Friday, June 9th, 2023
the Week of Proper 4 / Ordinary 9
the Week of Proper 4 / Ordinary 9
Preacher's Complete Homiletical Commentary Preacher's Homiletical
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Text Courtesy of BibleSupport.com. Used by Permission.
These files are public domain.
Text Courtesy of BibleSupport.com. Used by Permission.
Exell, Joseph S. "Commentary on Jeremiah 15". Preacher's Complete Homiletical Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/
commentaries/ eng/ phc/ jeremiah-15.html. Funk & Wagnalls Company, 1892.
Exell, Joseph S. "Commentary on Jeremiah 15". Preacher's Complete Homiletical Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/
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CRITICAL AND EXEGETICAL NOTES—For Chronology of the Chapter and Historical Facts, see on chap. Jeremiah 10:5 in loc.
1. Personal Allusions. Jeremiah 15:1. “Moses and Samuel,” here mentioned as having been preeminent and prevailing intercessors on behalf of their people. Comp. Exodus 32:11-14; Numbers 14:13-20, as to Moses; and 1 Samuel 7:9; 1 Samuel 12:23, as to Samuel: confer also Psalms 99:0 as to both. Jeremiah 15:4. “Manasseh, son of Hezekiah:” Hezekiah was a most devout and religious king, whose piety throws into more heinous contrast the unrestrained guiltiness of his impious son, Manasseh—the thirteenth king of Judah; reigned longer than any other monarch of the Davidic line; born (probably) cir. B.C. 710; his mother, Hephzibah, daughter of a citizen or prince of Jerusalem (2 Kings 21:0). He succeeded to the throne at the age of twelve; the event was the signal for complete moral and spiritual debasement of the whole nation; every form of foreign idolatry was introduced—loathsome, sensuous, barbaric—even to the Moloch fires (2 Kings 16:3; Isaiah 30:33; Jeremiah 7:31), while the worship of Jehovah was repudiated, the holiness of the very sanctuary defiled (2 Chronicles 33:4), God’s prophets ruthlessly persecuted and slain (2 Kings 21:16), and the Theocracy openly repudiated and contemned. In the twenty-second year of his reign (according to a Jewish tradition), Esarhaddon, king of Assyria, invaded Israel, and carried Manasseh into Babylonian captivity, from which he was released (probably, for Scripture is strangely silent respecting his career) at the death of this Assyrian monarch. He then returned to his land, and attempted a reformation of his apostate and degraded nation and the restoration of Jehovah’s worship (2 Chronicles 33:15-16), but the impurity and impiety of the people were beyond recal. His name, notwithstanding this repentance, was long held in abhorrence among the Jews.
2. Natural History. Jeremiah 15:3. “Dogs to tear fowls of the heaven and beasts of the earth to devour,” &c. “Troops of hungry and semi-wild dogs wander about the fields and streets of the cities, devouring dead bodies and other offal” (Dr. W. Smith). These dogs would tear, mutilate, and partly devour the dead bodies (cf. 2 Kings 9:35; 2 Kings 9:37), and birds and beasts of prey, vultures, jackals, and others, would make an end of such portions as the dogs left (Keil). Jeremiah 15:9. “Her sun is gone down while it is yet day:” Dr. Payne Smith suggests that many consider the reference here “to the battle of Megiddo, depicting the consternation of Jerusalem at that event. If so, in the sun going down while it was yet day, there will be a reference to the eclipse on Sept. 30, B.C. 610.” Thus Hitzig remarks that the prophet “refers to the battle of Megiddo, the more probably (2 Kings 23:29) as the figure of the sun setting in bright daylight might then be founded on the eclipse which took place in that valley Sept. 30, B.C. 610.”
3. Manners and Customs. Jeremiah 15:3. “I will appoint over them four kinds:” (appoint, same word as in Jeremiah 13:21 פָּקַד): just as God had set over Israel kings, priests, prophets, and judges for the nation’s well-being, so now He placed the people under the jurisdiction of these four destructive agencies (cf. Ezekiel 14:21). Jeremiah 15:7. “I will fan them with a fan in the gates of the land:” allusion to the winnowing process by which the chaff is driven out of the windows of the threshing-floor; in such manner would this people (mere chaff) be driven out of the openings and exits, “the gates of the land.” Jeremiah 15:10. “Lent on usury:” the Mosaic law interdicted interest on loans to the poor (Exodus 22:25), and later on discriminated between foreigners and Hebrews, permitting usury upon loans to foreigners, but repudiating it with their brethren (Deuteronomy 23:19-20). From this verse it appears that discredit was attached to any who lent on usury even so late as in Jeremiah’s days. Yet there were departures from this law, and they caused bitter “strife and contention” between money-lender and debtor. Jeremiah 15:17. “Sat not in the assembly of the mockers:” convivial gatherings; meetings where, amid hilarity and festivity, God was ignored and sacred things ridiculed. See notes on chap. Jeremiah 6:11. “I sat alone because of Thy hand:” either because the prophetic power so possessed his soul as to draw him apart from ordinary society and compel him to an isolated life (so Keil, Clarius, Vatablus, &c.), or “because of the faithful communication of his inspired messages he had been expelled from society, and been made the object of their fierce indignation” (Henderson).
4. Literary Criticisms. Jeremiah 15:1. “Cast them out of My sight:” send them, or drive them, from My presence; lit., from before My face, מֵעַל־פָּנַי; the form implies (supposititiously) that the people were assembled before Jehovah within the Temple—they were to “go forth,” leave the sacred precincts; God would not be interceded for them. Jeremiah 15:3. “four kinds:” מִשְׁפָּחוֹת, lit. families; agencies of destruction. Jeremiah 15:4. “Cause them to be removed:” זַוֲעָה, from the root זוּעַ, tossing, violent motion, maltreatment, quaking, terror. These various shades of meaning supply different interpretations of the text: I will cause them to be tossed violently hither and thither, abused, maltreated (Keil): I will give them up to agitation; they should have no rest, but be driven from place to place (Henderson): I will make them a shuddering unto all kingdoms (Hitzig, Graf): cause them to be a terror (Payne Smith): a horror (Lange). Jeremiah 15:5. “Pity … bemoan … go aside,” &c.: חָמַל, to feel sympathy; נוּד, to lament and deplore; סוּר, to turn out of the way—“to ask how thou doest.” לְשָׁלוֹם, to salam, salute, inquire as to one’s health. No one will cherish the people with sympathy, indeed no one will trouble themselves to inquire as to their good. Jeremiah 15:6. “Thou hast forsaken Ms, saith the Lord.” אַתְּ נָטַשְׁתְּ אֹתִי נְאֻם־יְהוֹה; the word “forsaken” is a feeble rendering of נָטַשׁ, “thou hast cast Me out, abandoned Me.” And this emphatic repudiation of Jehovah on their part justifies God’s refusal to be interceded for them. Jeremiah 15:7. “Gates of the land:” הָאָרֶץ. Ewald and Graf render it earth, and understand it that God would winnow them through the extremities of the earth, remotest regions; but Keil, Lange, Henderson, retain “land:” God would drive them through the gates of their own land into exile. Jeremiah 15:8. “I have brought upon them against the mother,” &c.: Henderson: “The words עַל־אֵם בַּחוּר have been very differently construed. The LXX. επὶ μητέρα νεανίσκους. Some (Syriac, Arabic, C. B. Michaelis, and Ewald) compare the phrase אֵם עַל בָּנִים, the mother with her children, but the position of the preposition before and not after אֵם renders such construction untenable. Others (Chaldean, Kimchi, J. D. Michaelis, Hitzig, Graf, and Naegelsbach) take אֵם בָּחוּר to be in the construct state: the mother of the young man, or, regarding the nouns as collectives, the mothers of the young men. Jarchi, Capellus, Castalio, Dr. Dieu. Döderlein, Eichorn, and Dahler (and Reshi) consider אֵם, mother, to mean, the metropolis (as 2 Samuel 20:19).” Favouring this latter rendering, Henderson reads the words thus: I have brought to them—against the mother (city)—a young spoiler (Nebuchadnezzar). But with Jerome and Kimchi, &c., both Keil and the Speaker’s Comm. coincide, and translates: I have brought upon them, even upon the mother and the young man, a spoiler, &c.—i.e., no age or sex will escape the spoiler. “I have caused him to fall upon it suddenly;” rather, caused pangs and terrors to fall upon her suddenly. Jeremiah 15:10. “Every one doth curse me:” The Hebrew words כלה מקללוני have been wrongly divided, and should be כֻּלְחֶם קִלִלוּנִי The form כֻלְהֶם (1st pers.) is unusual, yet is found in 2 Samuel 23:6. Jeremiah 15:11. “Verily it shall be well with thy remnant:” a various reading appears here: a different pointing wholly changing the sense: שֵׁרִותִךָ may be pointed thus, שָׁרוֹתְךָ, (the infinitive Kal from שָׁרַר to oppress), or שְׁרוֹתְךָ (from שָׁרַה, to loose). The latter is preferable, and agrees with the rendering given to the only other appearance of the verb in the Heb. Scriptures (Job 37:3; setteth the lightning loose). The reading of the words then is, Verily thy loosing shall be for good; or, Verily I have loosed thee for good. “Thy remnant:” these words of course disappear from the text, being included and lost in the above translation of the sentence. “Cause the enemy to entreat thee well:” הִפְגַּעְתִּי (from פָּגַע, to meet, make peace, cause to supplicate): hence, I will cause the enemy to supplicate thee in the time of evil.
Jeremiah 15:12. “Shall iron break:” can iron (ordinary iron) break northern iron and brass? not “steel;” or, can one break iron, i.e., northern iron and brass? Jeremiah 15:14. “I will make thee to pass with thine enemies:” for the form וְהַעֲבַרְתִּי, Henderson and Dr. Payne Smith give והַעֲבַדְתִּי, I will cause thee to serve thine enemies: they make this change of the letter (ד instead of ר) on the ground of numerous MSS., also from the authority of the parallel passage, chap. Jeremiah 17:4.Jeremiah 15:15; Jeremiah 15:15. “Suffered rebuke:” reproaJer_15:18. “Pain incurable:” very sick. אֲנוּשָׁה, malignant (comp. chap. Jeremiah 30:12; Micah 1:9; Isaiah 17:11). “Wilt Thou be?” = Art Thou become. “A liar:” אַכְזָב, as a deceitful (brook or stream). “And as waters that fail:” as precarious water; the opposite of the perennial stream of Amos 5:24.Jeremiah 15:19; Jeremiah 15:19. “Bring thee again,” &c., rather, I will cause thee again to stand before my face (see Lit. Crit. on ver., 1, supra). This was an assurance to Jeremiah, that if he returned to his unquestioning trust in God’s wisdom and ways, God would confirm him in his prophetic and vicegeral relation to Himself. It was a gentle reproof of his impatient questionings, and a pledge of the renewal of his sacred trust. “Thou shalt stand before me,” Luther renders, Thou shalt remain my preacher.
HOMILETIO OUTLINES ON SECTIONS OF CHAPTER 15
God’s decisive refusal of the prophet’s petitions.
The consequent outcry of woe answered with Divine expostulations.
Fretting lamentations silenced with promises.
Jeremiah 15:1-9. GOD’S DECISIVE REFUSAL OF THE PROPHET’S PETITION
I. There may be a criminality for which no intercession can be adequate.
1. Intercessors had prevailed even in cases of appalling guilt. When Moses and Samuel interceded effectually, the condition of Israel was most iniquitous and provocative of Divine wrath; yet they prevailed in prayer. Such “effectual fervent prayers of righteous men avail much.” It would almost seem that nothing could transcend the reach of mediatorial pleadings.
2. Yet there is a bound to the prevalency of intercession. Even Moses and Samuel would now find their mediation fail. For (1) God could not be reconciled to such a people. His “mind” was irremediably averted from them. (2) He had irrevocably determined their banishment; could not endure or permit their remaining within His sight. Persistent and defiant criminality can effectually alienate God. “There is a sin which is unto death; I do not say that he shall pray for it.”
3. Nevertheless, in these times of grace, through Christ, it appears impossible to exceed Divine clemency. What Moses and Samuel and Jeremiah could not do, Jesus can! “What the law (of Moses) could not do,” &c. (Romans 8:3). “Wherefore He is able to save them to the uttermost that come unto God by Him,” &c. (Hebrews 7:25).
II. Destructive agencies are in readiness for sinners abandoned to judgment.
1. A discriminating consignment to various forms of doom. All will not experience similar and equal judgment. A different form of punishment is allotted to each. Yet this “going forth” is not merely to banishment, but to execution. “These shall go away to everlasting destruction.”
2. Ruthless agencies of execution await their opportunity to destroy. So long as God shielded this people and retained them “before His face,” they were secure. So long as we are shielded by His mercy, ruin cannot reach us, however we may merit the ruin. But instantly God sent them “out of His sight,” away from His befriending, lo! “death, the sword, famine, and captivity,” all rushed upon them. Cast away from God’s presence, we shall find executioners vigilant.
3. Abandoned spiritual apostasy is the unpardonable offence with God. (See Personal Allusions on Jeremiah 15:4, “Manasseh.”) The horrifying indulgences, sacriligeous debasements, foul practices, defiance and defilement of God’s holiness and holy place: these were the people’s crimes under Manasseh. He did but let loose their cherished apostasy. Himself vile, the nation rushed into and revelled in vileness and villany. This is “the sin unto death.”
III. Flagrant wickedness ultimately alienates all commiseration or compassion.
1. Human pity is estranged (Jeremiah 15:5). No one will sympathise with their misery, lament their ruin, or inquire for their condition.
2. Divine relenting is exhausted (Jeremiah 15:6). God was “weary with repenting,” and would now inexorably punish.
3. Justice effectually avenges impenitence. “They return not from their ways” (Jeremiah 15:7). That justifies their final and severe doom. (1) From their land driven forth (Jeremiah 15:7). (2) Their holy city desolated (Jeremiah 15:8). (3) Death and doom overtaking all, irrespective of sex or age (Jeremiah 15:9, see Lit. Crit. on verse).
NOTE: “Pity” is slow to die, even from the human heart; it survives, and asserts itself even when all affection is dead. Far more slowly does God’s pity die. Yet heinous, determined, ostentatious, and persistent guilt will eventually destroy all pity for the wicked. Then only terrible and implacable miseries can ensue.
Jeremiah 15:10-14. THE OUTCRY OF WOE ANSWERED WITH EXPOSTULATIONS
Seeing that he availed nothing by prayer, the prophet raised his lament. Into his cry enter both personal disappointment and patriotic dismay.
I. He bemoans his troubled prophetic career, since it accomplished no national good.
He repines over: 1. His personal hardships. 2. His prophetic calling and commission, for these had been fruitful of grief, suffering, and calumny. And 3. The hostility he encounters: “Every one doth curse me;” his experiences are as distressing as if he had himself been “a man of strife and contention,” and as if his occupation had been that of the hated usurer! Observe how he gives prominence to the comfortless aspects of his career,—how he thrusts his own troubles forward, almost ignoring the wisdom and benignity of the Divine purpose in commissioning him to prophetic duties. What were his sufferings and discomforts as compared with the opportunities and persuasives to salvation God had sent to the nation through him? He betrays:
i. Grief for apparent failure in his work and prayers. “He felt angry that he effected less than he wished” (Calvin). All ministers could alike complain.
ii. Regret for the hardships his ministry had entailed. Sinners are apt to judge and slander faithful preachers as contentious disturbers of their peace.
iii. Trouble for the irrevocable ruin of his nation. The hearts of his people were unmoved, unchanged. And, his preachings and prayers notwithstanding, Judah was doomed!
II. With mingled promises and threatenings God answers the prophet’s complaint. Jehovah meets the outcry thus:—
1. He assures him of ameliorating mercies amid the coming distress (Jeremiah 15:11). He should be exempt from the national woe, and be treated with forbearance.
2. Explains the prophet’s impotency in intercession. His prayers are but as “iron,” stout and determined indeed; yet God’s purpose to send Judah into exile is inflexible as “northern iron and steel,” or, the Assyrian invasion cannot be repelled now by your prayers (Jeremiah 15:12).
3. Justifies the severe judgments He had determined upon Judah. Her prevalent “sins” (Jeremiah 15:13) necessitated punishment.
4. Avows Himself moved to a fiery anger which should consume the hardened nation. God was wroth, justly and resolutely angry; and such righteous anger could not be restrained, as if it were fitful, by even His prophet’s cries. Personal feeling must bow to Divine equity.
Jeremiah 15:15-21. FRETTING LAMENTATIONS SILENCED WITH PROMISES
In the strophe (Jeremiah 15:15-18), the prophet, though recognising that the fall of Judah is inevitable, as shown in Jeremiah 15:12-14, and that he cannot escape the hard lot of having to predict the ruin of his country as a purpose absolutely determined, yet offers unto God a last expostulation, and that in a tone of reproach, as if the promises made in chap. Jeremiah 1:18 had not been fulfilled.
His words are full of meaning:
I. He appeals to God the all-knowing (who was acquainted, therefore, with the manner of his call, the promises made him, the hopes with which he had accepted his office, his disappointment, his dangers, the opposition he had met with, and his perseverance when in despair) to show that He remembered him by visiting him, i.e., by interfering in some marked manner in his behalf and punishing his persecutors.
To the prophet God’s long-suffering towards the wicked seemed to be the abandonment of himself to death, and justice itself required that one who was suffering contumely for God’s sake should be delivered.
II. He contrasts the joy with which he had accepted his office (Jeremiah 15:16), when he received God’s words and “did eat them,” with—
III. The present revulsion of his feelings (Jeremiah 15:17): the intense “indignation” with which he regarded the sins of the people, which were heinous in themselves, grievous offences against God, and involved the ruin of His Church. Then
IV. Prays for more evident help (Jeremiah 15:19). It is the prayer of a man in bitter grief, whose human nature cannot at present submit to the Divine will.
V. Laments that the delivery of God’s message availed nothing. His labours were in vain. This made his “pain perpetual,” &c. Nothing he did had in aught changed the miserable state of things around him. Jeremiah had expected that, called to so high an office, there would be perpetual interference of Providence in his behalf, instead whereof, things seemed to take only their natural course God seemed “as a deceitful stream” to him.
To all this God made a reply full of forbearance and graciousness, although comfort is blended with rebuke.
I. Solemn conditions are specified. These were imperative to the prophet’s reinstatement in official dignity and service (Jeremiah 15:19).
1. Personal “return.” Jeremiah had, as in chap. 12, questioned God’s righteousness; he is told he must “return,” must repent him of his doubts, and think only of his duty.
2. Separation in himself of what was divine and holy from the dross of human passion (Maurer): let the “precious” metal be distinct from the “vile.”
II. Gracious assurances are given.
1. The restoration of Jeremiah to the prophetic office: “I will cause thee again to stand before me” (see Lit. Crit. on verse). To stand before a person means to be his chief officer or viceregent, and is said of Elijah (1 Kings 17:1), and Elisha (2 Kings 3:14), as God’s prophets; of David as Saul’s minister (1 Samuel 16:21-22), of Nebuzar-adan as commander-in-chief of Nebuchadnezzar’s arms (Jeremiah 52:12, margin).
2. He should be again the organ by which God would speak: “Thou shalt be as My mouth.” Here is supplied a principle for regulating the prophet’s conduct:—“Let them return unto thee, but return not thou unto them:” concede not to the people—a flattering prophet perishes with the people whom his soft speeches have confirmed in their sin; but the truthful speaking of God’s Word saves both.
3. The original promises and covenant with Jeremiah are confirmed (Jeremiah 15:20-21). This repeats God’s pledge given at Jeremiah’s original call (see chap. Jeremiah 1:18-19), adding the promise of deliverance from men of open violence—“the terrible.”—Arranged from Speaker’s Com.
HOMILIES AND COMMENTS ON VERSES OF CHAPTER 15
Jeremiah 15:1. Theme: THE LOATHSOME SOUL OUTCAST FROM GOD. “My mind could not be toward this people; cast them out of My sight.”
Such is Jehovah’s answer to the kneeling, weeping, pleading prophet. Jeremiah, in his prayer, had asked, as if it could never really be so, “Hath Thy soul loathed Zion?” (Jeremiah 14:19). Now God affirms that the people had become irrevocably loathsome to Him.
I. Loathing would seem impossible to a God of beneficent love.
1. Sin, though repulsive, did not alienate God’s love from the world. For “God commended His love towards us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for the ungodly.”
2. However defiled and worthless the sinner, there dwells abounding grace in Christ. None can exceed the virtue of His atonement or the compass of His pity, or the fulness of His Gospel calls.
3. It is the crowning glory of God that He is merciful to our unrighteousness. He proclaims Himself to be, and would be known as, “The Lord merciful and gracious,” &c.
4. Love delights to assert itself towards those in the lowest depths of alienation. It seeks and saves the lost.
5. Extreme cases in the Gospel records encourage hope for vilest sinners. The crucified malefactor, who cast revilings in Christ’s teeth; Mary Magdalene, out of whom was cast seven devils; Saul, who breathed out threatenings and slaughter, &c.
II. Loathing can only ensue where love has been relentlessly outraged. This was Judah’s case; her conduct had exhausted and exceeded all the resources of Divine love.
1. Love may not neutralise the law and action of rightness. It may interpose and mitigate justice, but not frustrate it. And where love effects no change in the sinner, right must be allowed to pursue its course and requite the guilty conduct.
2. Wilful contempt of patient and pitying love courts Divine aversion. Such treatment of God’s gentleness and patience arouses indignation. “Last of all, He sent His Son, and Him they slew!”
3. The superlative crime of the sinner is to outrage and alienate love. To break law is evil enough, but when love interposes to shield the wrong-doer, for him then to abuse love is to culminate iniquity.
III. Loathing, when once incurred, closes all hope of reconciliation. “My mind cannot be towards this people.”
1. The very thoughts of God, as well as His affections, turn irrevocably away from such heinous transgressors.
2. No intercession can effect a recal of the Divine complacency. He cannot look upon such sin.
3. While the horrible heartlessness of men remains there can be no basis of reconciliation. “Intercession is powerful, and is not without fruit, when he who prays and they for whom he prays are of like spirit” (Cramer). But, with relentless hostility in the human heart, God can never turn compassionately towards the sinner.
IV. Loathing having been righteously merited, the doom of banishment follows. “Cast them out of My sight.”
1. No place in the Divine mind entails no place in the Divine presence. Having forfeited God’s favour, the soul must quit His abode.
2. No place in the Divine presence entails irrevocable banishment. An outcast,—“a castaway.” “These shall go away.” “Oh, that they were wise, that they understood these things, that they would consider their latter end.”
Theme: INTERCESSORY PRAYER.
Prayer is both a duty and a privilege. Scripture commands that those who pray should not limit prayer to self: “Pray one for another.” Intercessions are to be made for all men (1 Timothy 2:1-2). Jeremiah had prayed very earnestly for his people. He was not only unsuccessful, but was even forbidden to pray for them (14 Jeremiah 15:11). Moreover, he is informed that though Moses and Samuel should both stand before God, even they could not prevail. This suggests to us that there are limits to the duty and to the power of intercessory prayer. Consider, then,
I. That intercessory prayer is an exercise of great value.
1. As developing our love to man. Interesting ourselves in his trials, seeking to save him from his sins. This love may be shown first to our nearest friends, but it will, if true, take in man as man. We are to pray even for “them that despitefully use us.”
2. As carrying out the Divine precepts. In the spirit of Christ, in the fellowship of life. “When ye pray say, Our Father.” The model prayer is in the plural, “our,” “us,” “we;” not I, my, me.
3. As following after noble examples. Abraham, Moses, Samuel (1 Samuel 7:9), Elijah, Jeremiah, Jesus, and all good men who love the souls of their fellows.
4. As obtaining great blessings for others. Lot appears to have been saved by Abraham’s prayer. Israel often spared because Moses or Samuel prayed (Exodus 32:11-14; Numbers 14:17-20; 1 Samuel 7:9). The prayer of faith was to save the sick, to obtain even salvation (James 5:15; 1 John 5:16), &c.
II. That intercessory prayer can be offered only by good men. “The effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much.”
1. He must not be under the sin against which he prays. If it be a prayer of sympathy for one in trouble, this rule has no force. It is essential that, as the priest of old time went in first for himself then for the people, so it should be also with intercessory prayer.
2. Should know by experience the value of the blessing he craves for another. Else how can he pray with the heart and understanding.
3. He must be willing to join effort with prayer. Otherwise his sympathy and desire will be a mere pretence, a thing of words, a mere worthless sentiment. God will not hear the prayers of those who will do nothing but pray, if they are able to do other things besides to gain the object of their prayers.
III. That intercessory prayer has some limitations even when offered by the best of men. Such as Jeremiah, Moses, Samuel.
1. This is evident from Scripture. Abraham could not prevail to save Sodom. Peter would not pray for Simon Magus; he must pray for himself. John in his First Epistle says, “There is a sin unto death; I do not say that he shall pray for it.” (See other texts.)
2. This is evident from observation. We have all known many prayers offered for others which have been apparently unanswered. Sometimes the faults are in ourselves (see under II.), but sometimes we fail to find explanation.
3. Reason would lead to the same conclusion. The best of men are but men. They may at times be more influenced by sorrowful sights than by sinful acts. Personal feeling controls them as it does others. Prayer is powerful, but not all-powerful. God will grant their requests if in so doing He can be just and true to all—His character and all His people.
IV. That intercessory prayer is a grand distinction and provision of the Gospel. We have
1. The best of intercessors (Hebrews 7:25). In office, in sympathy, in work, in influence.
2. Praying for the best of blessings. Salvation, preservation, comfort, glory (John 17:24).
3. Taking up the case of every soul that trusts Him. “All that come unto God by Him” (Hebrews 7:25).
4. Always successful in His intercession. He will not take up any case which would or could fail. He always does those things which please the Father. He is always heard (John 11:42). His plea is irresistible,—it satisfies law, it magnifies grace, it humbles the sinner, it glorifies the Father, it consecrates life to good deeds.
Let the failure of others teach us to fly for refuge to the only One whose intercessions are unfailing. “We have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ, the righteous” (His prayer for Peter Luke 22:31-32).—W. Whale.
Jeremiah 15:2. Theme: INCREDULITY AT GOD’ MESSAGE OF DOOM. “If they shall say unto thee”—as they are likely to do in a jeer and with scoffing incredulity—“Whither shall we go forth?”
I. The seeming incredibility of the doom pronounced.
1. Sinners cannot think their ruin really imminent. They dream on demented, revel in sin, blinded to its enormity and their own peril.
2. Messages of doom seem to them empty menaces. It was so when Noah prophesied the Flood; so when the angel threatened Sodom’s overthrow; so with the terrible predictions of our Lord concerning Jerusalem’s destruction; and is so still when the “end of all things” and the fiery judgment are announced.
3. Dreadful calamities start in the mind a revulsion which produces incredulity. A kind of blank bewilderment results from the attempt to entertain a terrifying announcement—“Whither shall we go forth?” It is simply incredible, impossible. So now, in our own times, sinners answer the announcement of the woes awaiting the impenitent with a light indifference, a jeering unbelief. It is not credible that God will doom us, will dismiss us for ever from salvation!
II. The ready incredulity of those under doom.
Condemned souls would prefer not to realise the sentence true; so find evasive questions, endeavour to explain away the menace as meaningless, and then jeer contemptuously at the messenger who prophesies evil against them. The same process is rife to-day; for cavillers answer the preacher thus—There is no doom to the unsaved: whither will the ungodly be banished? Doom will not be very distressing: it is impossible that a soul should be for ever lost.
1. Man meets God’s threatenings with incredulity.
2. God meets man’s incredulity with specific affirmations. “Such as are for death,” &c. There is a dreadful precision in God’s dire messages: they cannot well be explained away as parabolic images, as oriental and pictorial figures, merely setting off in bold colours a trifling occurrence. Such things as are here arrayed in order to bring incredulity to its sober senses—death, the sword, famine, captivity—are more than imaginary forms of speech; they are terrific facts, appallingly literal.
Note: Sinners would be wise to believe God means exactly what He threatens. What madness to risk the future on an evasive interpretation of His menaces!
See Addenda: SCORNFUL INCREDULITY.
Theme: SCOFFING ANSWERED BY SARCASM. The words may be so interpreted—
I. Derisive questionings: “Whither shall we go forth?” Perhaps you will tell us a little more explicitly what our doom is to be! Inform us, if you can, where and to what we are to be driven.
II. Sarcastic directions. Would you know more precisely to what God will send you forth? Then hear: Each to his allotted doom: one shall “go forth” to “death,” and he shall certainly meet it; another to “the sword,” &c. The way will be made quite plain to you, so plain that you will not be likely to miss your appointed doom. These evils you jeer at will be found waiting for you in their appointed place. Do not think there will be any probability of your missing them. All is carefully and conveniently arranged for you. (Comp. Jeremiah 15:3-4.)
Jeremiah 15:4. Comments—
I WILL CAUSE THEM TO BE REMOVED.
Blayney rightly observes that the word rendered “to be removed,” in our version, has no such meaning. The verb means to move, agitate, disquiet, but not to move from one place to another. The noun as found here is rendered “vexation” in Isaiah 28:19, and “trouble” in 2 Chronicles 29:8. The idea of removing is not given in any of the versions, nor in the Targum. It is used in two places by Jeremiah, chap. Jeremiah 24:9; Jeremiah 29:18. In both places “vexation, trouble, or disquietude” would be the best rendering. The sentence may be thus translated: And I will render them a vexation to all the kingdoms of the earth. Literally it is, “I will give them for a vexation,” &c. And so they became; they were a trouble and a disquietude wherever they were; and hence they became, as it is said in chap. Jeremiah 29:18, a curse, a hissing, and a reproach among all nations.
Venema gives this rendering: And I will give them for a shaking to all the kingdoms of the earth. Which he understands to mean, that they would be given to be shaken, agitated and disquieted.—Ed. of Calvin.
The Jews were to have no rest, but were to be driven from place to place at the pleasure of their enemies. Ewald: Spiel des Windes.—Hend.
Rather: I will cause them to be a terror. So the Syriac and Rashi render, Every one who hears of the calamity that has befallen them will tremble. The words are quoted from Deuteronomy 28:25.—Speaker’s Com.
“BECAUSE OF MANASSEH THE SON OF HEZEKIAH.” The sin upon which this severe sentence is grounded—
i. It is in remembrance of a former iniquity. It is “because of Manasseh.” What “he did in Jerusalem” we are told (1 Kings 21:3-4). This is brought into the account with the present generation, to show that the guilt of blood will light and lie somewhere sooner or later, and that reprieves are not pardons.
ii. It is in consideration of their present impenitency. Their own sin is described in Jeremiah 15:6-7. There is mercy for those who have turned aside, if they will return; but what favour can they expect who persist in their apostasy?—Henry.
“THE SON OF HEZEKIAH.” But altogether degenerate. He was therefore the worse, because he should have been better; and the worse again, because he was author publicœ corruptelœ, a ringleader of rebellion to others, as was Jeroboam.—Trapp.
God keeps an exact protocol (register) of sins, and visits them to the third and fourth generation.—Cramer.
See what uncertain comforts children are, and let us therefore rejoice in them as though we rejoiced not.—Henry.
Qualis rex talis grex.—Förster.
Theme: AN ANOMALY IN THE LAW OF TRANSMISSION. “Because of Manasseh, the son of Hezekiah.”
Notice that, 1. Grace was NOT transmitted from Hezekiah to Manasseh: parental virtues do not necessarily reappear in the children. 2. Guilt WAS transmitted from Manasseh to that generation: evil travels down, reappears through successive years.
Explanation: The human heart is not naturally enamoured of godliness, does not instinctively appreciate and reciprocate good example; but “men love darkness,” are quick to respond to the sway and charm of a bad example.
I. Eminent piety in the father does not ensure godliness in the son. Social life cannot guarantee what a child’s future will be. Only God’s grace can implant holiness.
1. Godliness is not hereditary. Parents cannot produce it in their children. Neither is it transmitted involuntarily.
2. To see godliness at home does not necessarily awaken others to love and emulate it. The example of holiness is not omnipotent, neither is it sure to charm others. The heart is not prone to it.
II. Criminality is deepened when a holy parental example is repudiated.
1. It was Manasseh’s duty, personally and publicly, to follow Hezekiah’s example. For the reforms Hezekiah had effected were manifestly right in themselves, and beneficial to the nation, as well as due to God, who had befriended Judah.
2. It was an aggravation of his guilt that he reversed all his father had done. He owed it to his father to respect the work he had so laboriously wrought; and to his father’s God to preserve the worship and sacred institutions he had so zealously restored.
“The name of the pious father intensifies the horror at the wickedness of the son” (2 Kings 21:3).—Speaker’s Com.
“We learn that they are worthy of a heavier punishment, who have been religiously brought up from their childhood, and have afterwards degenerated; who, having had pious and godly parents, afterwards abandon themselves to every wickedness. Hence a heavier judgment awaits those who depart from the examples of godly fathers.”—Calvin.
“His relation to so good a father was a great aggravation to his sin, so far was it from being an excuse for it.”—Henry.]
III. Rueful consequences will overtake a people who elect and follow a guilty leader. Why does God threaten vengeance on this generation for Manasseh’s sins?
1. His example did not justify them in doing the same. They could not shelter themselves under the plea of Manasseh’s leading.
2. Their continuance in guilt was wilful and determined. They reproduced Manasseh’s crimes, but it was not because some force urged them on involuntarily; they did evil of their own accord.
3. The people had a choice of examples before them. Hezekiah had shown them the way of godliness; Manasseh, the way of sin. But they “loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil.” There was in them “an evil heart of unbelief in departing from the living God.”
4. To follow evil leading will lead to evil issues. “I will cause them to be removed—to be a horror—among the nations, because of Manasseh.” “Both fall into the ditch.”
See Addenda: PARENTAGE.
Jeremiah 15:5. Comments—
Who will take pity … to wish thee well? “From Jeremiah 15:1-4, it follows with absolute certainty that Jehovah will no longer help, and that therefore Israel is inevitably lost. No longer any escape! If the Lord will not, who else will have pity on the people? (Isaiah 51:19; Nahum 3:7.) Who, indeed, will even ask how they are? The thought seems to be implied, that still less will any one do aught for the welfare of the people, or any longer intercede for them as the prophet has done (Jeremiah 16:7 seq.)”—Naeg.
“When God abandons us, we are abandoned also by the holy angels and all creatures. For as at court, when two eyes are turned away the whole court turns away; so when the Lord turns away, all His hosts turn away also.”—Cramer.
“The sinful people will be given up to all the kingdoms of the earth to be ill used, for no one will or can have compassion on Jerusalem, since its rejection by God is a just punishment for its rejection of the Lord (Jeremiah 15:6). Have pity and bemoan denote loving sympathy with the fall of the unfortunate.—Keil.
Theme: LOST EVEN TO PITY. “Who shall have pity upon thee, O Jerusalem?”
It is usual to pity the ignorant, the unfortunate, the weak; but the wilfully evil, those who sin against the light of knowledge and the manifestations of love, must be blamed and, unless they repent, condemned. In her sorrows Jerusalem seemed an object of pity, but there were none to show favour unto her. The gods which she had worshipped could render no help, and the people at whose evil desire she had compromised her honour now taunted and derided her (Lamentations 2:15). Who shall pity thee?
I. Thou hast had the oracles of God. Thy case is not as the heathen who have no knowledge, but as of those who “love darkness rather than light.”
II. Thou hast had great religious advantages. The priesthood, sacrifices, and mercy-seats. The Sabbaths, sacred feasts, and gracious promises.
III. Thou hast had a history of Divine mercies. In Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. By Moses and Aaron, Joshua and the Judges, Samuel, David, and Solomon. At the Red Sea, at Marah, at Elim, at Rephidim, at Horeb, at Jordan, &c.
IV. Thou hast insulted and forsaken thy best Friend. Thy choice has been fatal to thee, for thou hast gone away after the weak, worthless, and wicked.
V. He who pities thee most is compelled to punish thee. For His holiness’ sake, and as a warning to others (Matthew 23:37; Matthew 23:39).
VI. All other pity is useless to thee. It cannot deliver thee. It cannot take away thy sin. Oh that thou wouldest truly repent and turn unto the Lord, then would He not only pity, but pardon and prosper thee.—W. Whale.
See Addenda: LOST TO PITY.
Jeremiah 15:6. Theme: JEHOVAH WEARY WITH REPENTING.
These words do not accord with our ideas of the Divine Being. We are accustomed to the words, “He fainteth not, neither is weary,” and “He is not man that He should repent.” The word “repent” evidently is not to be taken in its ordinary sense as applied to men. So far from the word “repent” indicating change in God, it is the outworking of His immutability. He ever regards sin with abhorrence, and contrite hearts with pity and grace; if, therefore, the people are hardened in sin, He sends a message like that by Jonah to Nineveh, but if, during the day of grace, the people truly repent and cry for mercy, then, by the same law of His being, He refrains from carrying out His threatenings. There is a real change in the people, which alters the relationship in which they stand towards God, but there is only an apparent change in the Divine dealing. To the impenitent, God is unchangeably just. To the penitent, He is unchangeably merciful. The fact that God is “weary of repenting,” shows—
I. That God had often turned from His threatenings, and dealt in mercy with the people.
II. That the Divine mercy had been frequently abused, and the people had gone back again to their sins.
III. That not a change in His being, but only a change of relationship, is expressed by the word “repent” (Jonah 3:10).
IV. That judgment is alien to God’s heart, whereas mercy is His delight. If He can, without weakening the force of justice and encouraging sin, He will magnify grace and save men.
V. That when God is met with persistent ingratitude, and men relapse continually to sin, He must eventually punish them. He is weary with repenting, and will deal in judgment with them.
VI. That the operations of the Divine mind can only be expressed in human language with difficulty and limitation.
VII. That we should be careful in not trifling with or abusing the patient longsuffering of God. “My Spirit shall not always strive with man.”—W. Whale
WEARY WITH REPENTING. “The punishment due has been delayed into weariness, and this seeming failure of justice has made Judah withdraw farther from God.”—Dr. Payne Smith.
“This determination of the Lord will not change, for He is weary of repenting.”—Keil.
“God is represented as a man whose patience is at last quite tired out, it being to no purpose to withdraw His hand any longer from striking.”—Lowth.
Jeremiah 15:7. “The gates of the land mean the places by which men enter or leave it. As God winnows them, they are driven out of the land through all its outlets in every direction.”—Payne Smith.
“The gates of the land mean the extreme points at which an entrance or an exit was effected. Jehovah threatens to carry them thither, to be thence scattered among the nations.” (Comp. Nahum 3:13.)—Henderson.
Jeremiah 15:8. “Against the mother of the young men,” &c. (See Lit. Crit. on ver. p. 315.) Most of the old commentators regarded this as a reference to the mother-city, Jerusalem. Archbishop Secker suggested that “the nation in general is called the ‘mother’ of each Jewin particular,” citing Isaiah 50:1 and Hosea 2:2-5. But exact criticism brings out the sense—against the mother of the young man, the word rendered “young man” meaning a picked warrior; and suggesting that even the vigorous woman who had borne a valorous warrior would fall before the spoiler. Neither strength nor valour could deliver from him. Others suggest, that both mother and son would fall, neither age nor sex being respected.
Jeremiah 15:8. Theme: SUDDEN SPOLIATIONS.
A spoiler at noonday: Henderson’s reading (see Lit. Crit.), “a young spoiler,” leads him to adopt into his comments a historic statement which Josephus cites from Berosus, the Chaldean historian, which reads thus: “That Nabopollassar, king of Babylon, hearing that the provinces of Egypt, Cœle-Syria, and Phenice had revolted, and being himself infirm from age, sent a part of his forces under his son Nebuchadnezzar (i.e., Nebuchadnezzar II.), then in the prime of youth, by whom these provinces were again reduced.” After defeating Pharaoh-Necho at Charchemish, he marched forward against Jerusalem and captured it. The noonday attack, at an hour when military operations were usually suspended, indicated the restlessness of the spoiler—he could not wait; and the unexpectedness of the attack—at an hour when none anticipated. So that these facts stand out:
I. The Divinity which rules in calamities. “I have brought upon them:” “I have caused,” &c. (1.) God works always. (2.) Disasters have a meaning and a mission. (3.) The law is being Divinely enforced that sin brings misery.
II. The resources of Jehovah for chastisement. God would have “the young spoiler” ready when the hour of judgment arrived. (1) He foreknows history, (2) anticipates the careers of nations, (3) provides for contingencies, and (4) prepares His emissaries for the work to be done.
III. The startling aspects of misfortune.
1. At an unlikely hour: “noonday.”
2. By an impatient agent: eager, restless, could not wait for the sultry noon to pass.
3. With an impetuous force: “suddenly,” like a lightning stroke; and “fall upon,” as a crushing avalanche, irresistible, overbearing all. Even the young warriors fell before the spoiler, and the mother too.
(a.) Thus affliction comes, and health, loved lives, are stricken.
(b.) Thus reverses befall, and home, fortune, are shattered.
(c.) Thus conscience terrifies, and the soul is filled with anguish for its guilt.
(d.) Thus death seizes its victims, and we lie cold; or “widows” multiply, or “young men” fall, or “mothers” weep for the slain.
(e.) Thus the last day will come, and the archangels’ cry will suddenly appal the world.
Theme: LIFE’S NOONTIDE. “The spoiler at noonday.”
Sermon to the Young.
I. In the noontide of life we suspect no nearing ills. The foe would not be anticipated at “noonday.” The young expect no perils.
II. In the noontide of life spoilers conspire for our fall. The schemes of the enemy are founded on our not expecting him. He takes advantage.
III. In the noontide of life the young have been destroyed. Think of Byron. Yes, even the “young warrior.” “The young men do utterly fall.”
IV. In the noontide of life death seizes its prey. No age is spared. The “spoiler” respects none. Youth may die.
V. In the noontide of life, God’s redeeming care is urgently needed. Only as He befriends us are we safe when the “spoiler” comes. Religion is not merely for old age. Youth needs God. Hid with Christ in Him, nought can harm. “I fear no evil, for Thou art with me.”
See Addenda: LIFE’S NOONTIDE.
Jeremiah 15:6-9. Theme: GOD FORSAKING AND GOD FORSAKEN.
When the Spirit of the Lord came upon Azariah, the son of Oded (2 Chronicles 15:1-2), he was moved to say unto Judah and Benjamin, “The Lord is with you, while ye be with Him; and if ye seek Him He will be found of you, but if ye forsake Him He will forsake you.” These verses remarkably verify that inspired utterance. Here we meet—
I. A God forsaking people. They are convicted by God Himself of a great folly and sin: “Thou hast forsaken Me.” In chap. Jeremiah 2:13 the charge is more complete. Creation is called upon to express surprise at a folly so conspicuous as that of forsaking the fount of all good, and taking up with helpless vanities.
“Thou,”—who oughtest to have been unto Me a loyal and loving people, testifying of My power and grace, and proving by separation from the nations your preference for the living and true God.
“Hast forsaken,”—not simply forgotten, or disobeyed, but of deliberate choice hast taken other gods, and disregarded Jehovah.
“Me,”—who called Abraham and made a covenant of lasting privileges with him and his descendants, who brought you out of Egypt, who led you, fed you, protected you, and gave to you the land in which you dwell; and assured you, by wondrous promises which yet await fulfilment, of future good and greatness to you, if you could but be faithful to Jehovah.
II. A God-forsaken people. This is the effect, man’s conduct the cause. “If ye forsake Him, He will forsake you.” When a people are forsaken of God, they are—
1. Always retrograde. “Thou art gone backward,” spiritually gone back into Egypt. All who forsake God go backward, always backward, and downward. Unless they repent and obey God, there is no way forward and upward. Forward and upward is the desire and movement of a true soul.
2. Always in danger of destruction. “Therefore will I destroy you.” Therefore (i.e.), because you have gone backward. It is the penalty of a backward movement. It must come upon all who forsake God. If we forsake the mercy, we inherit the misery.
3. Always exposed to terrors and disasters. Suggested by such words as, “bereave,”—“widows,”—“spoiler,”—“terrors.” All caused by the God they have forsaken.
4. Always drifting into languor, premature decline, shame, and death (Jeremiah 15:9). Such is the end of those who are forsaken of God. No strength, no courage, no progress, no real true life; but decline, captivity, and darkness. “Turn ye, turn ye, for why will ye die, O house of Israel?”—W. Whale.
Jeremiah 15:9. “She that hath borne seven languisheth.” Seven, being the perfect number, signifies fulness: Jerusalem, the mother-city, was once fully populated, now she is deserted! “Formerly she prided herself in her offspring” (comp. 1 Samuel 2:5), but now she is “ashamed and confounded” (Lamentations 1:1).
“She hath given up the ghost:” lit., She hath breathed out her life, as if in laboured sighs: expiring in heavy heart breaths of grief. (Comp. Job 31:39.)
“Her sun is gone down while it was yet day.” “The sun of her life sets before the evening has been reached.” (Comp. Amos 8:9.)—Keil.
“The sun of her life, and the happiness (comp. Malachi 4:2, Psalms 84:12) which she had in her sons, is gone down.”—Naeg.
Connecting these verses with the illfated battle of Megiddo, and accepting these words as descriptive, most commentators regard them as depicting the consternation of Jerusalem at that disastrous event. If so, the going down of the sun while it was yet day holds an apt reference to the eclipse which occurred on Sept. 30, B.C. 610.
Theme: LIFE PREMATURELY CLOSED. Text: “Her sun is gone down while it was yet day.” Specially applicable to a useful Christian life cut off by death in the midst of its years.
I. A lustrous life. She was our “sun.” In the horizon of our home, or our church, or our friendships, she glowed, and with her radiant character and gleaming ministries gladdened all.
1. A conspicuous life: of worth, of usefulness, of eminence.
2. A beneficent life: giving out good and gladness to others.
3. An illuminated life. For God gave the sun its glory. All our excellences, all our power of usefulness, are His gifts. “The heavens declare the glory of God, and the firmament showeth His handiwork.” Yes: and “we are His workmanship.” “The Lord gives grace and glory.”
II. A lustrous life prematurely darkened. “While yet day.”
1. The course of human life is not of uniform duration.
2. The most benignant and beautiful life may suddenly end. Though we be robed with grace and living for Christ, that does not assure to us length of days.
3. When a beautiful life ends, preternatural gloom ensues. Some deaths cause no bewailing. It is a tribute to the worth of a life that it is so missed and so lamented. “Devout men made lamentation over him.”
III. A lustrous life prematurely set will again rise and shine. All lives are not lustrous, yet all lives must set in the grave. Death comes to all sooner or later. Our lives differ in degree of grace and glory. Our deaths therefore differ. All will rise again, but not all to shine. “Then shall the righteous shine forth,” &c.
1. Comfort in this thought. The sun will again rise and shine. So will the cherished life we mourn as having “gone down.”
2. Inspiration in this thought. Radiant careers on earth will glow with splendour hereafter. Therefore, “Let your light shine before men.” Live beneficent lives.
3. Satisfaction in this thought. Life is not a blunder; death is not a catastrophe. Sudden death is sudden blessedness. “Blessed are the dead which die in the Lord.” The soul whom Jesus robes with beauty, and is thus beloved and beneficent while on earth, does not cease its ministry. All the grace of Christ is not bestowed in vain. Death spoils nothing. The life is hid from our vision by the darkness into which it has “gone down;” but it shall rise again, and shine in the light of God.
4. Warning in this thought. We cannot calculate upon years. “This night thy soul may be required of thee.”
See Addenda: EARLY DEATH.
Jeremiah 15:15-19. Theme: BEAUTIFUL BUT BRIEF. “Her sun is gone down while it was yet day.”
The text is part of a gloomy description of Israel’s decline. We take it from the context and use it topically, as an appropriate description of the end of a brief but beautiful life. Of our friend it may be said that—
I. Her life was like the sun in its shining.
1. It was gloriously bright with faith and joy.
2. It was blessedly useful in diffusing light.
3. It was constantly comforting, by its warmth of love, and hope.
4. It was Christianly generous, always giving.
5. It was a centre of attraction, in the house, in the class, in the social circle, and in the church.
II. Her death was like the sun in its setting.
1. Gradual. 2. Beautiful.
3. Peaceful. 4. To rise again.
III. Her sunset was early in the day of life.
1. In the prime and beauty of being.
2. In the midst of work.
3. It seems unnatural, and suggests questions.
4. It is an interposition of God in His Providence, doubtless wise and loving.
5. It leads us from the creature to the Creator.
6. It suggests that we be all ready, always ready, “at such an hour as ye think not.”—W. Whale.
Jeremiah 15:15-19. Theme: PREMATURE SUNSET.
An expressive metaphor. Not true to nature, because the history so described was not natural. Both heaven and earth were called upon to express surprise (Isaiah 1:2-3). Unnatural conduct leads to an unnatural end, the wicked shall not live out half their days. Sunset is one of the most beautiful sights in nature, but a sudden, stormy hiding of the sun at midday is calculated to fill the beholder with distress. Such is the metaphor. Let us contemplate it—
I. In nature.
1. It would be unnatural.
2. It would be injurious to all life.
3. It would make us less confident, as to the unerring regularity of nature’s law.
II. In history. We see many cases in which nations have fallen, not with the decrepitude of age, but through early and self-wrought ruin. The Old World, Sodom, Nineveh, Babylon, &c., &c. The case of Jerusalem conspicuous (Matthew 23:37-39).
III. In individual life. The young—the immoral—the unprincipled in character generally. Obedience to God gives a long day and beautiful sunset.
The text may be used topically for a funeral sermon, in the case of a young woman.—W. Whale.
Theme: THOUGHTS UPON DEATH. “She hath given up the ghost, her sun is gone down while it was yet day.”
1. Death is a solemn event; it is the end of our probationary state, and the beginning of a new and unchanging state of being—and it is of frequent occurrence.
2. No class can escape from the state of death. The aged cannot live long, and the young may be cut down in the noonday of life.
I. Death dissolves our connection with the world.
1. Dissolves all natural relationship.
2. Ends dangers and perils.
3. Takes away the means of grace.
4. Closes our probationary state.
5. Discloses our eternal needs.
II. Death is the departure of the soul to another state.
1. It does not sink into insensibility as does the body. The soul lives.
2. Should death come now, how would it find us?
III. The change at death is very great.
1. The mode of its occurrence is, to us now, very mysterious.
2. It is an awful event to the ungodly and impenitent.
IV. Though the event is certain, the time is uncertain.
V. The solemnity of the event is realised by all who think seriously upon it.
VI. Death will leave us in this separate state until the last judgment. Means of grace must be improved; salvation of the soul must be secured before the welfare of the body. Preparation for death is necessary for all, for all must die. “Prepare to meet thy God.”—Old MS.
Jeremiah 15:11-14 considered together:
“The sense seems to be this—
i. The Lord does not vouchsafe to give a direct answer to the prophet’s complaints and murmurings concerning his own condition and calling. By this silence He administers a tacit rebuke to Jeremiah for speaking in a spirit of sullenness and discontent.
ii. He turns aside to Jerusalem, and explains His dispensations towards her, and thus by implication He replies to Jeremiah. He says to her (Jeremiah 15:11) I will afflict thee for good, and will make thine enemies to entreat thee.
This was fulfilled in the kind treatment that the Hebrew captives received from their conquerors, even Nebuchadnezzar in the case of Daniel and the three children; and of Belshazzar, and of Cyrus, Darius, Ahasuerus, and Artaxerxes in succession, after the days of Nebuchadnezzar. Even the captive king of Judah, Jehoiachin, was treated kindly at Babylon by Evil-Merodach.
iii. The prophet answers, Can this be true? Can iron break the northern iron and steel? Can the Hebrew nation have any power against the mighty power of the northern realm of Chaldea?
iv. No, answers the Lord, this will be done by their own power. The iron of Jerusalem will not break the iron and steel of Babylon. On the contrary, turning to Jerusalem, He says, I will give thy substance to the spoil for thy sins, and will make thee to pass into the land which thou knowest not. But yet, I who scatter thee for thy sins in My wrath, will chasten thee for thy good (Jeremiah 15:11). Thus God always tempered judgment with mercy in His dealings with His people.”—Wordsworth.
[See also Sectional treatment, p. 316.]
Jeremiah 15:10. Theme: A TROUBLOUS PREACHER TROUBLED. Alas! a man of strife.
“Even those who are not quiet and peaceable, if they serve God faithfully, are often made men of strife. We can but follow peace; we have the making only of one side of the bargain, and therefore can but as much as in us lies live peaceably.”—Henry.
Jeremiah’s case suggests—
I. Distraction over the results of a faithful ministry. “I am for peace, but they are for war.” It was not that he strove with them, but they with him and his work for God. Yet no one can rebuke sinners without stirring antagonism. “Art thou he that troubleth Israel?” “These men which turn the earth upside down are come hither also!” “Have I become your enemy because I tell you the truth?”
1. A fearful witness for God cannot win popular favour.
2. Hostility to his work is sure to pain the true preacher’s heart.
II. Innocence of blame for the antagonism aroused. Had Jeremiah been a bad debtor, or disobeying creditor, they could not have acted more virulently towards him.
1. Hostility to a faithful preacher is unreasonable and unjust. “Why, what evil hath He done?” asked Pilate of the incensed crowd.
2. History repeats itself in the harsh usage borne by God’s ministers. “Which of the prophets have ye not persecuted?” So with Rutherford, Wesley, Bunyan, &c. The natural man, at enmity with God, will not be at peace with the man of God who convinces him of his sin. Fashion still scorns the faithful and evangelical preacher. Public bodies are at strife with religious societies and Christian alliances which resist measures for the desecration of the Lord’s day, &c.
See Addenda: A TROUBLED MINISTRY.
III. Despondent misapprehension of a Divine mission. Jeremiah in a doleful mood only saw the “strife” he had aroused. Moments when our best work shows only ill results. All workers for Christ “go forth weeping.” Good work is often done with pain. We cannot see all the blessed effects of godly service. But “woe is unto us, if we preach not.” Courage and grace can alone prevent us from “fainting in the day of adversity,” and enable us to continue “faithful unto death.”
See Noticeable Topics: “MEN OF PROGRESS, MEN OF STRIFE.”
Jeremiah 15:11. The Lord said, Verily, &c. Henderson renders the verse thus: “Jehovah saith, Have I not set thee free for good? Have I not made the enemy take thy part in the time of calamity and in the time of distress?” Dr. Gotch (in Eyre & Spottiswoode’s “Revised English Bible”) translates: “Verily, I set thee free for thy good; verily, I will cause the enemy to make supplication to thee, in the time of evil, and in the time of affliction.”
“The rendering of the A. V., thy remnant, gives an untrue sense. It would mean all the rest of Jeremiah’s days, which were by no means days of happiness. Nor had he even at last a period of tranquillity. But thy loosing means thy being set free, thy deliverance, and this sense is satisfactory.”—Payne Smith.
“Entreat thee well:” rather, supplicate thee; fulfilled in chaps. Jeremiah 21:1-2; Jeremiah 37:3; Jeremiah 42:2.
i. God’s despised prophet will be found useful. “In the time of evil, and in the time of affliction.”
ii. Maledictions will give place to supplications. “Affliction” wonderfully changes the tone and temper of those who once hated and resisted the messenger of Heaven. The day of pride will soon close.
iii. Divine protection overshadows His faithful witnesses. Surrounded with strife, yet Jehovah both guards and ultimately vindicates His servants.
Jeremiah 15:12. Theme: THE NORTHERN IRON AND STEEL. “Shall iron break the northern iron and the steel?”
The Jews treated Jeremiah so harshly and unjustly, that he feared they would break his heart; they smote him as with an iron rod, and he felt like one crushed beneath their unkindness.
God never did, and never will, place a man in a trying position and then leave him. If the rebellious seed of Israel were iron, the Lord declared that His prophet should be hardened by sustaining grace into northern iron and steel. If they beat upon him like hammers on an anvil, he should be made of such strong, enduring texture, that he should be able to resist all their blows. Iron in the olden times amongst the Israelites was very coarsely manufactured, but the best was the iron from the north. So bad was their iron generally, that an admixture of brass, which amongst us would be thought rather to deteriorate the hardness, was regarded as an improvement; so the Lord puts it, “Shall iron—the common iron—break the most firm and best-prepared iron?”
This is a proverbial expression, applicable to many other matters besides that of the prophet and the Jews; it is clearly meant to show that
IN ORDER TO ACHIEVE A PURPOSE THERE MUST BE SUFFICIENT FORCE. The weaker cannot overcome the stronger. In a general clash the firmest will win. You cannot cut granite with a pen-knife, nor drill a hole in a rock with an auger of silk. We shall apply this proverb—
I. To the people of God individually. Shall any power be able to destroy the saints? Weak as they are, they will tread down the strength of their foes. There is a force about them which cannot be put down.
1. Many Christians are subjected to great temptations and persecutions; mocked, ridiculed, called by evil names. Persecuted one, will you deny the faith? If so, you are not made of the same stuff as the true disciple of Jesus Christ; for when the grace of God is in them, if the world be iron, they are northern iron and steel. Will you shrink in the day of trial? Do you mean to play the coward? “Shall the iron break the northern iron and steel?” Be strong. Quit you like men; and, in the energy of the Holy Ghost, endure as seeing Him who is iuvisible.
2. We are frequently called to serve God amid great difficulties. Some of you who go to the lodging-houses to speak, who visit the alleys, &c., find much annoyance and disappointment. Will you say, there is no converting these dark and obdurate souls? Is the iron to break the northern iron and steel? Are we to give way under difficulties? Look at Mont Cenis Tunnel, made through one of the hardest rocks; with a sharp tool, edged with diamond, they have pierced the Alps. As St. Bernard says: “Is thy work hard? set a harder resolution against it; for there is nothing so hard that cannot be cut with something harder still.”
3. To labour with non-success, and to wait, is hard work. It is a grand thing for a Christian to continue patiently in well-doing. He is a man who under long-continued disappointment will not
“Bate a jot
Of heart or hope, but still bear up and steer
The well-annealed steel within him ere long breaks in shivers the common iron which strikes him so severely. To him to overcome by grace is glory indeed.
See Addenda: BE NOT DISCOURAGED.
II. Applicable to the cause of God in the world—to the Church. What power, however like to iron, shall suffice to break the kingdom of Jesus, which is comparable to steel?
1. We hear it said that Romanism will again vanquish England; that the Gospel light, which Latimer helped to kindle, will be extinguished. Atrocious nonsense, if not partial blasphemy. If this thing were of men, it would come to nought; but if it be of God, who shall overthrow it? As surely as the Lord liveth the end of Romish Antichrist will come, and the long-expected cry shall be heard, “Babylon the great is fallen.”
2. Others foretell the triumph of infidelity. Consider what these gloomy forebodings mean? That the gates of hell are to prevail against the Church; that the pleasure of the Lord is not to prosper in His hand. Who but a lying spirit would thus lay low the faith and confidence of God’s people? Infidelity and Socinianism have ready tongues, but every tongue that rises against the Church in judgment He will condemn. The Church can bear the blows of Ritualism and Infidelity, and survive them all, and be better for them too. The iron will never break the northern iron and steel.
See Addenda: EVIL SHALL NOT PREVAIL.
III. Apply the principle to the self-righteous efforts which men make for their own salvation. The iron will never break the northern iron and steel.
1. The bonds of guilt are not to be snapped by a merely human power. Habits of sin yield not to the raspings of unregenerate resolves. All your efforts apart from Jesus are utterly useless. He must bring liberty—you cannot emancipate yourselves.
2. Yet that were an easy task compared with a man renewing his own heart.
3. Do you think you can force your way to heaven by ceremony? There is no potency in baptism, confirmation, outward ceremonies of man’s devising or of God’s instituting, to deliver you from the bonds which hold you. Come, sinner, with thy fetters; lay thy wrist at the cross-foot, where Christ can break the iron at once.
IV. Applicable to all persons who are making self-reliant efforts for the good of others. How are we driven to the conclusion that it is “not by might nor by power, but by the Spirit of God.” Man’s heart is very hard; it is like the northern iron and steel.
1. Our preaching—we try to make it forcible—how powerless it is of itself! We plead, reason, seek goodly words, &c., but the northern iron and steel remain immovable. The cries and tears of a Whitfield would not avail. Though all the Apostles reasoned with them, they would turn a deaf ear.
2. The best-adapted means cannot succeed. A mother’s tears, as she spoke to you of Jesus; the pleadings of a grey-headed father over you—no power to change your heart! The Gospel, though put to you very tenderly by those you love best, leaves you unsaved still! You have been sick, near death, within an inch of doom; yet even the judgments of God have not aroused you. But it is not Ezekiel’s duty to make the dry bones live: whether they live or not, it is his duty to prophesy to them. Go on with your work, but let a sense of your personal inability make you fall back upon your God. Let it keep you from self-reliant prayer or work, much more from one self-confident sermon or address. God will have us feel that the iron cannot break the northern iron and steel.
V. This text has a very solemn application to all those who are rebels against God. Fight against God, would you? Measure your Adversary, I charge you. The wax is about to wrestle with the flame, the tow to contend with the fire. “It is hard for thee to kick against the pricks.” Cast down your weapons. Come now, and ask for reconciliation; but oh, resist no longer, for the iron cannot break the northern iron and steel.—Rev. C. H. Spurgeon, Metropolitan Tabernacle Pulpit, No. 993.
Jeremiah 15:12. Shall iron break? &c. This simile is variously interpreted Thus:—“By the iron is meant Jeremiah’s intercession; but this cannot alter the Divine purpose to send Judah into exile, which is firm as steel and brass.”—Payne Smith.
“Can trouble and affliction, though hard as iron, break one who, like Jeremiah, is firm as steel and brass?”—Rashi and Umbreit.
“Not even iron, much less the Jews, could resist the northern Colossus of the Chaldean empire.”—Ewald and Henderson.
Others, by northern iron,—i.e., the steel made by the Chalybes on the Pontus,—understand the obduracy of the Jews, which not even iron could break.
“Can I, Jeremiah, even if I be iron, break the obduracy of the people hard as steel or brass?”—Graf.
The Targum regards “the iron” as Pharaoh-Necho, and “the steel and brass” as Nebuchadnezzar.
“Though there be great hardness in you (Jews), can it yet break that which is in the Assyrians? but ye are not equal to them. The prophet’s design was to divest the Jews of the false confidence in which they boasted.”—Calvin.
“God had made him (Jeremiah) an ‘iron pillar and a wall of brass,’ and He asks, now, was it possible for his enemies to destroy him whom God had thus made?”—John Owen.
[Vide next verse.]
Jeremiah 15:13. “For all thy sins, even in all thy borders.” These words at once show that it is not the prophet who is addressed in the verse preceding, but the Jewish people.
“To the spoil without price,” i.e., “not making thee any compensation, but inflicting these losses upon thee as a punishment for thy sins.”—Dr. Blayney.
“As God sells His people for nought, i.e., gives them up to their enemies (comp. Isaiah 52:3, Psalms 44:13), so here He threatens to deliver their treasures to the enemy as a booty, and for nought.”—Keil.
“Three things are said:—
“i. That God would give Judah’s treasures away for nothing. It is an act of contempt, implying that He did not value them.
“ii. The cause of this contempt is Judah’s sins.
“iii. This is justified by the extent of those sins. Judah had committed them everywhere, throughout her whole land.”—Dr. Payne Smith.
Jeremiah 15:15. Theme: THE DESIRE TO BE REMEMBERED. “O Lord, Thou knowest; remember me and visit me.”
Jeremiah desires many things; but the thing he asks first, as including all the rest, is that God would not let him drop out of sight and thought.
I. The perpetually recurring phrase, “God knows,” expresses a mood of thought common to rational creatures.
A craving everywhere to be remembered. From the lips of the dying, from friends of whom we are taking our farewell, fall the words, “Remember me.” Those ambitious minds, not content that their memorial should be kept in a few hearts, labour that their names may be remembered by multitudes. Oblivion appals us.
The moralist can easily show the vanity of this desire, and the emptiness of the end. What good will it do you, he asks, to be remembered when you are out amid Australian wilds, or on the parched plains of India? what harm would it do you to be forgot?
Enough for us that He who made us so made us that, by the make of our being, we desire to be kindly remembered.
II. This desire, then, is in our nature; and the prophet shows us the right direction in which to train it.
Pointing us to the heaven above us, he bids us seek to be remembered there! The thought that such a prayer may be offered to God, teaches us a great deal of His kindliness, condescension, and thoughtful care. You feel that you are speaking to a Real Person in offering a prayer like this—not to some vague, undefined “Great First Cause least understood,” but to a merciful Father in heaven, who looks down upon His child, and, “like as a father pitieth his children, pitieth them that fear Him.”
It was while looking upon the kindly human face OF CHRIST that the whole heart’s wish of the poor penitent thief went out in the “Lord, remember me!”
It was in special clearness of revelation of God’s love that the Psalmist was emboldened to say, “I am poor and needy, yet the Lord thinketh upon me.”
III. Consider the encouraging view of the Hearer of Prayer implied in the words of the prophet’s petition.
The petition was an acceptable one, and it was right that he offered it “Remember me,” said he, in his day of sorrow, to God.
1. He was not staggered, as he drew near in prayer, by intruding doubt whether the Almighty would listen to his poor words or consider his heart’s desires. David, psalmist and king, knew this dread: “When I consider Thy heavens, … what is man that Thou art mindful of him, or visit him?” Jeremiah almost repeats these ideas: “Remember and visit me.” What a steady faith in God is in this prayer! Coming like a little child to the great Father, the little voice pleads, “Do not forget me!”
2. It is not presumption, but faith, that speaks here. Be sure that when your prayer is earnest and sincere, and offered in simple faith in Christ the Mediator, you never spoke words to your nearest neighbour that he heard more distinctly than the Almighty hears that prayer. And you may press upon Him all your small requests, and tell out to Him all that concerns you, saying, “O Lord, remember me and visit me.”
3. Ponder for your comfort that God “thinketh upon” you; that He “knoweth your frame, and remembereth that you are dust.”
IV. In such individuality of prayer there is no selfishness. It is not the wish to be distinguished and favoured above other children of the family. It is but the wish to be remembered even as the others. It is but that when Christ, the Great Intercessor, speaks to Almighty God for Himself and His brethren of mankind, saying, in the name of all, “Our Father,” the poor sinner should not be left out. So he puts forth a trembling hand, lifts a feeble voice, and cries, “Bless me also;” “Lord, remember me,” &c.
V. Mark what simple trust in God’s wisdom and kindness is implied in the offering of such a petition.
1. Everything is asked in that. It was enough just to put one’s-self under God’s eye, just to get God to think of one at all. If God world but remember us. He would see all our wants, and be willing to give us all. The thief on the cross felt that. Only “remember me,” and all will be right.
2. Further it is assumed, that if God remembers us it will be in love. Remember how Joseph, in the dungeon, asked the chief butler to think of him; and said how he desired to be thought of, “and show kindness unto me,” &c. But there is no need to specify how we wish God would remember us.
3. Further. God’s remembrance is practical. He comes to our help. The want remembered will be relieved.
4. Doubtless there is a season in the history of the unconverted man in which he can have no real desire that God should remember him: he rather desires to keep out of God’s sight and remembrance. To be sure that every word and deed is going down in “the book of God’s remembrance” is the very last thing the utterly ungodly man would wish.
5. Yet the prayer expresses the first reaching after God of the awakened soul. “Remember me!” cried prophet, psalmist, penitent thief.
If we make it our desire and prayer to be remembered by our Saviour and God, we need not fear that we shall pass from His recollection. Others we loved may forget us. But amid all the care of this universe, He will stoop down to think of us—never forgotten by Him! In our dark days and weak faith we may be ready to think we have passed from His thoughts. There is no such experience but believers have passed through before us. Thousands of years since our doubts and fears were felt, and God supplied the perfect answer. Listen to the ancient words of doubt, and God’s blessed answer: “But Zion said, The Lord hath forsaken me, and my God hath forgotten me.”
“Can a woman forget hersucking child, that she should not have compassion on the son of her womb? Yea, they may forget, yet will I not forget thee.”—A. K. H. B., condensed from “Counsels and Comfort,” &c.
See Addenda: ON BEING REMEMBERED.
Jeremiah 15:15. Theme: PRAYER. “O Lord, Thou knowest; remember me and visit me, and revenge me,” &c.
Jeremiah had prayed earnestly for the people and without success. In offering supplication for himself he found favour with God. In his prayer the pain and troubles of his life were laid before God, and the questionings of his heart were not kept back. Observe—
I. Divine knowledge is no hindrance to prayer. “Thou knowest”: 1. My character; 2. My condition; 3. My need. Yet, though Thou knowest, yea, because Thou knowest, I will pray to Thee.
II. Divine condescension an encouragement to prayer.
1. Remember me.
2. Visit me.
3. Vindicate me. “Revenge” means only vindication.
III. Human need a stimulus to prayer. He was poor, persecuted, and in peril.
Where could he go for help?
He is driven to God by trouble, and drawn by lovingkindness.
IV. The vicissitudes of life suggest topics for prayer. Poverty, weakness, want, affliction, persecution, temptation,—the sins and sorrows of others. The needs of the world, &c.
V. Conscious sincerity gives freedom in prayer. “I have suffered for thy sake.”
VI. The mediation of Christ gives efficacy to our prayer. “I have not joined in their sins” (Jeremiah 15:10).—W. Whale.
Jeremiah 15:16. Theme: ENJOYING GOD’S WORD. “Thy words were found, and I did eat them … rejoicing.”
The people of God have always a relief in prayer, in the worst circumstances. Jonah cried out of the belly of hell, “Yet will I look again.” David encouraged himself. Jesus, “being in an agony, prayed.” Jeremiah, borne down by the storms of the world, prayed, “O Lord, thou knowest, remember, visit me.” The disciples took up the body of John, and went and told Jesus.
Remember, the best thing you can do with your trouble is to take it to Him. Sanctioned by highest authority: “Is any afflicted, let him pray.” Attested by experience: of all the millions that tried it, not one but will say, “It is good for me to draw nigh to God.” Creatures cannot help when they would; will not when they can, but God both can and will be “a present help.”
Jeremiah found it so. And he backs his prayer by an important PLEA. He avouches the serenity of his character, “Thy words were found;” the reality of his experience, “I did eat them;” his past joys in religion, “they were the rejoicing;” the particular relationship he bore to the God of grace, “I am called by Thy name.”
Need not confine it to Jeremiah; apply it to self. Take it as a test by which to try the reality of your religion.
THE VIEWS IT AFFORDS OF PERSONAL RELIGION. It implies—
I. A high valuation for this word. It is prized as God’s word, and SOUGHT under that character.
Love to the word of God is a sure sign of a gracious heart. A neglected Bible is a sign of a graceless heart. How many read the books and writings of men who never read the Book of God! When God Himself turns author, some will not give His works a reading; but Christians prize the word, and prove it by searching into it (David, Psalms 19:0.)
Thy word. It partakes of the divinity of its Author. As Phidias, a self-evidencing power.
It is adapted to the nature of its subject; suited to man. A key fitted to unlock such a heart.
It has produced most astonishing effects. Infancy and age. If the slightest agency draws from the truth, the slightest agency recovers. If Peter fell by a look, he rose by a look.
1. Have you found this word?
2. Has this word found you?
A poor sailor was cast away—lost his all. The first half-crown he obtained, he inquired where to make a purchase, of what?—that neglected book, a BIBLE.
“I have many books,” says Mr. Newton, “that I cannot sit down to read; they are indeed good and sound, but, like halfpence, there goes a great quantity to a little amount. There are silver books and a very few golden books, but I have one worth more than all, called the Bible, and that is a book of banknotes.” Apply this test:
II. A personal experience of its power. “I did eat it.”
This is different from speculation. David does not say, Listen and hear, but, “Taste and see.” Apply to him for yourself instead of relying on the authority of others. As in a case of disputed relish, you determine not by testimony, but by taste. In other words, it means experience. Experience is knowledge derived from experiment, in contradiction from theory.
We are apt to confound familiarity with knowledge. Many are familiar with all the truths and doctrines, but have not the experience of the power of one. Like Bunyan’s Talkative. Like Balaam, who saw the visions of God and was proud of what he saw—but no experience. Like Judas, who preached and wrought miracles, but died despairing. How worthless this knowledge! To know the way, but never walk in it. To know there is an ark, but never enter it. To know Christ is a crucified and almighty Saviour, but, like the dying thief, never to apply to Him.
The knowledge of which you boast will aggravate your doom. Like Uriah with his fatal letter, place you in the forefront of battle.
But religion is not only something to be known, but something to be experienced. Religion is the life of the soul as the soul is the life of the body. Truth is the sustenance of the moral man. Divine truth must be incorporated with the elements of the intellectual nature or we perish. “Except ye eat the flesh.” Put test of experience. A sign of spiritual decay, and the loss of spiritual health, when this word is undervalued, when men can spend days and weeks without reading it.
When you come to the word, remember that Divine influence can alone make it effectual. As you say grace before meat, let your reading be preceded by prayer. “I will be as dew.” How sweet the fragrance after the dew!
III. A conscious participation of the happiness it produces. “It was the rejoicing of my heart.” How does it promote joy?
i. By the light it imparts to the understanding. Truly, light is sweet. It preserves us from dark uncertainty; from the dubiety of suspense; from the vacillation of doubt; from the fluctuation of undetermined choice. It gives decision to the judgment. It fully occupies the mind upon the noblest subject. It engages faculties and powers in God’s service.
ii. By the relief it gives to the conscience. In the hope of pardon and acceptance. Sprinkled from an evil conscience.
iii. By the exercise it affords to the best affections of the heart. Love to God is a source of happiness; love to man, a source of happiness. The pleasures of benevolence are genuine pleasures; allied to the happiness of God Himself. He is the BLESSED God, the HAPPY God. HAPPY in the diffusion of happiness; BLESSED in the impartation of blessedness. “I will bless thee.” How? By making thee a blessing. And taste the joy of God. Misery of malevolent affections; happiness of kind ones. As delight springs from the play of good feelings, so misery springs from the play and interchange of bad ones. There are virtues sweet to the taste of inner man; vices bitter and corroding to the heart. Scowl of malice, the malignity of revenge. Gall of bitterness.
iv. By the consolations and hopes under sorrow. The paper is yet extant on which martyr Smith recorded his experience. They gave him pen and ink to sign a draft on the treasurer; he did so, and in the corner put down these figures, “1 Cor. Jeremiah 4:8-9.”
IV. A sense of consecration. “I am called by Thy name.”
1. It reproves those who never seek.
2. Those who are content with knowledge without experience.
3. Those who are strangers to religious peace and joy. If you eat, it will be joy.
4. Those who neither own God’s name, nor are owned of Him.—Samuel Thodey, 1837.
See Addenda: ENJOYING GOD’S WORD.
Theme: FOUND, EATEN, AND ENJOYED.
These words appear to be part of the prophet’s prayer, and were given to account for the fact that he had suffered rebuke, &c., from the people. It is the only verse containing any pleasant reference to Jeremiah’s experience, and then it is in connection with God’s word, and not with man’s dealings. It is as if he said, “In the midst of my sufferings and sorrows, I came upon the promises of God’s word; I seized upon them with avidity; so great was my need of comfort. I devoured them; and indeed my soul was comforted. They led me to meditate upon my fellowship with Jehovah, and to see that even my sufferings were for His name’s sake. The word was unto me ‘the joy and rejoicing of mine heart.’ ” Here we observe—
I. That an important discovery was made. “Thy words were found.”
1. Words are the representatives of thought. They are of value for this reason. Words have great power to move men’s minds. How much have they affected the destiny of nations, and the development of great enterprises? Demosthenes, Cicero, Luther, Knox, Whitfield, Brougham, &c.
2. Words derive much of their power from the mind which utters them. Truth is truth come whence it may, but truth may be spoken by most men without having much power to do others good. The stroke of a royal pen may mean liberty or slavery, peace or war to millions. God’s words are a hammer, a fire, a sword, a balm, a saving, sanctifying power to men who receive and obey them.
3. That which is found must previously have existed. God’s words were found. A grand discovery, not an invention. Treasure is not made by man, but the discoverer has much fame, and confers upon the race great benefits. God’s word exists whether men find it or not. He who finds it is wise, rich, and happy. It is the living word. Seek Him. Seek, and ye shall find.
II. That a peculiar method of appropriation was adopted. “I did eat them.”
1. It implies soul hunger. Caused by stress of duty, and pressure of persecution, and multiplied sorrows.
2. It affirms that God’s words are soul food. The soul may be starved, or may feed on husks; but if the appetite be right and rightly directed, only God and His word will satisfy. (Ezekiel 3:1-3, Revelation 10:9, Psalms 119:103.) God’s word is wholesome, nourishing, savoury, saving.
III. That a delightful experience was realised. “It was unto me the joy and rejoicing of mine heart.” Joy and rejoicing—
1. In what the word revealed of God.
2. In the way that revelation met his utmost need. In work, in trouble, in danger.
3. In the knowledge of salvation there unfolded.
4. In the prospects to which the attention of God’s servants was directed.
1. Jeremiah’s religion was a religion of the word.
2. Jeremiah’s religion was a religion of the heart.
3. Jeremiah’s religion was a religion of rejoicing.
IV. That an emphatic public testimony was given. “I am called by thy name,” &c.
1. God’s name was called upon him. (See Margin.) As the saving power, and source of hope and joy, the name of Christ has been called upon us.
2. He was called by God’s name. As a professor, a prophet, a servant, &c. We are called by Christ’s name.
3. He was strengthened by God in all his works. Jehovah was to him “The Lord of hosts,” inspiring with courage, leading to battle, giving the victory, distributing rewards.
1. The word discovered—a treasure.
2. The word in the heart—a joy.
3. The word on the lips—a message.
4. The word in the hand—a weapon.—W. Whale.
Theme: GOD’S WORD THE JOT OF THE GODLY.
Bread is sweet to the hungry. Man, when quickened by God, does “not live by bread alone, but by every word,” &c. One of God’s children could say, “I have esteemed the words of Thy mouth more than my necessary food.” (Also Psalms 119:72; Psalms 19:10.)
i. BIBLE HISTORY, in its development of THE PRINCIPLES OF DIVINE GOVERNMENT, is to a man of God deeply instructive: “the joy and rejoicing of his heart.”
ii. PROPHECY, teaching us that THE FUTURE IS KNOWN TO THE LORD, the future of the Church, the world, and of every child of man; and that nothing unseen by us can arise to thwart His designs, becomes a very fountain of delight to every good man: “the joy and rejoicing of his heart.”
iii. The words of the Lord as EMBODIED IN LAW, prohibiting nothing but what the enlightened conscience condemns, and commanding nothing but what that conscience approves, constrain the righteous man to say, “Oh, how I love Thy law!” Conformity to the law is his earnest solicitude, and when love is perfected this desire will be realised, for “love is the fulfilling of the law.”
iv. But if the words of the Lord in history, prophecy, and law are sweet, sweeter still are His words as they sound forth in the GOSPEL OF HIS SON. They are “no cunningly-devised fables” to the soul that has seen the adaptation of the great doctrines of the Gospel to its moral and spiritual needs.
Faith is a living upon the truths of the Gospel: “Eating” them. Faith makes both the truth, and Christ the substance of the truth, precious. “Unto you which believe He is precious.”—Rev. D. Pledge, “Walks with the Prophet Jeremiah.”
Theme: THE PROPHET ON HIS WATCHTOWER.
I. The discovery. God’s “words.”
1. Sometimes hidden.
2. Yet expected.
3. And sought.
II. The treasure used. “Did eat them.”
Made them his own. The taste both bitter and sweet.
III. The result. “The joy and rejoicing of mine heart.”
Joy (1) in knowing God’s will.
Joy (2) in seeing the working out of God’s goodness.—S. Farren.
Theme: HIDDEN MANNA.
I. A memorable discovery. “Thy words were found.”
Many have heard God’s word for years, yet have never found it. “Eyes have they, but they see not; ears, but hear not.” Oh that they had found the “treasure hid in the field!”
What is meant by finding God’s words?
1. A thing found has usually to be sought for. Happy is he who reads or hears the Scriptures, searching all the while for the hidden spiritual sense. (See Proverbs 2:4-5.)
2. To find God’s word means that we have been made to understand them (1 Corinthians 3:14). The Bible is a dull book till illuminated; a tantalising riddle till you get the key; but, the clue once found, it absorbs our attention, delights our intellect, and enriches our heart.
3. Means to appropriate it as belonging to yourself. Reading a will is not interesting till you find you have a part in it.
See Addenda: APPROPRIATING GOD’S WORD.
II. An eager reception. “I did eat them.”
Not “I did hear them.” Herod heard John gladly, yet became his murderer. Not “I did learn them by heart.” Hundreds have committed chapters to memory, yet were wearied rather than benefited. Not “I did repeat them,” as a parrot repeats language it is taught. “I did EAT them.” What is meant by eating them?
1. An eager study. Greedy for the truth. Some professors grow squeamish and proudly delicate. My soul hungered even to ravenousness to be fed upon the bread of heaven.
2. Cheerful reception. My soul was in love with the word.
3. An intense belief. Not questioning it, but living upon it. The language means, besides, both the diligent treasuring up of the truth, and the inward digestion of the same. It is not the hasty swallowing of the word which is blessed to us, but a deliberate eating of it. It then becomes dissolved and absorbed—a part of the eater’s very existence.
III. The happy consequences. “Thy word was unto me the joy and rejoicing of my heart.”
1. Hold the truth in its entirety and harmony, and then it will be joy to your heart.
Jeremiah first speaks of God’s “words,” then he changes the number and speaks of God’s “word.” We are not only to receive parts of the Gospel, but the whole of it. That man’s heart is right with God who can honestly say that all the testimonies of God are dear to him. There are threatenings, and precious promises; testimonies of Jesus. Receive the whole of God’s word.
2. The word of God would have given no joy had he not been obedient to it.
3. Yet there are certain choice truths in God’s word, especially joy-giving: the doctrine of election, to know that you are called and predestinated; and of the immutability of divine love.
IV. A distinguishing title. “I am called by Thy name,” &c.
1. The name of the Lord of hosts was reviled in Jeremiah’s day, yet he felt it an honour to be associated with the Lord in this contempt. Oh ye who love the Lord Jesus, never shun the scandal of the cross!
2. Some do not count it a fair thing to bear the name of the Most High. It is a disgrace to any man that his Lord should die for his soul on Calvary and yet he be afraid to wear His livery. To confess Christ is so easy a burden; it involves so temporary a loss, and so real a gain. Bow your willing back to His cross, and go with Him without the camp.—C. H. Spurgeon, Metropolitan Tabernacle Pulpit, No. 980.
See Addenda: ENJOYING GOD’S WORD.
Jeremiah 15:17. Theme: THE ISOLATION RESULTING FROM CONSECRATION.
This describes the effects following upon his appropriating God’s words and becoming His prophet.
I. Separation from the frivolities of life.
1. Deserting the company of triflers. “I sat not in the assembly of the mockers,” or laughers. Formerly he had joined their merry meetings; he now renounced them.
2. Restrained the levity of his own nature. “Nor rejoiced;” i.e., did not make merry. Even innocent mirth was laid aside, and a gravity came upon him according with his renewed state and solemn mission. Just so. Paul had “great heaviness and continual sorrow of heart” (Romans 9:2).
II. Isolation under sense of a Divine trust. “I sat alone because of Thy hand;” i.e., because of the impulse of the prophetic spirit in him. (Comp. 1 Kings 18:46, Ezekiel 1:3.)
1. Responsible duty leads us into inevitable isolation. We cannot share it with others. We are thereby separated to a life of practical and conscious loneliness, having a “charge to keep,” in which none can participate.
2. Consecration to God’s work singles out and separates us; e.g., one who is devoted to the ministry must live a life separated from the common pursuits and habits of youth. He is devoted to God.
3. Expulsion from hilarious society follows avowal of religion. The “laughers” did not want him amongst them.
III. Oppression of spirit amid prevailing impiety. “Thou hast filled us with indignation.” Calvin thus comments on the word “indignation:” “He had not been slightly moved, but had been inflamed with zeal for God; for we cannot really execute the commission given us unless we be filled with indignation; that is, unless zeal for God burns inwardly, for the prophetic office requires such a fervour.”
1. Taught of God, the prophet sees the great sinfulness of the people.
2. Recognises the offensiveness to Jehovah, and awful heinousness of their sins.
3. Perceives the ruin thereby entailed upon his nation and God’s Church.
A “seer” may well be stirred to “indignation:” impetuous energy of thought and feeling, grief over sin, impatience to check the wrong which prevails, and rescue souls from impending doom. All God’s prophets and preachers have had this vision of iniquity around them, and, like Paul at Athens, their spirit has been “stirred” in them as they beheld the rampant impiety which called them to their earnest ministry for Christ and souls.
Jeremiah 15:18. Theme: GOD APPEARS TO BE A VAIN HOPE. “Wilt Thou be altogether unto me as a liar, and as waters that fail?”
I. Distressing experiences distort our views of God. Jeremiah’s condition and feelings were peculiarly painful.
1. Great anguish: “pain,” “wound.” Such words indicate severe suffering, less physical than mental. Physical pain will throw its dark cloud over the mind. Melancholy is the result: melan- (black) cholic. In times of heavy anguish the mental state grows despondent, and its power of discernment becomes warped.
2. Unalleviated distress: “perpetual,” “refuseth to be healed.” This unmitigated trouble of mind and heart is indeed bitter to endure. Very rare. Yet many of God’s children go through years of disconsolate experiences. Wave upon wave rolls over them. Ill health, disasters, bereavements. Or spiritual struggles—doubts, temptations, loss of faith, &c. A spirit thus bowed and sorely tested cannot easily think bright thoughts of God. The disciples, in consequence of the tempest and toils of one wild night, thought Jesus only a ghost, and “cried out for fear.”
3. Hopeless dejection. “My wound incurable, refuseth to be healed.” He sees no prospect of better things, and abandons himself to despair. His labours will all be in vain, his delivery of God’s messages will effect no good, and his ministry will only bring more calumny and abuse upon himself. A hard lot; a black outlook. All the windows are darkened. How can he, then, think cheerfully of God?
II. Distorted views of God render religion a grave disappointment. What comfort is left to a godly man if God become to him “as a liar?”
1. All his sufficiency and safety were to be drawn from God. So Jeremiah felt. He was on a difficult and perilous mission; if God failed him, he was forlorn indeed. “He had expected that, called to so high an office, there would be a perpetual interference of Providence in his behalf, instead whereof things seemed to take their natural course” (Payne Smith). “God had in a manner deserted him for a time, had left him to struggle with difficulties unforeseen and unexpected” (Dr. Waterland). What guarantee is left us if Jesus fail? Every Christian would share Jeremiah’s sense of desolation.
If ever a position occurred in which we missed the succour of our Lord, we should feel forlorn. We have no self-sufficiency—Christ is all to us; no power of self-protection—He is our Saviour and shield. Let it once be possible to say, “Thou hast failed us,” and assurance would wholly desert us; we should be “of all men most miserable.”
2. All his happiness and hopes rested in God. He had left all to be His prophet (Jeremiah 15:19). He looked for solace, befriending, serenity amid agitations, gladness when mocked and abused; for all light and promise amid his hazardous work—from the God he served. Even so has the Christian disciple to “take up his cross daily and follow” Jesus. But he is not unwilling. Has not Christ said, “In the world ye shall have tribulation, but in Me ye have peace;” “I will not leave you comfortless: I will come to you;” “Ye shall see Me again, and your joy shall no man take from you”? Can He break His word of promise—become “as a liar”? Then all happiness and hope is dead within the believer’s heart.
Note the figure: “As a liar, as waters that fail.” Calvin renders the words thus: “Thou wilt be to me as a deception of inconstant waters;” or, “of unfaithful waters,” i.e., of such as flow not continually; adding, “for faithful or constant waters are those which never fail; as the Latins call a fountain inexhaustible whose spring never dries, so the Hebrews call a fountain faithful or constant which never fails either in summer or in drought. On the contrary, they call waters unfaithful which become dry; as when a well which has no perennial veins is made dry by great heat.” Wordsworth comments: “The stream of God’s favour, which had flowed in a full current of love towards him, seemed suddenly to have been dried up, and he was left to perish with thirst.”
The language suggests the deceptive mirage: which mocks thirst with illusory pictures of refreshing waters.
III. Disappointment in God can never have a just warrant. “Wilt Thou be unto me as a liar?”
1. Despondency is a faithless interpreter. It is as false as a crooked mirror—it reflects beauty in hideous forms.
2. Impatience spoils our childhood sweetness. It is a sad failing to be hastening conclusions about God and His dealings. “He that believeth should not make haste.”
3. Fidelity is an essential characteristic of God. Immutability is impressed on Creation. “I change not” is a truth evident in the perennial action of majestic laws in nature; and therefore the universe endures, and “all things continue as they were from the creation of the world.” In His love and relationships to us, “with Him is neither variableness nor shadow of turning.” In His words and promises, “not one good thing He hath spoken shall fail to come to pass.” Hopes cast upon Him “shall not make ashamed.” And to every soul which cleaves to and trusts in Jesus—as Redeemer, Friend, and King, for life here and in eternity—He is “the same yesterday, and to-day, and for ever.”
Jeremiah 15:19. Theme: A MINISTRY OF DISCRIMINATION. “If thou take forth the precious from the vile.”
God, in the freeness of His grace, apportions the reward that He promises to Jeremiah to the sense which He entertains of the greatness and difficulty of the work to which He had called him. “Thou shalt be as My mouth”—My representative, My acknowledged and accredited servant—here is the greatest honour that could be conferred on any man. “Thou shalt take forth the precious from the vile, and be to the people as a fenced brazen wall”—here is one of the most difficult and arduous duties that mortality can possibly sustain. The talents of an angel, the zeal of a seraph, if accompanied with the infirmities of humanity, must sink under the task, unless supported by Divine strength and blessing. Well then may we exclaim, “Who it sufficient?”
The difficulty of such a course as this, that of making full proof of our ministry, can only be understood by him who has tried it, and it certainly has not diminished since Jeremiah’s time. For though we have less outward persecution, it is equally difficult in all ages to combat with the prejudices and enmity of the carnal mind; difficult to penetrate the thick disguise of character—difficult to maintain the sternest faithfulness accompanied with the purest love—to pursue the Proteus forms of ungodliness into their secret retreats, and so effectually to separate between the precious and the vile, as that we may commend ourselves to every man’s conscience in the sight of God. Our Lord Himself who tried the experiment knew its difficulty, and His last promise was a promise to ministers: “Lo, I am with you;” and He has enabled us to form an estimate of the greatness of the work from the greatness of the reward, for addressing the minister, the Angel of Ephesus, He says, “Be thou faithful and I will give,” &c.
What is supposed?
What is required?
What is promised?
I. What is supposed?
1. The vast importance and responsibility of the work assigned to ministers with a view to the welfare of their people. “If thou separate between the precious and the vile.” It is no common office, no slight responsibility. The Gospel dispensation is often spoken of as the ministry of reconciliation; but it is here presented under a new character, the ministry of discrimination. Christ is represented commonly as a Saviour, but He is to be regarded as a witness and a judge—for judgment am I come into the world. Ministers are usually considered as heralds of mercy, sons of consolation, but they are also to be considered as messengers of heavy tidings. Ours is an office of edification, but it is an office of separation too, a ministry of discrimination. We have to distinguish between truth and truth, between character and character, between holiness and sin; and to advocate the rightful claims and high supremacy of heaven against the usurped dominion of sin and hell. Ministers are to take the precious from the vile; to separate the wheat from the weeds; to distinguish the dross from the gold; to guide their hands wittingly, as Jacob did when he bestowed the blessing upon the sons of Joseph; they are sometimes to blow the silver trumpet of Jubilee, and not unfrequently to sound the trumpet of Alarm. “A faithful ambassador is health,” says Solomon. “As an earring of gold and an ornament of fine gold, so is a wise reprover upon an obedient ear.”
2. It is further supposed that there are some essential distinctions between right and wrong, between good and evil, between truth and error, between the base and the honourable of character, between the precious and the vile. These distinctions are real, not nominal; essential, not arbitrary; they are regarded so by God Himself. These distinctions were originally imprinted on the mind when man was created in God’s own image; and the capacity of making them still remains, as you see from the clearness with which any man can judge upon a subject of right and wrong where his own conscience is not concerned, and the zeal with which men reprobate that which is villanous and dishonourable.
3. A standard of truth is supposed. God has given us the rule of judgment. We have a more sure word of prophecy, and as the office of a judge is not to make the law but to declare it, so the office of a minister is not to burden the ears of people with his own doubtful speculations, but to declare the whole counsel of God. To the law and to the testimony, if they speak not according to this rule they have no light. This is the glass we hold up to show you the true features of your character; this is the lamp we exhibit to guide your footsteps,—“And as many as walk by this rule, peace be on them and on the Israel of God.”
4. It is further supposed in the text that these characters are closely intermingled, and that there is a great disinclination in mankind to have the truth fully told them, and to be brought to the decisive test, the final decision. The tares and the wheat strangely grow together—the sheep and the goats both are found in the same pasture—the precious and the vile have some points in common. Cain and Abel both bring their offering to the Lord; Jacob and Esau both kneel for the blessing; Elijah and the priests of Baal openly build their altars on Mount Carmel; the five foolish virgins as well as the five wise ones go forth to meet the bridegroom; Judas and John both receive the passover in the supper-chamber. And we know that men halt between two opinions—they dwell on the borders of the Land of Promise—they love to know that an ark is provided, and even love to watch the progress of the building, but they obey not the summons, “Come thou with all thy house into the ark.”
5. One thing more is plainly supposed, that it is of the utmost consequence to both parties, that the separation should be made—take forth the precious from the vile, and the most advantageous results will immediately accrue to each. Is it not desirable to the children of God to know that they are so—that they are heirs according to the promise—that they are precious in His sight and honourable? Would it not strengthen the weak hands and confirm the feeble knees, and give them the oil of joy for mourning, could we say to them beyond contradiction, “Go thy way, eat thy bread with joy and drink thy wine with a merry heart, for God now accepteth thy works”?
If the distinction be valuable to the precious, it would be scarcely less advantageous to the vile themselves. To be robbed of the cloak of a false profession would be no loss, for we know it does them no honour and brings them no peace. If they stood out in their true colours to their own conscience they could not suffer more, but they might be more safe. You had better meet the case at once, at its worst, and say, Behold I am vile.
II. What is demanded of ministers with a view to this solemn discrimination?
The text plainly demands that every effort should be used on their part to remove the willing delusions of mankind, to disabuse their blinded understandings in reference to the great things of God and Eternity and their souls’ health. What, then, is necessary so far as we are concerned in separating—
1. A plain and decisive exhibition of the truth at it is in Jesus. We are to contend earnestly for the faith. We are, as we have opportunity, to vindicate it from the blasphemies of the infidel, the perversions of the worldling, the mistakes of the Pharisee, and the corruptions of the Antinomian. Whether men will hear or whether they will forbear, we must speak to them of the evil of sin, of the danger of continuance in it, and of the only way of escape from it. We must show them the insufficiency of the forms of godliness, the worthlessness of their own self-righteousness, the necessity of a vital union to Christ, and their positive obligations to that holiness without which no man can see the Lord.
2. A fearless application of Scripture truth is necessary. To the careless and thoughtless, the young man void of understanding, trained in the ways of religion, but a living plague to the circle in which he moves, hardening in sin and fast hardening against the reach of conviction: Know that “your judgment now of a long time lingereth not, and your damnation slumbereth not.” To the apostate from a religious profession: “See that ye refuse not him that speaketh.” To the self-satisfied formalist: “Strive to enter.” To the young: “Remember now,” &c. To the aged: “Escape for thy life.” To the precious: “Say ye to the righteous, It shall be well with him.” To the vile: “Woe to the wicked, for it shall be ill with him.”
3. To point ourselves and our hearers to the only Agent who can make the word effectual.
III. What is promised? “Thou shalt be as My mouth.” The accredited and approved servant—to speak in accordance with His will—be the organ of His clemency—all his authenticated messages crowned with success. None of his words to fall to the ground.
Mighty and blessed such a ministry. Surely the people among whom such a Divinely effectual ministry is carried on, would be drawn to the Saviour’s feet, and souls would find grace and salvation as on the Pentecostal morning.
“Faithful ministers,” says Henry, “are God’s mouth to us, and we are to hear God speaking to us by them.”—Samuel Thodey, A.D. 1823.
Jeremiah 15:19. “If thou return, then will I bring thee again,” &c. “There is in God’s answer a mingling of comfort and rebuke. If thou return—repent thee of thy doubts and think only of thy duty, then will I bring, &c. “I will cause thee again to stand before Me.” To stand before a person means to be his chief officer or vicegerent, and is said of Elijah (1 Kings 17:1) and Elisha (2 Kings 3:4) as God’s prophets, of David as Saul’s minister (1 Samuel 16:21-22), of Solomon’s counsellors (1 Kings 12:6), and of Nebuzar-adan as commander-in-chief of Nebuchadnezzar’s army (Jeremiah 52:12, marg.)”—Dr. Payne Smith.
“If thou take forth the precious from the vile.” Jeremiah was to separate in himself what was divine and holy from the dross of human passion: So many commentators. Discriminate between good and bad men, or between the good and bad in men: Other authorities favour this rendering.
“Let them return unto thee, but return not thou unto them.” Rather, “They shall return unto thee, but thou shalt not,” &c. “A flattering prophet perishes with the people whom his soft speeches have confirmed in their sin; but the truthful speaking of God’s word saves both.”—Speaker’s Com.
“Not surrender unpopular truths to popular fallacies.”—Wordsworth.
“Not concede to the vices of men nor cherish their fancies, but constrain them to undertake the yoke of God. The truth of God ought not to bend to the will of men; for God changes not, neither does His word.”—Calvin.
Jeremiah 15:19-20. Theme: THE MINISTRY OF THE WORD.
We have here God’s answer to the prophet’s prayer. Jeremiah is not allowed to retire from the work, either because of its offensiveness to the people, or because it grieved him to be a man of strife among them. He is promised divine assistance and protection in those great undertakings to which he is appointed. Concerning the ministry of the word, we are here reminded that it is—
I. A ministry of divine authority. “Thou shalt stand before Me.”
II. A ministry of divine revelations. “Thou shalt be as My mouth.”
III. A ministry of wise discrimination. “If thou take forth the precious from the vile.”
IV. A ministry often opposed by those to whom it is sent. “And they shall fight against thee.”
V. A ministry requiring much courage. “I will make thee … a fenced and brazen wall.”
VI. A ministry which will be divinely vindicated. “I am with thee, to save thee, and to deliver thee, saith the Lord.”
VII. A ministry which lifts up Christ as the Saviour of men. “As Moses lifted up,” &c. “I, if I be lifted up,” &c. “We preach Christ crucified,” &c.—W. Whale.
Jeremiah 15:20. Theme: IMPREGNABLE SECURITY IN JEHOVAH’S SERVICE.
“I will make thee a fenced brazen wall,” &c. This is a repetition of the promise made by Jehovah to Jeremiah at the outset of his prophetic career (Jeremiah 1:18-19). Jeremiah may confidently rely on protection from on high, and God-given fortitude, if he will maintain fidelity in his messages and witness for righteousness among a depraved and hostile people.
God’s address of encouragement meets the faltering prophet with definite promises and hopeful statements, and affirms the four facts:—
I. Invincible courage supernaturally supplied.
1. Its source. “I will make thee.” No self-reliance, therefore; nor self-despair.
2. Its scope. “Unto this people.” It must be shown, and shown in scenes definitely indicated.
3. Its stability. “A fenced brazen wall” Proof against all assaults; inflexible, immovable.
“Hic murus aheneus esto,
Nil conscire sibi, nulla, pallescere culpa.”
—Horat. 1 Epis. i. 60.
II. Determined hostility from the wicked. “They shall fight against thee.”
Not passive unconcern; not airy incredulity; not frank and friendly remonstrance; but defiant antagonism, and angry abuse.
1. Resistance of his messages.
2. Resentment against him personally.
3. Rebellion against the God he served.
Jeremiah must, therefore, lay himself out for vigorous and valorous warfare; get rid of sentimental fears, and quit himself like a stalwart warrior for God’s cause and glory!
III. Supremacy guaranteed over antagonists. “They shall not prevail against thee.”
1. There would be actual encounter. A struggle man to man. This is the true idea of a faithful ministry.
2. There would be need of self-defence. Assailants would intend to prevail against the prophet; to defeat him in argument; to destroy his faith in God; and to silence his messages amid derision. Jeremiah would need to look to himself and defend his own fidelity.
3. There would be a triumphant issue. Jeremiah should “prevail.” Whom God makes invincible He also makes victorious. Not only successful defence against attack, but supremacy over assailants.
IV. Personally guarded by Jehovah Himself.
1. God’s personal protection. It is a precious promise that “He will give His angels charge,” &c., also that “the eyes of the Lord are over the righteous,” &c., also that “as thy day is so shall thy strength be.” But better far this—“I will be with thee.”
2. God’s sure protection. “To save thee”—preservation from his enemies; “to deliver thee”—rescue from the wiles and assaults.
The idea of rescue, should the prophet become entangled by their sophistries or captured by force, is more fully expressed in Jeremiah 15:21 : “I will deliver thee out of the hand of the wicked (malignant), and I will redeem thee out of the hand (from the grasp) of the terrible.” So that we may boldly say, “The Lord is my helper, I will not fear what man shall do unto me.”
Jeremiah 15:20. Theme: GOD’S AMBASSADOR FORTIFIED. “I will make thee unto this people a fenced brazen wall,” &c.
I. God’s qualification of an overseer of His Church.
The metaphor of a call implies:
2. Integrity (innocence, therefore).
II. The opposition a church overseer will meet with.
“They shall fight against thee:”
1. By seditious preaching and praying.
2. By railing and libels.
3. By (possibly) open force.
III. The issue and success of such opposition.
“They shall not prevail.”—South.
Jeremiah 15:21. Theme: GOD’S PERFECT SALVATION. “And I will deliver and redeem thee.”
The prophet’s loneliness and the opposition of the people burdened his spirit. Jehovah’s assurances must have afforded precious consolations and confidence to him. The promised presence and interposing power of God.
I. Alarming perils. “The band of the wicked; the hand of the terrible.”
Implying the moral quality which distinguishes our spiritual foes, and the fierce malignity with which there plot our ruin.
Perils to character, to peace, to security in God, to the soul itself.
II. A mighty Saviour. “I will deliver; I will redeem.”
Greater than our foes. Equal to all exigencies. No one else can save; it is His work. Employed in His service, He will undertake our defence and deliverance. Saved by Him. Safe in Him.
III. Complete redemption. “To deliver; to redeem.”
Salvation has various forms: from perils of this world, from taint of sin, from spiritual foes, from personal fears and faults, from terror of death, &c.
Redemption by price; deliverance by power.
IV. Unfailing certainty. “I will; I will.”
Expresses determination, earnestness, love, certainty.
“I will fear no evil, for Thou art with me.”
NOTICEABLE TOPICS IN CHAPTER 15
Topic: PRAYER FOR A PEOPLE UNAVAILING. (Jeremiah 15:1).
Moses and Samuel held responsible offices, and were faithful to their trusts. With their piety as men, and fidelity as servants, God was well pleased. If any two men could have prevailed with God on behalf of a rebellious people, these could. But the conduct of the people had alienated His mind from them. Thus—
i. There may be complete alienation of God from sinful men. “My mind could not be towards this people.”
ii. There is a limit to the Divine forbearance towards defiant souls. “He will not always chide,” though He chides again and again; neither will He keep back His anger for ever. Cast them out of My sight. Then no prayers, even from the best of men and the most eminent servants of God, can arrest the judgment.
I. Manifestly the prayers of good men do avail much. Instances prove that it is an established law for prayers, by the Moses and Samuels who stand before the Lord, to prevail.
II. While the power of prayer is obvious, there is no merit in prayer nor in him who offers it.
1. Prayer supposes the absence of all claim, for what a man can claim he need not pray for.
2. Prayer can only make its appeal to mercy, and mercy, being purely sovereign, can heed or refuse the appeal according to its pleasure. Had mercy refused every prayer, justice would have received no violation.
III. God’s right to refuse to answer prayers is beyond all challenge.
1. His declaration: “I will have mercy on whom I will have mercy,” &c., asserts His right to withhold or bestow grace according to His sovereign will.
2. This right involves the right to hear or not to hear the prayers of suppliants, be those suppliants Moses and Samuels, or publicans and sinners.
3. If God were under obligation to hear prayer and bestow mercy, mercy would be no longer mercy, and grace would be no longer grace. Obligation is justice, and not mercy; duty, and not grace.
IV. All our appeals for mercy and grace must be based on the Atoning Sacrifice.
1. Every act of mercy flows to us through the righteousness of Christ, the only channel of mercy from God to man.
2. Even when our appeals are based on the sacrifice of Christ, they must be left to the sovereignty of Divine mercy to answer or not to answer.
3. If we rightly recognised this sovereignty of Divine mercy, our prayers would be more humbly presented and answers would kindle a loftier praise, exclaiming, “Blessed be God, who hath not turned away my prayer nor His mercy from me!”
V. Prayer is music in the ears of God. The sounds of earnest prayer enter into the ears of the Lord God of Sabaoth, and delight Him more than ten thousand harpers harping with their harps. The prayer of the penitent gives joy to all the hosts of heaven, and the prayers of saints, our Moses’ and Samuels, give pleasure to the gracious God even when—for wise and judicial reasons—He cannot grant their requests. Whether answered or unanswered, “the prayer of the upright is His delight”.—Arranged from “Morning and Evening Walks with the Prophet Jeremiah.”
Topic: MEN OF PROGRESS, MEN OF STRIFE. (Jeremiah 15:10).
Jeremiah called of God to an essential but unpopular work. He is judged to be a fault-finding, quarrelsome person, whereas he is really a sympathetic friend. They hear his outspoken denunciations against sin, and the utterance by him of divine threatenings; but they do not hear his prayers for them, or know the groanings of his spirit. He is misjudged. He is lonely. He would rather have been born to a quiet life, and wishes God would have chosen some one else to the prophetic work.
Jeremiah is typical of public men who have been the reformers of society, the leaders of thought, and often the martyrs of some great movement. We may note some reasons why such persons appear to be men of strife:—
I. Because of noncompliance with popular sins. Jeremiah asserted his freedom from prevailing evils. Always some interested in doing wrong, and maintaining evils among the people. Those who will not conform, especially such as speak and labour against sin, are considered men of strife—Micaiah, Elijah, John Baptist, Jesus, and many others.
II. Because they are in advance of the age. They look at all matters from a more elevated standpoint, and seek to bring the people up to their level. Paul was in advance of the craftsmen of Ephesus. Luther was in advance of the church of Rome, as Wicliffe before him had been. Copernicus and Galileo, Huss and Wesley, not to mention others in all departments, were pioneers of progress, and were in advance of their fellows.
III. Because they were earnest and energetic men. Some can be indifferent; true souls cannot be. Cannot agree to leave things alone, and let every one go his own way. Must bear testimony for God and truth. Many now would call Noah, Elijah, Daniel, Jesus, Paul, visionaries, enthusiasts, madmen, as indeed they often speak of those who have their spirit.
IV. Because all good work causes strife. Evil has to be conquered, the devil has to be cast out. No curse will peaceably give place to a blessing. In the heart, and in the world, it must be conflict. Christ came to give peace to the trustful heart, but not to bring peace immediately on earth. In Bethlehem, in Nazareth, in Capernaum, in Jerusalem, He made conflict Every great work has its stage of martyrdom, its age of chivalry, before its triumph;—its Egypt and wilderness before its Canaan,—its manger, baptism, wilderness trial, Gethsemane, and cross, before it sits on the throne waiting till its foes be made its footstool.
V. Because the field of battle is the path of glory. “We must fight if we would reign.” The promise is “to him that overcometh.” Salvation is finally for “him that endureth to the end.” The exhortation is not only to repent and believe, but to “fight the good fight of faith.” The provision is for the warrior; he who would be a saint, must be a soldier. The martyrs of one age are the heroes of the next. Prophets, apostles, martyrs, missionaries, and reformers have all been men of war. We honour them for the battles they fought and the victories they won. The record of their lives appeals to us—
“Hark! ’tis a marshal sound,
To arms, ye saints, to arms,
Your foes are gathering round,
And peace has lost its charms.
Prepare the helmet, sword, and shield,
The trumpet calls you to the field.”
Topic: THE POWER OF REBUKE. (Jeremiah 15:19-20.)
“If thou take forth the precious from the vile, thou shalt be as My mouth; and I will make thee unto the people a fenced brazen wall.”
It is by the gracious word of Divine mercy that the hearts of men are to be subdued.
The human mind is found to be influenced far more by hope and tenderness, than by terror and rebuke.
I. The Christian ministry includes also an office of commination. If the messengers of heaven, when among the outcasts of mankind, who, in ignorance of God, have gone astray from virtue, speak much more of virtue than of wrath; when they stand among those who, being well informed in matters of religion, use the grace of the Gospel to palliate their vices, the messages of wrath must be most upon their lips.
II. The tendency of the Christian ministry is to move down from its remedial functions to become an office of delectation.
1. Furnishing intellectual entertainment; uttering, as matters of gorgeous eloquence, the appalling verities of eternal justice. Nature forbids such an incongruity, and the renovating Spirit refuses to yield the energy of His power to the sway of a mere minister of public recreation.
2. Affording spiritual entertainment; by exhibiting the conceits and ingenuities of mystic exposition; by painting in high colours the honours and privileges of the believer, and allowing professors of all sorts to appropriate the fulsome description; or by pealing out thunders of wrath against distant adversaries, rather than at the impure, unjust, rapacious, and malicious who fill the pews around him. This latter direct method might turn the whole tide of his popularity!
III. It behoves preachers to beware of the indurating effect of accustomed phrases and forms of words. Such conventional phrases conceal from the mind the ideas they should convey; hence preachers should continually endeavour to break up the mental incrustations which are always spreading themselves over the sensitive surface of the soul. This is most especially necessary in reference to matters wherein the drowsy formalities of language tend directly to augment the stupefying influence that belongs to all vicious indulgences. A mind, already rendered callous by sensuality, receives every week a new, and again a new insensibility from the heavy monotonies of the pulpit.
IV. It is a pressing duty of the minister of religion to maintain, in vigour, the spirit he needs as the reprover of sin and the guardian of virtue. It is easy to teach the articles of belief, to illustrate the branches of Christian ethics, to proclaim the Divine mercy, to meet and assuage the fears of the feeble and sorrows of the afflicted. But to keep in full activity the power of rebuke, demands rare qualities. It is fruitless to search aside for substitutes for these qualities. The preacher may avail himself of abstract demonstration respecting the unalterable rigour of the Divine government, to prove that the Supreme Ruler of the moral system can never pass over transgression, but must needs exact the appointed penalty from either the transgressor or his substitute. The erudite argument, for any substantial effect it will produce, might as well have related to the planets.
Or he may adopt the devices of eloquence; turning descriptive, pathetic, indignant. Yet while the walls ring with these sounds of alarm, the covetous man continues counting his gold, the eye of the vain and prurient is darting from object to object of illicit attraction, &c.
But to speak efficaciously of the holiness and justice of the Almighty God, and of its future consequences; to speak in modesty, tenderness, and power, of the approaching doom of the impenitent, must be left to those whose spirits have had much communion with the dread Majesty on high. On these topics ordinary preachers are most at fault; they are not themselves in spiritual fitness and equipment for their duty of rebuke and testimony of judgment.
V. There are three indispensable qualifications for the vigorous exercise of the Christian minister for this power of rebuke.
1. Such a conviction of the truth of Christianity as shall render him proof against assaults from within and from without. The quarrel of the world with Christianity comes to its issue upon the doctrine of future retribution. Meditating upon the scenes of joy which the Gospel spreads before us, we are not perplexed by discordant doubts; for joy and hope are emotions indigenous to the human mind. But the same law which makes joy and hope spontaneous, unsuspectingly impels us to doubt when we set our foot upon the region which sin has replenished with terrors. Fatal to his influence as a refuter of sin must be a lurking scepticism in the preacher’s breast. The infection of his own doubts will pass into the heart of the hearer, and will serve to harden each transgressor in his impenitence.
2. A resolute loyalty to the divine administration will be equally needful. It rests itself upon the assurance, “Shall not the Judge of all the earth do right?” It takes its force from genuine piety and affection to truth. It is the same spirit that led the royal poet to utter his persuasion, “I know, O Lord, that all Thy judgments are right;” and moved Paul with a similar force of healthy piety to exclaim, “Yea, let God be true, and every man a liar.” Such loyalty will break through the mazes of much sophistry, will support the servant of God when assailed by more fallacies than he can at the moment refute, and enable him to cleave under all obloquies and embarrassments to what he inwardly and firmly knows must in the end prove itself the better cause.
3. Not less necessary to the minister of truth is an unaffected and sensitive compassion towards his fellow-men, and a compassion of that efficient kind which nothing has ever produced but the Gospel. The servant of Heaven can effect his commission only as he gains access to the human heart; and there is no other path of access but that of love. Men, rather than angels, are sent to preach repentance, that the promulgation of mercy may always be heard in tones of tenderness and humiliation. The end of all reproof is mercy. If there were no redemption at hand, it were idle or cruel to talk of judgment.—Isaac Taylor, Saturday Evening, xv.
ADDENDA TO CHAPTER 15: ILLUSTRATIONS AND SUGGESTIVE EXTRACTS
Jeremiah 15:1. INTERCESSORY PRAYER. “I ought to study Christ as an intercessor. He prayed most for Peter, who was most to be tempted.”—M‘Cheyne.
“Sandalphon stands listening breathless
To sounds that ascend from below;—
“From the spirits on earth that adore,
From the souls that entreat and implore
In the fervour and passion of prayer;
From the hearts that are broken with losses,
And weary with dragging the crosses
Too heavy for mortals to bear.
“And he gathers the prayers as he stands,
And they change into flowers in his hands,
Into garlands of purple and red;
And beneath the great arch of the portal,
Through the streets of the city immortal,
Is wafted the fragrance they shed.”
—“Legend of the Angel of Prayer.”
LIMITS TO PRAYER.
“If by prayer
Incessant I could hope to change the will
Of Him who all things can, I would not cease
To weary Him with my assiduous cries.
But prayer against His absolute decree
No more avails than breath against the wind,
Blows stifling back on him i hat breathes it forth:
Therefore to His great bidding I submit.”
—Milton’s “Paradise Lost.”
“What is the limit of our prayer? This: ‘Not my will but Thine be done!’ Is that a limit? Why, that is glorious liberty! Not my will but Thine,—not a little will but a great will,—not my thought but Thine,—not my love but Thine’ Is it a limit? It is the lark rising from its field-nest with the boundless liberty of the firmament. Truly we do not limit ourselves when we exchange the creature for the Creator.”—Joseph Parker, D.D.
Jeremiah 15:2. SCORNFUL INCREDULITY. “Rest thee well assured, O scorner! that thy laughs cannot alter truth, thy jests cannot avert thine inevitable doom. Though in thy hardihood thou shouldst make a league with death, and sign a covenant with hell, yet swift justice shall overtake thee, and strong vengeance strike thee low. In vain dost thou jeer and mock, for eternal verities are mightier than thy sophistries; nor can thy smart sayings alter the divine truth of a single word of this volume of Revelation. Oh! why dost thou quarrel with thy best friend, and ill-treat thy only refuge?”—Spurgeon.
Jeremiah 15:4. PARENTAGE. “The account that begins to be incurred when parents rejoice because a child is born to them, is the most solemn account that ever is incurred aside of one’s own individual duty towards God. I do not mean that all the misconduct and evil-endings of the child are to come back upon the parent, and that there is to be in the child no free will, so that no individual account can belong to him. For if a parent has cleansed his skirts of his children, the guilt of their sins will rest on their heads, and not on his. But unless the parent can show that the child’s misconduct and wreck of eternity are not attributable to any fault of his, the weight of the child’s condemnation will be divided.”—H. W. Beecher.
“The last thing forgotten in all the recklessness of dissolute profligacy is the prayer or hymn taught by a mother’s lips or uttered at a father’s knee; and where there seems to have been any pains bestowed even by one parent to train up a child aright, there is generally more than ordinary ground for hope.”—The Experience of a Prison Chaplain.
Jeremiah 15:5. LOST TO PITY.
“None pities him that’s in the snare,
And, warned before, would not beware.”
Jeremiah 15:8. LIFE’S NOONTIDE.
“O life, how pleasant is thy morning,
Young Fancy’s rays the hills adorning!
Cold, pausing Caution’s lessons scorning,
We frisk away,
Like schoolboys at the expected warning,
To joy and play.”
“For ah! my heart, how very soon
The glittering dreams of youth are past;
And long before it reach its noon,
The sun of life is overcast.”
“What is youth? A dancing billow,
Winds behind, and rocks before!”
“Live, that thy young and glowing breast
Can think of death without a sigh,
And be assured that life is best
Which finds us least afraid to die.”
Jeremiah 15:9. EARLY DEATH. “What is this voice to us?” says Bonar of the early death of M‘Cheyne. “Only this much we can clearly see, that nothing was more fitted to leave his character and example impressed on our remembrance for ever than his early death. There might be envy while he lived; there is none now. There might have been some of the youthful attractiveness of his graces lost had he lived many years; this cannot be impaired now. It seems as if the Lord had struck the flower from the stem ere any of the colours had lost their bright hues or any leaf its fragrance.”
It is remarkable yet mysterious how many of God’s choicest servants have been removed so early. Look over this list:—H. Kirke White (at 21), Andrew Gray (21), John Janeway (23), Patrick Hamilton (24), R. M. M‘Cheyne (29), Captain Hedley Vicars (29), David Brainerd (30), H. W. Fox (30), Felix Neff (31), J. H. Forsyth (32), H. Martyn (32), Toplady (35), W. Archer Butler (35).
Jeremiah 15:10. A TROUBLED MINISTRY. “Exposed to criticisms and interferences of the vulgarest and coarsest kind. One man will ask how it is that so few additions are made to the Church? Another will inquire how it is that the collections have fallen off? A third will profess to lament that the seats were better let in former years. A fourth will intimate that we must have preaching which is abreast of the times. The minister often listens to these things with a justly angry spirit, oftener still with a heavy or aching heart; but what can he do? Shall he answer a fool according to his folly? This is exactly what the fool would like above everything. Shall he restrain himself and swallow his grief? He does so; but such discipline often brings with it discouragement and sadness,—sometimes almost despair.”—Parker.
Jeremiah 15:12. BE NOT DISCOURAGED. “Some of the greatest works that were ever performed by Christian people were not immediate in their results. You know the story of the removal of old St. Paul’s by Sir Christopher Wren. A very massive piece of masonry had to be broken down, and the task, by pick and shovel, would have been a very tedious one, so the great architect prepared a battering-ram for its removal, and a large number of workmen were directed to strike with force against the wall with the ram. After several hours of labour, the wall, to all appearances, stood fast and firm. Their many strokes had been apparently lost, but the architect knew that they were gradually communicating motion to the wall, creating an agitation throughout the whole of it, and that, by and by, when they had continued long enough, the entire mass would come down beneath a single stroke. The workmen, no doubt, attributed the result to the one crowning concussion, but their master knew that their previous strokes had only culminated in that one tremendous blow, and that all the non-resultant work had been necessary to prepare for the stroke which achieved the purpose.”—C. H. Spurgeon.
EVIL SHALL NOT PREVAIL.—“In the dark ages the enemy thought he had destroyed the Church, but life came into the monk in his cell, and Luther shook the world. The Church in England fell into a deadly slumber in the days of Whitfield and Wesley; but she was not dead, and therefore a time of awakening came. The flame burned low, but the heavenly fire still lingered among the ashes, and only needed the Holy Spirit to blow upon it, and cause a hallowed conflagration. Six young men in Oxford were found guilty of meeting to pray: their offence was contagious, and soon there sprang up hundreds glorying in the same blessed crime. Earnest servants of the living God were forthcoming, and no man knew whence they came; like the buds and blossoms which come forth at the bidding of spring, a people made willing in the day of God’s power came forward at once. Seeing that there is life in the Church of God, you can never calculate what will happen within its bounds to-morrow; for life is an unaccountable thing, and scorns the laws which bind the formal and inanimate. The statues in St. Paul’s Cathedral stand fixed on their pedestals, and the renowned dead in Westminster Abbey never raise a riot; but who can tell what the living may next conceive or attempt? They burnt the Gospel out in Spain, did they not? And in the Low Countries they erased the memory thereof. How is it now? Has not Spain achieved her liberty at a blow? Is not also Belgium free to the preacher of the Word? Not even Italy or Rome itself is safe against the obnoxious heretic. Everywhere the Gospel penetrates. Even the earth helps the woman, and swallows up the flood which the dragon casts out of his mouth to drown the man-child: political rulers restrain the violence of those who otherwise would slay the saints in one general massacre.”—C. H. Spurgeon.
Jeremiah 15:15. ON BEING REMEMBERED. See Bonar’s hymn, “The Everlasting Memorial.”
“I need not be missed if my life has been bearing
(As its summer and autumn moved silently on)
Its flower and its fruit: I shall still be remembered—
Yes, but remembered by what I have done.”
Jeremiah 15:16. ENJOYING GOD’S WORD. “What do I not owe to the Lord,” writes Henry Martyn, “for permitting me to take part in the translation of His Word? Never did I see such wonders, and wisdom, and love in the blessed Book, as since I have been obliged to study every expression: and it is a delightful reflection, that death cannot deprive us of the pleasure of studying its mysteries.”
Shortly before his death, Dr. Buchannan, giving to a friend some details of his laborious revisions of his Syriac Testament, suddenly stopped and burst into tears. On recovering himself, he said, “I am not ill, but I was completely overcome with the recollection of the delight which I have enjoyed in this exercise. At first I was disposed to shrink from the task as irksome, and apprehended that I should find even the Scriptures pall by the frequency of this critical examination. But, so far from it, every fresh perusal seemed to throw fresh light on the Word of God, and to convey additional joy and consolation to my mind.”
APPROPRIATING GOD’S WORD. “Have you an ear to hear Gospel truth as the voice of the Infinite God addressed to your own soul? The Dutch farmers at the Cape, at no very distant period, considered the Hottentots around them to be little better than beasts, quite incapable of anything beyond mere eating, drinking, stealing, and lying. After our missionaries had laboured among the natives for a time, one of them was found reading the Bible by the roadside. The Dutchman inquired of him, ‘What book are you reading?’ ‘The Bible.’ ‘The Bible! Why, that book was never intended for you.’ ‘Indeed it was,’ said the black man, ‘for I see my name here.’ ‘Your name! where?’ cried the farmer. ‘Show it to me.’ ‘There,’ said the Hottentot, putting his finger on the word ‘sinners.’ ‘That’s my name; I am a sinner, and Jesus Christ came to save me.’ It were well, indeed, if men would but read the Bible, saying, ‘In this volume the great God condescends to speak to me.”—Spurgeon.