being near at hand (see Lit. Crit.), but this forfeits the whole meaning of the buried girdle—God's people localised and lost among Babylonish scenes. Objections to its being merely a visionary incident are,—1. The extreme literalness of the statement, no pretext being left in the narrative for an allegorical interpretation (see Jer ). 2. The lengthy journey was a small matter compared with the vast and vivid lessons thereby taught to Judah—that she would be carried far away from her present scenes of privilege, and be lost in distant exile. 3. Also Jeremiah's visits to the scene of his nation's approaching captivity would supply him with valuable information ready against the emergency, and prove deeply impressive to his own spirit, and helpful to his ministry. Here consider,
I. How closely Jehovah binds His chosen people to Himself. "As the girdle cleaveth to the loins of a man" (Jer ), &c. Though their banishment was becoming imperative, yet God here testifies His attachment to them, and declares He had, without any reserve, bound them intimately and lovingly to Himself: they were "a people near unto Him" (Psa 148:14).
II. The sacred character which His people bear in His esteem. "Get thee a linen girdle" (Jer ). A mistake to suppose it was to be "linen" because it was to be worn as an inner garment next the skin; though that might be impressive of the close union of His people with the Lord: but this people—like a beautiful girdle—was to be "for a name, a praise, and a glory" (Jer 13:11), hence worn visibly as the girdle worn by the wealthy and by the high priest—a thing of beauty. But its being "linen" indicates that it was the sacerdotal girdle; for God's people were to Him "a kingdom of priests, a holy nation" (Exo 19:6). With this sacred character He invested them; for He designed they should be a pure, priestly, consecrated people. Even as are Christ's redeemed ones (1Pe 2:5).
III. A holy people are capable of proving an adornment to Jehovah. "That they might be unto Me for a people, and for a name, and a praise, and a glory" (Jer ); even as the beautifully-wrought girdle, embroidered with silk and gold, and decorated with gems, was to the wearer (1Sa 18:4; Dan 10:5; Rev 1:13; Rev 15:6), and as the "curious girdle of the ephod" (Exo 28:8) was a work of exquisite grace. Note: God's people are a choice and beautiful work (Eph 2:10), and are designed to adorn and glorify Him.
IV. Although so closely identified with God, impurity was contracted by His people. "Put it not in water" (Jer ). Necessarily, therefore, the girdle became soiled; and from its defilement it was not cleansed. How truly descriptive of Israel and Judah! The longer they were God's people the less pure they became. Defilement was contracted, and their state became increasingly corrupt. Pure as a "linen girdle" when first bound to God, they grew soiled, stained, filthy with wear. Is this not too true of God's people still?—the early days of their betrothment were their best and holiest days (cf. Jer 2:2-3).
V. Because of this impurity His people are carried away from holy scenes into exile. "Arise, go to Euphrates, and hide it there in a hole of the rock" (Jer ). Canaan was chosen for the residence of a godly nation; Jerusalem was the place of God's glory—"Holiness becometh Thine house, O God, for ever." 1. Defilement disqualifies us for sacred privileges. 2. Impurity separates God's people from Him: the girdle was unclasped from the prophet's loins, and laid aside in the land of the heathen; for "your iniquities have separated," &c. (Isa 59:2). Defiled souls are, in God's regard, placed among the heathen. All pride and self-glorying are thereby put to shame (Jer 13:9-10). The unclean shall not stand before Him.
VI. Banishment from God is a pitiable experience for His people. "Behold the girdle was marred, it was profitable for nothing." Afflictions sometimes hallow the spirit; but estrangement from God never brings good results. Iniquity in "the redeemed of the Lord" degrades piety altogether and dishonours Jehovah. A fallen Christian can never be any honour to his Master; he may be recalled—as these banished ones were—but he is "marred, profitable for nothing." He may illustrate God's fathomless grace in showing how poor and profitless a soul may be, and yet be saved; but he is of no use for the high purpose God had in redeeming him, that he should be to Him for a name, and a praise, and a glory!
THE MYSTERY OF ELECTION
Naegelsbach, on this section, remarks: "The Lord has put on Israel as a girdle for His own adornment and for Israel's highest glory. This figure is unquestionably one of the most precious which the Scripture employs to represent the mystery of election. Elsewhere Israel is called Jehovah's inheritance (Deu ; Deu 7:6), His wife and His beloved bride (Hos 2:16, sqq.; Jer 2:2), His first-born son (Exo 4:22), His servant (Isa 41:8), His flock (Jer 13:17), His vineyard (Isa 5:7), His signet ring (Hag 2:23). Like the last emblem, the girdle also denotes—
i. The closest intimacy. ii. Indispensable service. iii. A valuable ornament.
But great as is the love which the Lord thus shows to Israel in calling them His girdle, as great is the severity with which He declares that the honour thus received will not save them from destruction.
Let every particular Christian Church mark this! However closely it may be attached to the Lord, this saves it neither from, (1) Internal corruption, nor from (2) External judgment (comp. Luk )."
Jer . A PARABLE IN SPEECH—INTOXICATING JUDGMENTS
"Every bottle shall be filled with wine.… I will fill all the inhabitants of this land … with drunkenness." The figure is not understood by the people, they see not its deeper significance (Jer ); so it is explained by Jehovah, and then appears terrible in import (Jer 13:13-14).
I. The Divine parable ominous of misery and ruin. The nation, every man, should be filled with the wine of God's wrath, and in a drunken frenzy should destroy one another. The highest in the realm—"kings;" the holiest in the nation—"priests and prophets;" all classes of society—"inhabitants;" shall become mutually destructive of the state and nation: the nation would become factious and fanatical, and hurry on its own ruin.
1. A delirious nation: "filled with drunkenness," folly, and frenzy, like an intoxicated man, giddy, blustering, boastful, and violent.
2. A destructible nation: "every bottle;" brittle vessels: with all their arrogance. Easily destroyed; "vessels of wrath fitted to destruction."
3. A demented nation: "proud" (Jer ), "my soul shall weep for your pride" (Jer 13:17); inflated with a voluble conceit, arrogant, even in their degradation and peril: incapable as a drunken man of defending himself, yet noisily boastful and vain. "Whom God will destroy—He infatuates."
4. A desolated nation: "dash them one against another:" the wild fury of drunken frenzy would drive the nation into hostile factions and ruinous agitations; civil contentions, mutually destructive, "dashing one against another."
II. The prophet's expostulation admonitory and pathetic. "Hear ye, and give ear," &c. (Jer ): they were heedless and reckless.
1. He appeals to the high authority of his message: "the LORD hath spoken." They had repudiated Jeremiah: now they had to do with Jehovah.
2. He exposes the secret of their hardened indifference: "be not proud." The cause of their contumacy was pride: just as humility is the spring of obedience, pride is the motive to refractoriness, rebellion, and obstinate impiety.
3. He announces the remedy for their evil state: "give glory to the Lord your God." Their apostacy and impenitence must be abandoned; for by ceasing from the iniquity that displeases and dishonours God (Jos ), they could "give Him glory." Sin is an assault upon Jehovah's glory; repentance and reconciliation yield Him glory.
4. An alternative is presented of plaintive misery: "before He cause darkness," &c.—all their joys and comforts covered with gloom: "and your feet stumble upon the dark mountains"—wandering bewildered amid terrors and perils: "while ye look for light, He turn it into the shadow of death"—all hope be extinguished in the dense death-shade of despair: "and make it grow darkness"—total spiritual night, in which God and knowledge of Him are wholly lost; "darkness covers the earth, and gross darkness the people" (Isa ).
5. A piteous bewailing over his wretched nation (Jer ). (a.) For their self-ruinous "pride," he would weep "in secret," for very shame at their obdurate sin. (b.) For their lamentable desolation his eyes would "weep sore" in open grief, because of the woe of their captivity. He commiserated their misery, and felt anguish for their ruin. Amid it all note—1. He still speaks to Judah of Jehovah as "your God" (Jer 13:16); the Almighty Friend still availed them if they would heed His word. 2. He still speaks of Judah as "the LORD'S flock" (Jer 13:17), claimed by Him, and cherished even though they were wilful and perverse. What exhaustless pitifulness is there in Jehovah! "slow to anger and plenteous in mercy."
THE EARTHEN PITCHERS
Naegelsbach suggests the following points:—
i. What they signify: proud, yet perishable things; the world.
ii. What will be their fate: "dash them," &c. (Jer ); "carried away captives" (Jer 13:17).
iii. What is the means of escaping this fate: a humble attention to the Lord (Jer ); glorifying God by their repentance and return to Him (Jer 13:16).
Jer . AN INIQUITOUS NATION OPENLY DEGRADED
To put his nation to the deepest blush for their sin, Jeremiah again compares their conduct with Jehovah to the vile and graceless behaviour of an adulteress; and likens the shame, which would cover his people in consequence, to the open disgrace with which a prostitute was sometimes treated (see Manners and Customs, supra).
I. Royalty addressed in bold reproof and warning (Jer ). See Addenda on Jer 13:18, the queen, and rebuking royalty). Upon them is threatened—i. The loss of their dignity and crown, ii. The capture of their cities and captivity of their people. Observe:
1. God's judgments do not spare those in highest station. Jechoniah had sinned, and by his royal example encouraged the licentiousness and ungodliness of the nation. Therefore he and his queen-mother should be "humbled;" and are called to "sit down," as slaves on the ground (Isa ). It is high treason against the King of kings for royal personages to rebel against His rule and laws; theirs shall be the greater condemnation; their station degraded, their crown forfeited. "Fallen is your crown." A faithful witness for God may have to reprove kings in His name.
2. The conquest of their cities is threatened at a retribution: "The crown falls when the king loses country and kingship" (Keil). "The cities of the south" are specified, not because the enemy had first possessed himself of the southern extremity of the land (as Sennacherib did, advancing on the capital from the south, 2Ki ; 2Ki 19:8), but because they were the cities most distant from the north-coming foe; hence, when they were in his power, it implied the whole land was conquered. Thus the prophet threatens against godless royalty, the degradation of their station, the forfeiture of their crown, the conquest of their country, the captivity of their people.
II. Jerusalem summoned to witness the woes of capture. "Lift up your eyes, and behold," &c. (Jer ). The verb, Lift up, is fem., and refers to Lion understood. Upon Jerusalem is here threatened—
1. Depopulation. "Where is the flock?" Her streets are to be deserted, her inhabitants carried afar. Or "she is asked where the cities, which once lay grouped around her, like a goodly flock of sheep, are gone? The question implies blame. It was the example of Jerusalem which had led the cities of Judah into sin (Mic ), and brought upon them an invading army" (Speaker's Com.)
2. Foreign domination. (See Lit. Crit. on Jer .) What could Jerusalem say when they, whom she had courted into power as allies, should assert their power as conquerors? We call in ungodly resources of help when our sin forfeits God's protection; these, our allies, will become our tyrants, ruling us with a sore and unchallengeable despotism.
III. Debasement of licentious Judah vividly portrayed.
1. Affected innocence silenced by a condemning charge (Jer, see Crit. Notes on verse).
2. Her doom justified in that her iniquity transcended remedy (Jer ). Nothing can alter and improve her state. Her habitual spiritual licentiousness had become inveterate and incurable: expatriation therefore must ensue (Jer 13:24).
3. God associates Himself with her degradation and doom. She had despised His grace; repudiated His calls; ignored Him for idols—"falsehood;" but she should recognise Him in the judgments He had measured to her (Jer ).
4. Disloyalty to her Lord punished with appropriate degradation (Jer ; see Crit. Notes). Openly put to shame. Her sin had been open: God would expose her to open contempt (Lam 1:8). Politically degraded.
5. Vileness depicted, cleansing despaired of (Jer ; see Lit. Crit.). Jeremiah counts it impossible that she will soon be cleansed; her case seems hopeless. The present generation cleaves immovable to wickedness. Yet, in the far future, after sore judgments, there may be reform! On the prophet's despair there falls one faint gleam of hope.
HOMILETIC OUTLINES AND COMMENTS ON VERSES OF CHAPTER 13
Jer . Theme: BURIED GIFTS.
I. God confers upon man innumerable gifts of talent, privilege, opportunity, blessing. In the case of the Jew especially great.
II. These gifts are suited to our circumstances and requirements (Mat ).
III. These gifts are intended for our good and God's glory (Jer ).
IV. The use to which we apply them depends upon man's wisdom and will (Jer ; Mat 25:24-25).
V. In this men often fail. The history of the Jew an illustration. Men fail through ignorance, sloth, negligence, lust and impulsiveness, unfaithfulness, pride, selfishness. Men bury their gifts in these things.
VI. Buried they are lost. 1. God withdraws them (Jer ; Mat 25:29). 2. The power to use them departs (2Co 9:6). 3. They rot and decay. The grave is the house of decay (Jer 13:8; Ecc 9:10).
1. That man is blessed with treasure gifts capable of unlimited development.
2. That, by neglecting these, instead of rising to be an angel, he sinks to be a fiend.
3. That we should guard them jealously and cultivate them diligently.
Jer . Theme: SUGGESTIONS CONCERNING THE GIRDLE OF TRUTH
I. We are responsible for the effort to obtain the girdle of truth. "I got the girdle."
II. We can get the girdle of truth only by knowing the Word of the Lord. "According to the word of the Lord."
III. We must make appropriate use of the girdle when it has been obtained. "Put it upon my loins."
IV. We can expect further knowledge of God's Word only by the use of what we already know (Jer ). "The word of the Lord came unto me the second time."—W. Whale.
Jer . Theme: GOD'S WORD TO MEN.
"The word of the Lord came unto me the second time, saying."
I. Jehovah is always speaking to man by one method or another. Creation, providence, revelation.
II. Some persons in all ages and climes have heard His Word. In mystery, in power, in mercy. Some have heard it many times.
III. It is a moment of supreme importance when any one soul becomes conscious of hearing the voice of God. Adam, Cain, Noah, Abraham, Moses, Isaiah, Ezekiel, &c., &c.
IV. The way in which a man treats the Word of God will show—
1. His present spiritual condition.
2. His general course of conduct.
3. His probable future destiny.
Jer . Theme: THE STANDARD OF GODLY CONDUCT. "So I got a girdle according to the word of the Lord. So I went and hid it as the Lord commanded me." Letting God's word rule and regulate our life absolutely.
I. The surrenders it involves. It gives up the life into God's hands, every faculty and purpose submitted to Him, yielded gladly to the requirements and captivity of Christ.
1. The surrender of the will: letting God rule; doing what He bids, bowing personal desires and plans to His purposes. "Not my will, but Thine, be done." Unselfish obedience.
2. Surrender of the judgment: perplexing to Jeremiah to see why he must wear this girdle, why go to Euphrates, why hide the girdle there, &c. God's "ways are not our ways, nor His thoughts," &c. Unquestioning obedience.
3. Surrender of ease: a toilsome journey of nearly 250 miles, twice taken. Uncomplaining obedience.
4. Surrender of time: occupy weeks in obeying these demands of God. Conscience must stand aside. Ungrudging obedience.
5. Surrender of self, of the life, of all: "Keep back no part of the price." "Speak, Lord, Thy servant heareth." "Lord, what wilt Thou have me to do?" Unreserved obedience. (See Addenda, "Perfect obedience.")
II. The satisfaction it inspires. The yielding of self to God brings choice and compensatory advantages.
1. It gives simplicity to our life. "The eye is single." No other lord rules. God is everything to us. "One is our Master, even Christ"—not self, not custom, not the world, &c.
2. It gives decision to our life. Saves us from "halting between two opinions:" for the Lord is God and we follow Him. Saves us from uncertainty: His word is law. From delay: To hear Him is to respond. From conflict of conviction: we only need a call from Him: have not to select or choose our way. Anywhere, if only He commands.
3. It gives repose to our life. We are not burdened with the responsibility of life: we "are the Lord's," He guides and plans and arranges for us. We "live exempt from care." Our motto is,
"Lead Thou me on! One step's enough for me!"
4. It gives nobleness to our life. What a grovelling career they live who obey themselves—fitful, earthly, restless. Or the customs of society—slaves to the caprice of fashion. Or the "god of this world"—"led captive by him." But Christ calls into a high and holy career: godly and Godward. They who live only to obey Him, unreservedly obedient. He leads by still waters, into pleasant heritages of rest, assurance, and joy divine.
5. It gives sanctity to our life. He who lives for God becomes more godly and God-like. Wise in His wisdom, strong in His strength, sufficient in His sufficiency, true in His rightness, holy in His holiness. He will guide by His counsels, lead in the "good and right way," until the life rises to His blest abode. "Follow me!" is the Saviour's call: and the issue is, "These are they which follow the Lamb whithersoever He goeth."
Jer . Theme: ASPECTS OF PASTORAL SERVICE. Jeremiah was to go to Euphrates; perhaps not solely to hide this girdle: exiles were there, to whom he might carry messages and comfort from Jehovah; Ezekiel and Daniel were there, and with them he might hold helpful converse.
i. His own toilsome obedience would be a lesson to his disobedient nation, inciting them to take pains even in order to fulfil God's commands.
ii. His resolute performance of this mission would awaken in his people attention to the significance of his conduct, and impress them with the lessons designed.
I. Self-sacrificing obedience to God enforces its lessons on others. Our people will heed our consecrated lives, though they may ignore our eloquent words. A living sermon has vast power.
II. God's chosen servants must yield Him absolute subjection. What God bids, they must do; where He sends, they must go. Ministers of Christ must be willing to accept His demands unquestioningly and entirely; to lay themselves out for any service which may be for the good of their people; to spend and be spent in the Master's service and their nation's weal.
Jer . Theme: GOD'S COMMANDMENTS.
i. Always wise and authoritative.
ii. Often mysterious, and, to human reason, apparently absurd.
iii. Can be heartily carried out only by a true believer in the divine wisdom, power, and love.
iv. May involve much effort, inconvenience, and suffering. Journey from Jerusalem to Euphrates must have been very trying.
v. Will effectually test the condition of the soul. "If ye love Me, keep My commandments." "To obey is better than sacrifice." "I do alway those things which please the Father." "Leaving us an example," &c., &c. "Our sufficiency is of God."
Application: "This is His commandment, that ye believe on His Son whom He hath sent." "His commandments are not grievous."—W. Whale.
Jer . Theme: THE INJURIOUSNESS OF ESTRANGEMENT FROM GOD. "The girdle was marred."
I. The original sacredness and beauty of the godly soul.
1. "Linen" indicates the sacerdotal girdle: the soul was sacred in God's esteem.
2. "Linen" suggests the purity of the soul in its first love.
3. The "linen girdle" was curiously and exquisitely wrought in choice colours and precious gems; betokening the beauty and spiritual grace of the soul when first allied to God.
4. The girdle clasped upon the prophet denotes the close mutual attachment between the soul and God in the hour of first love; and also the resolute design of God to keep that soul bound—"clasped"—to Himself.
II. The defiled soul separated from the Lord. It necessarily became soiled by being worn, yet linen will wash, and it could, therefore, be cleansed.
1. The cleansing process was neglected. "Put it not in water" (Jer ). This represents the criminality of Judah. There was "water," easily found, ready to hand: so is there Divine cleansing; "A Fountain open for sin and uncleanness:" but the defiled life is "not put in water."
2. A tainted thing must be removed from God. Nothing impure will the Holy One of Israel retain. "He cannot look upon iniquity." Certainly He will not wear as an ornament a thing defiled. So the tainted girdle was carried away: "Take the girdle, and arise, go to Euphrates" (Jer ).
3. A faithless soul is banished. Afar from holy scenes, buried in a hole, as unfit for any to see: for nothing is more loathsome to God's sight and man's than a spiritual apostate, a renegade Christian. It is put at a far distance from God's presence, buried from sight, lost as an outcast thing, hidden among heathenish scenes, as if belonging more to them than to God.
III. The damaging effects of separation from God. "After many days" (Jer ). The girdle was sought and brought back.
1. God does not forget and forsake even the estranged soul. "Yet doth He devise means whereby His banished be not expelled from Him" (2Sa ).
2. The recovered soul is found grievously damaged by his banishment. "The girdle was marred;" the ship had sprung a leak hopelessly; the rift was in the lute silencing the harmony; the rot was at the heart. Never again would the old joy in God, the old love and zeal, return. A faithless soul loses what never again can be recovered. Childhood never comes back again!
3. From a reclaimed soul no profit can accrue to God. Saved, indeed, but no power left for service. A rescued life, but impotent to recall others, or commend the gospel. A disabled and dispirited army the captain refuses to use again on the field. The coward spirit is never more trusted. God cannot wear as a "praise" (Jer ) the girdle which has lost its beauty. Only the faithful and the pure can glorify Him. "Hold that fast which thou hast, that no man take thy crown." "No man having put his hand to the plough, and looking back, is fit for the kingdom of God." "Profitable for nothing." "Salt is good; but if the salt have lost its savour, it is good for nothing, but to be cast out and trodden under foot of men" (Mat 5:13).
Jer . Comments: "THE GIRDLE WAS ROTTED." "This showed that the Jews should in that country lie rotting, as it were, in baseness, and servility, and in together many years; so that God might justly have left them there still in misery, as a man leaves his rotten girdle to become dung."—Trapp.
"MANY DAYS." The length of time was required to afford time for the girdle to become spoiled and unfit for use. To that condition the Jews had been reduced by the corrupting idolatries of the heathen. They had disqualified themselves for acting as witnesses for Jehovah; as the only true God, and, like a castaway girdle, they were to be humbled and rejected."—Henderson.
"By the ‘many days' are signified the seventy years' captivity."—Speaker's Com.
Jer . Theme: GOD'S SPOLIATION OF PRESUMPTUOUS PRIDE. There may be a reverent pride, based on gratitude and joyous appreciation of God's distinguishing mercies. There may also be an arrogant pride—"Stand off, I am holier than thou!" Equally possible is a self-reliant pride—sufficient of ourselves: "Who is the Lord that I should obey Him?" Likewise, the pride of carnal assurance: fortified in self-esteem, satisfaction with one's own goodness and merits. But this "Great pride of Jerusalem" was a vaunting, boastful, arrogant pride; a glorying in spiritual possessions and privileges, which they were nevertheless abusing—the pride of presumption: and "the presumptuous soul do I hate."
I. Spiritual presumption can only assert itself where true piety has declined. Piety is lowly. Loss of solemn reverence makes room for arrogance. Then the soul presumes, vaunts itself, makes even religion an occasion for self-glorying. God's grace becomes the pedestal for self-exaltation.
II. Spiritual presumption is peculiarly offensive to a God who loves truth. Pride is a mocking pretence. Of what have the best of men to be proud? "What have we that we have not received?" This pride assumes and arrogates to ourselves the credit of what God has given. His is the glory, not ours. This wrongs Him, and boasts in a lie.
III. Spiritual presumption leads to the most heinous abuse of sacred privileges. Holy trusts should make those who possess them holier, ergo, humbler, more grateful, and more devoted. But pride reverses all this: the soul dwarfs amidst surrounding magnificence; becomes degraded by the abuse of exalting privileges. This perverts and outrages the Divine endowments and blessings.
IV. Spiritual presumption will assuredly court Jehovah's withering contempt. Dig a hole and bury it! as a rotten, loathsome thing. "Thus will I mar the pride." He poureth contempt upon princes! God has resources, appalling in their efficacy, for humbling the arrogant and withering the proud. Think what he did to these Jews! Cast them as a filthy girdle into a "hole." We may well fear to court His contempt. See what befel the proud Nebuchadnezzar—sank into a mere beast. Oh how, in life's end, will ail our vanity mock us, and our presumption turn upon us with tortures! (See Addenda, "Pride Abased.")
Jer . Herein is shown to what their "pride" led them—
i. Disregard of Divine messages.
ii. Indulgence of their own wilful inclinations.
iii. Enthronement of debasing idolatries: ergo, the dethronization of Jehovah in their hearts and their worship.
Jer . Theme: "GOOD FOR NOTHING."
The most dutiful are unprofitable servants, doing no more than their duty. But how few could honestly declare of themselves, "I have done all I could." If the best are imperfect, what can be said of the cold-hearted and indolent? Still worse, far worse, is the case of those who are gone out of the way (Rom ). This verse symbolizes God's people in their idolatry and consequent captivity. We proceed to—
I. Dwell upon a painful fact. "They were His own, a peculiar people to Him, a kingdom of priests who had access to Him above all other nations." To them were sent lawgivers, priests, psalmists, and prophets. To them were committed the oracles of God. To them were given a Divine directory and method of worship. Yet were they "good for nothing." All was done for the vineyard which could be done, yet it brought forth wild grapes.
II. Point out the cause of their sad condition. They became an evil people, as is shown in this verse. Disobedient and hardhearted.
1. They refused to hear the word of the Lord. (See notes on Jer .)
2. They followed the imagination of their hearts. When a man will not hear God, he has generally resolved to have his own way. He puts fancy for faith, and self for God.
3. They became idolaters. Forsaking the true they follow the false. Man must worship, even it be but the fancy of his own brain, or work of his own hand. Man must serve, but often chooses the wrong master. The value of a man or a nation is in proportion to the truth possessed, and the degree of obedience rendered to it. The unfaithful are good for nothing.
III. Show what they might have been as a people.
1. They might have been separated from the nations as being peculiarly the people of God.
2. They might have been before the nations for the glory of Jehovah, as opposed to idols. "For a name, and for a praise," &c.
3. They might have been among the nations as examples and witnesses, setting forth the beneficial influences of true religion.
IV. Proclaim some universal truths.
1. Refusing to hear God's word is. proof that the people are an evil people.
2. An evil people will substitute a false worship for that which is true.
3. A false worship will produce and foster an erroneous religious life.
4. A people walking according to the imagination of their own hearts must be useless to themselves, to the world, to the Church, or to God.—W. Whale.
Jer . Theme: GOD'S GIRDLE.
From Jer . we conclude that Israel and Judah were God's girdle. They formerly clave unto Him, but, at the time referred to by the prophet, had gone away to idols. Because of their sin God sent them into captivity until they were reduced to extreme weakness.
I. That Israel and Judah clave unto Jehovah as a girdle to the loins of a man (Jer ). Unto His person for favour. Unto His word for direction and teaching. Unto His promise for encouragement. Unto His worship for devotion.
II. That Israel and Judah were then a praise and glory to Jehovah (Jer ). A girdle of strength and honour before the nations.
1. As opposed to the idolatries of the world.
2. As expressing obedience to Divine law.
3. As exhibiting the beneficial effects of true religion.
III. That Israel and Judah became faithless and disobedient (Jer ).
1. An evil people, refusing to hear the Word.
2. A stubborn people, going their own way.
3. A deluded people, in vain imaginations.
4. An idolatrous people, like the nations less favoured, going after other gods to serve and worship them.
IV. That Israel and Judah becoming faithless, became also weak and worthless. Went from prominence to obscurity. Went from freedom to captivity. Went, in general, from privilege to punishment.—W. Whale.
Jer . Theme: GOD'S GLORIOUS PURPOSE FOR HIS PEOPLE.
Keeping still to the allegory of "the girdle," there seems here a reference to the holy girdle of Aaron (Exo ), which, together with his sacred garments, should be "for a glory and a beauty" (Jer 13:2).
I. How determinedly Jehovah makes them His own. The form of sentence is intensitive: "I have caused to cleave unto Me," &c.
1. By the mighty working of His grace God united them to Himself. It was His act, not theirs, "I caused;" a determined act, "caused:" a constraining act, "caused to cleave." (Comp. Eph .)
2. Into living connection with His own Person He bound them. Fastened them on, as a girdle, to Himself. Not merely drew them to believe in, or serve Him; but to a personal union. He was Israel's God.
II. What exalted aims He cherishes on their behalf. He designs for them that they be established and known as His—
1. In covenant relationship: "for a people." Israel, His peculiar treasure. "What are the riches of the glory of His inheritance in the saints" (Eph ).
2. As a witness of Him to the world: "for a name." He desired to be known among the nations by the name, "The God of Israel" (1Ch ). He purposed to win renown among the peoples by His dealings with Israel and Judah.
3. To rejoice in His goodness: "for a praise." They were to be glad in the Lord, a joyous people, praising Him for signal blessings, a psalm sounding through the world, commending Him to others by their joyous piety.
4. Contributing to His honour: "for a glory." An ornament, a decoration,—as was the beautiful girdle, studded with gems, to the wearer. (Comp. Eze .)
Alas! a disobedient heart, "they would not hear," changed and desolated all! Sin robs God of all the happiness and honour He would find in man, and robs man of all the blessedness and spiritual wealth he might realize in God.
Jer . Theme: THE WINE OF THE WRATH OF GOD.
This symbol supplements the former and teaches another part of needed truth. It is less dramatic in its form, but not less definite as a threatening of judgment. If we notice the general truths contained in the portion, there can be no difficulty in applying them to this or any other particular case.
I. That every man is being fitted a vessel to honour or dishonour, to good or evil.
II. That every man will ultimately be filled to his utmost capacity by good or evil, according to his spiritual state.
III. That the process of adaptation is being carried on by loyalty or disobedience to truth and God.
IV. That where all are evil every one will be injurious to the other. This will make a hell. The reverse of this is true also. Where all are good, each one is a blessing to the other. This goes far to make a heaven.
V. That God, who is love, has a time for severity as well as a time for mercy. "I will not pity," &c., &c.
VI. That if God help not, none can aid effectually. If God save not there is no salvation in any other.—W. Whale.
Jer . "EVERY BOTTLE SHALL BE FILLED WITH WINE." "Every earthen flagon (comp. Jer 48:12)—the inhabitants of Jerusalem, her kings, her priests and prophets, will be filled with the wine of the intoxicating beverage of God's wrath (see Jer 25:15; Isa 28:7; Isa 51:17; Eze 23:31; Psa 60:3; Psa 75:8), given them as a punishment for the pride, and cruelty, and impiety, which they drank greedily as wine. (Comp. Rev 14:8; Rev 18:3), where the Harlot drinks the wine of her own fornication and gives it to others, and intoxicates herself and them with it (Jer 17:2, Jer 18:6); and, therefore, God gives her the cup of His wrath, and she reels under it."—Wordsworth.
"Wine they loved well, and a great vintage they now expected. They shall have it, saith God; but of another nature than they look for."—Trapp.
"They were like bottles; though God had indeed chosen them for an excellent use, yet, forgetful of their frailty, they had marred their own excellency, so that they were no longer of any use, except that God would inebriate them with giddiness, and also with calamities."—Calvin.
"DO WE NOT CERTAINLY KNOW THAT EVERY BOTTLE," &c.
"An instance of sceptical mocking."—Wordsworth.
"This they seem to speak insolently and jeeringly—q.d. You should tell us some news!"—Trapp.
"Then shall the hearers take this prophecy in scorn, and say, What wonders are these thou tellest us? As if we knew not that the use of bottles is to be filled with wine."—Bp. Hall.
Jer . "THEN SHALT THOU SAY, THUS SAITH THE LORD." The very solemn way in which the explanation of the symbol is introduced is in striking contrast with the frivolity of the people.—Speaker's Com.
"FILLED WITH DRUNKENNESS." When the wine is in, the wit and wisdom and virtue are out. Like drunken men, they shall be full of confusion in their counsels, sick of all their enjoyments, shall fall into a slumber, and be utterly unable to help themselves; like men who have drunk away their reason, they shall be at the mercy, and expose themselves to the contempt of all about them. And this shall be the condition, not of some only among them (if any had been sober they might have helped the rest), but all, even kings, priests, prophets, and inhabitants would be indulgent of their lusts and deprived of their senses.—Henry.
"Not with giddiness as of drunken men staggering (Isa ), but with the impotence of men whose minds are stricken with the wrath of God (Psa 9:3; Isa 60:17)."—Speaker's Com.
"The Jews, without regard to rank, office, or position, were all to be involved in one common ruin."—Henderson.
"EVEN THE KINGS THAT SIT UPON DAVID'S THRONE." Four kings in succession were overthrown in the fall of Jerusalem.
Jer . "DASH ONE AGAINST ANOTHER:" shattering them as vessels. "Vessels of wrath, fitted for destruction."
Civil war is hereby foreshadowed.—Hitzig.
Rather, a collision of parties in the state, resulting in mutual confusion and confutation.
"The Midianites (Jud ) and the Philistines (1Sa 14:20), who exterminated each other, were also seized by a spirit of intoxication. If not in this sense, yet in that of mutual hatred, reciprocal oppression, and injury in general."—Naeg.
Jer . Theme: ATTENTION TO GOD'S WORD. "Hear ye, and give ear; … for the Lord hath spoken."
The Bible worthy of attention and study as—(1) An ancient book, dealing with the history of the human race—(2) A book full of literary beauty—(3) A book of great power and influence. Here attention is claimed because it is the Word of God.
I. How should we attend to it? 1. With reverence. 2. In faith. 3. Diligently, earnestly. 4. Intelligently. 5. Intending to be governed by it. 6. Prayerfully.
II. There is here an implied neglect. The exhortation, and especially the mention of pride, implies this. Men neglect the Bible, because—1. They are filled with other things. 2. They do not know its worth. 3. They do not apprehend the bearing it may have on their well-being. 4. They are not willing to submit to its teachings.
III. Why should we attend? Our text gives the paramount reason—God has spoken. Consider—
1. The dignity and glory of the Lord.
2. His wisdom and knowledge.
3. His beneficence, interest, and love.
4. He speaks to us of matters in which we have the deepest interest.
1. To read the Bible regularly. 2. To treasure it in the heart. 3. To honour it in your life.—E. Jerman.
Given at different times, and by various methods, such as visions, dreams, inspiration or rapture of soul, and direct vocal communication. Its object, to reveal God, to instruct and guide man. Here we have—
I. The fact of revelation. "The Lord hath spoken."
II. The authority of revelation. "The Lord hath spoken."
III. The appeal of revelation. "Hear ye," &c.
IV. The purpose of revelation. To rebuke for sin. To save from judgment. To make known the way of mercy. To direct true souls into paths of progress and happiness. To announce Jehovah's wrath against all wrongdoing.—W. Whale.
Theme: PRIDE THE GREAT HINDRANCE TO THE RECEPTION OF GOD'S WORD. "Hear ye, and give ear; be not proud: for the Lord hath spoken."
I. Pride will not seek the knowledge of God.
1. Pride will not brook a rival.
2. Is unwilling to be taught.
3. Is unwilling to use the means of knowledge.
4. Is unwilling to pray.
II. Pride will not seek the favour of God.
III. Pride will not seek likeness to God.
IV. Pride will not seek communion with God.—Payson on Psa .
"Both the symbols—girdle and vessel—were of a nature very humiliating to the national self-respect: but the prophet warns them against letting any such feeling interfere with the humble reception of the words of God.—Speaker's Com.
"Here is good counsel given, to humble themselves under the mighty hand of God. If they will harken and give ear, this is that which God has to say to them, Be not proud. This was one of the sins for which God had a controversy with them (Jer ); let them mortify and forsake this sin, and God will let fall His controversy.
i. Be not proud when God speaks to you by His prophets. Do not think yourselves too good to be taught. Be not (a) scornful, (b) wilful. Let not your hearts rise against the word, nor slight the messengers that bring it to you.
ii. Be not proud when God is coming forth against you in His providence. Be not (a) secure when He threatens; (b) impatient when He strikes. Pride is at the bottom of both.
It is the great God who has spoken: 1. Whose authority is incontestable: 2. Whose power is irresistible; therefore bow to what He says."—(Comp. Henry. See "Noticeable Topics" on this verse.)
Jer . Theme: RENDERING GOD GLORY BY REPENTANCE. Giving glory to God is opposed to being proud; which is self-glory.
"Jeremiah was as constant a preacher of repentance as Paul, and after him Augustine, were of the free grace of God. The impenitent person robbeth God of His right, the penitent man sarcit injuriam Deo irrogatam, seemeth to make some kind of amends to God, whom he had wronged, by restoring Him His glory, which he had run away with, whilst he putteth himself into the hands of justice, in hope of mercy."—Trapp.
"The phrase, to give glory to Jehovah, when used in reference to such as had incurred guilt, means to acknowledge the justice of God in the infliction of deserved punishment (Jos )"—Hend.
"How, indeed, can we ascribe glory to God, except by acknowledging Him to be the fountain of all wisdom, justice, and power, and especially by trembling at His sacred Word? Whosoever, then, does not fear and reverence God, whosoever does not believe His word, he robs Him of His glory."—Calvin.
I. Counsel. "Give glory to the Lord."
1. Because the Lord's glory is man's good.
2. Because in them that glory might appear (Jer ).
3. Because by them that glory might be obscured.
II. Warning. "Before He cause darkness," &c.
1. Fading light. No clear vision when God is not glorified.
2. Stumbling feet. No power of progress unless for God's glory.
3. Bewildering night. Captivity. All lost.
III. Pleading. "But if ye will not hear, my soul shall weep," &c.—His "Lamentations."
1. It is the counsel of tender love. For love's sake.
2. It is the counsel of utter unselfishness. "For Christ's sake."—Rev. John Farren.
See Noticeable Topics on these verses. Also Addenda on Jer, Repentance glorifying God; and on Jer 13:17, Lamenting pride.
Jer . Comments: "HE CAUSE DARKNESS." The night of affliction. Light is the emblem of joy; and happy times are expressed by bright and pleasant days; as, on the contrary, troubles and calamities are represented by the night and darkness, when everything looks melancholy and dismal.—W. Lowth.
"STUMBLE UPON THE DARK MOUNTAINS:" Before the time comes when ye shall be forced to fly by night upon the mountains for fear of your enemies.—W. Lowth.
"Here is a double metaphor: Judah is not walking upon the safe highway, but upon dangerous mountains: and already the dusk is closing around her. While then the light still serves, let her return unto her God."—Speaker's Com.
Jer . Theme: WANING LIGHT FORESHADOWING UTMOST GLOOM.
God can darken all hope and joy. Life's gloom is admonitory. We should seek the Lord when shadows gather, and thus turn darkness into dawn.
I. Total darkness will overtake those who refuse God glory. It will gather more thickly and intensely around them, till it become dense. Note the strengthening imagery: "Cause darkness"—"shadow of death"—"gross darkness:" it indicates that the awful gloom increases upon the godless soul, ending in utter-most night. "To whom is reserved the blackness of darkness for ever."
II. Fading light, denoting the decline of spiritual opportunity. Action must be quick, for "darkness" sets in. Repent, "give glory to God, before He cause darkness," ere His judgments deepen upon you, and the gloom hides all way of escape.
1. Attempts to escape will desperately fail. "Your feet will stumble on dark mountains." The way of deliverance would be hidden from their eyes, and their own efforts would only lead to misery and defeat.
2. The shadows counsel speedy return to God. Before the dread darkness environs us, it is our wisdom to seek God, bow before Him in reconciliation, and glorify Him by submission.
III. Delusive hopes will perish in the terrible gloom.
1. No light will return when once that darkness falls on souls. Impenitent sinners may "look for light;" for amelioration of woe, for escape from judgment, but light will not come.
2. Deepest terrors will finally overwhelm the godless. God will "turn it into the shadow of death," appalling horror and despair: and "make it gross darkness," which no ray of hope or relief will pierce. Those who, when the fourth vial was outpoured, "repented not to give God glory," were, with the next vial, overwhelmed with "darkness," and filled with agony (Rev ).
The literal meaning of the metaphor is that there was nigh at hand a most dreadful vengeance, except the Jews in time anticipated it, and submitted themselves to God. "Seek righteousness, seek meekness, it may be ye shall be hid in the day of the Lord's anger" (Zep ).
(See Addenda on Jer . Stumble upon the dark mountains).
Jer . Theme: BITTER WEEPING OVER HARDENED TRANSGRESSORS.
The burdened heart finds relief in tears. And God is not unmindful of the grief of holy commiseration. Such tears are more pleading and potent than prayers: they express "groanings which cannot be uttered." "Thou wilt put all my tears into Thy bottle"—precious are they to God.
I. Men's wilfulness in sin occasions heaviest sorrow to God's messenger. "If ye will not hear it," &c. Ministers know something of the "terrors of the Lord," and the preciousness of souls, and, therefore, feel bitterest grief over the obstinate, who put salvation from them. Christians ought to be keenly affected by the guilt of others; and to feel the prevailing rejection of God as a personal distress.
II. Melancholy justification is supplied for such holy grief.
1. Defiant pride, in repudiating God's word.
2. Desolating exile of God's cherished flock. Two distinct aspects: man's hardened iniquity—a sad fact to contemplate; God's kingdom dishonoured—for it was a discreditable incident that His flock should be carried away captive. And over human guilt and God's sullied honour we have still sufficient justification for grief. When our work and word fail, we can still weep and pray in private.
III. Sorrowful tears have a benignant purpose to serve.
1. In prayerful retirement they may be poured out before God, in plaintive supplication for sinners. When preaching effects no good, we can weep in secret for the hardened; and our tears shall be a holy libation to God. "My soul shall weep in secret places for your pride."
2. In open lamentation they may be shed over sinners who will not weep for themselves. Hearts may be touched by a preacher's grief who would not feel his words. They may plead with men as well as with God. "Mine eyes shall weep sore, and run down with tears, because the Lord's flock is carried away captive." Would not that sight of the broken-hearted prophet send a pang to many an unreflective observer? Tears may melt a feelingless heart, and holy grief allure a prodigal to God. Weeping is the last resort of love. "When He beheld the city, He wept over it, saying, If thou hadst known!"
(See Addenda on Jer . Sorrowful tears.)
Theme: THE PATHOS OF AN EARNEST SOUL. Jeremiah was not a mere official with a formal message, but a patriot, and a devout lover of his fellow-men. Looking into the text, we note—
I. A fearful possibility. The Lord's flock captive.
II. A solitary hope. If they will hear the word of the Lord.
III. A faithful messenger. Jeremiah speaking God's word.
IV. A dreadful anticipation. If they will not hear.
V. A pathetic resolve. "If they will not hear, my soul shall weep."
APPLICATION: 1. To ministers—that they feel deep interest in the people, so as to weep over them, &c.
2. To people—that it is a question of essential importance concerning which God speaks. That their treatment of the Divine Word will decide whether the future shall be captivity or prosperity and bliss.—W. Whale.
Jer . See homily on section, supra.
"When the enemies are at the gate, the plague in the city, and there is no escape, while human help there is none, then it is time when preachers may speak to their princes who are in error; at other times they would be esteemed insolent.… Sometimes God's witnesses are clothed with an authority which no one understands, but all feel."—Zinzendorf.
"They who are chosen to the office of teaching cannot faithfully discharge their duty except they boldly, and with intrepid spirit, dare to reprove both kings and queens; for the word of the Lord is not to be restricted to the common people, or men in humble life. This prophecy was, no doubt, very bitter to the king as well as to the common people; for the king and his mother thought they could not possibly be dethroned."—Calvin.
Jer . Theme: THE LOST FLOCK DEMANDED OF THE FAITHLESS SHEPHERD.
God expects of those who were entrusted with the care of others due attention to their responsibilities. And God will require their flock at their hands; that they should return to Him, saying, "Behold me, and the children Thou hast given me!" or, as they to whom talents were entrusted returned to their Lord with the usury. Yes, and He will hold them accountable for what befalls the flock: "their blood will I require at thy hands."
Amazed at the depopulation of the surrounding cities, Jeremiah demands of Jerusalem an explanation of the desolations: or, demands of the State [for the pronoun is fem.], an explanation of the captivity and devastation of Judah. "What does this mean, that the flock is scattered which was entrusted to thee?"
I. Imminent perils jeopardise the defenceless flock.
1. Foes are visible: "Lift up your eyes and behold them!" Adversaries are clearly within sight, menacing the safety and weal of society, the peace and progress of the Church, the piety and happiness of the family, the integrity and honour of commerce, the healthful tone and influence of literature, the veracity and authority of revealed truth and Christian doctrine.
2. Foes are advancing: "they come from the north." Heathenish forces advance against our sacred inheritances—would rob Israel of her possession of Canaan; invade our holy scenes, besiege Jerusalem, and desecrate the Temple where God is worshipped, for no hallowed scene awes them away; assail our very liberty—intend to conquer and capture the people, to make souls their prey, and carry captive the helpless. For manifestly the "flock" is defenceless, when the rulers and shepherds "fear not God neither regard man." As indeed are our homes and liberties if they be not environed by the covenant care of God.
II. Solemn responsibility charged upon the heedless shepherds. "Where is the flock?" &c.
a. With which they had been put in trust: "given unto thee."
b. Which needed and merited faithful care: "thy beautiful flock."
c. Of whose safety God will require solemn account: "Where is the flock?" This is applicable to—
1. Magisterial responsibility for the wellbeing of their people. They must protect their subjects from invading evils, and care for the moral as well as physical good of those they govern.
2. Parental responsibility for the career of their children. Where are they? Trained in "the good and right way," led after Jesus, guided into the Church of Christ? Or wandering into worldly scenes, amid snares and sophistries? God will want to know "where" they are at the end of their life on earth, when we appear before Him to give account of our stewardship.
3. Ministerial responsibility for the salvation of those they taught. Have they watchfully tended the flock, been faithful and dutiful shepherds? Where are he souls to whom you ministered the word of redemption, "over whom the Holy Ghost made you overseer?" When the Chief Shepherd shall appear, He will require their souls of those who were put in charge of the gospel. (See Noticeable Topic on this verse.)
Jer . Theme: WHAT WILT THOU SAY WHEN HE SHALL PUNISH THEE.
Time coming when God would call Jewish nation to awful account. God has solemnly threatened the wicked with punishment. When summoned to His bar, "what wilt thou say?" What reason allege against justice of thy doom?
I. Reflect on that change of circumstances which will be favourable to a correct judgment.
1. The infidelity which now blinds your minds will then be removed. You will see there is a God, your duty on earth, your guilt in ignoring Him.
2. The mission of Christ will then be understood. Then see the infinite evil your sins wrought on Calvary.
3. The "opened books" will show record of all your sins, God's dealings with you, &c., making a "revelation of the righteous judgment of God."
4. Eternity will be laid open to your view, the glories of heaven, the horrors of doom.
5. The infinite and eternal interests which God's law was appointed to protect, and against which your sins waged eternal war, will then stand displayed.
6. Sin will then be seen as in raging hostility to the whole creation; against God, &c.
7. Nothing will then divert attention, or excite false hopes, or offer excuses. Everything will then burst upon you marked with eternity and infinity. Who can describe the emotions of that day?
II. Examine the several pleas which may be supposed to offer themselves then to thought.
1. Will you say that you meant no evil? But it will appear how your selfish heart opposed God, &c.
2. That your sins effected no serious results? But they have wrought immeasurable evils; crucified Christ, &c., and perhaps destroyed souls.
3. That eternal punishment is too severe for temporary sins? The sin of an hour can fix lasting misery, and must fall on the culprit himself.
4. That your sins being finite, do not merit infinite punishment? You sinned against an infinite God, therefore your punishment should be infinite, though it is finite in degree to comport with your nature.
5. Will you plead, You are no worse than others? There was no obligation to do evil with the multitude. God's law bound you individually.
6. Will you say, You had strong temptations? They were sent to test your obedience. They showed you loved your idols more than God. Your depravity gave them power.
7. Will you say, Those wiser than you betrayed you into errors of doctrine? You had the Word of God, the truth was plainly written there.
8. Will you plead, You had good desires and did good? In God's account you had no good desire, and did no good act. This will appear against all the unregenerate.
9. Will you say, You did not know God? God was before you in His works, and more gloriously in His Word. Your ignorance arose from your unbelief—"He that believeth not shall be damned."
10. Will you say, The Holy Spirit did not strive? Had you heeded His voice you would not have been in this condition now.
11. Will you say, Ministers and friends did not warn you? Say not so. They would have snatched you from destruction, but they could not.
12. Will you charge the blame on God—say He gave you passions which betray you? All false. He gave you no passions to lead you astray. Self-love changed all, and you alone are to blame.
13. Will you plead, You could not love God, could not repent and believe, nor change your heart? This is saying your heart would yield to no motives; and if God may not punish that, He can no more exercise moral government.
14. Will you say, You were excluded by God's foreknowledge and decree? If God foresaw you would reject the gospel, did that compel you to do so. You rejected it as freely as if it had not been foreknown.
15. Will you say, It is hard for a creature to be brought into existence without his own consent, and then to be made eternally miserable? Who art thou that repliest against God? If He may not create intelligent beings, and punish them when they sin, He has no right to maintain moral government.
16. Will you say, Why did He suffer me to sin? If the penalty of the law was not executed, it would have been annihilated, and the law turned into advice. Could not infinite Wisdom judge as well as you?
17. Will you say, There is no need of such severity, God could make the universe happy without your destruction? Can you look through eternity, and judge better than God? Or teach Him what is best for public good? Abandon these charges, fall down at the feet of Christ, and cast your soul on Him. Come, "for all things are ready." God, Christ, and the Holy Spirit are ready. Are you ready? Come.—Anon.
Jer . Theme: GOD'S JUDGMENT UPON THE FAITHLESS VINDICATED.
I. The tyranny of usurpers is explained. Why are God's people found in a state of captivity—does it not imply that He has failed to guard them? No! "Thou hast taught them," &c. By coquetting with foreigners, thou hast given them advantages over thee, which they have used for thy conquest. (See Lit. Crit. on verse.) If we court the friendship of sinners, we lay ourselves open to subjugation, and invite them to seize the unwary prey. Hezekiah, by showing the ambassadors his treasures, thus tempted the Babylonish king to plunder.
II. The misery of the vanquished is justified. "Shall not sorrow take thee, as a woman in travail?" Poignant will be the anguish; and not a reason will the sufferers be able to adduce why sorrows shall not take them. Self-condemnation, the consciousness of merited misery, is "the worm that dieth not, the fire that cannot be quenched."
III. The afflictions of judgment threatened. "What wilt thou say when He shall punish thee?" There is still an interval of suspended judgment. But the unsheathed sword will assuredly fall on the impenitent.
IV. The questionings of self-vindication silenced. "And if thou say in thine heart, Wherefore come these things upon me?" There is reason to doubt whether the sufferer will dare to ask such a question, for he will know the reason all too well: "if thou say." Even if he venture on such a self-answered inquiry, it will not dare utter itself, only rising in silence, as being ashamed of being heard: "say in thine heart." Yet, should any ask for the justification of the Divine afflictions, here it is—"For the greatness of thine iniquity."
V. The degradation of apostates is depicted. "Thy skirts discovered, and thy heels made bare." (See Lit. Crit. on verse). This public shame (see also Jer ) prefigures the confusion and contempt which will be openly poured upon all them that forget God and dishonour Him by their iniquitous disregard of His claims and His grace.
Jer . Theme: ESCAPING THE THRALDOM OF EVIL HABITS.
I. The great difficulty of reforming vicious habits. This difficulty of changing a bad course arises—
1. From the general nature of habits.
2. From the particular nature of bad habits.
3. From the natural and judicial consequences of the great progress and long continuance of a bad course.
II. This difficulty is not desperate. There is some ground of hope and encouragement.
1. There is left even in the worst of men a natural sense of the evil and unreasonableness of sin.
2. Very bad men, when they have any thought of becoming better, are apt to conceive some good hopes of God's grace and mercy.
3. Who knows what man, thoroughly roused and startled, may resolve to do?
4. The grace and assistance of God, when sincerely sought, is never to be despaired of.—Tillotson.
Suggestions arranged from Lange—
i. A comfortless perspective (Jer ).
ii Yet with God nothing it impossible (Mat ).
iii. Purification, though slow and successive, can be effected. The conclusion of Jer shows this. In purification—
1. We obtain a point of support without ourselves (Archimedes).
2. And a new principle of life in Christ Jesus. (See Addenda on Jer, Inveterate Habits.)
Theme: THE POWER OF EVIL HABITS.
We take notice of particular evil acts, but are strangely insensible of an evil principle operating within us. This principle shows itself in daily habits. Experience shows that our habits of sin are not easily broken.
I. The power of sin, as inherent in our nature.
1. It pervades all our faculties, whether of mind or body. Understanding blinded, will perverse, affections earthly, conscience stupefied, &c. (Rom ; Rom 6:13).
2. It finds in us nothing to counteract its influence. Neither reason nor conscience perform their office in opposing this evil principle. (See Rom .)
3. It receives aid from everything around us. "All that is in the world, lust of flesh, lust of eyes, and pride of life," are confederates, and solicit us to sin.
4. It conceals its influence under specious names. What will it not commend under the idea of amusement, and sanction as conviviality and good breeding?
II. Its power, as confirmed and augmented by evil habit.
1. Its odiousness is diminished. We see to what lengths wicked men will proceed when once the restraints of conscience and remorse are broken through; glory in their shame (Php ).
2. Its power is strengthened. Man may so accustom himself to anger, intemperance, impurity, or sloth, as to become powerless to resist temptation (2Pe ; Pro 26:14; Mat 19:24).
3. Its opportunities for exercise are multiplied. Habits call around us persons and temptations subservient to their indulgence. Thus, "sin most easily besets them" (Pro ).
4. The powers whereby it should be resisted are destroyed. Conscience becomes "seared" (1Ti ); mind hardened against fear (Heb 3:13). Hence "wax worse and worse" (2Ti 3:13.)
5. Everything good is by it put at an unapproachable distance. "How shall they do good?" &c. If the "putting off of the old man" be so difficult, what hope is there of "putting on the new?" (Eph ). Learn—
a. Your need of converting grace. "Must be born again."
b. The difference between sin and grace, as affected by our habits. Habits of sin will augment of themselves; not so with habits of grace. "Let him that thinketh he standeth take heed lest he fall." Yet the Lord is able to hold you up, and "His strength is made perfect in weakness."—Simeon.
Theme: THE ALARMING POWER OF SIN.
This passage, like some others in the sacred writings, is not to be interpreted in the strictest sense; of the same description is the declaration of Christ, "It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter into the kingdom of heaven." And yet such men are saved, though the difficulties in the way of their salvation are many and great. So, in some instances, are men long accustomed to do evil diverted from their courses of iniquity. But this is not usual. It is a truth which should affect the minds of every class, that the long-continued impenitence of men augments the difficulties in the way of their salvation.
I. The habits of men are strengthened and confirmed by indulgence.
II. The influence of this world, as men advance in life, usually becomes more perplexing, and a greater hindrance to their conversion.
III. As years increase men become less interested in the subject of religion, and more obdurate and averse to any alteration in their moral character.
IV. The thought of multiplied and long-continued transgression is very apt to discourage all attempts at repentance.
V. There is awful reason to apprehend that God will leave men of this description to perish in their sins.
1. What is the admonition which it addresses to the aged?
2. Our subject addresses those who are in middle life.
3. It addresses the young.—Dr. D. Spring.
"Custom in sin is a very great hindrance to conversion from sin."—Henry.
"Learned men in our age do not wisely refer to this passage, when they seek to prove that there is no free-will in man; for it is not simply the nature of man that is spoken of here, but the habit that is contracted by long practice. Aristotle, a strong advocate of free-will, confesses that it is not in man's power to do right, when he is so immersed in his own vices as to have lost a free choice (7, Lib. Ethicon), and this also is what experience proves."—Calvin.
"Inveterate habits are justly regarded as a second-nature; but, being moral in their character, instead of extenuating, they aggravate the guilt of those who are the subjects of them. Strong, therefore, as is the physical reference here made, it can with no propriety be employed in support of the physical impossibility of moral reformation."—Henderson.
See Noticeable Topics on this verse.
Jer . Comments—
"SCATTER THEM:" "This was no small aggravation of their misery that they should be thus severed one from another. So the persecutors of primitive times relegated and confined the poor Christians to isles and mines, where they could not have access one to another for mutual comfort and support, as Cyprian complaineth."—Trapp.
Jer . "THY LOT, THE PORTION OF THY MEASURES:" The portion I have measured out to thee (Job 20:29; Psa 11:6); as by line and measure I formerly allotted thee an inheritance in Canaan.
"IN FALSEHOOD:" i.e., in false gods and foreign usurpers.
Jer . Their punishment should answer to their crime. In spiritual harlotry with heathen gods they had exposed themselves to others; God would expose them to shame and ignominy before the eyes of heathen foes.
Jer . Theme: JUDAH'S CLEANSING—A FORLORN HOPE.
"Wilt thou not be made clean? When shall it once be?"
I. Purification deliberately refused. "Not be made clean." (See on Jer : "Put it not in water.") As yet Judah delighted in her defilement.
II. Purification extremely difficult. "Shall it once be?" These words explain Jer . Repentance on the part of Judah seemed to have become a moral impossibility; therefore cleansing could not be effected. No cleansing where there is no penitence.
III. Purification remotely possible. "When shall it be?" In the far distant future the prospective possibility opens to the Seer. It cannot yet, or soon be. Nevertheless he cherishes the distant hope. His patriotic love leads him to this generous surmise. And his knowledge of the patience and mercy of Jehovah forbid him to despair.
Theme: AN AFFECTIONATE EXPOSTULATION WITH JUDAH. "Wilt thou not be made clean?"
"Though it was adjudged next to impossible for them to be brought to do good (Jer ), yet while there is life there is hope, and therefore still he reasons with them to bring them to repentance (Jer 13:27).
"i. He reasons with them concerning the thing itself. ‘Wilt thou not be made clean?' Note, It is the great concern of those who are polluted by sin to be made clean by repentance and faith and an universal reformation. The reason why sinners are not made clean is that they will not be made clean; and therein they act unreasonably.
"ii. Concerning the time of it. ‘When shall it once be?' Note,—It is an instance of the wonderful grace of God, that He desires the repentance and conversion of sinners, and thinks the time long till they are brought to relent; but it is an instance of the wonderful folly of sinners that they put that off from time to time which is of such absolute necessity that, if it be not done some time, they are undone for ever. They do not say, they will never be cleansed, but, not yet; they will defer it to a more convenient season, but cannot tell us ‘when it shall once be.'"—Henry.
Theme: CLEANSING POSSIBLE, YET REFUSED. "Woe unto thee, O Jerusalem! Wilt thou not be made clean? When shall it once be?"
Every impenitent sinner is involved in guilt and polluted with sin. God is willing to pardon, if he repent and believe the gospel. "The blood of Jesus Christ His Son cleanseth us from all sin." It is implied—
I. That it is possible for creatures involved in guilt and polluted with sin to obtain both pardon and purity. "Wilt thou not be made clean? When shall it once be?"
God is able to cleanse us from sin. Our own unwillingness greatly obstructs it, yet it is possible to obtain it.
1. It is possible to have our guilt removed, and to be delivered from the consequences of sin.
2. It is possible for us to be delivered from the pollution of sin.
II. It is supposed That many raise objections against this cleansing and the means appointed for it. "Wilt thou not be made clean?"
The unbelieving Jews objected to the charge of guilt brought against them by the prophet.
1. Some are willing to be delivered from the consequences of sin, but not from its power. Would willingly escape hell, but care not to live a holy life; would accept a free and full salvation, but are not ready to take up their cross to follow Christ.
2. Some are willing to be cleansed outwardly, but not inwardly. Many do not object to leave off some of their gross sins, but dislike what is internal and spiritual.
3. Some are willing to be cleansed partly, but not entirely. There are sins they cannot give up.
4. Some raise objections to God's appointed methods for cleansing sins. Object to the mediation of Christ as the ground of their hope: would prefer to do some good work for themselves. Not willing to be pardoned and sanctified in God's appointed way.
5. Some who admit the importance of being cleansed, object to being cleansed yet; "at once." Religion is important, but it is to be attended to at some future time.
III. That those who object to be cleansed render themselves liable to Divine judgment. The words are introduced with a Woe. "Woe unto thee, O Jerusalem!" Refusing pardon, they deserve judgment for their impenitence. So those under the gospel, who remain impenitent and ungodly, are exposed to the most awful judgment.
1. Those who refuse to apply to the sacrifice of Christ have no way of mercy left to them. "There is no other name under heaven," &c.
2. Those who are not cleansed from sin must be excluded from heaven. "Except a man be born again he cannot see the kingdom of God."
3. There is great danger if you are not cleansed yet, that you will remain and perish in your corruption.—Anon.
Theme: MERCY'S APPEAL—"WILT THOU BE MADE CLEAN?" &c.
The favoured city under a ban—because of uncleanness—Divine offer of help the only hope. Mercy's appeal.
1. Mercy's appeal is faithful, convincing of sin, and commanding repentance.
2. Mercy's appeal is humiliating. Jerusalem is unclean and unable to make itself clean. Ungodly and without strength. Dependent on Divine love.
3. Mercy's appeal is helpful. God has made provision for cleansing. He is anxious to afford aid.
4. Mercy's appeal is to the moral wish of man. "Wilt thou?" &c.
5. Mercy's appeal is effectual when man is made willing to be clean.
Another method on same text—
I. The great need of the soul, cleansing.
II. The great helplessness of the soul, cannot cleanse itself.
III. The great grace of God. He has provided for cleansing, and offers to cleanse.
IV. The great drawback on our part. We do not naturally wish to be clean.
V. The great work of the ministry.
1. To bring home the feeling of guilt.
2. To ask the question of the text.
3. To direct to the cleansing fount.
4. To urge the importance of immediate application.—W. Whale.
NOTICEABLE TOPICS IN CHAPTER 13
Topic: NEARNESS TO GOD DESTROYED BY SIN. (Jer )
The sacred writers use the incidents of life and the symbolism of nature to inculcate truth. Christ did the same. Reason of this—(1.) Difficult to secure man's attention. (2.) Difficult to effect a lodgment of the truth in the heart. We have here a symbolic action, the burying, &c., of the girdle, intended to represent the nearness of the Jewish nation to God, and their alienation and destruction through sin.
Subject: NEARNESS TO GOD DESTROYED BY SIN
I. Nearness to God.—1. These Jews were like a girdle bound upon the loins. Should have entwined themselves around God. So nations may be near—(1) In the great things that God had done for them. (2) In the covenant relation which He had entered into with them. (3) In the privileges which He had conferred upon them.
2. Man is near—(1) He is near by nature—created in God's image. (2) He is near to God's heart. (3) He is near in God's care over him. (4) He is near in the privileges of liberty, religion, knowledge, discipline, warning. (5) In a position to become eternally nearer by growing up into Christ. Entering into his fellowship. Entering into His palace above. (6) Brought near for God's glory (Jer ).
II. His nearness destroyed by sin.—1. Sin is the destroyer of nations as well as individuals. The Jews destroyed by idolatry, lust, selfishness, pride.
2. As of nations so of individuals, sin will destroy them unless resisted and cast forth. Man in Paradise, Antediluvian world, Ahab, Haman, Lot, and Solomon almost.
3. This destruction is voluntary. The sinner is a suicide. (Jer, &c.).
4. God is represented as active in this destruction, v.q.—(1) Not that God deserts the sinner first. Pharaoh hardens his heart repeatedly before God is said to harden it. (2) But, when the measure of sin is full, God removes restraints, and sets in motion the agency of judgment.
5. This destruction will consist in—(1) Separation from God. (2) Utter corruption and rottenness.
Learn:—1. The terrible power of sin. 2. To guard against it as our chief enemy.—E. Jerman.
Topic: LIFE LESSONS—"BE NOT PROUD:" Children's Sermon. (Jer .)
The lily of the valley, growing in the shade, and concealing itself in its own leaves, hints this same lesson. So does the nightingale, which "asks no witness to her song." Not need to describe pride, as if it were a new thing, or a rare curiosity, something which we must travel to ruins of Nineveh to find: as ancient as Garden of Eden, and common as thorns and thistles. It is exceedingly deceitful, escapes punishment by assuming a fictitious excellence, but in any form it is SIN! And, this enmity to God, sets up idols where He should reign, and breeds envies, malice, &c.—things worthy of death. Its varieties are manifold: dwell on four of the chief—
I. There is race pride. Be thankful for good and pious ancestors: but what is there to boast or? Did we help to make them what they were; and are we as good as they? Jews were race proud: "We have Abraham to our father;" "We be the children of Abraham!" Not wrong to rejoice that our progenitors have been noble and holy, but to be arrogant and supercilious on account of this, and treat others disdainfully, is a ridiculous and detestable habit.
II. There is face pride. Lovely or manly features are not to be despised. Astonishing what favours they obtain, how many bolted doors they open. But if they foster pride, beauty is no longer beauty; it is despicable vanity. Remember how inferior outward appearance is to moral qualities, how empty it will leave you if disease despoils you of beauty; culture "the ornament of a meek and quiet spirit."
III. There is place pride. Your position in society, fine house, carriage, rich dress, education, accomplishments—these do not render you better than those whose station is lower; not wiser, nobler, holier. You received them from God, "without money and without price;" be not haughty about them.
IV. There is grace pride. The worst sort of pride, pride in godliness! Mingles with our prayers, praises, charities, repentance, and tears. We estimate our devotions or services, and think them satisfactory, congratulate ourselves on them: we then offer incense to self instead of to God. Grace pride corrupts all grace.
"Be not proud" therefore, because—1. We have nothing to be proud of: we are poor, weak, dependent creatures. 2. It is abhorrent to God: it shuts Him away. "The proud He knoweth afar off." "God resisteth the proud." Fallen, depraved, perishing beings, proud! 3. It is so unlike Christ. Yet He was "altogether lovely;" knew everything, possessed everything, could do everything; yet "meek and lowly in heart." 4. It is ruinous. "Pride goeth before destruction." What warnings do Saul, Nebuchadnezzar, and Herod offer! Watch against inducements, to pride: bravely struggle with and subdue it.—Rev. James Bolton, in "Family Treasury."
Topic: GOD GLORIFIED IN THE FALL OF PRIDE. Text: "Be not proud; give glory to the Lord your God. But if ye will not hear, my soul shall weep in secret places for your pride; and my eyes shall weep sore, and run down with tears, because the Lord's flock is carried away captive" (Jer ).
What a wonderful circumstance claims attention; the Everlasting God Himself pleads for an audience! "Hear ye and give ear, for the Lord hath spoken!" He tells of matters of vast importance; and, if you listen, through eternity you will thank God for having attended to His word.
I. Ask, What is it which stops people from hearing the voice of God? Text points to one special obstacle which is the last we should have thought possible—pride. When Jehovah condescends to speak to the heart of one so worthless, vouchsafes to offer us counsel of most momentous concern, the thing which bars our door against the entrance of Jesus, or deadens our ear to the sound of His voice, is this accursed thing called "pride." Varied aspects assumed by pride:—
1. One form of "pride" is shame. Many kept from Christ because ashamed to come and give themselves up to Him. For fear of the paltry scorn, the momentary ridicule, the soul will risk eternity! You have to choose between shame now and shame eternally. Yet what is there to be ashamed of, that you should be kept from Christ? Rather there is cause for shame in being a sinner, impenitent, self-condemned!
2. There is the "pride" of respectability and social position. Hold apart from religion, because in the one way all-must go without distinction. Yet who would not prefer the position of the vulgar beggar Lazarus to that of the respectable citizen Dives? What can justify in a lost sinner any high and vain thoughts of self?
3. There is the "pride" that conceals a wound. God's word has stricken the heart; healing and joy could be had if we humbly go to God, yet hide the grief and unrest within, from man and Heaven! Let this pride be broken down, and confession be made in the ears of your God.
4. There is the "pride" of self-righteousness. "Thank God, I am not like other men!" What say when before the Throne—that you were too good to accept the Gospel? Like the man without the wedding-garment, "you will be speechless." You might be clothed with the righteousness which is from God by faith; yet choosing your own, you are justly condemned!
II. Human pride must effectually be broken down.
1. When pride is humbled, and the man is crushed, then it is God speaks. And what does He say? Might expect—"Depart from Me, ye cursed!" Nay: "Give glory to the Lord your God." Your God still, though turned your back upon Him, grieved Him, "would none of His ways." How make return for the wrong done, years wasted, opportunities lost? "Give glory to the Lord your God!"
2. The contrite soul cannot realise its ability to glorify God. A child of sin and sorrow, heart vile, sins crying out in reproach, all life a transgression, how can such an one glorify God? Note: A sinner can in one sense glorify God more than the brightest angel before His throne. From deepest woe He raises the soul to highest bliss and holiness! And while "there is joy in the presence of God over the sinner" repentant, the Most High is glorified in the achievement of wondrous grace! Give this glory to your God; broken down, powerless, self-despairing, cast yourself on His salvation.
3. There is a desperate alternative; that "you will not hear." By and by your feet will "stumble on the dark mountains." The day of disease will come; life will grow dim; the thin grandeur of a fading world will begin to pass away; all around the gloom will thicken, and on a dying world "gross darkness," of unrelieved despair, will cover you. Then the last moment comes; one terrified "look for light," but in vain; the soul is "carried away into captivity."
Tears for lost Jerusalem! Tears for a lost soul! "Mine eyes shall weep sore."—Aitken's "Mission Sermons."
Topic: GOD'S CLAIM ON PARENTS. Text: "Where is the flock that was given thee, thy beautiful flock?" (Jer ).
If kings are responsible for their subjects, teachers are for their scholars, parents are for their children.
I. What is here shown us respecting the flock. "The flock that was given thee, thy beautiful flock."
1. The flock is not yours: not yours in proprietorship, but only yours in charge. It is "the flock given thee." Mighty kings and tyrants have regarded subjects as their property: such have always wrought the ruin of their nation. The flock belongs to God. Israel was His. Children are peculiarly and specially God's. Authority over them is God's gift to parents; but He has a claim prior to yours. He continues His work of Creation in every child born. Its existence is wonderful. Much more wonderful are its capacities—physical, mental, social, spiritual!
2. Christ highly estimates the flock. "Thy beautiful flock." "Whosoever shall receive one such child in My name, receiveth Me." Christian hospitality to a child is homage to God. Teachers, parents, the children of your charge constitute the flock that is given you; but you are not owners, only shepherds; and the obligation of shepherds is on you.
II. The responsibility of parents to whom God has entrusted His flock. The question will be put, sooner or later, "Where is the flock given thee?"
The great responsibility of parents is seen in this, that—
1. They had to impart religious ideas. At home the first principles are instilled: indeed, the child's mind is there made acquainted with the germs of all truth—sin, forgiveness, righteousness, salvation, love human and Divine: all the ideas involved in religion.
2. Parents represent to their children the character of the Invisible God. Jewish kings substituted and were to represent the "King of kings." The Incarnate Jesus revealed "the Father in heaven." The gospel is a declaration of the Paternal Love. The parental relationship, therefore, represents God to the little ones; and they get their first ideas of Him from what their parents are.
3. The inquiry "for the flock" will be addressed to parents. God will ask of them "the beautiful flock" that made bright their homes. The time will come when this inquiry will be addressed from the judgment throne to parents. And among the gathered flocks in the "one fold" of heaven Christ will ask for yours. Alas! some will pass childless into the gates of heaven; bereaved not by death but by sin: themselves saved, their children lost. How will their ears receive the words, "Enter into the joy of your Lord"? Others will themselves be arrested at the throne; themselves rejected: and to them also will the inquiry come, "Where is thy flock?" Driven by thee into perdition—souls which were not thine, lambs whom Jesus came to save!
III. The way in which this responsibility should be met. If you would prepare to answer joyfully this question, set it before you as—
1. A distinct purpose. The wish for your children's salvation is not enough. Many good people are bad parents through lack of this purpose that their children shall be saved; a purpose registered in the sight of God over each child singly.
2. Intense devotion is necessary. Lukewarm piety will never enable a man to say at the throne, "Behold I and the children which God has given me!" To have converting power over your own children you must love their souls, and hold them fast for God.—Rev. Alden Davies, in "Christian World Pulpit."
Topic: CUSTOM IN SIN EXCEEDING DANGEROUS. Text: "Can the Ethiopian change his skin, or the leopard his spots? then may ye also do good that are accustomed to do evil" (Jer ).
The miserable condition of sin is here exhibited in two branches, its defilement and its entanglement.
I. The defilement of sin. This is propounded from a double resemblance, the blackness of the Ethiopian, and the spots of the leopard. It is a polluting and deforming thing; whether man be regarded as corporeal or spiritual. Let it be beauty of the body, sin will cause loathsomeness; or beauty of mind, sin will take off the comeliness, and reduce it to coarseness and lust. Let men be what they may, yet if defiled by sin, they are so far forth very unlovely. They may not see their own ugliness, deformity, and filthiness in sin, as Ethiopians do not perceive their own blackness, nor are sensible of it; nay, they count their blackness their greatest beauty; yet this does not make them a whit the comelier.
To open this defilement and deformity which is in sin the more, we may take notice of four particulars:—
1. The inherence of sin. Like the blackness of the Ethiopian, and spots of leopard. "Behold I was shapen in iniquity," &c. (Psa ); "We are by nature children of wrath" (Eph 2:3); "The wicked are estranged from the womb" (Psa 58:3). (1) This should humble and abase us in consideration of our own vileness; not lead us to excuse our sins. If sin were a thing which men fell into only by chance, as something adventitious to them, some palliation might be found; but its being inbred and natural makes it the more abominable. Let us prosecute the work of humility and deep contrition, being afflicted in soul on account of this natural deformity. And (2) we see here what cause we have to desire that God would change our nature, and bestow a new nature upon us.
2. The monstrousness of sin. As we have seen it in its generation, so may we look upon it in its degeneration. (1) It alters a man's country; turns an Israelite into an "Ethiopian," and thus causes a degeneration there. (2) It also alters a man's nature; gives a man the quality and disposition even of the beasts, makes him a "leopard," and thus makes a degeneration there. See Psa, "I was as a beast before Thee." Thus does sin degenerate, debase, and put the sinner below himself.
3. The multiplication of sin. It is various; expressed here by the "leopard's spots." Sin is a beast of divers colours and marks and spots. A large catalogue in Gal, where the works of the flesh are made manifest. There are not more spots in a leopard than there are lusts in a corrupt heart.
4. The universality of sin. It is a deformity in all the parts, not one excepted: as is the blackness of the Ethiopian and the spots of the leopard. Sin makes a man universally sinful and polluted in every part and member of him (Isa ; Gen 6:5). On the other side, good men are freed from these spots: "Then art all fair, my love, there is no spot in thee" (Son 4:7); "Not having spot or wrinkle," &c. (Eph 5:27). See also 2Pe 3:14; Jas 1:27; Jude 1:23.
Let us not look upon these things as mere metaphors, but as carrying a manifest truth and reality in them; believe them, and be affected by them. Let this carry us so much the more closely to Christ, and cause us to admire God's free grace in Him, as the "Propitiation for sin," and "the Lamb of God which taketh away the sin of the world." The vileness of sin should make it loathsome to us, and love the means appointed for our recovery from it.
II. The entanglements of sin. Expressed in the unmovableness and unchangeableness of it; as "the Ethiopian cannot change his skin, or the leopard his spots."
1. The qualification [or condition] of the persons "accustomed to do evil." More correctly "taught to do evil." Taught (1) By doctrine and instruction. There is a great deal of such teaching in the world (see Mat ; Tit 1:11; Mar 7:7); and a great deal of ill-learning also follows thereupon; people are here quickly taught, so capable and appreciative are they (2Ti 4:3-4). Those who are thus taught to do evil cannot do good; there is an impotency and indisposition upon them to all good, and a proneness to all evil. Popery, Pelagianism, Anti-nomianism, though they do not always break forth into actual enormities, yet have that within them which teaches and leads to sin. (2) By pattern and example. That which men see to be practised they soon and easily fall into. (3) By practice and use "accustomed to do evil." Use makes perfect. There is an art in wickedness itself: "wise to do evil." Men are not expert and expedite at first in such sins as swearing, drinking, gaming; but experience comes with use; then "they drink in iniquity as water"—"draw on iniquity as with cart-ropes"—"do evil with both hands earnestly"—"turn to evil course as a horse rusheth to the battle."
2. The invincible necessity which follows upon custom in sin—they "cannot do good." As well attempt to make the Ethiopian white or remove spots from leopard, which are expressions of labour in vain, as to reduce an habituated sinner. The invincible necessity and tyranny of accustomed sin shows itself (1) In an impotency to good (Gal ). (2) A precipitancy unto evil (Ecc 8:11). The ground of this prevalency of custom is the fixedness of it; it being, as it were, a second nature, which is sure and constant to its principle. Naturalia non mutantur; those things which are natural are unchangeable. (a) Take heed of having anything to do with sin at first. (b.) If any should fall into sin, do not stay in it, but hasten out of it with speed (Rom 6:1). (c.) Take heed of relapses, and falling back to sin again (2Pe 2:20). Evil custom reassumed and habits returned to are specially dangerous.
But when is sin come to a habit? Or how may it be discerned so to be? We may know it by three considerations—
i. Frequency. When often and familiarly committed. ἐγγὺς τὸ πολλάχχις τῷ ἄει, says the philosopher: That which is often is next to that which is always; and it very suddenly falls into it.
ii. Facility. When one is expedite in doing it. "He that is born of God doth not commit sin;" i.e., does not make a trade of it; but with an unregenerate heart it is far otherwise, he is prompt and ready at it.
iii. [Felicity] complacency and delight in it. "They count it pleasure to riot in the daytime" (2Pe ; Psa 62:4). When wickedness has reached this height in those corrupted with it, it proves very hard and difficult to wean them from it: an invincible necessity lies upon the accustomed sinner.
Reflection. This seems a very UNCOMFORTABLE DOCTRINE, that an accustomed sinner is unreclaimable, and seems to carry much disheartening and discouragement in it. For are those inured to sin altogether lost,—without hope of recovery? This is to be understood, not absolutely and peremptorily, but with due limitation. There is One who can reduce, reform, and reclaim an habituated offender. "Who can bring clean out of unclean?" "Not one;" i.e., not one man. Comp. Mat . The Lord, by converting grace, can make the most monstrous sinner a good Christian; can change the skin of the Ethiopian, &c. Instances: Manasses, Paul, jailor, Mary Magdalene. (See Isa 11:6-7; Psa 68:31; Act 8:27; Ethiopian changed his skin.) The Lord is able. But we must take the words as applicable to the sinner, thus—
1. He cannot do it, i.e., of himself. An accustomed sinner cannot alter his own heart or course (Jer ). It is not the question, Can the Ethiopian's skin be changed? but, Can he change it? (Comp. 2Co 3:5; Php 2:13.) We can no more convert ourselves than create ourselves, no more give ourselves a spiritual being than a natural, no more raise ourselves from the death of sin than from the death of the grave.
2. He cannot do it, i.e., easily. There is great difficulty in reclaiming one habituated in sin. (a.) Because Satan will be busy in presenting his temptations; (b.) Lust in the heart of man will struggle towards the enticement (Gal ); (c.) Grace is oftentimes asleep, which should restrain and subdue sin.
Suggestions: 1. It is not enough for us to abstain from evil, we must also "do good" (see Psa ; Isa 7:16; Rom 12:9). This meets your negative Christians, merely inoffensive; like Pharisee, "no extortioner, no thief," &c. But what good do they do? 2. Sins of commission have sins of omission in them. Doing what they should not, they neglect what they should do: for they forfeit the opportunity, lose the ability, and alienate the proffered assistance (Psa 51:11). 3. No man can do any good till his nature be first changed. We must become good ourselves, "change skin," then may good come from us. This is a fact confirmed by observation (Mat 7:16), and by doctrine (Heb 11:6). Therefore should we seek the regenerating of God's Spirit.—Thomas Norton, D.D., A.D. 1678.
ADDENDA TO CHAPTER 13: ILLUSTRATIONS AND SUGGESTIVE EXTRACTS
Jer . THE UNWASHED GIRDLE. "Put it not in water," i.e., to wash or whiten it; but take it as it is first made, Ut sorditiem magis contrahat, to show, say some, that the Jewish nation, when first chosen, was black by sin and nothing amiable. Or, "Put it not in water," i.e., keep it from being rotted, as a type of God's care of and kindness to that people.—Trapp.
Jer . THE BURIED GIRDLE. "God has cast off His first people, the whole house of Judah and of Jerusalem.… God has put us on as a girdle in their stead. For He has not thrown away the girdle and remained unadorned, but has woven Himself another. This girdle is the Church from the heathen. It should know that, as God spared not the former, much more will He not spare it when it sins and is not worthy of God's loins."—Origen.
Jer ; Jer 13:5. THE STANDARD OF GOODLY CONDUCT. Perfect obedience.
"I worship Thee, sweet Will of God!
And all Thy ways adore;
And every day I live, I seem
To love Thee more and more.
"When obstacles and trials seem
Like prison walls to be,
I do the little I can do
And leave the rest to Thee.
"I know not what it is to doubt,
My heart is ever gay,—
I run no risks, for come what will
Thou always hast Thy way!
"I have no cares, O blessed will,
For all my cares are Thine;
I live in triumph, Lord, for Thou
Hast made Thy triumph mine."
Jer . PRIDE ABASED. "There never was a saint yet that grew proud of his fine feathers but the Lord plucked them out; there never was an angel that had pride in his heart but he lost his wings and fell into Gehenna, as Satan and those fallen angels did; and there never shall be a saint who indulges self-conceit and spiritual pride but the Lord will spoil his glories and trample his honours in the mire."—Spurgeon.
"Pride thrust proud Nebuchadnezzar out of men's society, proud Saul out of his kingdom, proud Adam out of Paradise, proud Haman out of court, proud Lucifer out of heaven."—Henry Smith.
"Whose robe is white, but heart is black with pride,
He for himself hell's gate has opened wide,
For, weighed in God-the-All-sufficient's scale,
Not claims nor righteousness of man avail;
But these are costly in His sight indeed—
Repentance, contrite shame, and sense of need."
"Remember what thou wert before thy birth—nothing; what thou wert for many years after—weakness; what in all thy life—a great sinner; what in all thy excellencies—a mere debtor to God, to thy parents, to the earth, and to all creatures. Upon these or the like meditations, if we dwell, we shall see nothing more reasonable than to be humble, and nothing more foolish than to be proud."—Bishop Taylor.
"Those boughs and branches of trees which are most richly laden with fruit bend downwards and han. lowest."—Dr. Gill.
"Lowliness is the base of every virtue:
And he who goes the lowest builds the safest.
May God keep all His pity for the proud!"
Jer . BE NOT PROUD. "I have read of Menecrates, a physician that would needs be counted a god, and took no other fee of his patients but their vow to worship him. Dionysius Syracusanus, hearing of this, invited him to a banquet, and, to honour him according to his desire, set before him nothing but a censer of frankincense, with the smoke whereof he was feasted till he starved, while others fed on good meat."—J. Adams.
"Diogenes, being at Olympia, saw at that celebrated festival some young men of Rhodes arrayed most magnificently and exclaimed, "This is pride!" Afterwards meeting with some Lacedmonians in a mean and sordid dress, he saw the same vanity in another guise, and said, "And this is also pride!"
Jer . REPENTANCE GLORIFYING GOD.
"On bended knees, replete with godly grief,
See where the mourner kneels to seek relief,
No ‘God I thank Thee!' freezes on his tongue
For works of merit that to him belong;
Deep in his soul conviction's ploughshare rings,
And to the surface his corruption brings;
He loathes himself, in lowest dust he lies,
And, all-abased, ‘Unclean, unclean!' he cries.
From his full heart pours forth the gushing plea,
‘God of the lost, be merciful to me!'
The light of life descends in heavenly rays,
And angels shout and sing, "Behold, he prays!"
"Christ Jesus rejoices over those as blessed who mourn over themselves as cursed, ‘Blessed are they that mourn, for they shall be comforted.' Out of the subtlest water God can brew the sweetest liquor. The skilful bee gathers the best honey from the bitterest herb. When the cloud has been dissolved into a shower there presently follows a glorious sunshine. The more a stone is wounded by the hand of an engraver, the greater beauty is superinduced thereon. By groans unutterable the Lord ushers in joys unspeakable."—Secker.
Jer . "STUMBLE UPON THE DARK MOUNTAINS:"
"Not Thou from us, O Lord I but we
Withdraw ourselves from Thee.
"When we are dark and dead,
And Thou art covered with a cloud
Hanging before Thee like a shroud,
So that our prayer can find no way,
Oh, teach us that we do not say,
‘Where is Thy brightness fled!'
"But that we search and try
What in ourselves has wrought this blame,
For Thou remainest still the same;
But earth's own vapours earth may fill
With darkness and thick clouds, while still
The sun is in the sky."—Trench.
"Arise, and search thy heart—let nothing stay thee;
The fatal cause is there;
This traitor in thy soul may else betray thee
To ruin and despair.
"Nor doubt, when thou with heart contrite and lowly
Hast all thy sins confess'd,
Thy night shall pass away, and God the holy
Shall hear and give thee rest."—Dewart.
Goethe's dying exclamation was mournfully significant—"Open the shutter, and let in more light!" Hobbes, the infidel, before death, said, "I am taking a fearful leap into the dark!"
Jer . LAMENTING PRIDE. Howard, the noble philanthropist, was one day visited by a German Count, governor of Upper Austria, with his countess, interested to see the man who had so excited public attention. The Count asked his opinion as to the state of the prisons in his department. Mr. Howard replied, "The worst in all Germany;" and advised that the Countess should visit the female prisoners. "I," she said haughtily, "I go into prisons!" and hastily left his presence in anger. Howard, indignant at her proud and unfeeling disposition, followed her, and said in earnest remonstrance, "Madam, remember you are a woman yourself, and must soon, like the most miserable prisoner in your dungeons, be enclosed in a small space of that earth from which you equally originated!"
Jer . SORROWFUL TEARS.
"What gem hath dropp'd, and sparkles o'er his chain?
The tear most sacred—shed for others' pain,
That starts at once—bright, pure—from pity's mine,
Already polished by the hand Divine."
"The rose is fairest washed with morning dew,
And love is loveliest when embalmed in tears."
"Hide not thy tears, weep boldly—and be proud
To give the flowing virtue manly way:
'Tis Nature's mark, to know an honest heart by.
Shame on those breasts of stone that cannot melt
In soft adoption of another's sorrow."—Hill.
Jer . "THE QUEEN." The Hebrew has no word to express "queen," the fem. of "king," nor its equivalent dignity. The word, gebirah, translated queen, means "mistress" or "lady," and is used only twice of a king's wife (1Ki 11:19, wife of king of Egypt, and 2Ki 10:13, Jezebel, who was not only wife but daughter of a king). In two other places (Jer 13:18; Jer 29:2) it may be king's mother, as it clearly is in 1Ki 15:13; 2Ch 15:16.
Jer . REBUKING ROYALTY. When Beza, in the behalf of the Reformed Churches of France, made a speech at Possiacum before the young king and the queen-mother, he spake so effectually, says Rivet, that a great cardinal who heard it wished that either he had been dumb that day, or that they had all been deaf.
Jer . INVETERATE HABITS. "Bad habits are very easily formed, but when once formed they are like the course of a mighty river. Some of the oldest rivers in the world have the same place in the map, and the same windings on the face of the earth which they first cut for themselves; and that way they have continued to follow through the succession of generations."—J. A. Wallace.
"When at first from virtue's path we stray,
How shrinks the feeble heart with sad dismay!
More bold at length, by powerful habit led,
Careless and sear'd the dreary wild we tread;
Behold the gaping gulf of sin with scorn,
And plunging deep to endless death are borne."
"Then the shepherds led the pilgrims to a place where they saw one Fool, and one Want-wit washing an Ethiopian, with an intention to make him white; but the more they washed him the blacker he was. Then they asked the shepherds what this should mean. So they told them, saying, "Thus it is with the vile person: all means used to get such an one a good name, shall in conclusion tend but to make him more abominable. Thus it was with the Pharisees, and so shall it be with all hypocrites.—Bunyan.
"Habitual evils change not on a sudden,
But many days must pass, and many sorrows;
Conscious remorse and anguish must be felt,
To curb desire, to break the stubborn will,
And work a second nature in the soul,
Ere Virtue can resume the place she lost."
"Said Diogenes, when he reproved an ill man to no purpose, ‘Æthiopem abluo ut candidum reddam;' I do but wash a blackamoor. And the like said Nazianzen concerning Julian the Apostate. It is said that the negroes paint the devil white, as being a colour contrary to their own, and which they less well affect."—Trapp.
"Custom in sin takes away the sense of it: and it looks for continual entertainment where it hath once gotten a haunt. Nothing so weak as water; yet let much water (as sin, Satan, and custom) be joined together, and nothing stronger. It was not for nothing, therefore, that the Cretans, when they would curse their enemies with most bitter execrations, wished that they might take delight in some or other evil custom. Modestoque voti genere efficacissimum ultionis genus reperiunt, saith the historian (Val. Max.); by a modest kind of wish they sufficiently avenged themselves."—Idem.
These files are public domain.
Text Courtesy of BibleSupport.com. Used by Permission.
Exell, Joseph S. "Commentary on Jeremiah 13". Preacher's Complete Homiletical Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/
the Third Week after Epiphany