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CRITICAL AND EXEGETICAL NOTES.—1. Chronology of the Chapter. This and chapter 15 form one prophecy (although Lange, Keil, and others connect chapters 14 to 17, regarding them as interwoven and synchronous). From evidence of personal hardship towards Jeremiah (Jeremiah 15:10), most probably these prophecies were delivered during the early years of Jehoiakim’s reign. (See on chapter 7) Also for Contemporary Scriptures: National Affairs, Contemporaneous History, see chapter 7.
2. Natural History.—Jeremiah 14:1. “Dearth:” batstsoreth, restraint, sc. of rain. Although Palestine is a very fruitful land, famine naturally followed close upon failure of rain (1 Kings 17:0; Josephus, Ant. xv. 9, 1) See on chapter 2 Jeremiah 14:16; and specially Historic Events, cf. “The Land withered by Drought,” p. 62.Jeremiah 14:2; Jeremiah 14:2. “Gates languish.” (See Addenda on verse). Jeremiah 14:5. “The hind:” the female of the hart or stag:אַיֶּלֶת. The Ayeleth is a frequent Scripture figure suggesting gentleness (Proverbs 5:19), fleetness end agility (Psalms 18:33; Habakkuk 3:19), delicate modesty (Song of Solomon 2:7; Song of Solomon 3:5), and in this verse, maternal affection, she being adduced as an extreme illustration of the effects of the famine on one of the most ardent creatures. Jeremiah 14:6. “Wild asses:” cf. notes on Jeremiah 2:24. “Dragons:” cf. notes on Jeremiah 9:11.
3. Manners and Customs. Jeremiah 14:3. “Nobles have sent their little ones to the voters:” i.e., to the tanks for holding water; pits or cisterns. (See notes on Jeremiah 2:13.) “Covered their heads:” (See on Jeremiah 2:37). Jeremiah 14:8. “Wayfaring man that turneth aside to tarry for a night:” i.e., that pitcheth his tent to tarry: in recognition of the custom of travellers to carry their tent with them, and in which they tarried for the night. Jeremiah 14:12. “An oblation:” i.e., meat-offering (cf. Leviticus 2:1); the minchah, which was not a sacrificial offering, but was usually offered as supplementary thereto, and consisted of articles of food, or of oil.
4. Literary Criticisms.—Jeremiah 14:1. “Dearth:” occurring here in the plural, הַבַּצָּרוֹת, restraints, it does not necessarily imply a numerical succession of dearths, but is used idiomatically (a common form in the Heb.) for intensity and continuance. Whatever has extension of time or space is expressed by the Heb. pl. Jeremiah 14:2. “Black unto the ground:” “covered by mourning even to the earth” (Naeg.); “they bow mourning towards the earth” (Hend.). Jeremiah 14:3. “Nobles sent their little ones:” the word rendered “little ones,” צָעוֹר, = to be mean, inferior, as well as little: and in this instance more correctly should be, their servants or inferiors. Jeremiah 14:4. “Ground is chapt:” lit. dismayed. Jeremiah 14:5. “No grass:” comp. with Jeremiah 14:6, “no grass.” The two words are different, דֶשֶׁא (Jeremiah 14:5), = green-grass: עֵשֶׂב, (Jeremiah 14:6), = under-shrubs, or bushes (Genesis 1:11, = herb). Jeremiah 14:8. “Turneth aside to tarry for a night:” נָטָה לָלון; the simple meaning of נָטָה here rendered “turneth aside,” is to stretch out, unfo’d, i.e., to spread a tent: lit. to stretch (his tent) to pass the night. Jeremiah 14:9. “A man astonied;” a word which occurs only here, נִדְהָם; Syriac gives feeble, Vulgate, vagus; but the LXX (either mistaking the word for נִרְדָם, or changing it) render it by ὑπνῶν, in deep sleep; but the word is by all critics traced to the Arabic dahama, to confound, take unawares, stupify, strike dumb. Jeremiah 14:13. “Give you assured peace:” lit. peace of truth, i.e., true, durable peace. Jeremiah 14:14. “A thing of nought:” אֱלִיל, “elil is probably a diminution of el, God, and signifies a small idol made of the more precious metals (Isaiah 2:20; Isaiah 19:3). But as the Jews habitually called idols vanity, falsehood, and the like, the word elil soon suggested a derivation from the negative particle al. not: and there are two places where it has the secondary meaning of worthlessness (Job 13:4; Zechariah 11:17). A.V. Idol shepherd. Elul (in text) may be an oracle given by an Elil.”—Dr. Payne Smith. Jeremiah 14:17. “A very grievous blow:” cf. notes on Jeremiah 10:19. Jeremiah 14:18. “Behold them that are sick with famine:” lit. the sickness, or tortures of famine,תַּחֲלוּאֵי, torments. “Go about into a land that they know not:” Hend. = “shall migrate into a land which they know not;” Naeg., “go into the country and know nothing;” Speaker’s Com., “go about into a land and know not;” Rosen. Umbreit, “wander about in the land and know not what to do;” Graf. “shall go as beggars into a strange land;” Hitzig. “they move into a land which they know not.”
HOMILIES ON SECTIONS OF CHAPTER 14
PLEADING WITH GOD OVER A CALAMITOUS DEARTH.
Jehovah’s refusal to allow intercession to prevail.
A piteous lament for the nation’s woe.
Jeremiah 14:1-9. PLEADING WITH GOD OVER A CALAMITOUS DEARTH
The first verse is the title to the whole chapter: it does indeed all concern the dearth, but much of it consists of the prophet’s prayers,—not unfitly said to be “The word of the Lord which came to him;” for every acceptable prayer God puts into our hearts; our word that goes to Him is His word that comes to us.
I. The language of nature lamenting the calamity.
1. The people of the land were all in tears. “Judah mourns;” not for the sin but for the trouble, not for the withholding of God’s favour but of rain. “The gates languish,” those who pass through them, or assemble there are pale with want and fear. “They are black unto the ground;” as mourners, they sit on the ground. “The cry of Jerusalem is gone up;” not the cry of their prayer but of their complaint.
2. The great men of the land felt the judgment. “The nobles sent,” &c.; perhaps having had to part with their servants through scarcity, they had to send their own “children” (comp. 1 Kings 18:5-6). Rather, their inferior officers. But they “returned with their vessels empty.” Not “ashamed” for their sins but unsuccess.
3. The husbandmen suffered most severely (Jeremiah 14:4). The ground was so parched and hard, nothing could be done. How dependent are husbandmen upon the Divine providences!
4. The case even of the wild beasts was very pitiable (Jeremiah 14:5-6). Man’s sins bring judgments upon the earth which make even the inferior creatures groan. “The hinds,” what have they done? Lovely and loving creatures; yet they were driven to act contrary to natural instincts. “The wild asses” cannot breathe in the parched land, so climb to “highest places,” and there “snuff up the wind like dragons.”
II. The language of grace lamenting the iniquity, and complaining to God of the calamity.
The people are not forward to pray, but the prophet prays for them, to excite them to pray for themselves.
1. Sin is humbly confessed (Jeremiah 14:7). Our sins are witnesses against us, and true penitents see them as such: too numerous to be concealed, for they “are many:” too heinous to be excused, for they are “against Thee.”
2. Mercy is earnestly begged. “Though our iniquities testify against us, yet do Thou it for Thy name’s sake” (Jeremiah 14:7). Not particularising what, leaving that to God. Our best pleas in prayer are fetched from the glory of God’s own name—we have nothing to plead in ourselves, but everything in Him. Also, “Leave us not” (Jeremiah 14:9). We should dread and deprecate God’s departure more than every loss.
3. Their relation to God is most pathetically pleaded. Their interest in Him and expectations from Him grounded thereon (Jeremiah 14:8-9).
(1.) They look upon Him as One they have reason to expect should deliver them in distress. He pleads, “Thou art the Hope of Israel;” God had encouraged His people to hope in Him. “The Saviour thereof in time of truth;” since God is their all-sufficient Saviour they ought to look to Him in their greatest straits. “Thou art in the midst of us;” we have the special tokens of Thy presence, temple, ark, oracles. “We are called by Thy name:” therefore, what evils we are under reflect dishonour upon Thee, as if Thou wert not able so relieve Thine own.
(2.) It, therefore, grieves them that He does not appear for their deliverance. Because He will seem (a.) Unconcerned for His own people; as “a stranger in the land,” who does not interest himself in its interests; “as a wayfaring man,” &c., instead of “resting here for ever.” Though God never is, yet He sometimes seems careless of His Church. Christ slept when His disciples were in a storm. (b.) Incapable of giving them relief. (Comp. Numbers 14:16.) “As a man astonied,” at a loss what to do, or “as a mighty man” overpowered by others more mighty, and therefore “cannot save.” Either conception was an insult to the Divine perfections. It becomes us thus in prayer to be equally concerned for God’s glory. (Comp. Henry. See also Noticeable Topics to chap. 14 infra.)
Jeremiah 14:10-16. JEHOVAH’S REFUSAL TO ALLOW INTERCESSION TO PREVAIL
See Addenda on Jeremiah 14:8, “Intercessory Prayer;” and on Jeremiah 14:12, “Fasting offensive.” Comp. Section chap. Jeremiah 11:14-17; also on chap. Jeremiah 7:16-20.
I. The Lord’s answer to the prophet’s prayer.
1. He points to the backsliding of the people, for which He now punishes them (Jeremiah 14:10). In the “thus have they loved to wander” lies a backward reference: not to the vain wanderings for water (Jeremiah 14:3), nor to the restless movements of the thirsty animals (Jeremiah 14:5-6), but to the substance of Jeremiah’s prayer, in which he complained of God’s seeming alienation and indifference: thus, in like degree as Jehovah has estranged Himself from His people (Jeremiah 14:8-9), have they estranged themselves from their God. They loved to wander after strange gods, therefore He punishes them (Hosea 8:13).
2. He refuses the prophet’s prayer because He loathes the people’s soulless fastings and sacrifices (Jeremiah 14:11-12). They turn to Him in their need, but only in lip service and formality; their hearts are with their idols. By bringing sacrifices, these hollow-hearted hypocrites thought to give “pleasure” to God, and win His leniency and mercy.
3. He specifies the means by which He will destroy this backsliding people. Threefold: battle, famine, and pestilence, when their cities are besieged by the nearing foe (cf. Leviticus 26:25, f.).
II. The prophet renews his endeavours to entreat God’s favour.
1. He lays stress on the fact that they had been deceived (Jeremiah 14:13). He offers the excuse for this people that the delusive forecastings of false prophets who promised peace had confirmed them in their infatuation.
2. But they are not excused on that account; for they gave credit to lies. (1) God had not commissioned these prophets (Jeremiah 14:14). The cumulation of these words, “lying vision,” &c., shows God’s indignation against the wicked practices of these men. (2) Their easy and willing dupes are condemned to ignominy. The lies of these false prophets flattered the sinful passions of the people, who therefore would not hear nor take to heart the word of the true prophets who preached repentance and return to God.
3. Seducers should perish with those they seduced. They should perish “by sword and famine” who affirmed these should not come upon the people. And with the specification of the various classes of the people upon whom judgments should fall, must be compared the account of their participation in idolatry (Jeremiah 7:18).—Arranged from Keil.
Jeremiah 14:18-20. A PITEOUS LAMENT FOR THE NATION’S WOE
“Thou shalt say unto them this word;” but actually no word from God follows. What then? Is there a message here lost from God’s book? Nay. Jehovah bids His prophet utter his cries and prayers in the hearing of the hardened nation and pour out his tears of grief; that his pain in contemplating Judah’s nearing ruin may touch and arouse them.
I. Doleful scenes. Depicted vividly by the prophet, whose shocked and appalled gaze rests, by prevision, upon them.
1. Occasions for grief. The miseries the Chaldeans would inflict are all arrayed under his eye: “broken with a great breach, with a very grievous blow.” (See Section, Jeremiah 10:17-25; and Homilies on Jeremiah 10:19-20.) “In the field,” the slain; “in the city,” the starved.
2. Profusion of tears. For one he tenderly cherishes—“the virgin daughter of my people;” and in whose miseries he poignantly shares. “Let mine eyes run down with tears,” &c. (See Homilies and Notes on Jeremiah 9:1, and Jeremiah 13:17.)
II. Painful conjectures. He lifts his eyes from the scene of stricken Judah to Judah’s God, and assays to interpret God’s reason,—the dreadful explanation that lay behind the appalling facts: “Hast thou utterly rejected?” &c. (Jeremiah 14:19).
1. That God had abandoned His people. It seemed incredible. Paul asked in equal amaze and shrinking, “Hath God then cast away His people?” (Romans 11:1). True, Judah merited such abandonment: but is the rejection final, hopeless: “utterly rejected”?
2. That Zion should be “loathed” by Him. The word means, to throw away as worthless. And can Zion have become thus obnoxious to Jehovah? No yearning pity left in the “soul” of Him who had said, “I remember for thy sake the kindness of thy youth, and the love of thine espousals?” (See Notes and Homilies on Jeremiah 2:2-3.)
III. Frustrated hopes. Here the prophet expresses the people’s delusive expectations: “We looked for peace,” &c.
1. Flattering hopes. Easily and gladly cherished. Sinners are ready to believe in coming good.
2. False hopes. Unfounded expectations bring bitter awakenings: the delusions yield to desolations. (See Notes and Homilies on Jeremiah 8:16.)
IV. Penitent confessions. This is language spoken for them which should have been spoken by them (Jeremiah 14:20).
1. Personal transgression. “Our wickedness;” their own individual outrage of righteousness, violation of covenants, provocations of Divine wrath. No evading the directness of their criminality.
2. Perpetuated iniquity. “The iniquity of our fathers.” Not that they acknowledged their ancestors’ sin, they might leave that; but we acknowledge our wickedness, the iniquity of our fathers,” i.e., which is the repetition of their iniquity.
3. Inexcusable wickedness. “Sinned against Thee!” Against a God so holy, munificent, faithful. (See Addenda on Jeremiah 14:20, “Sin acknowledged.”)
IV. Wrestling prayers. Jeremiah had been prohibited by God to pray (Jeremiah 14:11), but he returns to his knees in impassioned importunity and pathos.
1. He pleads that God will not alienate His heart from Judah. Afflict with Thine hand if need be, but do not shut us from Thine heart: “do not abhor us.”
2. He appeals to the honour and fidelity of Jehovah. The honour of His name: “For Thy name’s sake.” The honour of His temple; “the throne of Thy glory,” preserve that from defamation and spoliation. The honour of His promises: “break not Thy covenant with us.” Remember Thy word unto Thy servants, &c.
3. He casts all hope implicitly on God. No other object of worship availed for their help: “Are there any among the vanities of the Gentiles that can cause lain?” No regard to Nature or heed of second causes would now suffice: “Can the heavens give showers?” Nay, God “made all these things.” Therefore, on Him alone and trustfully they would wait (Zechariah 10:1). And this was the encouragement of their trust; not only in God’s power as Creator, but in this fact, “Art not Thou He, O Lord our God?” “Our help is in the name of the Lord, who made both heaven and earth.”
HOMILIES AND COMMENTS ON VERSES OF CHAPTER 14
Jeremiah 14:1. “Concerning the dearth:” see HISTORIC EVENTS. Cf. The land withered by drought, chap. Jeremiah 3:3; and Notes and Homily on Jeremiah 9:12.
Jeremiah 14:3. Theme: VAIN SEARCH FOR WATER.
For explanation of “pits and no water,” see Notes, Manners and Customs, Jeremiah 2:13 : and for General Comments, see Section Jeremiah 2:9-13. See also Addenda on verse.
I. God’s vital drink: “water.” In God’s hand to give or withhold.
1. Water, a physical necessity. Cannot exist without it. A common commodity, despised as a drink by those of vitiated taste, but nevertheless imperative for all.
2. Water, a spiritual emblem. Water of life = (a.) the Gospel of Jesus—“If any thirst, come to Me and drink:” (b.) the sanctifying Spirit “be in you a well of water:” (c.) the sacred refreshings—Draw, water out of the wells of salvation.” Without these none can live. “Ho! every one that thirsteth, come ye to the waters.”
II. Man’s urgent thirst. The drought caused misery and mourning everywhere: “Judah mourneth, gates languish” (Jeremiah 14:2). Suggests: what appalling woe would ensue were the Gospel withdrawn from man: the Spirit’s sanctifying ministry recalled by Jesus; and the “wells of salvation” closed against the pilgrims to Zion!
1. Without drink man must perish So spiritually.
2. Unless he drink SOON he must die. Therefore “the nobles” bestirred themselves: as once king Ahab and his lord chamberlain Obadiah had to do (1 Kings 18:5-6): for all ranks of mankind are dependent on water for life—must drink or die.
III. Search utterly vain. “Found no water.”
1. Fruitless efforts. “They came to the pits, and returned with their vessels empty.” So men who seek happiness, and self-justification, and peace of spirit, and eternal hopes, in dry pits.
2. Mocking sources. These “pits” were the nation’s sole supplies—their reservoirs. “Broken cisterns which hold no water.” (See on chap. Jeremiah 2:13; specially Noticeable Topics.)
3. Desolating shame. “Returned, ashamed, covered heads:” sign of very great grief (2 Samuel 15:30; 2 Samuel 19:4). What shame and grief will cover souls who return to their Lord, never having found living water, at the great judgment! And what anguish will overwhelm those who, in the eternal world, never have “a drop of water to cool their tongues!”
(a.) When God withholds rain man’s effort and hopes perish amid natural drought.
(b.) When the era of grace closes, water will nowhere, never be found for man’s spiritual needs.
Jeremiah 14:3. Theme: CISTERNS AND THE FOUNTAIN. “They came to the pits, and found no water.”
Jeremiah describes the anxiety of the nobles for their own safety. They and their families were in imminent peril. The claims of nature were urgent and the supply doubtful. In the hour of their anguish, both children and servants were sent forth to see if perchance any water might yet remain in the natural hollows, or in the artificial dykes and cisterns. Their effort was vain, neither nature nor art responded to their cry nor rewarded their effort. Failure and disappointment made their hearts sad. They covered their heads with shame, confusion, and sorrow. It is a struggle for life, and death appeared to be gaining the victory. Their boasting was hushed, their folly was made clear, their sin was finding them out, as God declared it would. They now realised that it was a mournful and fatal error in them to forsake the Fountain of Living Waters.
[God is the Fountain. The arm of flesh, the fancies of the human brain, the energies of human life are not such as to enable man to do without God. Man’s reason is a useful cistern, but fails most when most required. God’s word of promise is the fountain whence flows our hope when reason’s efforts fail. Creeds are cisterns holding for practical and ready use portions of knowledge, but Christ is the Fountain in which all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge are to be found, and from whom alone they are to be obtained. Science hews out her hollows in the rock, explores the cave, descends the valley, or scales the mountain height if she may but satisfy the thirst of man, but faith, knowing that man thirsts for the living God, listens for the voice of Him who says “Come unto Me and drink.”]
I. Cisterns are human, the Fountain is Divine.
Human fancies, speculations, attainments, achievements, inventions, and works are insufficient. The love of God, the work of Christ, the fellowship of the Spirit, the exercise of faith, these are Divine, saving, comforting.
II. Cisterns are dependent, the Fountain is self-sustaining.
Our thoughts and experiences depend on many circumstances, but God revealed, approachable, loved, obeyed, adored, is in us an ever-springing well, &c.
III. Cisterns are superficial, the Fountain deep.
Things earthly and human easily dried up, or by constant demand exhausted. Things Divine imperishable, inexhaustible. God’s love, word, glory The well is deep. The waterpot is small.
IV. Cisterns are fullest when least needed, the Fountain always full.
The Prodigal found it so. It was so at the marriage in Cana. The wine was exhausted, but Christ and His power were then best displayed.
V. Cisterns are useful only as connected with the fountain.
Solomon’s pools. Water-supply of our large towns. Cisterns, when rightly used, receive and cherish that which flows from the fountain. A cistern instead of, or apart from, a fountain is the work of presumption and folly, of unbelief and sin.
VI. Cisterns need to be kept in good condition as well as being connected with the fountain.
Broken cisterns can hold no water. The means of grace, the throne of grace, the obedience of faith, and all God’s methods of communicating good should be kept in proper repair, and constant use. The wretched and selfish pursuits of unbelief and sin are incapable of holding any divine blessing.
VII. Come to the Fountain. Christ is the Fountain. “If any man thirst let him come unto Me and drink.” Come and wash. Come and drink.
1. Avoid the follies of those who forsake God.
2. Know that all earthly comforts are insufficient and transient.
3. At the time of your deepest need go not to pits, but to THE FOUNTAIN.—W. Whale.
Jeremiah 14:7. Theme: MAN PERISHES; GOD MUST WORK.
Jews in great distress by reason of drought. Every temporal calamity was viewed by them as a Divine judgment. No rain, blighted country, cattle perishing, people languishing in gates, what all this but proof of God’s displeasure?
Close analogy between temporal and spiritual: dearth on land = desolation of soul; no gracious rain = no heavenly blessing. This their case: through sin alienated God; Jeremiah 14:8, implying fellowship, had ceased, God withdrawn. While Jeremiah 14:9 suggests that in their distress God did not arise.
Desolate lot. Yet many cry, Why as a Stranger to our souls? Why lost fellowship with Thee? “Where is the blessedness I knew?” O Lord, Saviour of Israel, why as cannot save? Men need salvation, from sin, perils, care. The cry of perishing rises, “O Lord, though our iniquities testify against us, do Thou it for Thy name’s sake.”
I. A trustful prayer: “O Lord, do Thou it!” Whatever the prayer sought, it is clear that the prophet knew—
1. God could answer it. If favour lost, He could renew. Aid needed, God could exert power. Their case could not surpass Him. Hence asked Jeremiah 14:9. Knew God could “do it.” We know “nothing is too hard for the Lord.” Deep misery, extreme need, great iniquity, ready to perish; yet God can “do” all our case requires.
2. God alone could answer that prayer. Appeal direct to “Lord: do Thou it.” (See Jeremiah 14:22). Prophet learned the vanity of every other trust, but God was “Hope of Israel.” He was his exclusive trust, to none other would he seek. Misery great, yet if Lord not relieve, none could. The Lord is our only source of hope or help. Look not elsewhere, though He seem to withhold.
II. A mournful confession: “Our iniquities testify against us.” Sad that prayer must ever open with this acknowledgment!
1. Their evil condition. “Iniquities,” the guilt and curse of sin was on them. Many in number; though they had received warning, and might have shunned them. “Testified against them”—conscience reproached; pursued by them. Hearts cry out against us. Evil lives rise up in witness against us, and call for our condemnation.
2. Their ill desert. The prayer was for God’s favour, but sins were against them, menaced them. Mercy was asked, but iniquities cried out for judgment. “My sins are ever before me;” “Our iniquities are gone up into the heavens.”
3. Their stricken spirit. Prayer offered with shame and contrition. No extenuation, no excuses. Confession ought thus to be made in a spirit of deep sorrow, and humble sense of demerit. (See Addenda Jeremiah 14:7, Contrite Prayer.)
III. A prevailing plea: “Do it, for Thy name’s sake.”
1. Recognises the total absence of any claim to mercy. Could solicit nothing for their sakes.
2. Forgoes all allusion to mitigating circumstances. Nothing mentioned to soften their criminality and propitiate God. “Just as I am.”
3. Bases the hope of compassion on the Name of God. His name was “The Lord merciful and gracious,” &c. On the ground that God’s name declares Him forgiving and loving, ask forgiveness and love divine! “For Thy name’s sake, O Lord, pardon mine iniquity, for it is great.” “If we confess our sin, God is faithful and just to forgive us our sin and to cleanse us,” &c. In this Gospel dispensation we have the great Name of Jesus, “Saviour,” to plead; and “whatever ye shall ask the Father, in my name, He will give it.”
Theme: GOD’S NAME THE SINNER’S PLEA.
The prophet, though forbidden to pray (Jeremiah 7:16; Jeremiah 11:14, and Jeremiah 14:11), could not forbear, but urged his prayers with all imaginable tenderness and compassion. Though he could find no excuse for Israel, he could find a plea in the very character of God.
I. The sinner’s acknowledgment.
1. The prophet’s confession is precisely such as befits the world at large. (Comp. Hosea 7:10; Psalms 36:1; Hosea 5:4-5.)
2. With too great reason, also, may it be adopted, even by the best of men. The world are willing slaves of sin, whilst the godly resist spiritual enemies. Yet much amiss within them: sins of commission, omission, and defect (Isaiah 59:12).
II. The sinner’s plea. The request is not specified, but seems to be for restoration of God’s favour. This all may ask, not for what is in us, but for the sake of God’s honour, and the glory of His name.
1. His plea is open to all. His exercise of mercy is His highest glory (Deuteronomy 9:5; Ezekiel 20:9; Ezekiel 20:14; Ezekiel 20:22). Even when we have provoked God to anger, we may approach Him with this plea (see Joshua 7:8-9).
2. This plea shall never be urged in vain. In Joshua’s case it brought immediate success (Joshua 7:10-11). So with Moses (Exodus 32:9-14). Surely when we plead the name of Jesus! (John 14:13-14).
1. What should be the effect of sin upon the soul? Conviction of sin should not keep us from God, but bring us to Him: “though our iniquities testify,” &c. (Comp. Psalms 25:11.) Sin is a just ground for humiliation, but not for discouragement.
2. What shall surely be effectual to remove it from the soul? Prayer: penitential weeping; humble and contrite (Jeremiah 3:12-13; Jeremiah 3:25) fervent and persevering (Daniel 9:18-19); offered in dependence on God’s promised mercies in Christ Jesus (Jeremiah 14:20-21). God has solemnly engaged not to cast out one who comes to Him in His Son’s name (John 6:37).—Simeon.
(See Noticeable Topic on Jeremiah 14:8, infra).
Jeremiah 14:8. Theme: GOD AND TROUBLED HUMANITY.
The troubles of Judah were overwhelming at this period. Indicated in preceding verses. Text is a patriotic wail: “O Hope of Israel, the Saviour thereof,” &c. We have to notice two things—
I. What God always is to troubled humanity.
1. He is “the Hope.” The Hope of Israel. Men in trouble want hope. Hope alone can buoy up amidst the surging sea of sorrow. Of all true hope God is the author. (1) He is the Inspirer of true hope. He implanted the instinct in the human soul. He calls it forth by trial, makes the spark blaze in the dark night. (2) He is the Sustainer of all true hope. Oftentimes the lamp would go out did He not feed the waning flame, and shelter it from the gust. (3) He is the Realiser of all true hope. If ever the anticipated deliverance comes, it comes from Him. The storm-tossed mariner “He bringeth to the desired haven.”
2. He is the Saviour. “The Saviour thereof.” He has a claim to this title. (1) The redemption system He has given to the world attests this. The Gospel is an infallible antidote for all the sorrows of humanity. (2) The experience of all who had attended to His directions testifies this. It is no objection to this that men are not saved. The physician may have an infallible antidote, yet if the patient partake not of it, of what value is it to him? He alone can attest the full value of a nautical chart who has sailed by it. All the shipwrecks of those who neglected it is no argument against its infallibility. Every man that has adopted God’s remedial scheme has been saved. He is the Saviour of the world.
II. What God sometimes seems to troubled humanity. “A stranger and a wayfaring man in the land.” A stranger in the land is one more or less unacquainted with what is local and uninterested in it. There are times when God seems to be a “stranger” in these respects. He seems as if He did not know what was going on; or, if He knew it, was absolutely indifferent. When does He appear as if a stranger to the good?
1. When Christlike enterprises are frustrated. When great plans of social philanthropy and evangelical propagandism break down and disappoint the hopes of piety, the good man is likely to feel that God is “a stranger,” that He is either ignorant of or indifferent to what is going on.
2. When the most useful men are cut down in the very zenith of their life. When the statesman with a measure for the liberties of a nation, an author with a book for the mental quickening of a whole people, a preacher with a power to attract and interest listening thousands, is struck down in a moment, the good are likely to look on and cry out to the great God, “Why art Thou a stranger in the land?”
3. When prosperity attends the wicked and adversity the good. This has ever been felt to be a trial. “Wherefore do the wicked become rich?” Asaph said, “My foot well nigh slipped, when,” &c. Who that sees the wicked rising to fortune and eminence, and the good sinking to penury and want, does not often exclaim within himself, “Why art Thou a stranger?”
4. When enormous outrages are rampant in society. Such as the crucifixion of Christ, tremendous wars, &c. At such seasons the good look up to heaven and cry, “Why art Thou a stranger?” Why not interpose, break the sword, and strike evil down?—Homilist.
Jeremiah 14:7-9. Theme: JEREMIAH A WRESTLER WITH THE LORD IN PRAYER.
In this he is a second Jacob who was called “Israel.”
I. In what the Lord is strong against the prophet. The sin of the people. “Iniquities testify against us.”
II. In what the prophet is strong against the Lord. The name of the Lord. “Though iniquities testify against us, do Thou it for Thy name’s sake.”
1. In itself: God’s name compels Him to show He is not a desperate hero, a giant who cannot save (Jeremiah 14:9).
2. In that His name is borne by Israel: thus He is bound to show Himself as He who is in Israel (not a guest or a “stranger,” Jeremiah 14:9), and consequently the comforter and helper of Israel.—Heim and Hoffman, “The Major Prophets. (See Addenda on Jeremiah 14:8, “Intercessory Prayer.”)
Theme: PRAYER HAS WITHIN ITSELF ITS OWN REWARD.
The prayer of the prophet consists of confession and petition:
I. Confession. This fitly begins. It is the testimony of iniquity; and that this iniquity is against God Himself. When we are to encounter any enemy or difficulty, it is sin weakens us. Now confession weakens it,—takes off the power of accusation.
II. Petition. “For Thy name’s sake.” This is the unfailing argument which abides always the same and hath always the same force. The children of God are much beholden to their troubles for clear experiences of themselves and God. Though thou art not clear in thy interest as a believer, yet plead thy interest as a sinner, which thou art sure of.—Leighton, quoted in Lange.
In earnest and hearty prayer there is a conflict between the spirit and the flesh. The flesh regards the greatness of the sins (Jeremiah 14:7), and conceives of God as a severe Judge, who either will not help further or cannot help (Jeremiah 14:9). The spirit, on the other hand, adheres to the name of God (Jeremiah 14:7), i.e., to His promises; apprehends God by faith as his true comfort and aid, and depends upon Him.—Cramer.
“Ideo non vult Deus cito dare, ut discas ardentius orare.”—Augustine.
The name of God is the manifestation of God’s being. From Moses’ time, Jehovah has revealed Himself as the Redeemer and Saviour of the children of Israel and as God who is merciful and gracious, &c. (Exodus 34:6). As such, He is besought to reveal Himself now that they confess their backsliding and sin, and seek His grace. Not for the sake of His honours in the eyes of the world, lest the heathen believe He has no power to help (as Graf. holds), for all reference to the heathen nations is foreign to this connection; but He is entreated to help, not to belie the hope of His people, because Israel sets its hope on Him as Saviour in time of need (Jeremiah 14:9). If by withholding rain He makes His land and people to pine, then He does not reveal Himself as the Lord and owner of Judah, not as the God that dwells amidst His people, but He seems a stranger passing through the land, who sets up his tent there only to spend the night, who “feels no share in the weal or woe of the dwellers therein” (Hitzig).… The pleader makes further appeal to God’s almighty power. It is impossible that God can let Himself look like a man at his wit’s end, or as a nerveless warrior, as He would seem if He should not give help to His people in their present need.… The passage closes with an appeal to the relation of grace which Jehovah sustains towards His people: “Yet art Thou in our midst,” i.e., present to Thy people. “Thy name is named upon us,” i.e., Thou hast revealed Thyself to us as God of salvation: “Lay us not down,” i.e., let us not sink.—Keil.
“Leave us not;” lit. lay us not down. Jeremiah evidently had in mind the magnificent words of Deuteronomy 32:11-12.—Speaker’s Commentary. (See Noticeable Topic, “Triumphant Prayer,” on Jeremiah 14:7-9.
Jeremiah 14:8-9. Theme: GOD’S SEEMING DISREGARD OF MAN. “O hope of Israel, the Saviour thereof in time of trouble, why shouldst Thou be as a stranger?” &c.
A sore perplexity that God appears to dwell so far off and so apart from human affairs. Appalling crises come and go, dreadful occurrences transpire in the nation, in the church, in the home, in individual life, and hearts are dismayed and paralysed, yet God appears not in Providence nor manifests Himself in grace. And this seeming disregard compels to the cry, “O hope of Israel,” (&c.
I. It contradicts God’s character and name.
1. “Hope.” A name implying that Israel had learned to hope in Him when all else failed. That is the character God bears.
2. “Saviour.” He had saved, was THE Saviour: “Beside Him there was no Saviour.” And men believed him to be so.
3. “Mighty man.” “Able to save to the uttermost.” With great power He redeemed Israel from Egyptian bondage. “Mighty to save.” All revelation has declared God to be man’s hope, man’s Saviour, man’s mighty Redeemer; and when God seems heedless, it covers His name with obscurity.
II. It baffles the godly soul. To Jeremiah it was painfully perplexing that “the hope of Israel, and its Saviour,” should act towards His people thus: as
1. “A stranger.” Indifferent, therefore, having no acquaintance or sympathy with Israel, no knowledge of their distresses or needs; wholly unconcerned in their forlorn and imperilled state.
2. “A wayfaring man.” Inconstant, therefore: passing through the land instead of as of old, “Here will I dwell, for I have desired it,” alienated, no longer attached to the Holy Land and Temple; about to depart.
3. “A man that cannot save.” Impotent, therefore: the power of His arm gone, the zeal of His heart expired.
When the godly see God thus inactive for human weal and His people’s rescue, faith trembles and the cry rises from amid terrifying gloom.
III. It leaves man in a deplorable case.
1. His condition is distressing. It is “a time of trouble,” and in such a time, if “the Hope of Israel” forsake and fail him, he has “no hope.”
2. His relief is urgent. Without it man will sink and perish amid “trouble,” which means peril. If the “Saviour” relieve him not, he has no helper, no salvation.
3. His sole expectation is in God. Man can turn nowhere else. These people have no other “hope” or “Saviour,” or “mighty man.” And, amid sore troubles, no appeal rises but to Him. If He be a “wayfaring man,” and depart, doom rests on them!
IV. It arouses to wrestling prayer. It drove Jeremiah to God in earnest supplication: a good result.
1. Expostulating. “Why shouldst Thou be? why shouldst Thou be?” He could not rest amid such contradictions. He went “with boldness to the throne of grace,” and entreated God to arise and help.
2. Protesting. “Yet Thou, O Lord, art in the midst of us,” although Thou art as a stranger and wayfaring man. He puts God in mind of precious facts, and bases firm arguments and appeals thereon. “We are called by Thy name,” help and save Thine own.
3. Entreating. “Leave us not!” “Thou art in our midst; be not even as a wayfarer; abide with us!” He would detain God. “I will not let Thee go!” “Constrain Him, saying, Abide with us!” When thus entreated, Jesus “went in to tarry with them.” (See Addenda on Jeremiah 14:8, “God’s withdrawings.”)
Jeremiah 14:9. Theme: A PRAYER FOR ALL SEASONS. “Leave us not!”
God sometimes hides Himself from us, as a friend withdraws when slighted, or a father when grieved.
I. Here is a prayer for all seasons. There is “a time for everything,” but every time is for this. This prayer should rise in—
1. Times of joy. Need pillar of cloud by day. Our prosperity will ruin us if God be not with us. Uzziah fell “when he was strong” (2 Chronicles 26:16).
2. Times of adversity. 3. Times of labour. 4. Times of perplexity, &c.
II. Here is a prayer for all saints.
1. All need to pray thus. For all deserve to be abandoned.
2. All must pray thus. For all desire continuances of His presence.
3. All will pray thus. For all know the bitterness of soul consequent upon His withdrawal.
III. Here is a prayer always answered. If it come from sincere and penitential hearts.
1. Always answered, for it is according to His will. He delights to remain with His own.
2. Always answered, for it honours His name. It implies that we know and prize His presence.—Sermon Framework.
Jeremiah 14:10. Theme: RECKLESS WANDERERS REFLECTED. “Thus have they loved to wander … the Lord doth not accept them,” &c. [On the reference of “thus have they,” &c., see Homily on Section 10–16, supra.] “Thus” means just so. Rashi suggests, in addition to those given in Section by Lange, that the point of comparison is, “For as determined as I am to punish them, just so they love to continue their offence.” (See Addenda on Jeremiah 14:10.)
I. A covenant people heedless of their privileges.
1. Having Jehovah as their God. Their conception of what their, God was to them is given in Jeremiah 14:7-9.
2. Having bounteous blessings. In their country, “a goodly land;” their social advantages, their spiritual distinctions.
3. Having assured prosperity and peace. God had covenanted their security against foes and enjoyment of unmeasured good.
Yet withal they depreciated their eminent blessings.
II. A heedless people yielding to inconstancy. “They loved to wander,” &c.
1. There was within them a delight in backsliding. A “love” of it. See Notes on chap. Jeremiah 2:23-25; Jer 14:31.
2. Upon their inclination to apostasy they put no restraint. “They have not refrained their feet.” We may have wrong dispositions, may “love to wander,” yet are called to control, and check, and correct our wrong desires and delights. But these surrendered themselves unrestrained, “followed the devices and desires of their own hearts.”
III. An inconstant people rejected from God’s favour. “Therefore the Lord doth not accept them.”
1. Even though the prophet pleaded for them. As he did in Jeremiah 14:7-9, as an intercessor, yet God refused (Jeremiah 14:11). (See Notes on chap. Jeremiah 7:16; Jeremiah 11:14.)
2. Even though they themselves might cry to Him (Jeremiah 14:12). There is a time when God’s mercy closes.
IV. A rejected people consigned to sore distress.
1. Buried memories of sin will be recalled against them. God “will remember their iniquity,” which He would have let remain in oblivion had they sought Him opportunely. Oh, to find all that God recollects against us arrayed for our doom!
2. Due recompense of sin will be brought upon them. He “will visit their sins.” Fain would He have made “grace much more to abound where sin abounded.” But repudiation of His goodness brings the inevitable stroke of anger: it is “the wrath of the Lamb.”
Jeremiah 14:11. See Notes and Homilies on chap. Jeremiah 7:16; Jeremiah 11:14.
Jeremiah 14:12. See Notes and Homilies on Jeremiah 2:28; and Homilies on Sections 14–28; also Outlines on chap. Jeremiah 11:11; Jeremiah 11:14-15.
Theme: FASTING RENDERED OFFENSIVE. “When they fast I will not hear their cry; … but I will consume them,” &c.
Hypocrites, void of all sincerity, yet professed to be true worshippers of God, and by external rites wished to prove themselves to be so. They profaned the name of God when they thus grossly dissembled with Him.
I. Pious demeanour is not what God desires, but faith.
1. God abominates a double and false heart, and the greater the fervour hypocrites display in external rites, the more they provoke Him.
2. Fasting is observed as giving intensity to prayer. Reverted to when there is danger, or when there appears evidence of God’s wrath, or when we are under heavy affliction.
3. They who “fast” professedly avow that they deprecate God’s disfavour. It is an acknowledgment of conscious guilt, and a declaration of penitence.
4. But God values not outward appearance. He regards the faith of the heart. Pretentious penitence must be specially offensive to Him.
III. Fasting is not in itself a religious duty, but a mere index to a humble spirit.
1. What is intended by fasting? (a.) That there may be greater alacrity in prayer. (b.) That it may be an evidence of humility in confessing sins. (c.) As indicative of a purpose to subdue lust.
2. What is fasting apart from these intents? (a.) A frivolous exercise. (b.) A profanation of God’s worship. (c.) It provokes God’s wrath as being a superstition by which His worship is polluted. Fastings are not only without benefit, except when prayers are added, but they incur Divine displeasure unless indicating a humble and reverent spirit.
III. No value is in fasting to merit God’s favour.
Papists seek to pacify God by fasting as by a sort of satisfaction, deem it a work of merit and a kind of expiation.
Yet though hypocrites joined prayer to their fasting they were rejected (comp. Matthew 17:21; Mark 9:29; 1 Corinthians 7:5). There was no sincerity in their hearts, but only an outward appearance, a mere disguise.
But God regards the heart, and only sincerity pleases Him.
IV. Mocking profanation was intolerable, and should be punished. “I will consume them,” &c.
1. God shows Himself armed with various kinds of punishment: “sword, famine, pestilence.”
2. He forewarns that they who had provoked Him should surely suffer. From the impending destructions none could deliver himself.
3. God does not disregard or reject religious signs, but when what they signify is separated from them, there is then an intolerable profanation.—Arranged from Calvin: see Commentary in loc. (See Addenda on Jeremiah 14:12, “Fasting offensive.”
Jeremiah 14:14. Theme: ASSURED PEACE. “I will give you assured peace in this place.”
Hitzig and Graf. render the sentence, “I will give you peace and continuance,” &c.; Septuagint, “truth and peace;” Vulgate and Targum, “true peace;” Syriac, “peace and security;” Lit. “peace of truth.” Real and lasting peace, not delusive, not evanescent.
I. Human life wants it.
Sin robbed man of it. All sinned; and wicked, like troubled sea, which cannot rest. Oh, how man craves for peace!
1. Uncertainty troubles our life. Transient hours of repose come to us, but tumult rushes in. No calculating on restful days and years. Want “assured peace” in this uncertain world.
2. Delusions embitter our heart. We have heeded false prophets, have “looked for peace, and behold trouble.” Seems no reliance on any promising thing. Mocked at every turn. It is not gay and fleeting enjoyments we need, but something “assured.”
3. Misgivings weary our souls. Are we safe, saved? Is death nearing? Is God propitious? Have we a “right to enter through the gates into the city?” “’Tis a point I long to know,” &c. The soul asks certitude, not conjecture, nor even hope, but “full assurance,” firm anchorage, “a title clear,” “strong consolation,” “the peace of God which shall keep our hearts and minds.” The cry of humanity is for “assured peace,” which will not elude, will never be lost.
“Oh where can rest be found,
Rest for the weary soul?”
II. God alone can give it. “I will give you assured peace.”
1. Peace is not a human commodity, but a Divine boon. Man cannot buy it of man, he must beg it of God. Priests cannot bestow it on penitents, sinners must get it direct from heaven.
2. Peace comes only to divinely-prepared hearts. It cannot dwell where sin lurks, sin unrepented or unforgiven. “Being justified by faith, we have peace with God.” “There is no condemnation to them who are in Christ Jesus.” “In Me ye have peace.”
3. Peace is specifically the Saviour’s benefaction. For He only can remedy the evils, and remove the impurities which ruin man’s peace. “My peace I give unto you—let not your hearts be troubled.”
III. Lying voices offer it. “Prophecy lies.”
1. False prophets preach peace still. In our churches promising it through ceremonies, confession, righteous works, &c. In pleasure’s scenes, assuring the gay and frivolous of satisfaction, &c.
2. Beguiled dupes are ensnared still. Won by false promises souls follow. But “destruction and misery are in their ways, and the way of peace have they not known.”
3. Yet assured peace is available still. May be found by all. “Come unto me, all ye that labour,” &c., “Learn of me, and ye shall find rest to your soul.”
Jeremiah 14:13-16. Theme: RUINOUS PROPHESYINGS.
How lone the voice which bewails the currency of religious frauds and ecclesiastical deceits! None but Jeremiah’s cry of lament over his beguiled people rose to God. Lying prophets were and are more in number than the faithful witnesses and preachers of truth. The world “believes a lie,” because it loves not the truth: and, upon this prevalent mood of self-deception and credulity, scheming priests and plausible preachers are ready to trade, saying, “Peace, peace; where there is no peace.”
I. Delusive declarations. “Behold the prophets say unto them, Ye shall not see the sword, neither shall ye have famine; but I will give you assured peace in this place” (Jeremiah 14:13).
1. This kind of preaching had early and evil origin: “The serpent said, Ye shall not surely die, but your eyes shall be opened, &c.” (Genesis 3:4-5).
2. Modern reproductions are rife. Priestly teaching of the saving value of sacraments, &c. Broad theology which minimises human sin and spiritual peril. A subtle Socinianism which denies man’s fall or need of redemption. Annihilationism, which destroys a hereafter for the unchristian soul.
II. Repudiated preachers. “I sent them not, neither have I commended them, neither spake unto them” (Jeremiah 14:14).
1. Pleasant preaching may be in God’s esteem “lies.” The people liked it, but Jehovah denounced it.
2. Plausible prophets do not always have authority for their messages. Because a preacher teaches what men want to hear, and flock to learn, he does not on that account possess Divine warrant. Popularity is not a seal of authority. Indeed the truth most unwelcome, and the preacher most deserted, may have the highest sanction. “Who hath believed our report,” &c. Jeremiah was now deserted for these plausible prophets: yet who preached Divine truth?
III. Deceptions disclosed. “They prophesy unto you a false vision, and divination, and a thing of nought, and the deceit of their hearts” (Jeremiah 14:14).
Thus are these delusive teachings disowned by God, they have no origin in Him, neither in prayerful contemplation of His Word, neither in any spiritual illumination: they are traced to the dark caverns of a deceitful heart.
1. “Visions and divinations” may have a bad origin. A preacher may be “clear” and “clever” in his presentation of doctrine, but his “visions” may be “false,” and his “divination” a “deceit.” Does he “prophesy in My name?”
2. It is possible for the human “heart” to suggest falsehood. Yes; the “heart” may forge a “deceit,” and thus impose upon the prophet himself; and the fancy or theory he has framed within himself may so enamour him that he may come to believe it true and authoritative. Then he will in turn impose upon heedless hearers, who desire “a thing of nought” rather than the serious message of God.
IV. Retributive ruin.
1. On deceivers (Jeremiah 14:15). The very evils from which they decoyed men’s just fears should come upon themselves. Forbearing to warn men of the coming “sword” (see Ezekiel 33:0), that sword should smite the faithless watchman himself.
2. On the deceived (Jeremiah 14:16). Who were willingly beguiled (comp. Jeremiah 5:31. see supra, Jeremiah 14:10). Men still “turn their ears from the truth, and are turned into fables.” But they do not escape the threatenings of the truth because they “believe a lie.” Self-deception is self-ruin.
“Although preachers lead their hearers astray, yet the hearers are not thus excused. But when they allow themselves to be led astray, the blind and those who guide them fall together into the ditch” (Luke 6:39).—Cramer.
“The false prophets are thus described as deceiving the people in three ways—(1) by asserting that they had seen a vision; (2) by using conjuring tricks; (3) by professing to consult these small idols [Elil; see Lit. Crit. on “thing of naught”], in the same way that they divined by the Teraphim (Comp. Zechariah 10:2, where these three modes of divination occur again, only the Teraphim takes the place of the Elilim. Probably they were much the same). All these three methods the prophet declares to be the deceit of their heart, i.e., not self-deceit, but a fraud suggested by their heart or mind, i.e., a wilful and intentional fraud.”—Speaker’s Com.
“To Hitzig it seems surprising that, in describing the punishment which is to fall on seducers and seduced, there should not be severer judgment, in words at least, levelled against the seducers as being those involved in deeper guilt; whereas the very contrary is the case in the Hebrew text. But it was necessary to set before the people the terrors of this judgment in all their horror, in order not to fail of effect.”—Keil.
Jeremiah 14:17. “Let mine eyes run down with tears,” &c. See Homilies on Chaps. Jeremiah 9:1, Jeremiah 13:17, supra.
“The virgin daughter of my people,” see on Chap. Jeremiah 8:21, &c. In Oriental households virgins are carefully secluded and guarded; so had God watched over and protected Judah.
“Broken with a great breach, with a very grievous blow,” see on Chap. Jeremiah 10:19.
“Those cities are called ‘virgins’ which never came into a conqueror’s hands. In the same sense the prophet here calls Jerusalem a ‘virgin,’ because she had been hitherto under God’s immediate protection, and preserved by Him from all attempts of her enemies (Comp. Amos 5:2). The dissolution of a government or body politic, is called a ‘breach,’ by way of allusion to the breaking or disjointing of the limbs of a human body (see Chap. Jeremiah 8:21, Lamentations 2:13).”—W. Lowth.
Jeremiah 14:18. Theme: THE WOES OF WAR.
I. Scenes on the field of battle. “If I go forth into the field, then behold the slain with the sword.”
II. Miseries within the besieged city. “If I enter into the city, then behold them that are sick with famine!” Yes, and heart sick with grief over sons, husbands, and fathers, slain.
III. Captives carried into alien scenes. “Yea, both the prophet and the priest [even those, and therefore the people, whom the conqueror would be less likely to leave] go about into a land that they know not.” “By the rivers of Babylon we sat down, yea, we wept when we remembered Zion.”
Note on “go about into a land that they know not.” These words are variously rendered (See Lit. Crit. on verse), and variously interpreted. Graf and Keil suggest for “go about” the meaning “beg their way.” A. V. in margin gives “make merchandise.” But Rosenmüller and Umbreit give the interpretation that these prophets and priests move to and fro, go over their own desolated country (Judea) baffled and bewildered and impotent; “they wander about it, the land, and know not what to do.” But the simplest meaning is, they go into exile in a strange land.
Jeremiah 14:19. Theme: PATRIOTIC PRAYERS IRREPRESSIBLE.
See Addenda on Jeremiah 14:19, “Wrestling prayers.” Jehovah had prohibited Jeremiah’s intercession for His people (Jeremiah 14:11); had wholly discouraged all propitiation by His people (Jeremiah 14:12). What then? nothing could be done by man for them, nor aught by themselves for themselves. It is in bold desperation that the prophet now besieges God on the plea of His gracious interest in, and covenant relationship to, Judah. Can it be that there is “no healing” even in Jehovah for “the virgin daughter” on whom has fallen “a very grievous blow” (Jeremiah 14:17).
*** For homiletic arrangement of this and following verses, see section, Jeremiah 14:17-22, supra. Also Homily on chap. Jeremiah 8:15.
I. Agonising inquiries addressed to God. Is there no room for hope, no place left for Judah and Zion within Divine pity? Are we abandoned to our miseries without any alleviation available; smitten by Thee, yet “no healing” procurable, none possible?
II. Desolated hopes arrayed before God.
1. Our expectations misled us. Illprepared for such a reverse of our hopes and desires.
2. Our desolation amazes us. “There is no good;” not one solace or respite shows itself, blank misery. “Behold trouble!” It rises upon our gaze, and we are terrified!
III. Astonishment expressed at the severity of God.
1. After so much grace from God. Judah cherished; Zion long beloved.
2. After frequent healings by God.
For oft He had smitten and then bound up.
3. Now utterly loathed and abandoned. Yet God can be severe. It will amaze those who calculated upon His love, and trifled with it.
Jeremiah 14:20. Theme: SIN ACKNOWLEDGED.
To a right acknowledgment of our iniquity, and in order that sin may be pardoned, there are required three things—
I. Contrition. Iniquity truly and duly deplored. A poignant sense of the evil of sin in itself, and our evil state in having committed sin. A real grief for the wrong we have done God, and the woe we have merited on ourselves.
II. Confession. Which should be unfeigned, self-abhorrent, lamentable, specific, unreserved. The heart should utter itself in our words, and deep shame should fill our souls as we prostrate ourselves before the most Holy God.
III. Conversion. Repentance should issue in reformation. Forsaking the sin we acknowledge and lament, we should hereafter live a righteous, sober, and godly life. “Bring forth fruits meet for repentance.” Moved by gratitude to God for being “ready to forgive,” and constrained by love to the Atoning Mediator by whose redemption we may escape both guilt and its penalty, our afterlife should be humble, obedient, devoted, and holy. See Addenda on Jeremiah 14:20, “Sin acknowledged.” Comp. Homily on chap. Jeremiah 3:25.
Note.—The “and” is not in the Hebrew, and corrupts the sense. National sin is the sin of the “fathers” perpetuated generation after generation by the children. When thus successive opportunities for repentance had been rejected—for each generation had its own probation—the nation is ripe for chastisement.—Speaker’s Com.
Theme: DREADING GOD’S ABHORRENCE. “Do not abhor us, for Thy name’s sake.”
The occasion of the prayer (Jeremiah 14:2-6). Prayer for removal of calamity (Jeremiah 14:7-9). Though visited with judgment and threatened, the false prophets preached peace (Jeremiah 14:13-14). The prophet, however, continued to plead with God.
I. The petition.
1. These words imply that it is possible for creatures once the objects of Divine favour to become the objects of Divine displeasure.
2. The solicitude of the prophet indicated how real and near those Divine judgments were. He was commanded not to pray that the threatened judgment should not be inflicted, but was assured the sword and famine should overtake them (Jeremiah 14:15). Where impiety and irreligion prevail among a people favoured with religious advantages, Divine abhorrence will certainly express itself in punishment.
3. There is nothing which godly men more vehemently dread and deprecate than that God should abhor and reject a people once distinguished by His favour and by religious privileges. Jeremiah knew his people must be scattered, but he dreaded nothing so much as their being utterly cast off. Against this he prayed, “Do not abhor us, Lord, &c.
II. The argument used as enforcing his petition.
“Do not abhor us, for thy name’s sake”. This argument has been used with the Most High before. When God thinks to destroy the children of Israel, Moses pleaded what God had done for them (Exodus 32:11-13). Joshua also pleaded, “What wilt Thou do for Thy great Name?” (Joshua 8:9). “Should the Egyptians say,” &c. &c. This argument Jeremiah used to support his petition. God had made a covenant with His servant Jacob—if, then, Jacob had been abhorred so as to be utterly cast off—how could that economy be maintained? “Remember, break not Thy covenant with us, for Thy name’s sake.”
God’s name is His character, including all the glorious perfections that encompass it. Some of the perfections, considered apart from others, would cause only fear when our guilt as individuals or the guilt of communities is realised. If the prophet had dwelt only upon the holiness justice, and power of God when he considered the guilt of his country, he would have had no encouragement to pray; and if we dwelt only upon some attributes, we shall be more likely to sink into despair than to be encouraged with hope. But there are other perfections in the divine attributes, such as boundless mercy, unparalleled love, infinite wisdom, and inviolable faithfulness.
This argument may be used in prayer under personal distress, and under general calamity either endured or apprehended.
1. Under personal distress, to be considered as coming from guilt or from particular trouble, and in both cases can the name of God furnish us with a suitable or a powerful argument in prayer.
(1.) We may use it under a sense of guilt, either when first convinced of sin or when we may have wounded our conscience. A life spent without the fear of God, in open disaffection to and rebellion against Him, calls forvengeance. The glory of God requires that He should resist such impiety and manifest His displeasure against it. He might justly abhor us and utterly reject us. But His name affords us a plea. “God is Love,” He delighteth in mercy. He is the Lord God merciful and gracious. This is in perfect harmony with the perfections of God.
2. The believer may adopt it under particular trouble and the tribulations through which he may pass. The covenant of grace affords encouragement to use it. “If thy children forsake my law,” &c. &c. “Do not abhor us.” If Thou art pleased to chastise us, cast us not off—let all Thy glorious perfections of mercy, pardon, wisdom, and faithfulness be displayed in supporting, sanctifying, and in over-ruling all things for our good. “Do not abhor us, for Thy name’s sake,” &c.
(2.) This argument may be used by the righteous under general calamities; calamities experienced or apprehended.
1. Under national trouble. Such were the circumstances under which the prophet presented the prayer. A dearth was experienced—the swarm of the Chaldeans was threatened. He prayed that the sheep might not be abandoned. “Do not abhor us.”
Under national calamity the name of God affords encouragement for prayer. The godly at such times, when they can see that prevailing iniquity calls for vengeance, though professing submission, yet find the name of God a plea.
2. This plea may be used by the godly when apprehensive of spiritual judgments upon spiritual account.
There is nothing more offensive to God than a lukewarm spirit. “I would that thou wert either cold or hot,” &c. Now where lukewarmness prevails, the Spirit of God will be grieved and be withdrawn; the prayer is then most important, “Do not abhor,” &c., “Take not Thy Holy Spirit,” &c.
3. It is a plea that may be used in reference to churches at large. How much is there in Christendom to be deplored! How much that is religious only in name! How little Christian charity among different denominations! Though it is admitted that efforts are made to do good by churches of different denominations, and upon these efforts God has smiled, yet these evils must be offensive to Him who prayed that His Church might be kept from the evil that was in the world; and we may fear the expression of Divine displeasure until they are removed.
We learn from the subject that the proper plea to be used in all our prayers is the name of God. His mercy and grace displayed as harmonising with holiness and justice through the mediation of Jesus Christ. In our own name, as a ground of righteousness, we can never be accepted.
If God hears and answers prayer, it must be in a way that will be for His glory. And though in some measure His glory may require judgment, yet if the prayer is offered in reliance upon the mediation of Christ, the mercy and faithfulness of God assure us of acceptance. “Mercy and truth meet together—righteousness and peace,” &c.
And that prayer for others should be incessant. “The effectual fervent prayer of the righteous man availeth much.”—Anon.
Jeremiah 14:21. Theme: THE ULTIMATE ARGUMENT WITH GOD FOR MERCY. See Addenda on Jeremiah 14:21. “Do not disgrace the throne of Thy glory.” Nothing may be found to extenuate man’s spiritual criminality, so heinous may be his sin, as was Judah’s. Nothing acceptable or propitiatory may exist in his self-mortifications and oblations (Jeremiah 14:12). His guilt and insincerity may even justify God’s refusal of intercession on his behalf (Jeremiah 14:11). Yet there remain the highest arguments still by which to plead with God, viz., His NAME, His HONOUR, and His COVENANT.
I. Explanation of the language.
1. God’s name: it was a pledge of pardon (Exodus 34:6). But more, God’s name was identified with His people; hence what befell them would reflect credit or discredit on God. If Thou dost “abhor us,” Thy name as “the God of Israel” will be forfeit.
2. God’s honour: “disgrace not the throne of Thy glory.” Jerusalem, or the Temple wherein God dwelt there (chap. Jeremiah 3:17), was God’s glorious throne: if He suffered it to fall into the hands of heathen conquerors, it would be disgraced, and God’s glory dishonoured.
3. God’s covenant: He had chosen the race of Abraham, had pledged to David a lasting throne, had promised that Messiah should come of Judah. Though they, the guilty people, merited abhorrence, yet for the covenant’s sake, spare them, that the Word of God may stand.
II. Application of the argument.
Jeremiah turns from the people’s evil state and deserts, and appeals to God’s attributes.
1. That God’s name is a tower of defence for the guiltiest. Not only may “the righteous run into it and be safe,” but sinners may plead it as a basis of hope, as an argument for mercy (see Jeremiah 14:7). Though nothing else can be found on which to rest prayer for Divine pity, yet God, who is the “Father of mercies,” the “God of our salvation,” and whom the only begotten Son has declared as the “God who so loved the world,” may be entreated for His name’s sake to spare “sinners, even the chief.”
2. That God’s glory is involved in His administration of mercy. He would “disgrace His throne” did He allow the enemy to triumph and despoil His temple. If Satan vanquishes the Church, or wrests a sinner from the grace of Christ, the High Majesty of Heaven is dishonoured. True, we may merit abandonment, as did profane Jerusalem, yet “let not the enemy prevail”—where sin abounds, grace shall much more abound!
3. That God’s covenant outlives man’s disloyalty. Man may violate his part in that covenant: yet shall the Righteous and Gracious God therefore break His word? No! Man’s falsity cannot obliterate God’s graciousness. The infinitely pitiful Jehovah, who keepeth covenants and never faileth, will still remember His promises. He has assured of “salvation even to the uttermost,” pledged Himself “in nowise to cast out;” and on that covenant we may ever rest. Calvin remarks, “God did, according to the common apprehension of men, abolish the covenant by which the Jews thought Him to be bound to them; and yet He remained true; for His truth shone forth at length from darkness, after the time of exile was completed.” (See Noticeable Topic on Jeremiah 14:21. “God’s covenant an argument in prayer.”)
Jeremiah 14:22. Theme: THE LONE HOPE OF MAN IN MISERY.
The misery was from the “dearth” (Jeremiah 14:1-6); the dearth was consequent upon Judah’s iniquity (Jeremiah 14:7). And that iniquity consisted largely in God’s people turning from Him to “the vanities of the Gentiles.”
I. To choose others for God is to court hopeless misery. Not one of these “vanities of the Gentiles” could alleviate the calamities which had come upon them through their desertion of Jehovah.
1. Sin will entail appalling disaster.
2. In disaster we shall need help and deliverance.
3. Deliverance cannot come from the “vanities” for which we have surrendered God.
Therefore we create for ourselves a desolate future.
II. No secondary causes can suffice us in calamity. “Showers” do indeed fall from “the heavens,” but it is God who “gives” them.
1. Behind all sources of comfort God dwells.
2. If He be alienated He dries up these sources of comfort.
3. Hence to look to these sources and ignore the Divine spring is to ensure mocking disappointment. (Comp. chaps. Jeremiah 2:12-13, Jeremiah 3:23.)
III. God Himself is man’s true need. Read the words—“Art Thou not Jehovah our God?”
1. Our one only Saviour (Isaiah 45:21-25).
2. The Creator of all the channels of comfort. “Thou hast made all these things”—the heavens with their showers.
3. The hope of man in the day of his distress.
For He who hath torn can heal; He who hath impoverished with “drought” can replenish with luxury. Ye shall receive of the Lord’s hand double for all your sins.
IV. The attitude of a troubled soul. “Therefore we will wait upon Thee.”
1. Humbly: for sin lies at the root of man’s distress.
2. Patiently: for after long rejection of God we must “wait” His time for relief.
3. Trustfully: for grace will not be denied any lowly suppliant; and faith will win the blessing sought.
See Addenda on verse. Man’s lone hope.
NOTICEABLE TOPICS IN CHAPTER 14
Topic: CONCERNING THE DEARTH (Jeremiah 14:1-9).
See Addenda on Jeremiah 14:1. The events here recorded most probably gave occasion for the fast referred to in chap, Jeremiah 36:9. “A more true description of an Oriental drought in its leading circumstances and effects we have never yet seen.” We proceed to show from the words of the prophet the dire effects of the drought, and by constant inference the folly of forsaking God.
I. The effects of drought upon inanimate creation.
1. The pits were empty. Some of these were natural hollows in the hard rocks and in the caves where evaporation was less speedy. Others were dykes and cisterns, the works of man. But neither nature nor art could afford supplies when God dealt with them in His judgments.
2. The ground was chapt. Kitto says, “After long drought in the East, particularly where the soil is rich and hard, the ground splits into wide and deep fissures.” These are earth’s wounds for man’s sin. Mute mouths crying to Heaven for pity. The lips of earth suffering, waiting for a drop of water to relieve the torment of an awful thirst.
3. There was no grass. The world is complex, man is complex,—God is complex. In complex systems harmony is essential to life,—discord is ruin. The shower can do nothing good without the sun. The sun can only scorch if the rainfall not. Earth can produce no fruit unless both sun and shower combine to aid. The sun cannot say to the dewdrop, “I have no need of thee,” &c.
II. The effects of drought upon the animal creation.
1. The hind calved in the field and forsook it. The fact that the hind was in the field proves that pasture had failed on the higher lands. It was not unusual for the hind to drop her calf by reason of fright or grief (Psalms 29:9). The maternal instinct in these creatures being strong, it was very unusual for them to forsake their young, and can only be accounted for by the entire failure of the mother to obtain food or drink.
2. The wild asses were in intense agony on account of hunger. These creatures were capable of great endurance, and needed but little to sustain life. The language of Jeremiah 14:6 shows to what a desperate condition even such hardy creatures had been reduced.
III. The effects of drought upon the human creation.
1. The husbandmen were ashamed. The earth they had cultivated had brought forth no fruit, and they were unable to alter its condition. As they looked upon the hard, chapt, barren earth, they covered their heads in shame and grief.
2. The people generally were languishing. Jeremiah 14:2 shows that places of public resort were scenes of sadness. Their drooping condition found expression in one general cry of anguish.
3. The nobles were threatened with death through thirst. They sent servants and children in search of water, but they returned with empty pitchers.
“The hot blood stands in each glassy eye;
And, ‘Water, O God!’ is the only cry.”
“Their tongues are parched and rough, and cling to the roofs of their mouths; their lips are black and shrivelled, and their eyeballs red with heat, and sometimes a dimness comes over them which makes them stagger with faintness. There is not one in all that multitude who probably would not have given all he possessed in the world, and parted even with a limb, … for one cool draught of water.”—Kitto.
“’Twas thirst! ’twas maddening thirst alone,
That wrung my spirit’s inmost groan.
Hunger is bitter, but the worst
Of human pangs—the most accursed
Of want’s fell scorpions—is THIRST.”—Cook.
IV. The effects of drought on the devout heart of Jeremiah.
1. He regarded it as a chastisement for sin. The sin of forsaking God and trusting in idols who are unable to deliver. “We have sinned.” Our iniquities testify against us.
2. He regarded God as their only hope. All hope in Israel was gone, and his only plea was—“For Thy name’s sake.”
3. He earnestly prayed for mercy. That God would abide with them and not leave them That God would remove the trouble. His prayer was vain, since it was unaccompanied by the repentance of the people.
1. In forsaking God, they forsook the fountain.
2. Earth’s broken cisterns cannot be a substitute for the Divine.
3. Jesus said, “If any man thirst, let him come unto Me and drink.”
Topic; GOD’S WITHDRAWINGS FROM HIS PEOPLE, AND THEIR EXERCISE UNDER THEM (Jeremiah 14:8).
See Addenda, Jeremiah 14:8. God’s withdrawals. Prophet laments the grievous drought and want of rain, as a token of God’s withdrawing His presence. He deprecates God’s judgments, and especially that terrible one—God lost to His Church and people: “Why shouldst Thou be a stranger,” &c. Consider—
I. When it may be said God withdraws, and behaves as a stranger to His people.
1. When He withholds His wonted acts of kindness to them. Sees them in trouble and comes not to their relief. Of this the Church complains (Isaiah 63:15). See also complaint of Gideon (Judges 6:13).
2. When He threatens to remove from them the signs and symbols of His presence—the Word and Sacraments; when He permits their enemies to combine and carry on their plans for that purpose (Lamentations 5:9).
3. When, though continuing the ordinances and sacraments, the Lord renders them profitless (Malachi 2:2). When ministers are straitened in preaching and the people in hearing, when all is cold and dead.
4. When the Divine providences are adverse. Outward mercies denied them, temporal calamities allowed. So when Zion’s captivity was prolonged (Isaiah 49:14).
5. When He denies them access to Himself. Breaks off His wonted correspondence with them. They seek Him in private and public ordinances, but cannot find Him. Job’s language is theirs (Job 23:3). Also Jeremiah’s (Lamentations 3:8).
II. The reasons why the Lord deals thus with His people. Infinite goodness cannot take delight in thus afflicting. There must be a cause. In general, sin is the cause (Isaiah 59:2). As—
1. When they fall into gross sin and bring reproach upon religion (Isaiah 1:13-14). Or, as David’s case (2 Samuel 12:14; comp. Psalms 51:11).
2. When they become earthly minded. Prefer pleasure of sense (Isaiah 57:17). The Gergesenes preferred their swine to Christ; then He turned His back and departed from their coast (Matthew 7:28).
3. When they become slothful and formal in duty. Do not stir themselves up to seek God’s face (Isaiah 64:7; Song of Solomon 3:1).
4. When they neglect or slight the Mediator, by whom we have access to God; either by not looking to Him for strength to perform our duties, or by making a Saviour of our duties, and so putting them in the place of Christ.
5. When they sin under, or after, great afflictions. Though these were appointed to reclaim them (Isaiah 57:17).
6. When they do not cherish and entertain the influences of the Holy Spirit (Song of Solomon 5:2-3; Song of Solomon 5:6-7).
7. When they grow hardened and impenitent under provocation. No due sense of their own sins, nor of the sins of the land they lived in (Hosea 5:15).
III. When it may be said we are properly exercised under such a painful dispensation.
1. When we are truly sensible of our loss, and that our sin is the cause of it. Mourn after the Lord, as Israel in the days of Samuel (1 Samuel 7:2).
2. When we place all our happiness in God’s favour and presence. Every comfort regarded as empty without God, regarding Him as “the Hope of Israel,” and our only desire (Psalms 73:25).
3. When we engage all the powers of our souls to seek after God (Psalms 119:10). For God takes particular notice of those who do (Jeremiah 30:21).
4. When we diligently embrace every opportunity for finding an absent God, and use every appointed means (Song of Solomon 3:2).
5. When we wrestle with Him in prayer to return. Use every argument, as here the prophet did. He pleads (a) The glory of His name: “for Thy name’s sake.” (b) Their helpless state without Him: “Oh, the hope,” &c. (c) His former kindness to them: “the Saviour in time of trouble.” (d) His power: “Why shouldst Thou,” &c. (Jeremiah 14:9). (e) The outward symbols of His presence: “Thou art in our midst.” (f) The covenant relation: “we are called by Thy name.”
6. When we are not satisfied with the best means, unless we find God in them. David was not content with the tabernacle, ark, sacrifices, passover; but, in midst of all, cried for God (Psalms 84:2).
IV. Whence it is that the Lord, being as a stranger to His people, occasions them so much concern.
1. Because of the incomparable happiness arising from the enjoyment of His presence. All blessedness comes with His presence, and when He withdraws we may cry out with Micah (Judges 18:24).
2. Because of the sad effects attending the loss of His presence. Great darkness (Lamentations 3:2), much deadness (John 11:21), disability for duty (Psalms 87:4; Psalms 40:12; John 15:5), barrenness (John 15:6), exposure to danger and enemies (Numbers 14:9), distress when remembering former blessings (Psalms 77:3), melancholy thoughts of death and judgment (Psalms 23:4), the fear of being entirely rejected (Psalms 77:9-10; Psalms 119:8).
(1.) There are but few true seekers of God among us. Many are troubled for other trifling losses, but few can say with David (Psalms 30:7).
(2.) The misery of those who are far from God now, and may be deprived of His presence for ever (Psalms 73:27). Ungodly men desire not His presence (Job 21:14). Their choice will be their punishment (Matthew 25:41).
(3.) The sad case of those whom God forsakes, never to return again—as with Saul (1 Samuel 16:14). The Lord preserve us from this great woe, and grant us enjoyment of His presence here and in heaven!—Hannum.
Topic: TRIUMPHANT PRAYER (Jeremiah 14:7-9).
See Addenda on Jeremiah 14:8. “Intercessory Prayer.” Expositors have differed as to whether the drought which forms the basis of this prayer was a literal one, or is the prophet’s way of putting the sore calamities that had fallen on Israel. But throughout Scripture, the metaphor of the “rain that cometh down from heaven and watereth the earth” is the symbol for God’s Divine gift of His Spirit; and the picture of “a dry and thirsty land where no water is” is the appropriate sign of the soul and the Church void of the Divine presence.
I. The mysterious contradiction between the ideal of Israel and the actual condition of things. Recur to the historical event upon which this text is based, “The Lord thy God giveth thee a good land; a land full of brooks and water, rivers and depths” (Deuteronomy 8:9); and the fulfilment is this—a land full of misery for want of the thing promised! So also. the ancient charter of Israel’s existence was that God should dwell in the midst of them: but things are as if the perennial presence promised had been changed into visits, short and far between (Jeremiah 14:8). Two ideas conveyed: the brief transitory visits, with long dreary stretches of absence between them; and the indiference of the visitant, as a man who pitches his tent for a night, caring little for the people among whom he tarries the while. More: instead of the perpetual energy of the Divine aid promised to Israel, it looks as if Thou art “a mighty man astonied,” &c.—a Samson with his locks shorn.
The IDEAL was: Perpetual gifts, perpetual presence, perpetual energy.
The REALITY is: Parched places, fitful visitations, and a paralysis, as it would appear, of all the ancient might. And what was God’s ideal for us, His Church? “Lo, I am with you alway,” &c. “Ye are the light of the world, salt of the earth.” It sounds like irony rather than a promise! What is the Church? The Church at home does not keep pace numerically with the increase of population, while heathenism remains scarcely touched—all unconquered! “Why shouldst Thou be as a mighty man that cannot save?”
II. Our low and evil condition should lead to earnest inquiry as to its cause.
Prophet asks, “Why shouldst Thou leave us?”
1. The reason is not in any variableness of that unalterable, uniform, ever-present, ever-full, Divine gift of God’s Spirit to His Church. We do not believe in an arbitrary sovereignty. The great reservoir is always full. If there be any changes in the fulness of our possession of the Divine Spirit, the fault lies wholly within the region of the mutable and the human, and not at all in the region of the perennial and the Divine.
2. The reason is not in the failure of adaptation in God’s Word and ordinances for the great work they had to do.
3. The fault lies here only: “O LORD, OUR INIQUITIES TESTIFY AGAINST US,” &c. We have to prayerfully, patiently, and honestly search after this cause, and not to look to possible variations and improvements in order and machinery, &c., but to recognise this as being the one sole cause that hinders,—the slackness of our own hold on Christ’s hand, and the feebleness and imperfection of our spiritual life (Jeremiah 14:7).
III. This consciousness of our evil condition and knowledge of the cause lead on to lowly penitence and confession. We err in being more ready, when awakened to a sense of wrong, to originate new methods of work, to begin with new zeal to gather in the outcasts into the fold; instead of beginning with ourselves, deepening our own Christian character, purifying our own hearts, and getting more of the life of God into our own spirits. Begin with lowly abasement at His footstool. Let us see that we are right in our own inmost hearts. To our knees and to confessions! “Sanctify a fast, call a solemn assembly,” &c. (Joel 2:15-17).
IV. The triumphant confidence of believing prayer.
1. Look at the substance of his petition. “Do Thou it for Thy name’s sake: leave us not.” He does not prescribe what should be done, nor ask that calamity be taken away, but simply for the continual Divine presence and power.
2. Look at these pleas with God as grounds of confidence for ourselves. (a) The name: all the ancient manifestations of Thy character. Thy memorial with all generations. (b) Israel’s hope: the confidence of the Church is fixed upon Thee; and Thou who hast given us Thy name hast become our hope. (c) The perennial and essential relationship of God to His Church: we belong to Thee, and Thou hast not ceased Thy care for us!
Lowly repentance should rise to the triumph of believing hope. The expectation is the precursor of the gift, and the prayer is the guarantee of the acceptance (Jeremiah 14:20-22); for with that prayer on our lips, be sure that the old answer will come to us, “I will pour rivers of water upon him that is thirsty, and floods upon the dry ground.”—A. M‘Laren, B.A., “Christian World Pulpit.”
Theme: GOD’S COVENANT AN ARGUMENT IN PRAYER. Text: “Remember, break not Thy covenant with us.”
Suggestions: A “covenant” between God and man can be only an accommodating expression, since man cannot be regarded as properly qualified to make an agreement with Jehovah, being essentially unreliable and impotent. Strictly speaking, such a covenant is quite unconditional, and amounts to a promise (Galatians 3:15 sq.), where ἐπαγγελία and διαθήχη are used almost as synonyms) or act of mere favour (Psalms 89:28, where חֶסֶד stands in parallelism with בְּרִית) on God’s part. Thus, the assurance given by God after the flood that a like judgment should not be repeated, and that the recurrence of the seasons, and of day and night, should not cease, is called a covenant (Genesis 9:0. Jeremiah 33:20). Generally, however, the form of a covenant is maintained by the benefits which God engages to bestow, being made by Him dependent upon the fulfilment of certain conditions which He imposes on man. Thus, the covenant with Abraham was conditioned by circumcision (Acts 7:8), the omission of which was declared tantamount to a breach of the covenant (Genesis 17:0); the covenant with the priesthood, by zeal for God, His honour and service (Numbers 25:12-13; Malachi 2:4-5); the covenant of Sinai, by the observance of the ten commandments (Exodus 34:27-28). This last-mentioned covenant, which was renewed at different periods of Jewish history (Deuteronomy 29:0; Joshua 24:0; Joshua 2:0 Chronicles 15, 23, 29, 34; Ezra 10:0; Nehemiah 9:10) is one of the two principal covenants between God and man, distinguished as Old and New (Jeremiah 31:31-34; Hebrews 8:8-13). Compare Kitto.
I. That God should make a covenant with man is an act of unmerited grace.
II. That man should fail to keep the covenant accords with all human history.
III. That failure on man’s part justifies God in withdrawing His covenanted goodness.
IV. Nevertheless, that a gracious covenant made by God, who knows our waywardness, might stand though man proved faithless.
V. Therefore, that God may be entreated to keep His part in a covenant even with a faithless people who have forfeited all right to His grace.
ADDENDA TO CHAPTER 14: ILLUSTRATIONS AND SUGGESTIVE EXTRACTS
Jeremiah 14:1. CONCERNING THE DEARTH. A terrible drought had fallen upon the land; and the prophet’s picture of it is, if one might say so, like some of Dante’s in its realism, its tenderness, and in its terror. In the presence of a common calamity, all distinctions of class have vanished, and the nobles send their little ones to the water, and they come back with empty vessels and drooping heads, instead of with the gladness that used to be heard in the place of drawing of water. Far afield the ploughmen are standing among the cracked furrows gazing with despair at the brown chapped earth, and out in the field the very dumb creatures are sharing in the common sorrow, and the imperious loss of self-preservation overpowers and crushes the maternal instincts. “Yea, the hind also calved in the field, and forsook it, because there was no grass.” And on every hill top, where cooler air might be found, the once untamable wild asses are standing with open nostrils panting for air, their filmy eyes failing them, gazing for the rain that will not come.”—M‘Laren.
Jeremiah 14:2. “THE GATES THEREOF LANGUISH.” “The gates of cities, being places of public resort, where courts of justice were held, and other common business transacted, seem here to be put for the persons that meet there; as when we say, ‘The court is in mourning,’ we mean the persons that attend the court or the king’s palace. So in this passage we are to understand that all the persons who appear in public are dejected, and put on black or mourning on account of the national distress.”—Dr. Blayney.
“Or, that they look black and ghastly, and cast themselves down upon the ground out of grief and despair (comp. Jeremiah 8:21; Jeremiah 13:18).”—W. Louth.
“As the gates were the usual place of concourse, the misery of the people would there show itself most plainly.”—Speaker’s Com.
Jeremiah 14:3. “CAME TO THE PITS AND FOUND NO WATER.” Jerusalem was supplied with water by two lakes or pools, called “the Upper Pool” and “the Lower Pool” (see Isaiah 7:3; Isaiah 22:9), whence the water was conveyed into cisterns [here rendered “pits”] for the use of the city.—W. Louth.
Jeremiah 14:6. “SNUFFED UP THE WIND.” “Asses, in defect of water, can continue long by drawing in the air; as Aristotle likewise testifieth of the goats of Cephalonia, that they drink not for divers days together, but instead thereof gape and suck in the fresh air.”—Trapp.
Jeremiah 14:7. CONTRITE PRAYER.
“All powerful is the penitential sigh
Of true contrition. Like the placid wreaths
Of incense wafted from the righteous shrine,
Where Abel minister’d, to the blest seat
Of mercy, an accepted sacrifice,
Humiliation’s conscious plaint ascend.”
Jeremiah 14:8. INTERCESSORY PRAYER.
“A good man’s prayers
Will from the deepest dungeon climb to heaven’s height,
And bring a blessing down.”
“Temporal blessings Heaven doth often share
Unto the wicked, at the good man’s prayer.”
“But that from us aught should ascend to Heaven
So prevalent as to concern the mind
Of God high blest, or to incline His will,
Hard to belief may seem; yet this will prayer.”
“A STRANGER IN THE LAND.” “As none but citizens in old time had any political rights or privileges, a sojourner, however long might be his stay, naturally took little interest in the country where not choice but necessity had made him fix his dwelling.”—Speaker’s Com.
Jeremiah 14:9. GOD’S WITHDRAWALS FROM HIS PEOPLE. “God does not always frown, lest we should be cast into despair; He does not always smile, lest we should be careless and presume.”—Owen.
“A father’s frowns are but the graver countenance of love.”—Cowper.
“I know, as night and shadow are good for flowers, and moonlight and dews are better than continual sun, so is Christ’s absence of special use, and it hath some nourishing virtue in it, and giveth sap to humility, and putteth an edge on hunger, and furnishes a fair occasion for faith to put forth her hand and lay hold on what she seeth not.”—Rutherford.
“God sometimes hides Himself that we may cling the closer to Him and hang the faster upon Him. By withdrawing from His people, He prevents His people withdrawing from Him; and so by an affliction He prevents sin; for God to withdraw from me is but my affliction, but for me to withdraw from God, that is my sin; and, therefore, it were better for me that God should withdraw from me a thousand times than that I should once withdraw from God” (Hebrews 10:38-39).—Brooks.
Jeremiah 14:10. “THEY LOVE TO WANDER.”
“I have not kept Thy word,
And yet Thou biddest me to taste Thy love;
Shaming my faithless heart that ere could rove
From Thee, O gracious Lord.
“Shame wraps my heart around
Like morning gloom upon the mountains spread;
Indignant memory, avenger dread,
Deepens each restless wound.”
—Thomas W. Webb.
Jeremiah 14:12. FASTING OFFENSIVE.
“When thou a fast wouldst keep,
Make not thy homage cheap
By publishing its signs to every eye;
But let it be between
Thyself and the Unseen;
So shall it gain acceptance from on high.”
“Is this a fast—to keep
The larder lean, and clean
From fat of veals and sheep?
“Is it to quit the dish
Of flesh, yet still to fill
The platter high with fish?
“Is it to fast an hour,
Or ragged go, or show
A downcast look and sour?
“No! ’tis a fast to dole
Thy sheaf of wheat, and meat
Unto the hungry soul.
it is to fast from strife,
From old debate, and hate—
To circumcise thy life.
To show a heart grief-rent;
To starve thy sin—not bin—
And that’s to keep thy Lent.”
Jeremiah 14:13. “ASSURED PEACE.” Peace Is not a compromise with circumstances. It is a Divine reality in the heart. Righteousness is rest—holiness is peace—rectitude with God, arising through trust in the atonement of God the Son, means tranquillity deep and unchanging as the peace of God which passeth understanding!—Joseph Parker, D.D.
“Far, far away the roar of passion dieth,
And loving thoughts rise calm and peacefully;
And no rude storm, how fierce soe’er it flieth,
Disturbs that deeper rest, O Lord, in Thee.”
—H. B. Stowe.
Jeremiah 14:19. WRESTLING PRAYERS. “If thy suit be not honest, never begin it: if it be, never leave it.”—Trapp.
Jeremiah 14:20. SIN ACKNOWLEDGED. “Many people can mourn for a body from which a soul is departed, but they cannot mourn over a soul whom God has deserted. Alas! what is a spot in the face to a stab in the heart? Inward diseases are least visible and yet most fatal. A man may die of a plague though his spots never appear.”—Secker.
CONTRITION NECESSARY. “Take the cold iron, and attempt to weld it, if you can, into a certain shape. How fruitless the effort! Lay it on the anvil, seize the blacksmith’s hammer with all your might, let blow after blow fall on it, and you shall have done nothing; but put it in the fire, let it be softened and made malleable, then lay it on the anvil, and each stroke shall have a mighty effect, so that you may mould it into any shape you may desire. So take your heart, not cold as it is, but put it into the furnace; let it be molten, and after that it can be fashioned into the image of Jesus Christ.”—Spurgeon.
CONVERSION. A Scotch lassie was converted under the preaching of With-field. She was asked if her heart were changed, and replied, “Something, I know, is changed; it may be the world, it may be my heart; there is a great change somewhere, I am sure; for everything is different from what it once was.”
“I need a cleansing change within:
My life must once again begin;
New hope I need, and youth renewed,
And more than human fortitude;
New faith, new love, and strength to cast
Away the fetters of the past.”
Jeremiah 14:21. “DO NOT DISGRACE THE THRONE OF THY GLORY.” The Romans held the extinction of the vestal fire a sign of the destruction of their city, be the cause thereof what it will. We may well think the same of the loss of God’s ordinances, which therefore we must deprecate, as here, with all our might; for as Bodin said well of obtaining, so likewise of retaining, religion, Non disputationibus sed rogationibus, &c.: the business will be the better effected by requests than by disputes. Pray, therefore, for the peace of Jerusalem, yea, take no nay. Deus ipse qui nullis contra se viribus superare potest, precious vincitur (Jerome). The invincible God is overcome by the power of prayer.—Trapp.
Jeremiah 14:22. MAN’S LONE HOPE. “Our hope is not hung upon such an untwisted thread as ‘I imagine so,’ or ‘It is likely;’ but the cable, the strong rope of our fastened anchor, is the oath and promise of Him who is eternal verity: our salvation is fastened with God’s own hand and Christ’s own strength to the strong stake of God’s unchangeable nature.”—Rutherford.
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Exell, Joseph S. "Commentary on Jeremiah 14". Preacher's Complete Homiletical Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/
the First Week of Advent