CRITICAL AND EXEGETICAL NOTES.—1. Chronology of the Chapter. Early in Jehoiakim's reign; contemporary with chap. 22. See Notes. Dr. Payne Smith places this prophecy prior to Jehoiakim's manifestation of the violence of his character by murdering Urijah (chap. Jer ), and thus synchronous with chap. Jer 17:19-27. Its appeal to the house of David is conditioned on the fact that the nation's ruin might yet be averted. The chapter divides itself into four chronological sections. Jer 22:1-9 : Early in Jehoiakim's reign. Jer 22:10-12 : Immediately following the deposition and captivity of Jehoahaz. Jer 22:14-19 : Jehoiakim's reign again; but towards the close of his wicked rule. Jer 22:20-30 belong to Jeconiah's reign, for the reference (Jer 22:24) indicates him as the then reigning king. Cf. Personal Allusions below.
For 2. Contemporary Scriptures; 3. National Affairs; 4. Contemporaneous History, see Notes on chaps. 7 and 17.
5. Geographical References.—Jer . "Gilead"—Vide note on Jer 8:22. "Lebanon"—the loftiest height of Lebanon is about 10,000 feet above the level of the sea. Vide note on Jer 18:14. Jer 22:20. "Bashan, and the passages:" i.e., the route from Jerusalem to Babylon. "Passages" should be Abarim, a range of mountains south of Gilead, opposite Jericho. Those mountains, Lebanon, Bashan, and Abarim, overlook the course the captives would take.
6. Personal Allusions.—Jer . "Shallum, the son of Josiah." Shallum is the same as Jehoahaz, Josiah's second son. Although younger than Eliakim (afterwards called Jehoiakim), he was yet raised to the throne by the acclaim of the people (2Ki 23:30-36), the rights of primogeniture being disregarded owing to the evil character of Eliakim. (Comp. Personal Allusions chap. i.) Shallum reigned only three months: for Eliakim, indignant at this usurpation, threw himself into the arms of the Egyptians; and Pharaoh-Necho deposed Jehoahaz and placed Jehoiakim (Eliakim) on the throne as tributary and dependent king. Shallum was thereupon carried into Egypt, and from that time is heard of no more. (Comp. 2Ch 36:1-4; Eze 19:3-4.)
Jer . "Jehoiakim, son of Josiah:" see note above, also note to chap. 1. (Comp. 2Ch 36:5-6.) We have no record of his death; but from this prophecy (repeated in chap. Jer 36:30) we may suppose that he died soon after he reached Babylon, died under his chains, probably "of pestilence or of a broken heart" (Payne Smith), and his body was dragged away without any show of respect. It is just as probable that he was slain by Nebuchadnezzar on his retreat to Babylon, and that his corpse was left unburied by the wayside outside Jerusalem. Certainly, however, he perished miserably, and at the age of thirty-six.
Jer . "Coniah, son of Jehoiakim:" This was Jehoiachin. He reigned only three months and ten days. He was eighteen years of age (according to 2Ki 24:8) when crowned, but only eight according to 2Ch 36:9—which is probably a corruption of the text. He remained in Babylon a captive during thirty-six years, the lifetime of Nebuchadnezzar; but when Evil-Merodach succeeded Nebuchadnezzar he was considerately raised by that king to some show of dignity and personal regard (2Ki 25:27-30; Jer 52:31-34). Ezekiel dated his prophecies by the year "of king Jehoiachin's captivity" (Eze 1:2; Eze 8:1; Eze 24:1, &c.) An exciting expectation prevailed among the Jews four years after Jeconiah's removal to Babylon (Jer 28:4) that he would quickly return to power; but this was probably a rumour created by the sanguine hopes and conversation of the Jewish captives at Babylon.
Jer . "Thy mother that bare thee." Nehushta; see chronological note to chap. 13.
7. Natural History—none.
8. Manners and Customs.—Jer . "Weep ye not for the dead," &c. An annual lamentation had been celebrated by the nation for good king Josiah (2Ch 35:25). This custom might now be used for one who needed the bemoaning more—his son Shallum.
Jer . "Ceiled with cedar and painted with vermilion." Jehoiakim's palace was gorgeously adorned with "cedars" of Lebanon. The "vermilion" was not like ours, a preparation of red lead, but a compound of quicksilver and sulphur; a preparation much valued by Orientals.
9. Literary Criticisms.—Jer . "I will prepare destroyers:" i.e., consecrate. (Vide note, chap. Jer 6:4.)
Jer . "A wide house:" בֵּית מִדּוֹת, lit., a house of extensions: (comp. Num 13:32; Isa 45:14), where מִדּוֹת is rendered "stature"—men of large proportions. "A spacious house." "Large chambers," from רָוַה; to breathe: airy chambers.
"And it is ceiled with cedars:" סָפוֹן; either roofing it with cedars (Payne Smith), or inlaying it (Hitzig, Graf., &c.)
Jer . "Closest thyself in cedar." Various reading. The LXX., Codex Alex., and Ewald give viest with Ahaz: for Ahaz did build the palace (1Ki 22:39). But the literal rendering of received text is, viest in cedar-work.
Jer . "Beyond the gates"—afar from.
Jer . "The Passages." See Geog. Ref. supra, Abarim, a range of mountains.
Jer . "O inhabitant of Lebanon:" inhabitress. "How gracious shalt thou be:" how wilt thou sigh (Hitzig, Ewald, Graf); how wilt thou groan (Lange, Payne Smith), be pitiable (Gesenius).
Jer . "Desire to return:" lift up their soul to return. Our English equivalent is "set their heart upon."
Jer . "A despised broken idol:" lit., piece of work, a vessel, a piece of common earthenware in which the potter has no interest.
HOMILETIC SURVEY OF CHAPTER 22
Theme: THE ERRORS AND THE DOOM OF JUDAH'S KINGS.
The chapter separates itself into four prophetic messages, containing sentences of judgment on Jehoahaz (Shallum), Jehoiakim, and Jeconiah. Chronological order of events is disregarded in the grouping of these prophecies; but similarity of subject rules. Connecting Jer —end with chap. 22, the last four kings of Judah are arraigned for judgment. Each is proved to have utterly failed in righteousness, and on each is pronounced the sorrowful denunciation which his impiety invoked.
I. An exhortation to righteous reforms. Addressed to Jehoiakim, probably quickly after his accession to the throne, he is charged, in the name of Jehovah (Jer )—himself, his ministers, and his people—to act aright, to administer justice, and eschew all wrong. This appeal is emphasised with an encouraging promise of prosperity upon obedience (Jer 22:4), and alarming warnings of desolation if disregarded (Jer 22:5-9).
II. A mournful instance of judgment. The prophet cites the fate of Shallum (Jehoahaz), the predecessor of Jehoiakim, as confirmatory of Jehovah's warnings. On his accession Shallum assumed the name "Jehoahaz," meaning "Jehovah sustains," but Jeremiah refuses to call him by that name, and writes him down in irony as "Shallum," meaning "retribution"—which had verified its appropriateness in the king's fate—deposed after three months' reign, and now a captive in Egypt, never more to behold his native land. So soon may a king be dethroned, so hopelessly may an exile be banished (Jer ).
See Addenda: WEEP NOT FOR THE DEAD.
III. A rebuke of ambitious tyranny. Reverting to Jehoiakim (Jer ), and proceeding openly and indignantly to name him as the criminal (Jer 22:18), God denounces him for his vainglory (Jer 22:14), his injustice (Jer 22:13), his covetousness and cruelty (Jer 22:17). Against him the "woe" (Jer 22:13) is uttered; he is derided for his false confidence (Jer 22:15-16) in thinking that his throne is secured by vaunting display of splendour rather than in righteous administration; and his miserable degradation is proclaimed (Jer 22:18-19).
IV. A lamentation over Judah's ruin. Jeremiah 1. appeals to Jerusalem, whom he personifies as a sorrowing woman, to ascend the mountains which overlook the route her captives would take on being carried into Babylon, and bewail her calamity. 2. Threatens Jeconiah (here called Coniah as if in contempt); who, although he was idolised by his people (Jer ), would nevertheless be treated with violence (Jer 22:26-28), carried into exile (Jer 22:25), and with him would end the royal honours of his house (Jer 22:30).
GENERAL TRUTHS SUGGESTED BY THE CHAPTER
I. Perpetuity and prosperity are conditional upon righteousness. This holds good for nations and governments (Jer ), cities (Jer 22:8-9), individuals (Jer 22:11; Jer 22:19; Jer 22:30).
"The most effectual way to preserve the dignity of the government is to do the duty of it."—Henry. "God does not spare even the authorities, for though He has said that they are as ‘gods,' yet when they do not rightly administer their office they must die like men (Psa ). No cedars are too high for God. No splendours too mighty; He can destroy all at once, and overturn, overturn, overturn" (Eze 21:27).—Cramer. Sin will be the ruin of the house of princes as well as of meaner men. Even in this world God often makes it clear that He destroys neither nations, cities, nor persons, except for sin; and it will be made clearer in the day of judgment.
II. Advantages and exaltation secure no exception from doom. "The house of the kings of Judah" enjoyed historic dignity and the Divine benignity (Jer ): Jerusalem also (addressed in Jer 22:20-23) had enjoyed "prosperity" (Jer 22:21) and material splendour (Jer 22:23); whereas Jeconiah had seemed peculiarly secure and honoured (Jer 22:24). Yet that house of Judah became a desolation (Jer 22:5); Jerusalem was dethroned (Jer 22:8-9); and "confounded for her wickedness" (Jer 22:22); and Coniah was cut off from royalty (Jer 22:30).
"See how easily God's judgments can ruin a nation, and how certainly sin will do it."—Henry. How little is earthly grandeur to be depended upon, or flourishing families to be rejoiced in! Notwithstanding the privileges of a man's birth (as with Coniah), if he make himself unworthy of honour, God will cast him off. Yet "God never casts any off until they first cast Him off" (Henry on Jer ). Here, however, may be seen "how perverse and unjustifiable is the illusion that God's election is a surety against His anger, and a licence to any wilfulness."—Naegelsbach.
III. Spoliation and punishment are varied according to individual sin. Numerous are the resources of Divine judgment. God "prepares the destroyers, every one with his weapons" (Jer ). And He determines the form of desolation upon individual transgressors. Shallum is doomed to perpetual bondage: Jehoiakim is punished with an unlamented death and contemptible burial—a most despicable end (Jer 22:18-19). Jeconiah, whom the nation had idolised and cherished with "pleasure," should become despised by his people (28), and be written childless (Jer 22:30).
They expose themselves to fearful possibilities and perils who live in hostility to God. No life is secure from calamity which is not "hid with Christ in God."
HOMILIES AND COMMENTS ON VERSES OF CHAPTER 22
Jer . Theme: THE CONDITIONS OF CONTINUANCE IN PRIVILEGE.
Hereditary rights, royal prerogatives, are valueless as guarantees of prolonged existence and prosperity as a nation. Righteousness alone protects and preserves governments from overthrow and peoples from extinction. So with a church: it must be and do right, or Christ "will remove the candlestick," &c. So with the soul: it must faithfully serve and loyally follow Christ, or it forfeits grace.
This message to Jehoiakim is similar in import to that sent to Zedekiah (Jer ). See Homilies in loc.
Matthew Henry's arrangement of this section is—
i. Orders given to Jeremiah to preach before the king.
He is to go in person and demand the king's attention to a message from the King of kings.
ii. Instructions given him what to preach.
1. He must tell them what was their duty (Jer ). (a.) Do all the good they can with the power they have. (b.) Do no hurt with it.
2. He must assure them that the faithful discharge of their duty would advance and secure their prosperity (Jer ).
3. Likewise that the iniquity of their family if persisted in would be the ruin of their family, though it was a royal family (Jer ).
4. He must show how fatal their wickedness would be to their kingdom as well as to themselves—to Jerusalem especially, the royal city (Jer ).
Jer . Theme: BEAUTY AND MAJESTY DEGRADED.
I. Significant imagery. "Thou art Gilead unto me, and the head of Lebanon."
i. The meaning of these natural metaphors. They suggest
1. Graceful fertility. "Gilead" was the poetic symbol of this. Dr. Payne Smith notes that it is "extolled for its aromatic plants (chap. Jer ), its grassy uplands where the goats feed (Song Son 4:1; Son 6:5), and one district of it, Bashan, for its sheep (Deu 32:14), its noble breed of cattle (Psa 22:12), its general fertility (Isa 33:9), and especially for its splendid oak forests (Isa 2:13; Zec 11:2)."
2. Surpassing magnificence. "Lebanon" is the metaphor of this. It is the frequent figure for grandeur. "It is praised for its snows (chap. Jer ), its firs and cedars (Isa 37:24), its waving forests (Psa 72:16), its wealth of springs (Song Son 4:15), its flowers (Nah 1:4), and its sweet scents (Song Son 4:11; Hos 14:6-7)."
ii. The reference of this metaphorical address.
1. Primarily to theroyal house of David.
2. By analogy to the "royal priesthood" of Christian believers. The Church is in God's esteem "the perfection of beauty."
3. By direct application to the individual Christian. "We are unto God a sweet savour of Christ." Every Christian should combine in himself beauteous fertility and incomparable majesty—nobleness of character and life.
II. Startling degradation. "Yet surely I will make thee a wilderness, cities which are not inhabited."
i. Its incredibility necessitates that God affirms it with an oath, "Surely I will." Literally this is, "If I make thee not," &c.
1. The threatening creates an involuntary recoil. We reply to it—"Surely it can never be so!" The old Jews revolted from the idea that their royal "house of David" could ever become "a desolation" (Jer ). We recoil from the idea that on a Christian church there could ever be inscribed "Ichabod!" Or that a godly soul, a privileged disciple of Jesus, could ever become a "cast-away." Yet God corrects our "Surely it cannot be" with His "Surely I will!"
2. The threatening seems a total impossibility. The Jews believed in the perpetuity of the Davidic line and the continuance of their national prosperity. So we think of a church and of ourselves. But for the church see Lam ; and Zep 2:15; and for the individual, 1Co 10:12.
Jer . Comp. chaps. Jer 18:15-16; Jer 19:8.
Jer . Theme: DEATH PREFERABLE TO LIFE. "Weep not for the dead, neither bemoan him; but weep sore for him that goeth away," &c.
Less reason for tears over Josiah, the righteous father who is dead, than over Jehoabaz, the ungodly son, who, though alive, is yet worse than dead, being banished from all the blessings of life; and who goes away not as his father to the land of rest and joy, but to captivity and dishonour.
I. Death may prove a gracious goal. It was to Josiah. Mors janua vitœ: "Death is the gate of life." Of course only to the godly. Blessed as life is to the Christian, yet "to die is gain." Here is a test which divides the ranks of the living. To which of us would death be an advantage—knowing as we do what awaits souls "after death"?
1. Death terminates much that makes life so sad.
(1.) Personal sorrows: physical weaknesses, earthly deceits, life's cares, struggles with adversity, the risks and delusions incident to all effort and enterprise here, wearying toils.
(2.) Social troubles: misunderstandings and misinterpretations, disappointments and grievances, the anguish over wayward children, the pangs over false friendships and unrequited kindness: desolating bereavements.
(3.) National distresses: so much wounds our patriotism, and urges the outcry, "O for a lodge in some vast wilderness," &c. (Jer ).
(4.) Spiritual anxieties: conflicts with "besetting sins," a wayward heart, the world's seductions, &c., grief over disobedience to God, forgetfulness of Divine love, &c.
"I would not live alway." "I would hasten my escape from the windy storm and tempest."
2. Death commences much that makes life so glad.
(1.) Heaven won: "to go no more out." "Neither sorrow, nor crying," &c.
(2.) Deity beheld in open vision. "We shall see Him as He is."
(3.) Earth's mysteries solved. "Now we know in part, but then shall we know," &c.
(4.) Lost ones regained. "I shall go to her, but she shall not return to me."
(5.) The perfect life attained. "I shall be satisfied when I awake in Thy likeness."
II. Life may prove a grievous path. It would to Shallum.
1. Its pleasures all desolated. Jehoahaz would pine in captivity. Think of
(1.) The invasions of disaster or death. Remember what pestilence and accident have done for once happy families.
(2.) Young lives early blighted: afflicted, crippled, &c.
(3.) Hearts ruthlessly broken: by falsity of lovers, by desertion of relatives, by disgraces brought upon homes through recklessness or wickedness of fathers or sons.
(4.) Losses irretrievably suffered. Change in fortune: children hurled by reverses into penury, &c.
2. Its possibilities all devastated.
(1.) Character or virtue wrecked. By one criminal indulgence or act, confidence may be forfeited, the door of promotion be closed, and honour exchanged for a career of shame.
(2.) Powers suddenly smitten or withered. The right hand may lose its cunning, the mind its balance, &c.
3. Its prospects all destroyed.
(1.) An irreligious career, life's years spent in practical ungodliness, destroys the soul's prospects. For sin darkens the soul, and divorces it from all present peace and gracious anticipations, and impenitence shuts out the soul from the redemption of Christ and reconciliation with God.
(2.) An atheistic mind, the abandonment of revelation, the rejection of the Bible, the denial of God and spiritual things: these cover the soul and its outlook with a dense and desolating gloom.
Rather than such a life, "let me die the death of the righteous, and let my last end be like his."
Theme: THE DEAD LESS MOURNED THAN THE LIVING.
I. Evil times enforce this truth. They are "taken away from the evil." When war or desolation come upon the land, or disaster upon the home, we think this.
II. Wicked careers emphasise the truth. The living Cain more a grief than the dead Abel. We mourn less for the "dead" though we loved them dearly, than for the living who violate all our hopes, and fill us with grief and shame.
III. Divine revelation elucidates the truth. For "blessed are the dead which die in the Lord, they rest from their labours," &c. See Scriptures which exhibit the future of the redeemed, as contrasted with our lot on earth.
See Addenda: "WEEP NOT FOR THE DEAD."
"Dying saints," says Henry, "may be justly envied, while living sinners are justly pitied. And so dismal perhaps the prospects of the times may be, that tears even for a Josiah, even for a Jesus, must be restrained, that they may be reserved for ourselves and our children (Luk )."
See Further, Noticeable Topics: "GRIEF FOR THOSE WHO HAVE GONE AWAY TO WAR."
Jer . Theme: RAPACITY DENOUNCED.
See Addenda: COVETOUSNESS.
"He who builds his house with other people's property, collects stones for his grave."—Cramer.
"Sepulchri immemor struis domos."—Horat.
"Though impoverished by the tribute imposed upon them by the king of Egypt (2Ch ), the inhabitants were cruelly ground by Jehoiakim, who scrupled not at the adoption of any measures by which he might be able to carry on the building of a large and splendid palace."—Henderson.
Not only did Jehoiakim tax the people (2Ki ) for Pharaoh's tribute, but also took their forced labour without pay for building a splendid palace; in violation of Lev 19:13; Deu 24:14-15.
"God will repay in justice those who will not in justice pay those whom they employ."—Henry.
"Jehoiakim lived in splendour amid the misery of the nation, amused himself with building palaces when the whole land was ground down by heavy taxation, and miserably perished at the age of thirty-six, so little cared for that his body was cast aside without burial."—Payne Smith.
Jer . Theme: JEHOIAKIM'S DEGENERACY FROM HIS FATHER'S PIETY.
Jehoiakim's character given (Jer seq.) He a young prince, son of pious father, degenerated; hence God sent awful message in text by Jeremiah. Woe denounced upon him for pride, &c., when nation in distress (Jer 22:13-14). Then God expostulates; wickedness aggravated and inexcusable, because of bright example of piety and righteousness in his father (Jer 22:15-16).
I. God remembereth the piety and usefulness of our ancestors, and observeth how far we resemble them (Jer ; contrast Jer 22:17).
1. God can forget nothing. Past, present, "all naked and open." (1.) Remembers piety of our fathers. As Josiah. Kind remembrance of His faithful servants after left this world: "not unrighteous to forget," &c. (2.) Instructive to observe with how much respect God mentions those who have been upright before Him. Thus "the righteous Lord loveth righteousness;" treats good men as favourites. (3.) This a great encouragement to be religious: enjoy favour while here, and our memory precious in His sight when forgotten by survivors. (4.) Motive to all, especially children of pious parents, to reverence the memory of saints.
2. God takes notice how far we resemble them. Charges Jehoiakim that trod not in father's steps. (1.) God makes just estimates of our religious advantages and our improvement of them. (2.) Observes declension. (3.) Whether our hearts be right as our father's were, e.g., Timothy (2Ti ), or whether as Solomon (1Ki 11:4-6). (4.) An incentive to utmost caution: not cast off the entail of religion, lose truest hereditary honours, involve Divine displeasure.
II. Young persons often forsake the religion of their fathers through pride and love of elegance, pomp, and show (Jer ). Pride led him to covet splendour and practise injustice.
This sin easily besets and ensnares the young. They scorn their father's lowliness. Begin with extravagance greater than where their wiser fathers ended. (1.) It leads them to forsake their father's religious profession. Favours and preferments of the world are not on that side. Count their father's religion narrow, and abandon their principles. (2.) Love of pomp and elegance lead to the loss of the life and power of godliness. Luxury and irreligion (Jer ), practices their fathers would have abhorred. Go from bad to worse: as Jehoiakim, oppressed Jeremiah and slew Uzziah (Jer 26:21). Won an ill character (Eze 19:6-7).
To the young: Set out in life with moderate desires. Be content with your rank. Strengthen religious dispositions. "Do justice and mercy." Humility the brighest ornament; religion the defence of the soul.
III. It is a great dishonour and reproach to any to forsake the good ways of their fathers. Jehoiakim was over twenty when Josiah died. God intimates that his conduct was both dishonourable and inexcusable.
1. Religiously trained as he doubtless was, his forsaking religion was a reproach. The good example of our fathers aggravates our guilt and shame. 2. Let young persons consider the usefulness and honour for which their parents were eminent. Was it not "well with them"? They were beloved and lamented (Jer ). 3. Consider for what it is that so many forsake the good ways of their fathers. 4. Here are terrible threatenings from God against this wickedness (Jer 22:19, also Jer 36:30). Forsake religion of ancestors, it will be your shame. "If thou forsake Him, He will cast thee off for ever."
IV. The way of religion is the way of wisdom, honour, and happiness.
1. Wisdom. Jehoiakim thought himself wise in "building," &c. His father was a good man and good king, and "was not this to know Me?" (Jer ); Psa 111:10; 1Jn 1:3-4. Right knowledge consists in being religious.
2. Honour. Josiah universally esteemed (2Ch ). Luxury and splendour do not secure honour (Pro 3:3-4).
3. Happiness. "Well with him" (Jer ); repeated (Jer 22:16). Over against this the young prince is asked, "Shalt thou reign because, &c.?" (Jer 22:15). Piety and righteousness a surer foundation and defence.
Way to be happy is to be and do good. While we do well, it will be well with us (Psa ; 1Ti 4:8).
(Abstract of Sermon, by Rev. Job Orton, Kidderminster, A.D. 1775).
Jer . Theme: A PERVERSE SON. "Thus saith the Lord concerning Jehoiakim the son of Josiah."
That godly men should have ungodly children is a problem hard to solve. Josiah had both a Shallum and a Jehoiakim, both wicked men; David, Absalom, a rebellious son; Eli, Hophni and Phineas, "both sons of Belial that knew not the Lord."
I. Parental discipline and proper training are suggested as lacking. Stress is laid on the proverb, "Train up a child," &c. But this assumes without proof
1. That in these instances there was a lack of parental discipline and proper training.
2. That piety in children is the natural result of parental discipline and proper training.
But what are the facts of the case?
(a.) Piety is sometimes found in the children of godless parents, where there has been no religious training at all; whereas
(b.) Impiety will sometimes be seen in the children of godly parents, who have striven to bring them up in the fear of the Lord.
Such facts teach that youthful piety is not the natural result of early training; and the mystery of the entire subject is left unsolved.
II. Religious education does not always form a religious character. Religious habits may be formed without the vital principle of religion possessing the heart
What is the reason why a child cannot be trained to be a Christian?
1. Because to become a Christian is to have a new nature, a new life, which no training can originate. Nothing can be trained except what has life. None can train a dead vine or dead tree. Training supposes life.
2. No child has by nature religious life, but only mental and moral life; and a child can only be trained mentally to think, morally to act.
III. It is God's prerogative to quicken our children to newness of life.
Parental duty it is to train children: but equally their duty to pray that God would impart the life of real religion, that life without which a correct creed and a cold morality leave the soul "dead in sins." If parents see in their children the germ of the new life, this is God's handiwork, and the pledge for the children of a life of grace and a glorious destiny.—D. Pledge.
Jer . Theme: AN IGNOMINIOUS BURIAL.
The end of some men is very different from what might have been expected, considering their parentage, education, and advantages.
Jehoiakim was the son of a king: naturally suppose that he also would be buried with the pageantry of a prince.
Also the son of a pious father: might have hoped his death had been the death of the righteous.
Sin brings men to an ignominious end.
1. What a blighting thing is sin! Blasts every fond hope. When Jehoiakim was a youth he had fairest earthly prospects; yet what degradation befel him!
2. A degraded burial is not the worst event. Funeral rites have been denied to godly men and faithful witnesses for Christ. But the burial of a man is of little moment: that is not the end of the man: Worse issues follow.
3. Burial affects not our future destiny. Be he interred as a brute, or amid the pomp of royalty, the destiny of a man depends upon life, not upon death and burial.
4. Piety exalts, while wickedness debases men. Jehoiakim's impiety set him below beggars. Piety raises beggars from the dunghill and sets them among princes. Piety is God's high-road to heaven: impiety is Satan's high-road to perdition.—Ibid.
See Addenda: THE SINNER'S BURIAL.
Jer . Theme: REGARD FOR GOD DEADENED BY PROSPERITY.
The condition of life most coveted may be most harmful—"prosperity." Only by denials of our wishes are we kept low at God's feet. We can recall events and experiences in which God came to our souls and arrested them in falling away from Him. Yet notwithstanding all He has done, we are very far from God.
If so far from Him despite all He has done to keep us obedient, what would have been our case had He never crossed our wishes by afflictions and discipline? We should be grateful that He has desolated our "prosperity" and reclaimed us from disloyalty to Him.
Judah's case shows: A people suffered to advance with a prosperity that became fatal to their spiritual life.
It reflects the state of a church which through "prosperity" declines from spiritual fervour and zeal; of the saint, who through "prosperity" grows indifferent: of the sinner, who through "prosperity" becomes reckless of God's calls to submission and repentance. "I spake to thee in thy prosperity," &c.
I. The voice of God is addressing itself to the souls of men.
Effects prove the cause; and in the sinner alarmed, the backslider arrested, the church awakened, we see evidences that God has spoken and made His voice heard.
1. In what ways the voice of God utters its appeals. Whatever speaks of God to the soul is the agent of God. "Earthquakes, fire, or still small voice." Calamity, pestilence, death, losses; conscience, the Bible, the preacher, the Spirit. God speaks thus in various voices to the heart of man.
2. To what extent God is speaking to men. To all. For there is a common call as well as an effectual call (comp. Jer ).
3. For what purpose God addresses men. He warns against sin, ruinous selfishness, absorption in the world, forgetfulness of God, death and eternity. He appeals to men to repent, be reconciled, "flee from wrath to come," &c.
II. Man's attention to God's voice is influenced by his circumstances.
"I spake in thy prosperity, and thou saidst, I will not hear." We take no heed in the day of youth and health and ease. But trouble is a good teacher. "In their affliction they will seek Me early."
1. There is going on in every heart a struggle for ascendancy. Selfishness is at war with conscience, sin with Christ. In every heart there will be a supreme: and if our pleasures or possessions absorb our affections, then the spiritual must succumb.
2. What holds the heart supremely subjugates all else. If any one ungodly thing sways us, then God's claims become ignored. And the law with us, as with the universe, is advance. No affection is stationary. It strengthens or weakens. Thus, when any object holds our affections before God, or in opposition to God, the heart becomes turned against God, and we repudiate His voice.
III. Prosperity in life deadens our soul's susceptibilities to Divine appeals.
1. "Prosperity" is not in itself an evil. The Bible honours it. There may be commercial prosperity, social prosperity, spiritual prosperity, church prosperity: and all may be good. May God give you all these "prosperities."
2. But while in itself good, and coveted as a good, "prosperity" may prove the soul's snare. It may be bad in its effect on us. What is full can receive no addition; and if prosperity fill our hearts, Christ has no place there. Thus: commercial prosperity has made many spiritually "wretched and poor and miserable." "Jeshurun waxed fat and kicked." Few can carry a full cup with a steady hand, or bear the world on their shoulders without bowing to the earth.
So even spiritual prosperity may beget elation, self-security. The successful Christian worker may be ready to trumpet his successes, "Come, see my zeal for the Lord!" Paul found danger "lest he should be exalted above measure by the abundance of revelations."
There may be less of Christ in a numerically prosperous church, than where there is "little strength:" less of Christ in the prosperous soul than in the heart desolate through darkness and non-success. And hence "I dwell with the humble and contrite."
IV. Hindrances to our regarding God's voice He will remove.
Comp. Jer, also 8, 9.
1. What deadens our attention God dooms. Be it pride, health, or energy, eagerness after success, refuges of lies, favours and privileges. He will remove them far from us, or us from them.
2. God's voice must be heard. There was a rich man, who was a "fool"; all God's calls were disregarded. But God made His voice heard at last—in terror, in scorn.
For if we refuse to hear through life, death will come when that awful Voice will drown all others, and in judgment it will silence all appeals in its sentence of doom.
See Addenda: PROSPERITY.
Theme: INFLUENCE OF PROSPERITY.
"I spake unto thee in thy prosperity, and thou saidst, I will not hear."
In heaven, the more abundantly God's bounties are dispensed, the more is He loved and adored; but on earth, the richer His gifts, the more will He be neglected and disobeyed. A striking proof of our depravity, that constant prosperity hardens, and is unfavourable to piety.
I. That abundant earthly blessings do tend to make the heart rebellious towards God.
1. Scripture teachings are emphatic on this matter. The Israelites were warned (Deu ). A frequent metaphor likens men to beasts luxuriantly fed (Hos 13:6). Agur's prayer was prompted by distrust of himself (Pro 30:8-9).
2. Experience confirms Scripture. David, the man after God's heart, when exalted became a polluted murderer. Solomon, the wisest man, was transformed into a besotted sensualist. Moses, the meekest man, spoke contemptuously, "Hear now, ye rebels, must we fetch water," &c. In these instances we see that the highest human virtues and holiest saints of God were unable to withstand the influence of prosperity. They could endure affliction and profit thereby—as certain liquors ripen in the shade, which under the noonday beams turn to acidity and corruption.
Similar instances occur now. Many a religious career, which began with fervour and zeal, has, been checked by worldly prosperity and ended amid the stupidity and sensuality of a worldling.
3. It is doubtful whether there ever was a single instance of piety which could pass uninjured through the ordeal of unmingled prosperity. Tone of religion is lowered amid riches and honours. Where simplicity and humility of spirit are preserved amid prosperity, it is owing to some hidden trouble, which like the cord on the feet of the aspiring bird keeps the proud spirit lowly and abased.
II. If then, upon the highest religious characters worldly prosperity has a hardening influence, what must be its effect on those who have no religious principle to counteract it, and who are avowedly lovers of the world and its pleasure?
1. They will not heed the messages of God. In the chamber of sickness and among the afflicted there may be success; but none among the children of prosperity and nurslings of vanity.
2. Religion, with its sober realities, is despised. Their heart is set upon the world, wealth invites to its enjoyment.
3. Those favoured of fortune are the most pitiable objects in the world. We may not limit God's grace, which can bring the soul from amid unmingled prosperity to bow in lowly subjection before the sceptre of Jesus. Affliction may bring down the soul, or it may become surfeited with life's good things, and then God's message will be heard; but those who are "full" and "laugh now" too often inherit only the Saviour's "woes."
III. They who have worldly prosperity should be led to self-inquiry as to its effect upon themselves.
1. In no country like our own are there so many who have risen from small beginnings to great estates and honours. Has God "granted your requests but sent leanness into your souls"? When riches increased, have you set your heart upon them? Are you the same simple-hearted and sincere follower of Jesus as when you began to lay the foundation of your worldly exaltation? "Remember from whence thou hast fallen."
2. What a caution is here to those who are seeking prosperity! Can you discover a means of preserving a lowly spiritual mind amid prosperity? Unless so, there is no alternative but that you must suffer adversity to keep you humble, or become worldly and spiritually hardened.
3. They who have become more indisposed to hear the voice of God should awake to their peril. Had you been placed amid afflictions and deprivations, it might have been better for your soul. "The goodness of God should lead thee to repentance;" but it has had the opposite effect, and led to greater sin. What depravity is here! Is not that a brutish nature which is more rebellious to its owner the richer the pasture he provides? Is this the spirit of a reasonable intelligent creature? Does not such a heart need a change?
4. Prosperous ones may well regard their case with apprehension. The evil days will come when they will say, "I have no pleasure in them." Spare yourselves the blow by renouncing the world for Christ. Is the sacrifice too great for Him who gave His life for you?—W. H. Lewis, D.D., "Sermons for the Christian Year."
Theme: PROSPERITY BANEFUL.
Scripture uniformly teaches that distance from God is the greatest misery—nearness to Him the greatest good. Hell is the extreme point of distance from Him: Heaven is the perfection of nearness and resemblance to Him. In proportion as we are under the power of religion, we are said to walk with God, conforming ourselves to His will, placing ourselves beneath His eye, and rejoicing in the proofs of His acceptance and favour. In proportion as we are destitute of religion, we are said to live without God in the world—we neither are solicitous for His glory, nor are mindful of His friendship, nor are disposed to listen to His voice. In affliction we do not bow in holy resignation to His will, in prosperity we do not own the hand from whence our mercies flow. And this is the description of Israel: "I spake to thee in thy prosperity, but thou wouldst not hear."
The text is a charge brought against the Jewish nation; and it is accompanied with a threat of the removal of those mercies they had abused by a long and mournful captivity. The same charge is applicable to most men in a greater or less degree.
I. The exactness with which God observes all that relates to human character and conduct.
The text is the language of regret. A father weeping over a child: a benefactor—a Saviour deploring "I spake in prosperity."
1. All our relative circumstances are immediately before His eye; and He notices with tender and faithful scrutiny the various effects which His merciful dispensations have upon the mind. In riches and poverty, in prosperity and adversity, in health and sickness, in joy and sorrow, in youth and age: and He traces with most minute inspection the different effects produced with a view to the development and progression of moral character. Not with angry eye merely, but with kind solicitude and regard: as a father a child.
How different a thing is life in human and Divine estimation. Man thinks what shall I eat. But God looks to growth of piety and principle.
2. The circumstances of human life, however produced, are undoubtedly under the guidance of Providence, and therefore subservient to a wise and perfect design. Each man's history is arranged and adapted with utmost precision to the growth of permanent character. When the outline is fully sketched, when the discipline has had its perfect operation, when the education is completed not to our conceptions but to the eye of Deity, we no longer continue here. The fruit being set, the winds scatter the blossoms; the fruit being ripe, the sun loses its power; the fruit falling or being gathered, winter is at hand.
God marks everything. "This thy manner from thy youth. Thou hast not obeyed." A faithful record is kept.
II. The tendency of unsanctified prosperity to render us insensible to the claims of religion and separate us still farther from God.
Prosperity and adversity relative terms.
1. Uninterrupted comfort tends to lessen our confidence in God: to form in the mind a feeling of self-confidence: a security nothing can shake: so much so that religion can make no entrance into the mind. It overcomes that feeling of humility and dependence which is the source of every virtue, and consequently weakens the hold of principle, and aims directly at the foundation of all religion.
2. Another fatal effect of it is to harden the heart. God would have every temporal blessing raise the inquiry, "Lord, what is man?" But wicked and irreligious men are only concerned for enjoyment, and for scope for their ambition. They feed and grovel like swine beneath the oak, without looking up to the boughs that bore the fruit or the hand that shakes it down. Hence prosperity is but a bad nurse to virtue, a nurse which is like to starve it in its infancy and to spoil it in its growth. The corrupt affection, which seemed dead and chill under the winter of affliction, is like the serpent warmed into life and venom by the sun of prosperity.
3. Then comes pride. Hezekiah shows his treasures. Nebuchadnezzar exclaims, Is not this Babylon? Pride and pomp. Then God is forgotten: prayer neglected. If Jeshurun wax fat, ten to one he kicks against Him who made him so.
4. Leaves a dulness and lethargy of mind. All Divine threatenings, warnings, promises unheeded.
III. Various ways in which God rebukes this tendency and humbles men.
God speaks to men in various ways, and He distinctly marks the various impressions produced upon the mind by His communications. He speaks to us by His Word and ordinances, by the instructions we receive in religious education, by the various dispensations of His providence, by affliction, by mercies, all are the voice of God to man. "I spake."
The externals of life undesirable. "Give me neither poverty nor riches."
The care of the soul is "the one thing needful."
Immediately apply to Christ.
—Samuel Thodey, A.D. 1828.
SERMON TO THE YOUNG.
"This has been thy manner from thy youth" (Jer ).
The habits formed in youth generally continue in future life. The early customs of Judah led on to the settled condition of indifference to God's calls and counsels.
I. Mankind generally continue to live according to the habits formed in youth.
There are some exceptions. Youths who were profligate have in after life become godly, &c. By the period of youth I mean from, say twelve to twenty-five: this is the season when habits are formed. And the words of the text will apply to those
1. Whose life is given to the luxury of pleasure.
2. Who pass the season of youth in indulging in gross vices. (a.) To the Sabbath-breaker; (b.) to the profane; (c.) to the drunkard.
3. Equally relevant to vices of the mind. (a.) Selfishness; (b.) pride; (c.) malignity.
4. So also as regards their attitude towards religion. (a.) Those who pass their youth in a merely formal regard to the external duties of religion usually become formalists. (b.) Those who practise guile and deceit become hypocritical. (c.) Those who in youth slight the Gospel, in old age are seen to be unfeeling and hardened. (d.) Those who are sceptical frequently become confirmed infidels.
Youth is generally the season when a decision is made either in favour of religion or against.
II. Custom in any course generally issues in confirmed habits. "This has been thy manner from thy youth."
1. The commencement of a course in life is often attended with a struggle and with difficulties. When a young person begins a sinful course, there is the struggle against instruction, remonstrances of conscience, &c. So also in a religious career.
2. But continuance in a course renders habits congenial and easy. So difficult then is it for those who have accustomed themselves to pursue evil ways to desist, that little hope is entertained for a change. "Shall the Ethiopian change his skin?" &c. "This has been thy manner from thy youth."
III. Solemn uses to which these truths may be applied.
You are old enough now to decide your future. You are now in the most important season of your life. Accept
1. A few cautions.
(1.) Guard against slighting parental instruction. (2.) Against slighting the gospel. (3.) Against slighting the Sabbath. (4.) Avoid also ungodly companions.
2. A few exhortations—founded upon the fact that your future life may be expected to correspond with the habits formed in youth.
(1.) Accustom yourselves to consider your accountability to God. "Remember now thy Creator in the days of thy youth;" and think that for the sins and habits of your youth He will require an account in the day of judgment. (2.) Study the Sacred Book by which your future should be directed.
(3.) Decide early in favour of religion. This will be the best security from the evils to which you will surely be exposed. It will equip you to be useful in life. It will ensure your future happiness. It will prepare you for death. There is another world beyond the present.—Old MS.
Jer . Theme: HASTENING DESOLATIONS.
Judah and Jerusalem, spoken to as an individual, appear in a threefold character.
i. Very haughty in the day of peace and safety (Jer ). It is common for those who live at ease to live in contempt of the Word of God. This is so much the worse because it is habitual—"thy manner from thy youth."
ii. Very timorous at the alarms of trouble (Jer ). When "thy lovers," idols and foreign alliances, fail thee, thou wilt ascend the mountains and cry for help (Jer 22:20); but all in vain (Jer 22:22).
iii. Very tame under the heavy and lasting pressures of trouble (Jer ). "Ashamed and confounded," &c. Many will never be ashamed of their sins till they are brought by them to their last extremity. She was proud and self-secure in her prosperity (Jer 22:23), "made her nest in cedars:" but in her humiliation she will promise God to be humble and amend her ways: "how gracious wilt thou be," &c.—Henry.
Jer . Theme: THE PUNISHMENT OF THE IMPENITENT.
Such punishment is both—(a) inevitable: (b) justifiable.
I. Awful instances in which God has verified this declaration.
1. The apostate angels. 2. Our first parents. 3. Destruction of mankind by the Flood. 4. The children of Israel. 5. Moses, David, the disobedient prophet. 6. The death of Christ as man's substitute.
II. Reasons which support this declaration.
1. Not a disposition to give pain: nor a desire for revenge. 2. It is the nature and tendency of sin to produce misery.—Payson.
Theme: WOE TO CONIAH.
Here, in this malediction, the prophet describes Jehoiachin under three similes:—
I. A signet plucked from God's hand. A signet was like the "great seal" of England, the badge of office. It meant the loss of kingship and royal authority.
1. Plucked off by God Himself (Jer ). So that God by special action renounces this godless king.
2. Handed over to the Chaldean tyrant (Jer ). Thus God puts him, entirely separated from Himself, into the power of Nebuchadnezzar; "without God in the world"—given over to the foe!
Zerubbabel, God's servant, the nephew of Jeconiah, was made by God "as a signet" (comp. Hag ; see also Gen 41:42; 1Ki 21:8; Est 3:10; Est 8:2; Dan 6:17; 2Ti 2:19; Rev 7:3; Rev 9:4).
Jeconiah was a signet, but plucked and cast away. After only three months' reign, he was carried captive to Babylon.
Thus God can "put down the mighty from their seats, and exalt them of low degree" (Luk ).
II. A cherished idol despised (Jer ). Coniah was once idolised by the Jews; and great things had been expected of him. Indeed it was hoped he would frustrate the Chaldean power, avert or bring back Judah from the Chaldean captivity, and thus falsify Jeremiah's sad prediction.
He had also been exalted by Jehovah as king of God's favoured and covenant people.
Henry states these facts thus:
1. Time was when he was dignified, almost deified. But now that he is deposed, he is despised. "What is unjustly honoured will be justly contemned; and rivals with God will be the scorn of men."
2. Time was when he was delighted in. But now he is "a vessel in which is no pleasure," because either out of fashion or unserviceable. Those whom God has no pleasure in will some time or other be so mortified that men will have no pleasure in them (see Psa ; Hos 8:8).
III. A king deprived of posterity (Jer ). Jeconiah was not literally childless (comp. Jer 22:28 : "his seed," 1Ch 3:17-18; Mat 1:12); but was to be "written" lineally childless. Messiah was only lineally descended from Jeconiah through Joseph, who though His legal was not His real father. The succession to the throne failed in his line: nevertheless, the promise to David (Psa 89:30-37) was revived in Zerubbabel, and consummated in Christ.
The king who succeeded Jeconiah was his uncle Zedekiah, and with him the Hebrew monarchy as a visible institution was destroyed.
See Addenda: WRITTEN CHILDLESS.
Eusebius, the historian (Eccles. Hist. iii. 20), says, "Jeconiah was the last king of David's line. His uncle indeed actually reigned after him, but perished with his sons long before Jeremiah's death (chap. Jer ). In the legal genealogies Salathiel (Heb. Shealtiel), who was descended from David through his son Nathan, is counted as his son, but neither he nor Zerubbabel prospered so as to sit on David's throne. And gradually their descendants became so insignificant as to be but ‘a cut-down tree' (Isa 11:1), and ‘a dry ground' (Isa 53:2). When from this uncrowned lineage Christ had come, and the growing strength of Christianity had aroused the jealous fears of Domitian, he caused a search to be made for the descendants of David; but when they were brought before him, they proved to be such simple country people that he despised them and let them go."
1. From so proud an ancestor no descendant of note ever rose upon the notice of history.
2. Yet from a family so utterly fallen, came the King of kings and Lord of lords.
Jer . Theme: MISSIONARY SERMON. GOD'S CALL TO THE WORLD.
Judah would not heed or believe God's message (Jer ); so God appeals to the world to record His denunciations and watch their fulfilment. The treble repetition of "earth" emphasises the appeal: it is therefore urgent that earth should hear God's Word. The repetition is also an intensitive form, and expresses God's earnestness in making this call to "earth."
I. The whole wide earth engages God's solicitude.
1. As His creative product. He formed the world; and peopled it.
2. As His undivided possession. Satan may deem himself "god of this world," but it is only a temporary and delusive occupancy. "The earth is the Lord's and the fulness thereof; the world, and they that dwell therein." "All souls are Mine."
3. As the sphere of His benignant rule. He works not locally, in limited territories, bounded by narrow geographical lines: but over the wide world His Providence works. As wide as the light of His sun floods, &c., so is His rule. "He doeth according to His will among the inhabitants of the world." "The nations are but as a drop in the bucket," &c. None overlooked. There is not an isolated spot on earth where God has not worked, adorning it with life and beauty.
4. The whole round world is man's sphere of being. And "His delights are with the sons of men." This is regardless of national divisions. "God hath made of one blood all the nations for to dwell upon the earth."
5. God is intent on making the entire globe the theatre of His most glorious reign. "The uttermost parts of the earth" are to share in His glory. "All men shall be blessed in Him, and all nations call Him blessed."
II. To the whole wide earth God addresses His messages.
1. Under Old Testament dispensations there were world-wide communications which overleaped the restrictions of Judaism. The Jews would have kept Jehovah to themselves, and all His revelations. But many grand truths were gathered into the Mosaic code, the Jewish Scriptures, which were for all people. The Sabbath was not for the Jews alone, but a law for all nations and all time. God's character declared on Sinai was a revelation for every one. His words of mercy to sinners, "Come, let us reason together," "Let the wicked forsake his way," &c., were without any Jewish limitation. "In every nation he that feareth God and worketh righteousness is accepted of Him" (Act ).
2. Prior to the Gospel, God gathered the whole world into His love. The Gospel but expressed that love. "He so loved that He gave His Son." Glad fact that the love of God is older than the Incarnation. It is everlasting love—universal love.
3. Jesus Christ proclaimed the universal religion. God's message to sinners. "Go ye into all the world and preach the Gospel to every creature."
4. In God's revelations there is adaptation to and provision for the whole earth. Warnings: counsels: invitations: pleadings: promises.
"Enough for each, enough for all."
III. Over the whole wide earth His Word is to be proclaimed.
1. By human lips. Jeremiah is the speaker. Men who know the "Word of the Lord" must tell it.
2. With impassioned earnestness. Pleading and appealing. "O earth, earth, earth!" Enthusiasm should impel us.
3. With restless urgency. "Not holding our peace day or night, we that make mention of the Lord."
4. With dauntless persistency. Men will not heed the first cry—then cry again; "O earth, earth, EARTH!"
5. With universal fulness. Tell a Gospel which is "unto all people," to "all people;" till "every soul shall know the joyful sound:" till "Christ is Lord indeed."
See also Noticeable Topics: "GOD'S VOICE TO MAN."
NOTICEABLE TOPICS IN CHAPTER 22
Topic: WAR THEME: GRIEF FOR THOSE WHO HAVE GONE AWAY TO WAR. (Jer .)
For those who, as soldiers or seamen, have left their native country, there is more occasion to mourn than for "the quiet dead."
Notice some of the TEMPTATIONS, TRIALS, and DANGERS to which they are exposed.
I. Temptations to vice, which meet those who leave virtuous homes and enter the camp or the ship of war. They may have been the children of many prayers, &c. But away from home restraints—the scoffer's jest, licentious inducements, the gambling table, allure them from Bible-reading, Sabbath reverence, &c., and they go down to graves of infamy and woe. Of how many such is it true, that
"Doubly dying, they go down
To the vile dust from whence they sprang,
Unwept, unhonoured, and unsung."
II. Exposure to sickness and death, when far removed from home and those who love them. It may be "easy to die in battle" where the spirit is stirred to a courageous madness, and
"Fame is there to tell who bleeds,
And Honour's eye's on daring deeds."
But to waste away by sickness through exposure to drenching rains and deadly climate, to be crushed or mangled by a blow, and left to rude attentions until death ends all!
III. Ponder the horrors of captivity to which battles expose soldiers and sailors. The crowded prison-cell, scanty food and drink, fiend-like foes, and sufferings and cruelties inflicted on the conquered: from such horrors we turn away in bitter indignation and anguish; feeling and saying—
"O judgment! thou hast fled to brutish beasts,
And men have lost their reason!"
IV. The horrors of the battle-field. Truly, "every battle of the warrior is with confused noise, and garments rolled in blood." The maimed and mangled left to bleed and die! Or turn to naval battles, where are bursting shells, shattered masts, gory decks, shrieks of anguish, and heaps of slain!
V. Brutalising effect of war on soldiers. What secret theft, open and violent robbery, the outrages on virtue and humanity, now abandoned to the heat of passion, to unbridled lust, &c.
Such is war: cruel and relentless, with hands of violence and eyes of flaming rage, with gory locks and crimson banners, &c. The rejoicing of nations for victories won is mingled with the wail of the widow, the cry of the orphan, the anguish of parents bereaved.
All this should constrain us to
1. Do all we can for the spiritual good of our army and navy. Succour them with all bodily comforts amid the miseries of battle, but write them personal letters when we can, and also send them messengers and ministers of sacred truth.
2. Pray for them that God may restrain them from temptations and lead them as good soldiers of the Cross to triumph over their spiritual foes. Thus, should they die, we may hope they would gain the victor's crown of life on high.
The more we do for the spiritual good of our national defenders the sooner may we hope for enduring national peace, and for the coming years of universal peace: when
"No more shall nation against nation rise,
Nor ardent warriors meet with hateful eyes,
Nor fields with gleaming steel be covered o'er,
The brazen trumpets kindle rage no more;
But useless lances into scythes shall bend,
And the broad falchion in the ploughshare end."
—Rev. Charles Rockwell, New York, 1864.
Topic: GOD'S VOICE TO MAN. "O earth, hear the word of the Lord" (Jer ).
The Bible is the Word of God, and every man is interested in its contents. It is God's own message to His own world—a message transparent with light and warm with love. It brings, as we believe, its own evidence of its truth, the credentials of its Divine original in every page—for the best argument in favour of the Bible is the Book itself—in the grandeur of its doctrines, in the purity of its precepts, in the richness of its promises; in the faithfulness of its warnings, and above all in its complete adaptation to the state and condition of guilty man; revealing as it does an atoning sacrifice and a sanctifying Spirit, a sacrifice worthy of God to accept, and equal to the salvation of a fallen world. The evidences of this religion, sustained as they have been by MIRACLE and by PROPHECY, have been sufficient to satisfy the keenest inquiry of the wisest and best of men, and to guide countless myriads in their path to heaven, who, living, have owned its power, and dying, have rejoiced in its grace. We may go round to all the varieties of this world's population and say, O earth, earth, earth, hear the Word of the Lord, assured of finding a ready echo and response in every honest and penitent mind. The great doctrine this text contains is the importance of listening to the Bible as the voice of God. Hear the Word.
I. Specify some respects in which we should hear God's voice.
1. In the still small voice of heavenly mercy.
This threefold adjuration supposes great indifference, great reluctance on man's part to listen to God's voice of mercy. We might well ask, Are the inhabitants of the world dead or deaf that God calls the cold and barren earth to listen to His Word when man would not?
The Gospel itself, though it proclaims peace on earth and goodwill to man, is coldly regarded. How striking that announcement of the angels, "unto you is born a Saviour;" to you MEN, not to US ANGELS. There was no olive branch in their deluge: no brazen serpent in their rebellious camp: no city of refuge in all their courts: no star of Bethlehem in their sky: no "mighty to save" travailed in the greatness of His strength on their behalf. When angels sinned, justice took its own unfettered course; but when Adam fell, a Saviour was provided.
"From heaven the sinning angels fell,
And wrath and vengeance chained them down;
But man, vile man, forsook his bliss,
And mercy lifts him to a crown."
It is under this last best dispensation of heavenly truth and grace that we are living. O listen to the still small voice of eternal mercy.
2. In the loud thunder of God's providential dispensation.
God calls attention to the overthrow of Judea and its monarchy. It is, therefore, to the crash of falling thrones and of extinguished dynasties that God appeals, to teach His people that sin is a great destroyer; for wherever guilt reigns, the pale angel of retribution is sure to follow. The Bible is the interpreter of Providence, and Providence is the best interpreter of the Bible. The Jews have a saying, "That God spake as truly to Israel by His ten plagues in Egypt, as He did by His ten words on Sinai." We are exhorted to hear the Rod and Him that appointed it; and we are sure that, sooner or later, they who will not hear His voice in His WORD, must be made to feel the weight of His ROD.
3. In your personal and relative afflictions, God speaks and demands a hearing.
The various methods in which God meets with man and causes solemn warnings to affect the heart, form a striking part of His procedure; and every such appeal rejected will constitute a fearful item in our last account. God has been no niggard in His communications, and has studied economy in nothing so little as in the impressions and convictions He conveys to the guilty conscience. Men are met, day by day, in their business, in their families, in their public walks, in their private retirements, in the exchange of merchandise, in the temple of religion, with warning voices and monitions, of which God is the immediate author. In every family affliction, in every sudden death, in every instance of wounded affection, or disappointed ambition, or ruined hope, and in the overwhelming dismay created by the prospect of poverty on the one hand, or by the removal from our side of those upon whose right arm we leaned, God comes very near to us, and seems to say in accents we cannot misunderstand, "Now I will be seen; now I will make Myself heard." God speaks to us from the grave of a friend; from the cradle of a child; from the death of an enemy; and from the great changes and losses always going on in the troubled theatre of human affairs, "The Lord's voice crieth unto the city," in every variety of accent, "O earth, earth, earth, hear the Word of the Lord."
It has often been remarked that in the time of the great plague in Florence, in Venice, and in London, those who escaped became more dissipated and abandoned to evil than ever, acting upon the libertine sentiment, "Let us eat and drink, for to-morrow we die." Affliction where it does not soften, only hardens the more.
4. In the ample promises and encouragements addressed to returning penitents.
To humble the sinner and to exalt the Saviour is the leading design of the whole Record, but it is the death of the sin and not the death of the soul that God contemplates. Truly the case of the long-hardened sinner is mournful and hazardous, but it is not either remediless or desperate, seeing that there is a great sacrifice provided for sin, and an all-sufficient Saviour revealed in the Gospel.
Yet think not that repentance and faith, important as they are in the order of means, can be in any sense the meritorious conditions of salvation. This were to put those things in Christ's stead, which are only the stepping-stones in our way to Him. It is not the virtue of our believing, but the merit of Him in whom we believe that avails for acceptance and pardon.
Nor is it to the strength of our faith merely that the promise is made, but to the reality of it. The weak hand of a child may hold that precious pearl which worlds want wealth to buy; and faith which is as a grain of mustard-seed has power to remove mountains.
Come, upon the strength of His own invitation: or let urgent and desperate necessity be your warrant, for you must perish if you stay away. Let the acceptance which others have found induce you to come; for their experience is your encouragement. Let the wonders of His redemptive work urge your footsteps towards His throne. Return to Me, for I have redeemed thee. Every leaf of His Book has a voice to say RETURN. All the threatenings and all the promises say RETURN all His judgments and all His mercies say RETURN. The whole intelligent universe would seem to have but one voice. Voices from heaven and voices from hell say RETURN. If the redemption of the soul be precious, RETURN. If the terrors of hell be awful, if the joys of heaven be attractive, RETURN. "O earth, earth, earth, hear the Word of the Lord."
II. Enumerate some reasons why the whole earth is interested in these communications.
i. Because the Gospel shows the only plan of salvation.
ii. Because the progressive improvement and advancement of the race is connected with this message.
Christian nations have been distinguished by intelligence. The spirit of science rests solely with them: in dark ages it burnt in secret. Since the Reformation the progression of knowledge has been constant. In the East the mind has lost somewhat of its capacity and power. In the West, under the auspices of Christianity, men appear to have attained a vigour in intellectual exertions. An impregnable barrier is fixed against the return of general ignorance and barbarism.
iii. Because the success of missionary work shows the practicability of diffusing it.
iv. Because the signs of the times are in direct accord with the promises of God.
ADDENDA TO CHAPTER 22 ILLUSTRATIONS AND SUGGESTIVE EXTRACTS
Jer . WEEP NOT FOR THE DEAD.
"Weep not for the dead," i.e., of Jehoiakim, who died on the road when taken captive.
"Weep for him that goeth away," i.e., Jehoiachin, who was a prisoner thirty-seven years, and ultimately died in captivity.
The prophet says they should not weep for Jehoiakim, for he died at once, a death common to mortals, but should weep for Jehoiachin, because he lingered in wretchedness and dishonour, and never returned to his beloved country.
So enlarging on the evils of the Captivity, he would not have them weep for the warriors of the house of David who had died in honourable conflicts, and who had slept in sepulchres of their ancestors, but for those who had been taken captive, and died away from home.
The ancients in the Gemara say, "Weep not for the dead"—that is immoderately: three days are allowed for weeping; on the seventh the obsequies are performed; after which they dress not showily, but shave and anoint. "But weep for him that goeth"—that is, childless. Our sages apply this moral, that in our feelings we should combine nature with Scripture; meaning, feel as mortals, but with moderation as Israelites, to whom it was forbidden to indulge in the excesses of the heathen, and who might hope to meet at the resurrection of the dead.
The ancients apply it to Abram and Esau (Gen ). Esau coming in, saw Jacob cooking lentiles—asking why? "For their grandfather, Abram," said Jacob, "it being food for mourners." Esau said, "Is it possible that upright man was included in the pain of death? Then there is no reward nor resurrection," and he resolved to sell his birthright as useless benefit. Weep not for dead, i.e., Abram; but for him that goeth, i.e., Esau, who went and despised his primogeniture. Conciliator: By R. M. BEN ISRAEL (E. H. Linto.)
Vide Kitto's Daily Readings: "ISAIAH AND THE PROPHETS," on this verse.
Jer . COVETOUSNESS. "Some men are so covetous, as if they were to live for ever; and others so profuse, as if they were to die the next moment."—Aristotle.
"The covetous man lives as if the world were made altogether for him, and not he for the world, to take in everything and part with nothing."—South.
"The covetous man pines in plenty, like Tantalus up to the chin in water and yet thirsty."—Adams.
BUILDETH BY UNRIGHTEOUSNESS. Such injurious and therefore accursed builders were the pyramid-makers in Egypt. Tarquinius Priscus, Caligula, Nero, Phocas, who is said to have heard this voice of heaven—"Though thou shouldst erect thine edifice as high as heaven, yet sin that lieth at the foundation will soon overturn all." Bernard inveigheth against some in his time who did with great care and cost (erigere muros, negligere moros) build high manors, but not amend their manners.—Trapp.
Jer . "BURIAL OF AN ASS." He who had such a stately house in Jerusalem should not have a grave to house his carcase in. Our Richard III., for his exactions to maintain a great court and favourites, lost his kingdom, was starved to death at Pomfret Castle, and scarce afforded common burial. King Stephen was interred in Faversham monastery, but since, his body, for the gain of the lead wherein it was coffined, was cast into the river. Let great ones so live as that they meet not in the end with the death of a dog, the burial of an ass, and the epitaph of an ox, such as Aristotle calleth that of Sardanapalus—" ταῦτʼ ἔχω εφαγον καὶ εφύβρισσα," &c.—Trapp.
THE SINNER'S BURIAL.
"Wrapt in a Christless shroud,
He sleeps a Christless sleep;
Above him the eternal cloud,
Beneath, the fiery deep.
Laid in a Christless tomb,
There bound with felon-chain,
He waits the terrors of his doom,
The judgment and the pain.
O Christless shroud, how cold!
How dark, O Christless tomb!
O grief that never can grow old!
O endless, hopeless doom.
O Christless sleep, how sad!
What waking shalt thou know?
For thee no star, no dawning glad,
Only the lasting woe!
To rocks and hills in vain
Shall be the sinner's call;
O day of wrath, and death, and pain,
The lost soul's funeral!
O Christless soul, awake,
Ere thy last sleep begin!
O Christ, the sleeper's slumbers break;
Burst Thou the bands of sin."
Jer . PROSPERITY. "It is the bright day that brings out the adder." "Too much sail is dangerous."—Common Proverbs.
"No sooner does the warm aspect of good fortune shine, than all the plans of virtue, raised like a beautiful frostwork in the winter of adversity, thaw and disappear."—Warburton.
"Prosperity is the blessing of the Old Testament." [How many eminent saints from being poor grew rich, as Abraham, Jacob, Joseph, David, Daniel.] "Adversity is the blessing of the New Testament." [As we see in Peter, James, John, Paul," &c.].—Lord Bacon.
"What shall I come to, father," said a young man, "if I go on prospering in this way?" "To the grave," replied the father.
"Men are usually best when worst, and worst when best; like the snake which being frozen lieth quiet and still, but waxing warm, stirreth and stingeth. It is as hard to bear prosperity as to drink much wine and not be giddy. In rest we contract rust."—Trapp.
"Who feels no ills
Should therefore fear them; and, when fortune smiles,
Be doubly cautious, lest destruction come
Remorseless on him, and he fall unpitied."
"More ships in calms on a deceitful coast,
Or unseen rocks, than in high storms, are lost."
"Behold, Sir Balham, now a man of spirit,
Ascribes his gettings to his parts and merit;
What late he called a blessing, now was wit,
And God's good Providence a lucky hit.
Things change their titles as their manners turn:
His counting house employed the Sabbath morn:
Seldom at church ('twas such a busy life),
But duly sent his family and wife."—Pope.
Jer . WRITTEN CHILDLESS. "As to succession in the royal dignity as well as to success in his reign. This God would have to be written—put upon public record for the use of posterity. Our chronicles tell us of John Dudley, that great Duke of Northumberland in King Edward VI.'s days, who endeavoured by all means to engrand his posterity, reaching at the crown also, which cost him his head; that though he had six sons, all men, all married, yet none of them left any issue behind them. ‘Be wise now, therefore, O ye kings; serve the Lord with fear.'"—Trapp.
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Exell, Joseph S. "Commentary on Jeremiah 22". Preacher's Complete Homiletical Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/
the Third Sunday after Epiphany