CRITICAL AND EXEGETICAL NOTES.—1. Chronology of the Chapter.—The chapter is an epilogue to the denunciations of the three kings in chap. 22. It must have been written and proclaimed about the beginning of Zedekiah's reign, for a warning to him, from the examples of his predecessors, of the consequences of unrighteousness. Cf. notes on chap. Jer .
2. Contemporary Scriptures.—2Ki ; 2Ch 36:10-12. Comp. Jer 52:1-3.
For 3. National Affairs, and 4. Contemporaneous History. See notes on chap. Jer .
5. Geographical References.—Jer . "Samaria:" here alluded to as the territory of the ten tribes of Israel, in contrast with "Jerusalem" (Jer 23:14), the territory of Ephraim and Judah. Jer 23:14. "Sodom and Gomorrah:" two cities "of the plain," standing close together, in or near the vale of Siddim (Gen 10:19; Gen 13:10); overthrown B.C. 2064, for their atrocious wickedness (Gen 18:20; Rom 9:29). Their doom is held up as a warning to the children of Israel (Deu 29:23), and forms a standing illustration of abandoned iniquity (Deu 32:32; Isa 1:9-10;) and in this verse. Josephus states that the Dead Sea now fills the valley in which these "cities of the plain" stood (Ant. i. 9), but elsewhere affirms (War, iv. 8, 4) that the site of Sodom was not submerged, but remains a burnt and charred scene. Pilgrims to Palestine formerly saw, or thought they saw, ruins of towns at the bottom of the Dead Sea, not far from the shore.
6. Personal Allusions.—Jer . "David." Comp. Homily on Jer 23:24 of chap. 22 for the lineal royal connection with David.
7. Natural History.—Jer . "Branch." This word Tsemach occurs also in chap. Jer 33:15; Zec 3:8; Zec 4:12, and denotes a springing or budding plant—"a sprout." Dr. Payne Smith remarks: "A tree has many branches, and these can be pruned away without killing the tree, but the sprout is that in which the root springs up and grows, and which, if it be destroyed, makes the root perish also. For its use, see Gen 19:25; Isa 61:11, in both which places it springs directly out of the ground; also Eze 16:7; Eze 17:9; Hos 8:7, where it is translated either bud or spring."
Jer . "Wormwood and gall:" cf. notes on chaps. Jer 9:15, and Jer 8:14.
Jer . "Chaff and wheat:" cf. Homily on verse infra.
8. Manners and Customs.—Jer . "I have dreamed, I have dreamed:" Professional "dreamers" early appeared (see Deu 18:1), for superstitious people in all ages have given ready credulity to these false visionists.
9. Literary Criticisms.—Jer . "A King shall reign and prosper." Rather, "He shall reign as king and prosper;" as contrasted with chap. Jer 23:30.
Jer . "His name whereby He shall be called, THE LORD OUR RIGHTEOUSNESS." "He shall be called" is more properly "he shall call him:" i.e., either "God shall," &c., or "he shall"—each shall. Several MSS., however, read, יִקְרְאוּ plural, "they shall call him," instead of יִקְרְאוֹ singular. "THE LORD OUR RIGHTEOUSNESS:" Jehovah Tsidkenu. Criticism has attempted to make "Jehovah" the nominative of "shall call,"—"Jehovah shall call him, "our Righteousness:" thus destroying the compound name, and depriving the Messiah of the title of Deity: but Henderson affirms, and in this is sustained by the consensus and weight of modern scholarship, that "to make יְהֹוָה the nominative of the verb (shall call) is to contradict all Hebrew usage, according to which the name given, and not the person who gives the name, immediately follows the verb.
Jer . "Profaneness gone forth"—profanation, desecration.
Jer . "Imagination"—stubbornness.
Jer . "Behold, a whirlwind," &c. The verse should read, Behold, a tempest (storm wind) of Jehovah! Fury is gone forth (or, even hot anger is gone forth); and a whirlwind ( סַעַר מִתחוֹלֵל a tornado, whirling storm) shall be hurled (or burst) upon the head of the wicked.
Jer . "Is not My word like as a fire?" The presence of the word כה, thus, in this sentence gives rise to the suggestion that formerly it was כח, strength or power. The Targum reads: "Are not all My words strong like fire?" Probably this suggested the word in Heb 4:12, "quick and powerful."
Jer . "That use their tongues and say, He saith." Not נְאֻם יהֹוָה, saith Jehovah, but only נְאֻס "saith."
Jer . "What burden?" The LXX. divide the words אֶת־מה־משּׂא, What burden? into only two sections, thus, אתם המּשּׂא, Ye are the burden; and with this reading, which is more rational, the following words accord: "Ye are the burden, and I will cast you away, saith the Lord." "Forsaken you," should be, refused you, thrown you off.
HOMILIES ON SECTIONS OF CHAPTER 23
Judah's restoration under Jehovah Tsidkenu.
False prophets and national levity denounced.
Section, Jer . JUDAH'S RESTORATION UNDER JEHOVAH TSIDKENU
Through the dark clouds gathering over Jerusalem there broke occasionally gleams of sunshine. The judgments which the prophet foretold were so terrible, and the ruin awaiting Judah so overwhelming, that Jeremiah and the small remnant of the true Israel remaining might have abandoned all hope.
But God relieved their despondency by the promise that, notwithstanding the judgments and calamities, He would again visit and redeem His people.
I. The prediction assumes that all the calamities which the prophet foretold would overtake Judah. These calamities threatened the kingdom, and also the very house of David: for the expression, "I will raise unto David a righteous Branch," conveys the idea of a tender sprout springing from the root of a tree cut down or seemingly dead.
II. Yet the prediction assured them that the promise would certainly be fulfilled. The positive fulfilment of the threatening would encourage the hope in the sure realisation of the promise, and give them encouragement amid the calamities.
III. There is here an obvious contrast between this promised King and all who ever held David's throne. He was to be righteous, to reign, to act wisely. How different from all kings before Him! Their impiety and folly had entailed ruin upon the people.
IV. The description of their future King could not fail to astonish them. It began by comparing Him to a bud, or tender shoot, from a tree cut down, and ended by ascribing to Him the great and fearful name of JEHOVAH! It must have awakened their admiration, reverence, confidence: for—
1. His being the offspring of David assured them of His tenderest sympathy in the well-being of Israel and Judah; and—
2. His being Jehovah gave still stronger assurance that nothing was too difficult to accomplish, and nothing would be left undone. And—
3. They were assured that His righteousness, power, and wisdom would be made available for securing the peace and prosperity of His people, as He was to be their Righteousness.
V. This promise has been fulfilled, and its hidden meaning unfolded. To God's ancient people obscurity must have hidden the true character of their king. The prophets themselves diligently sought a "private interpretation" of their own predictions. The Church at large was in mystery. But to us the mystery is all revealed.
VI. The great principle on which the whole scheme of redemption rests is here stated. "Righteousness."
1. It is only on the ground of perfect righteousness that God can accept and approve an intelligent creature.
2. Yet a sinner's restoration to righteousness was impracticable by and of himself. He fell under the power as well as condemnation of sin.
3. The two conditions of man's deliverance were, punishment due to sin already committed must be borne, and perfect compliance with the demand of the law must be rendered. Man was wholly incompetent.
4. The manifold wisdom of God is seen in His provision of what seemed impossible—perfect righteousness. "He shall be called Jehovah our righteousness."—Robert Gordon, D.D., F.R.S.C.—"Christ as made known to the Ancient Church."
I. A word of terror to the negligent shepherds (Jer ). The day is at hand when God would reckon with them concerning the trust committed to them.
1. They were not owners of the sheep. God calls them "the sheep of My pasture."
2. They had neglected the sheep. "Scattered the flock," &c.
3. They would be visited with vengeance. They would not "visit" the sheep; God would "visit" upon them the evil of their doings. See Addenda: NEGLIGENT PASTORS.
II. A word of comfort to the neglected sheep.
1. The dispersed people should be gathered happily into their own land, and under good government (Jer ).
2. Messiah, the good Shepherd of the sheep, would be raised up to bless and be the glory of His people Israel (Jer ).
3. This great salvation should far outshine Israel's deliverance from Egypt (Jer ).
III. An illustrious description of the promised Messiah.
1. Christ is here spoken of as the Branch from David. Mean in appearance; His beginnings small; His rise seemingly out of the earth, but growing to be green, to be great, and to be loaded with fruits.
2. He is here spoken of as the Church's King. He shall reign on the throne of His father David, and he shall prosper, and not, as the degenerate kings had done, go back in their affairs. He shall set up a kingdom in the world, which shall be victorious over all opposition. And in these days of Christ's government, "Judah shall be saved," &c. When He reigns uppermost in the soul, the soul dwells at ease.
3. He is here spoken of as The Lord our Righteousness. (1.) Who and what He is. As God, "Jehovah;" denoting His eternity and self-existence. As Mediator, "our Righteousness." All our righteousness has its being from Him; and we are made the righteousness of God in Him. (2.) The profession and declaration of this. "This is the name by which," &c. Not only shall He be so, but He shall be known to be so. God shall call Him by this name: and Israel shall so call Him: and every true believer shall know and call upon Him by that name.—Matthew Henry.
Section, Jer .—FALSE PROPHETS, AND THE NATIONAL LEVITY DENOUNCED
Jeremiah's deep distress under the necessity of declaring the dreadful woes which God bade him utter (Jer ).
I. Delusive prophesyings.
1. Criminal teachers (Jer ). Their wicked teachings had led to apostasy in Samaria, and effrontery in Jerusalem.
2. Deluded hearers (Jer ). They "hearkened" readily; were rendered "vain;" grew to "despise" God; and still expected "peace."
3. A demoralised nation (Jer ). Abandoned to vileness of conduct; to profanity of speech; perversity of life ("course evil"); and resolute defiance ("their force is not right").
4. God's revulsion at such scenes (Jer ). The conduct of the Baal-priests in Samaria stirred God's contempt; but the vile corruptions of the Jerusalem priests aroused His loathing and wrath.
5. God's remonstrance with the nation (Jer ). Though men mislead, God interposes with earnest appeals and honest counsels.
6. God's charge against the prophets (Jer ; Jer 23:21-22). They had neglected "the counsel of the Lord"; had spoken without a commission; and therefore misled God's people.
7. Sin's cruel seductions (Jer ). God gives them over to strong delusions; to inherit the miseries of their perversity.
8. Fierce anger against transgressors (Jer ). Mighty forces of destruction; working furious disaster upon the wrong-doers; allowing of no escape.
9. Bitter woes against the prophets (Jer ). Inward bitterness: enforced bitterness: God would fill them with the pangs of woe.
i. False teachers will taste the full "bitterness" of their wicked delusions.
ii. Wilful sinners shall be "driven on" in the slippery ways they prefer.
iii. No teachings which lead men to sin can have the sanction of God.
II. Frivolous dreamers.
1. False pretenders to Divine communications (Jer ). These dreamy surmisings are (1.) Traced to their origin ("the deceit of their own heart"); and (2.) Their baneful purpose is exposed ("they think to cause My people to forget My name," &c.).
2. A bold distinction between God's messages and such deceits (Jer ). The "dream" beguiles to delusions; the "word" burns all conceits and breaks all false confidences.
3. An all-observing Eye (Jer ). Deceivers are watched. Men cannot see through their fallacies, but God can. None deceive Him.
4. Stern denunciations of lying prophets, (1.) Their sinful practices; they "steal God's words" from true prophets and pervert or misapply them; they simulate a Divine authority for their false words, saying "He saith;" and they lead God's people "to err by their lightness." (2.) God's severe remonstrance; "I am against the prophets," and the "dreamers;" He would requite them for their deceptions and for the consequent errors of the people.
i. Promises of peace from men who lead us astray from God are mere "chaff" which the wind shall drive away.
ii. The "faithfulness" of God's Word distinguishes it from the delusions of human teachings.
III. Profane jesting. This charge is thrown upon the whole nation (Jer ). They so treated the messages of God's true prophet.
1. Retorting with banter and levity. Taking up Jeremiah's solemn words with derision, and tossing them about as if it all were a jest.
2. Trifling with messages from God (Jer ). Chaffing one another with being bearers of God's "burden;" and "perverting" Jehovah's "words."
3. Rejected by Jehovah with contempt (Jer ). God had forbidden this levity (Jer 23:38); and now would "cast off" the nation as a grievous and loathsome burden (Jer 23:39), and leave them to the "lasting shame" they so richly deserved (Jer 23:40).
i. Jesting with God's Word indicates the most daring impiety.
ii. Such lightness and profanity will prove a woful burden to the sinner and his everlasting reproach.
HOMILIES AND COMMENTS ON VERSES OF CHAPTER 23
Jer . Theme: FAITHLESS PASTORS: FAITHFUL SHEPHERDS.
I. Woful neglect of the flock of God.
1. On whom God charges this faithlessness. These "pastors" were the secular rulers, the unrighteous kings, mentioned in chap. 22, Jehoahaz, Jehoiakim, and Jeconiah. Note, the responsibility of civil rulers to God; for "By Me kings reign," &c. Hence argue: the obligations of all in power, whether that power be royal, civil, ecclesiastical, or pastoral, to rule and work for the highest good and the spiritual advantage of the people.
2. For what God threatens these shepherds. The flock was "destroyed;" i.e., it was no longer "the flock of God," for the nation was a wilful and wicked herd of goats; its pastoral simplicity had been ruined. And the flock was "scattered;" driven away from fidelity to God; equally from His nutritious pasturage; and literally from the fold they should have occupied, the land they should have continued to inhabit (Jer ). Negligent Shepherds harm the people temporally and spiritually; despoil them of the choicest blessings of this life—their spiritual comforts and heavenly hopes.
3. With what judgments God would visit such faithlessness. "Woe be to the pastors." "I will visit upon you the evil of your doings." With what measure ye mete it shall be measured to you again. The ruin of the flock would be requited by the ruin of the shepherds. (See Ezekiel 33.)
II. Benignant promise of faithful pastors.
Note that the words "pastors" and "shepherds" are different translations of the same Hebrew word (rim).
1. To that nation this was fulfilled in the raising up of religious and righteous rulers, Zerubbabel, Ezra, Nehemiah, and the Maccabees, who were not hereditary kings of the seed of David, but men raised up by God to govern His flock.
2. To the spiritual Israel this was fulfilled in the orders and ordinances of the Christian Church. No more have we the tyranny of secular kings within the Church; but Christ Himself is King. No longer have we the impiety of priests and Pharisees within the Church (as in the Jewish Synagogue); for the apostles of Christ began a line of earnest teachers and preachers who minister within the sanctuary: faithful pastors who love and tend "the flock of God over which the Holy Ghost has made them overseers."
3. To every soul within the Saviour's fold these assurances are now verified: "they shall fear no more, nor be dismayed, neither shall they be lacking, saith the Lord" (Jer ): for believers in Christ have Him for Shepherd (Psalms 24); and He both guards His fold from harm, and nourishes the souls of His flock.
"Fear no more:" it pledges a sense of security. Such is the luxury of Christian restfulness within the fold of and under the rule of Jesus our Lord. Safe in Christ.
"Nor be dismayed:" it guarantees protection from such neglect and exposure as a flock, faithlessly shepherded, would suffer. Saved by Christ.
"Neither shall they be lacking:" this means, not one sheep shall be missing. This is therefore a prophecy of Judah's restoration from Babylon; yet its fulness of significance can only be realised in the final restoration of both "Judah" and "Israel" (comp. Jer ) out of all countries—a prophecy never yet accomplished. While spiritually it foreshadows the gathering together of all Christ's redeemed, under the One Shepherd of the sheep.
See Addenda: NEGLIGENT PASTORS.
Jer . Theme: THE KINGDOM OF THE MESSIAH.
The prophetic writings are replete with appropriate and sublime descriptions of the personal appearing, redeeming works, and mediatorial offices of the promised Messiah. The text describes the Redeemer's character, as assuming human nature and establishing His kingdom of grace; and directs our attention to the following important truths:
I. The person of the Messiah.
"Behold the days come," &c. In these words we may observe three things relative to the coming Messiah:—
1. His human incarnation. "A Branch." This term is often used by the prophets to represent Christ's assumption of our nature as "the seed of the woman," according to the Divine promise (Gen ). To accomplish this and similar promises, the Lord declares in the text, "Behold the days come that I will raise unto David a righteous branch." The Father loved the world, promised, and actually "sent His Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, that we might live through Him." Thus, the Lord "raised" in the royal house and lineage of David "a Branch;" as it is written, "There shall come forth a rod out of the stem of Jesse, and a branch shall grow out of His roots." The scheme of redemption rendered it necessary for Christ to "take on Him the seed of Abraham," that He might suffer and die for our sins (Heb 2:10; Heb 2:17).
2. His personal perfection. "A righteous branch." In His essential nature as God, Jesus Christ was infinitely pure, holy, just, and good. And in His human nature as man He was perfectly righteous and sinless. Had not Christ been sinless, He could not have atoned for our sins.
3. His sovereign character. "A King shall reign." The Jews were taught to expect their Messiah as an illustrious Prince and prosperous monarch. But, in general, they mistook the precise meaning of the prophets, and expected Him as a temporal, and not as a spiritual, sovereign. He possessed every qualification requisite for the dignity of His character. He is infinite in wisdom, righteousness, power, and goodness. He is not only a Prophet to instruct, a Priest to atone, but also a King to rule and save His people.
II. The nature of His kingdom.
"A King shall reign and prosper," &c. The empire of Christ is of a complex character, and comprehends His vast dominion over all things, as the Creator and Preserver of mankind, and as the Redeemer and Saviour of them that believe. In this extended view the Messiah possesses:—
1. A universal kingdom. His presence fills all space, and His power is unlimited. He reigns in His providence over all His creatures, and is "the King of kings, and Lord of lords." He is the sovereign proprietor of all things, and sways His sceptre both in heaven and in earth. All things are dependent on His power, and subject to His control, "who is over all, God blessed for ever."
2. A mediatorial kingdom. This refers to Christ's official character, as the "mediator between God and man." When Christ engaged in the cause of our redemption. He founded a kingdom of mediation for the redemption of mankind. The Saviour reigns as the conqueror of all our enemies as "the Prince of Peace and the King of Zion," in His redeeming and mediatorial character (Php ).
3. A spiritual kingdom. The kingdom which Christ established in the work of redemption is designed in its personal influence to destroy sin, that "grace might reign through righteousness unto eternal life." Our Lord declares the kingdom of God is within you. It is an eternal empire of grace, producing righteousness, peace, and "joy in the Holy Ghost."
4. A celestial kingdom. Heaven is often denominated a kingdom, and is the promised inheritance of the Lord's faithful people (Luk ). The kingdom of grace here prepares and leads to the kingdom of glory hereafter. Christ waits to receive and welcome His followers into His everlasting kingdom, that they may participate His glory, dwell in His presence, and reign with Him for ever.
III. The character of His reign. "A king shall reign and prosper," &c.
1. Christ's reign is legitimate. He is no impostor. He reigns by rational and eternal right as Sovereign of the universe; and as mediator He reigns in the kingdom of grace by Divine appointment, authority, and sanction. The kingdom of Christ is founded on principles of sound reason, and therefore all rational beings ought to submit to His government.
2. Christ's reign is righteous. He is a merciful and gracious Sovereign, and though He "executes judgment and justice in the earth," it is in mercy and love to mankind.
3. Christ's reign is prosperous. Whatever opposition His kingdom meets with, "He shall prosper." All the schemes He adopts, and the means He employs, are devised by infinite wisdom and accompanied by omnipotent energy; and therefore His reign must succeed. His perfections, declarations, promises, gospel, and Spirit, secure the prosperity of His cause (Heb ; Dan 2:44; Joh 16:8).
4. Christ's reign is everlasting. All other kings are mortal, and therefore die and leave their dignities to their successors. All temporal kingdoms rise and fall, and will ultimately perish in the wreck of worlds; but Christ is the "King eternal and immortal, and His kingdom is an everlasting kingdom, and His dominion is from generation to generation."
To improve the subject, consider: The dignity of Christ's person and character, the folly and misery of His enemies, and the duty and happiness of His subjects.—Sketches of Sermons.
Theme: THE NATURE AND PROSPERITY OF MESSIAH'S REIGN.
Christ is described in His distinct and dissimilar parts of His character by Jeremiah: "A branch," to denote His human nature and origin: "the righteous branch," to denote His essential righteousness in Himself, and the source of righteousness to believers: and their "King," to direct attention to His spiritual dominion.
I. The character of Christ. There are three things we look for in a king:
1. Supreme power (Eph ; Rom 9:5).
2. Legislative authority. Christ's right to legislate, as being proprietor of all (Joh ; Col 1:16) and redeemer of all; for He "bought us with a price."
3. Righteous administration. There must be wisdom, or the monarch's reign would be one of folly; justice, or tolerate licentiousness; mercy, or be despotic (Mat ).
II. The nature of Christ's reign.
1. Spiritual. Seat of His government is in the human spirit (Luk ; Rom 14:17).
2. Equitable. Prohibits all evil, enjoins all good (Heb ).
3. Benevolent. Alexanders and Csars were "warriors with confused noise and garments rolled in blood;" but Christ (Isa ).
4. Perpetual. Earthly kingdoms may rise and fall (Isa ; Heb 1:8).
III. The prosperity with which His reign shall be attended. To prosper as king, implies:
1. To have an increase of willing subjects.
2. To have adequate provision for supply of all their wants.
3. To secure their real happiness (Psa ).
4. To subjugate or destroy His enemies (Isa ).
1. If Christ shall reign and prosper, how great is the folly of being His adversaries!
2. This subject should inspire the Christian with joy and gratitude (Act ; Rev 19:6-7).
3. We should do our utmost to extend the Redeemer's triumphs.—From
Sketches of Four Hundred Sermons.
Jer . Theme: A BRIGHT ERA FOR MANKIND. "In His days Judah shall be saved and Israel shall dwell safely."
Eagerly we scan those prophecies which open a gracious future for humanity. Especially when our Lord Jesus is predicted as being the author of that blissful change. For it is so desirable both for human good and the Saviour's glory.
(a.) The present prevailing irreligion, with all the force of a dark contrast, makes the outlook alluring to contemplate.
(b.) The slow progress of evangelisation gives zest to the anticipation of the grand success which shall come "in those days" through the direct interposition of Heaven.
HAS THIS PROPHECY BEEN FULFILLED? Does it allude to the spiritual salvation of the spiritual Judah as the result of gospel preaching in this Christian era? Or, to the final gathering together of Jews into their own land? Or, to the millennial day when the spiritual Israel will be made triumphant over all the forces of evil, and reign in peace and safety on the earth?
I. An age anticipated which shall belong to Christ. Called "His days."
1. Have those days been realised in the Christian era? Certainly Christianity in some sense has fulfilled this prediction. It is an era when, not Moses, but Christ gives the impress to, and dwells supreme in, the dispensation. Jesus is now "the Lord our Righteousness." And if we may interpret "Judah and Israel" spiritually, then He has "saved us."
But the ancient people of God are here literally meant. And they have not as yet come to call Jesus "the Lord our Righteousness;" they do not "dwell safely," for they are wanderers upon the earth. The promise in Jer has not yet been fulfilled even in a spiritual sense: Israel has not been all won to Christ.
2. Those days have yet to dawn. For when they come Israel shall acknowledge Christ.
(a.) There may be an actual fulfilment of this promise for the tribes of Judah and Israel. And who would not welcome it? for they have been a sad people long afflicted. Yet even more because of the promises which attend the time of their restoration (Rom ; Rom 11:15; Rom 11:25-26).
(b.) But the allusion may be to the millennial age: when (Jer ) the "King shall reign." We cannot say these are the days of Christ; for the devil rules a wider dominion! But "the kingdom of this world shall become the kingdom of our God and of His Christ." For this grand future pray, work, and hope.
II. The days of Christ's ascendancy shall be distinguished by the enjoyments of salvation.
(a.) Oppression and destruction marked the days of despotic monarchies—the Pharaohs, Nebuchadnezzar, Frederick the Great, Bonaparte.
(b.) Safety has not hitherto been the experience of the Jewish nation. Every age finds them a wronged and outraged people. But when Messiah comes they will be molested no more.
(c.) Neither has Israel, spiritually considered, dwelt safely. The souls of Christ's people are always imperilled and assailed by the forces of evil.
1. What do "safety and salvation" here mean?—If the Hebrew interpretation be correct, it means deliverance from the nations, and possession of their own country, where they would dwell in peace. If the spiritual interpretation be correct, it means, Christ's followers ransomed from the enemy, piety victorious over sin, earth won for Christ. Then the foe disturbs our peace no more, threatens our safety no more, either by insinuating doubt, planning temptation, or chilling love. What days those! when all will be blessed in Jesus; when all shall know the Lord, &c., and the Church shall be happy in Jesus' favour, free from the dread of ills!
2. In the individual believer these promises are already fulfilled. He is "saved," and "dwells safely" in Christ. But that personal bliss is the possession of few now. "Christ's days" shall spread it far and wide—to Jew and Gentile.
III. For the coming of Christ's days we may well with eagerness yearn.
1. They are desirable. What a joyous outlook! Ended our "sowing precious seed with tears," our grief over the desolations of sin, our shame for the scorn and rejection of Christ, our struggles with evil around.
2. We live amid danger now. Therefore anxiety and watchfulness: therefore peace is disturbed and joy marred. Then shall we realise rest and delight. "How long, O Lord, how long?" Not long, if we speed the time by diligent work—for the conversion of the heathen and the salvation of those who are near. Not long, if we speed the time by earnest prayer. "Thy kingdom come." Let us "give Him no rest till He arise and make Jerusalem a praise in the earth."
Jer . Theme: "THE LORD OUR RIGHTEOUSNESS." We may view this as—
I. An announcement of an important truth.
1. The Lord is our righteousness inasmuch as the purpose and plan of justifying sinners originated with Him.
2. Inasmuch as He Himself has alone procured righteousness for us.
3. Inasmuch as it is through His grace and by His free donation that we receive righteousness.
II. An utterance of personal belief and confidence.
The language of faith, hope, joy, gratitude.
III. A directory to the spiritual inquirer.
Anxious sinners wish to know the way of acceptance with God. The text is a brief but satisfactory answer.—Dr. W. Lindsay-Alexander (of Edinburgh), "The Hive."
Theme: CHRIST'S SUPREME NAME.
Redemption by a crucified Redeemer is the capital theme of Divine revelation. It is completely interwoven with the golden network of the prophetic page—for to Him give all the prophets witness—whilst the evangelists echo and re-echo the exhaustless theme.
The Gospel is not known as a system of promises simply, though these are exceedingly great and precious; not as a system of morals, though its morality is of the highest kind; nor as a system of legislation simply, though it contains the code of God's moral government; but it is pre-eminently known as a system of reconciliation.
This doctrine forms the key to the Christian system. To this one work all dispensations point. This all sacrifices illustrate. This all promises embody. This all Providence is bowed to subserve. This all heaven stoops to witness. This all hell resists and opposes. This all bad men revile or neglect. This all good men venerate and love. Surely shall one say, In the Lord Jehovah have I righteousness and strength. "This is the name by which He shall be called," etc.
It is common with the prophets to console the Jews under their calamities with the prospect of Messiah's approach, as a proof that if the Church was to be preserved till His coming, it should not be destroyed in its present exigency. Here the transit is easy from the corrupt pastors that destroyed Israel to the true Shepherd who should redeem it. He was to be the descendant of their shepherd-king.
1. Exhibit the delightful character under which Christ is portrayed.
2. Specify some of the circumstances that put an emphasis and value upon the redemption He has achieved.
I. Exhibit the delightful character under which Christ is here presented. The Lord is our righteousness.
Every title which Christ bears opens a source of consolation to His people. They are so many beautiful notices of Himself, and shadow forth blessings.
i. In His essential dignity. "The Lord." Jehovah. Incommunicableness.
We are thus led up before the springs of Time. "His goings forth have been of old from everlasting." Before the dayspring knew its place. All things were derived from Him; He was before all things were; He shall be when they cease to exist. The message to the seven churches begins with, "Grace, mercy, peace, from Him THAT IS, and WAS, and is to COME, the Almighty:" and He who there speaks says, "I am Alpha and Omega." The JEHOVAH of the Old Testament is the LORD of the New: the seed of David: over all God.
All the evidence concurs in this, that the Redeemer of the world was to be Divine as well as human. This was necessary that He might transact our salvation on equal terms, and that the virtue of His offering might be available and efficacious on our behalf. Take away His humanity, and He would have no sacrifice to offer: take away His divinity, and His sacrifice would have no inherent merit. The doctrines of Christ's merit and of Christ's Divinity are inseparable, for if the one be removed, the other must fall, of course; and with them the whole fabric of our redemption.
ii. His mediatorial office. "Our righteousness." So important is this that our Lord takes His name from it. It is the title by which He loves to be distinguished, and all who would speak to His honour must make mention of His righteousness. It was no unusual thing for the warriors, princes, and great men of antiquity to take their names from the countries conquered, or the exploits they had achieved. As Scipio from his conquest of Africa, and Coriolanus from his over the Corioli. So Christ from redemption. In the name of Jesus the whole Gospel lies hid.
The necessity for this scheme of substitution arose out of human depravity, and the inflexible rectitude of the Divine government. It was necessary that as we had lost our righteousness it should be restored in Christ. "Die He, or justice must." To fulfil the high condition Jesus interposed. Here was glory for our meanness, suffering for our ransom. It was exacted.
Here we see the grand reality to which all the shadows of the Jewish law pointed. "It became Him," etc.
iii. In the spiritual relation in which He stands to His people—intended in the term "our righteousness."
A spiritual union is presupposed between us and Him, of which faith is the connecting link—in consequence of which the penalty we incurred is borne by Him, and the righteousness He wrought out on Calvary is applied to us. The inheritance was to be redeemed by the GOEL or near kinsman. "Both He that sanctifieth," etc.
Rest not till you can rest in Christ, as made of God to you wisdom, righteousness, sanctification, and redemption. It is the personal experience and the personal application of Christ's benefits which we need. "I know whom I have believed." "I know my Redeemer."
II. Specify some considerations which put an emphasis and value upon redemption, and heighten our sense of its importance.
i. The work of redemption has ennobled our nature and shed a lustre over the annals of our world. He took not on Him the nature of angels—laid not hold on them. Those first-born sons of immortality were left in their sins. No "mighty to save" appeared for them. No ark in their deluge: no refuge city in their land: no brazen serpent in their camp: no star of Bethlehem in their sky!
Christ ennobles all with which He comes in contact. The very place is memorable. "Thou Bethlehem Ephrata." The times are memorable. Jesus fills an era of His own. "In HIS DAYS Judah saved." We date from His death—we memorialise His death—"show forth the Lord's death."
ii. It eclipses and throws into the shade the greatest of the Divine works. "No more say the Lord liveth, who brought Israel from Egypt." Babylon was to eclipse the deliverance from Egypt—and Calvary that of Babylon.
iii. It enhances the value of temporal blessings following in its train. "Judah shall be saved"—when God is known as her righteousness.
iv. It forms a permanent bond of union among subjects of grace. "Judah and Israel."
Finally, judge of the grandeur of the work by the doom denounced against those who despise and reject it. "Behold, ye despisers, and wonder and perish." "Of how much sorer punishment," &c.—S. Thodey, A.D. 1838.
Jer . Theme: THE CHRISTIAN CREED SUMMARISED.
The ancient fathers agreed that this prophecy was not fulfilled on the return of the Jews under Zerubbabel, but is accomplished by the restoration of all true Israelites in Christ.
I. The manhood of the Messiah is here declared. "I will raise unto David a righteous branch" (comp. Isa ).
II. Christ's royal majesty and judicial authority are prophetically announced. "And a King shall reign and prosper, and shall execute judgment and justice in the earth."
III. His saving power and love as our Redeemer are also affirmed. "In His days Judah shall be saved and Israel shall dwell safely."
IV. Here is a clear assertion that He who has been pre-announced as Very Man of the seed of David, and as an Eternal King and Righteous Judge, and as a mighty Saviour and Deliverer, is also the LORD, JEHOVAH, Very God, and, being Very God as well as Very Man, is OUR RIGHTEOUSNESS.—Bishop Wordsworth.
Theme: CHRIST'S RIGHT TO THIS NAME VINDICATED.
To speak of a person as "THE LORD OUR RIGHTNEOUSNESS," and to say that His name was to be called JEHOVAH, would be very dangerous unless His name really was Jehovah.
I. According to the whole teaching of the Christian Scripture, it cannot be predicated of Jehovah, regarded as a name of God the Father, that He is "our righteousness." On the contrary, the Father is our righteous Lawgiver and Judge, and we are liable to Him for the punishment of our sins.
II. We may safely predicate "our righteousness" of Christ, who is here called "the Lord our righteousness."
For the Apostle has expressly taught us that "Christ is made unto us righteousness" (1Co ). As Man He was able to suffer for us: as God He is able to reconcile the Father to us.
Not only, therefore, may Christ "our righteousness" be called JEHOVAH, but by being also called "OUR RIGHTEOUSNESS" he is thereby distinguished from God the Father, and becomes our Jehovah and our righteousness: the God-Man consecrated to man's redemption.—Comp. Bishop Pearson on this text, Art. ii. p. 148.
Theme: "JEHOVA JUSTITIA NOSTRA."
This name is compounded of these three words—all of them essential: and it makes a "threefold cord which cannot be broken;" which, except it be entire, and have all three, it loseth the virtue, it worketh nothing.
i. "JEHOVA." Why that must be a part of this name. David shows (Psa ), because only His righteousness is worth remembering; and no other is fit to be mentioned. For our own "righteousness" is odious (Isa 64:6, and Php 4:8).
ii. JUSTITIA. Why "righteousness" rather than "salvation" or "peace"? Because salvation and peace are the fruits which grow on "Righteousness" as the "Branch" (Isa ).
iii. JEHOVA JUSTITIA. Why is "Jehovah" here associated with "righteousness" rather than with some other attribute, as of "power" or "mercy"? Because it is "God with us" (Isa ), chiefly in this property of righteousness as above all other Divine properties.
David calls Him Jehova misericordia (Psa ), and true it is that mercy is ours. But justice is against us; and except "justice" also be made "ours," all is not as it should be. But if justice—that in God which only is against us—might be made for us, then are we safe. Therefore, all our thought is how we may get "mercy to triumph over justice" (Jas 2:13), or how we may get them to meet and be friends (Psa 85:10). Hence, therefore, neither Jehova potentia nor Jehova misericordia are enough, but it must be Jehova justitia.
iv. NOSTRA. Without this "Jehovah" alone doth not concern us, while "Jehovah justitia" is wholly against us. But if He be not alone "righteousness," but ours too, we have our desires. Verily this possessive word of application is all in all.—Bishop Andrewes (Works, vol. v. Sermon 5). See further Noticeable Topics.
Jer . Repeated from chap. Jer 16:14-15. See Homily in loc. But see Noticeable Topics below: "THE LOST TEN TRIBES."
Jer . Theme: HORROR OVER FAITHLESS PROPHETS. The Prophet seems "beside himself for God" as Paul was; a mad enthusiast; "like a man whom wine hath overcome." He had sufficient cause.
I. Intense grief over false teachers. "Mine heart within me is broken because of the prophets." 1. Their wickedness in teaching delusions. This incensed his pious soul. 2. Their ruinous misleading of the nation. This disturbed his patriotic spirit.
II. Profound terror over approaching disasters. "All my bones shake, I am like a drunken man." For, 1. He himself clearly knew the disasters which false prophets sought to obscure and hide. 2. He vividly apprehended the agonies into which his nation would speedily be plunged. See Addenda: NEGLIGENT PASTORS.
III. Deepest awe over God's terribleness. "Because of the Lord and the words of His holiness." 1. He knew with whom these prophets were trifling. "And knowing the terrors of the Lord, we persuade men." 2. He realised the compulsion of God's holy words. God never threatened willingly; but when necessity led Him to pronounce doom, it was appalling to think of what it meant.
Jer . Theme: GOD'S WRATH OVER NATIONAL VICES. Here is a catalogue of criminalities, together with their penalties.
I. Outrages by man against God. Sin has manifold names and shapes, all offensive. Here is a specification of some especially odious.
1. Immorality. "Land full of adulterers." Literal: for fornication was the common attendant of idolatry. And this by "prophets," and by the people throughout the land, who were encouraged thereto by the example of their leaders. Spiritual adultery also; Israel had forsaken her Husband for idols (Jer ; Jer 3:20).
2. Foul speech, "swearing." Margin, cursing. [This interpretation can only be given by licence, for the text most probably means, because of the curse (of God) the land mourneth]. Yet Hosea (Jer ) warrants the use of the text as it stands in the E.V. God hears and hates blasphemous language.
3. Persistent wrongdoing. "Their course is evil, and their force is not right." 1. The current of their life is bad. Low public tastes and manners. 2. The intention of their life is dishonourable; they use their personal powers ("force") and civil powers and ecclesiastical powers, not for rectitude, but deceit and oppression and impiety.
4. Sacrilege. 1. Religious officers were themselves "profane" (Jer ). 2. Holy scenes were degraded by "wickedness."
II. Disasters from God upon man.
Sin has manifold penalties and punishments; here is an enumeration of some especially disastrous.
1. Pleasures all desolated. "Pleasant places of the wilderness are dried up" (Jer ). For it should be recognised that men occupy a "wilderness." Earth is not naturally fruitful of luxury and pleasure. All its "pleasant places" are God's gifts, specially provided for us. Therefore He can easily turn its pleasures into drought, and He will do so if we abuse His grace. Then life becomes a blank waste, and the heart is left without comfort.
2. False ways made fatal. God will allow them to pursue "their way" (Jer ); give them up to their heart's desire; not arresting them, simply let them alone to become befooled, besotted, benighted. "In the darkness" they should not be shown their peril so as to become alarmed, and certainly should not find escape, but slide down into the blackness of darkness for ever.
3. Forces of evil should seize them. Sin when indulged in the heart and habits assumes a tyrannical despotism, and "drives on" the sinner (Jer ). Once sin merely pleaded and decoyed, now it forces and masters the soul; and the sinner shall "fall"—where? "Therein," i.e., into the depths of woe, which end the "slippery ways of darkness."
4. God Himself will visit sinners with evil (Jer ). Though God delays the judgment, yet, (1.) There comes a time of judgment, "even the year of their visitation, saith the Lord." (2.) Then God will Himself bring evil upon them. "It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God." "Turn ye from your evil ways, for why will ye die?"—Comp. Homily on chap. Jer 11:15.
Jer . Theme: COMPARATIVE SINFULNESS. "Folly in the prophets of Samaria, … in the prophets of Jerusalem an horrible thing."
I. Sins are not regarded by God as of equal magnitude.
1. Some evils are mistakes. "Folly," and "they cause to err."
2. Others are malignant. "Horrible thing," "wickedness."
II. Sins take their colour and degree from circumstances.
1. The location of our life affects the moral qualities of conduct. The same acts done "in Samaria" had less wrong in them than when done "in Jerusalem," because there was more religious light in Jerusalem.
2. Guilt is guiltiest when done in the face of God. It was stupidity when done "in Baal," in connection with Baal. It was absolutely "horrible" when done in the Temple in Jerusalem, the seat of God's Holy Throne and Shekinah glory. Thus "exalted unto heaven," they should be "thrust down to hell."
III. Sins involve all wrong-doers in pitiable distress.
1. Though proportioned to the degree of guiltiness, yet the lightest punishment of sin must be appalling. The "few stripes" involve banishment from God and heaven, for "the unclean shall not dwell therein."
2. The heaviest woes of sin are terrifying to contemplate. "They are all of them unto me as Sodom, and the inhabitants thereof as Gomorrah." Overwhelmed with ruin, and destroyed with "fire and brimstone."
Jer . Theme: STRENGTHENING THE HANDS OF THE WICKED. "I have seen also in the prophets of Jerusalem an horrible thing. They strengthen the hands of evil-doers, that none doth return from his wickedness."
I. All sin is horrible in its nature. It is contrary to the character and will of an Infinite Being—a Being of glorious purity, supreme authority, and almighty power; a Being who cannot be tempted with evil, nor even look on iniquity, &c.
II. To strengthen the hands and hinder the repentance of sinners is to oppose the great plan of the Divine government.
III. It tends to the misery of mankind, and is the reverse of that bene volence which ought to govern us in all our conduct.
IV. It is to operate with that evil spirit who works in the children of disobedience.
V. It is a horrible thing, because we thus become partakers of their sins.
VI. It is directly contrary to God's commands, and marked with His peculiar abhorrence.
To teachers of religion; to Christians in general; to heads of families; to the young. It is also horrible to be strengthened in evil-doing.—Dr. Lathrop.
Jer . Theme: PREACHERS TESTED BY THEIR HEARERS.
I. False preaching may be discovered.
1. It is here described. "A vision of their own heart," &c.; entertain with fanciful theories.
2. It may be detected. "They make you vain;" deceive with false hopes. In Jer their preaching is further described.
(a.) To despisers of God peace is promised.
(b.) To wilful sinners immunity is assured.
II. Hearers must refuse wrong teaching. The Church, and not her ministers, is the pillar and ground of the truth.
1. The exercise of the right of "trying the spirits whether they be of God" has its perils and difficulties. Ignorant, misguided, and narrow-minded men may make a preacher "an offender for a word." Timid souls may take quick alarm. Impatient listeners may judge in haste and without ample reasons.
2. Yet the non-exercise of this right is a grave misdemeanour on the part of the Church. God commands hearers to "take heed how they hear," and to "try the spirits," &c. Not to do so indicates spiritual inertia, intellectual indifference, and neglect of highest trusts. It exposes the Church to the grossest misleading, and leaves the pulpit to reckless adventurers.
III. God's truth is perceivable by the common people. Rome and arrogant priests would have us believe that hearers are to receive what is taught them, being incapable of judging their teachers.
1. The doctrine of the Law was sufficient to guide Judah concerning the teachings of prophets. "He who ran might read," if he sought to know.
2. Certainly, therefore, the doctrines of the Gospel are plain to men's understanding. "God hath revealed them unto us by His Spirit."
1. Seek to know God's truth by personal study.
2. Suffer no authority to usurp your own judgment.
3. Challenge any teacher who speaks not according to God's Word.
4. Take alarm at the preacher's messages which continually quiet the conscience and lull the heart.
5. Encourage and strengthen the earnest and outspoken preacher who may seem to "become men's enemy because he tells them the truth."
6. Make no truce with the sins which an honest preacher must denounce.
Jer . Theme: GOD'S ANGER UNDERSTOOD AT LAST.
I. Because sinners will not duly consider their wickedness, therefore they misunderstand God's displeasure.
1. God sees our sin in its most awful aspects. "This abominable thing that I hate."
2. Sin blinds the judgment of sinners to its heinousness.
3. Divine anger is rightly fierce towards conduct which would ruin the order and happiness of the whole intelligent and moral world.
4. Men not understanding what sin is, and what it would despoil, think God harsh in His denunciations, and its penalties unduly severe.
II. Because sinners defy the forewarning of God's anger, therefore it will overwhelm them at the last.
1. God may defer the infliction, yet it cannot be delayed for ever.
2. Men may defy the threatenings, yet cannot thwart the thoughts of the Lord.
3. The full purposes of God upon wrong-doers will be ultimately "performed."
4. When God begins with punishment, His anger will not stay till it execute fullest vengeance.
III. When sinners feel the final woes their sins deserve, they will then awake to their just deserts.
1. With this nation it was so; Jerusalem was destroyed, and the exiles, taught by the sore adversity of captivity, saw then how their sin brought woes on themselves and ruin on their country.
2. Even in this world God makes sinners realise that their guilt is the cause of their misery of heart and life. As in perilous illness, or sudden calamity.
3. But it is in the future that the ungodly will learn their full iniquity, and justify the ways of God with them.
Jer . Theme: THE SECRET OF A SUCCESSFUL MINISTRY. The true prophet will be characterised by no indecent haste (Jer 23:21) in assuming his office; but when commissioned, will faithfully perform its duties.
I. God's messenger—whence he gains his message. "Stood in My counsel." The Hebrew word "counsel" (sôd) means a confidential meeting of private friends. In Psa it is rendered the secret, i.e., confidential fellowship.
1. The preacher in private converse with God.
2. Coming from that hidden fellowship with a message to men.
3. Solemnity and grandeur of the office.
4. The majestic force of conviction thus sustaining the preacher while delivering his message.
II. God's messenger—what he preaches to men. "Caused My people to hear My words."
1. Divine truths gained from God's mouth (Jer ).
2. Messages which foster no delusions (Jer ).
3. Human theories ("visions," Jer ) kept in abeyance that only God's "words" may gain heed.
4. God's utterances preached with the fervour which "causes" the "people to hear."
III. God's messenger—what effects crown a true ministry.
1. What is the Divine preacher's supreme aim? "To turn men from their evil way," &c.
2. What are the Divine teacher's best credentials? That his preaching does accomplish this result. "Then they should have turned them," &c.
3. What are the Divine preacher's richest rewards? Not worldly favour or power, but sinners turned from the error of their ways; souls won for Christ, his "crown of rejoicing."
Jer . Theme: GOD'S NEARNESS EVERYWHERE.
Sinners, amid iniquitous doings, often resort to atheistical subterfuges. "God seeth us not." Needful, therefore, that they be confronted with the very first principles of religion—God's omnipresence and omniscience. National religion affirms these attributes of Deity. Revelation confirms and enlarges the doctrine. God everywhere: seeing all, near all.
I. All space is pervaded by God Himself. "He is at hand:" but equally He is "afar off." Near us on earth, as He is near those in heaven.
1. Near us in personal presence. God "stands before the door." "Compasses our path," &c.
2. Near us in minute perception. "His eyes behold," &c. "Run to and fro."
3. Near us in mighty power. "Doing according to His will among the inhabitants of the earth," as well as amid the "armies of heaven." "No place can either include Him or exclude Him." (Henry.)
II. All actions are performed in God's full gaze.
1. The thought of secrecy is a delusion. We live, move, think, act in the full blaze of the searching light of omniscience.
2. The deeds of human life are Divinely scanned. He reads them through and through—motive and method, all keenly and completely discerned.
3. The judgments of God are based upon perfect knowledge of facts. This is consolatory to the righteous—who are often misrepresented and maligned. This is admonitory to the irreligious—who will be destitute of all hope of excuse or covert in the day of decision.
4. Such universal knowledge, from personal supervision of the universe, throughout all time, is both necessary to a proper idea of a God—the world's Ruler, Sustainer, and Judge; and it is a guarantee of rectitude in the administration of Divine providence now and of Divine rewards and punishment hereafter. He will depend on no secondary source of knowledge of us—not even on the reports of angel ministers: "all things are naked and open unto the eyes of Him with whom we have to do."
III. All scenes are equally favourable to revelations of God.
1. In heaven, where He seems locally "near," pure and redeemed souls may look upon Him, and glory in His cloudless presence.
2. On earth, though clouds and darkness hide Him, and we think of God as "afar off," He can yet make Himself known to our souls.
3. Even in hell, the scene of banishment from Him, God may—certainly He can—show Himself to outcast souls whose desire it will be to "hide themselves from the face of Him that sitteth upon the throne, and from the wrath of the Lamb."—See Addenda: GOD'S OMNIPRESENCE.
Jer . Theme: THE ALL-PRESENT GOD.
Always present and everywhere present. Three interrogations are here submitted: but not to imply a question or doubt as to the facts interrogated, but to emphasise the truths brought thereby upon attention.
i. The sublime fact of God's omnipresence is affirmed (Jer ); God is near at hand, and is present afar off.
ii. The co-ordinate truth of God's omniscience (Jer ). There are no secret places to God.
iii. The spirituality of God—His immaterial essence is likewise affirmed:—for He fills the universe, "heaven and earth;" the Great Spirit present everywhere.
I. Verily this omnipresent Spiritual Being is worthy of human worship. If we had to search out whom to adore and obey, who can compare with God.
1. Such attributes constrain our homage.
2. Such greatness impresses on us the thought that it is well that we be reconciled to One so majestic and mighty.
3. Such a God, everywhere near, it is easy to worship and wise to trust. He can know all things on our behalf and do all we need.
II. Equally clear it is that any lower object of worship is an error.
1. Idolatry is reprehensible. It elevates inferiors (even if idols had any real existence) into ascendancy. It wrongs God; it gives His glory to another; and it angers Him.
2. Divided affections are inconsistent with true homage. We can have but one God. He will not be placed on a level with another object of regard. "Beside Me is none else."
III. The loftiest reverence and truest loyalty become us in relation to a God so glorious.
1. What thoughts and feelings can be too elevated as we think of Him.
2. What devotion can exceed His claims.
3. What a privilege to be permitted to hide our life in such a God! "Hid with Christ in God."
IV. Security and peace are assured to the godly soul in the fact of the Divine omnipresence.
1. God will guard him from the lurking forces and subtleties of sin. "Can any hide," &c. God sees His saints in all scenes and circumstances, and will keep them safely.
2. God will be ever near him; his solace and sufficiency. He is at hand to cherish, to guide—in life and death; till the redeemed soul reaches Him in heaven.
Jer . Theme: FIDELITY REQUIRED IN MINISTERS.
"He that hath My word, let him speak My word faithfully. What is the chaff to the wheat? saith the Lord."
No order is more influential on society than ministers. The old prophets, if faithful to their God, diffused incalculable blessings through the land; if false, hardened the people in their wickedness. Ministers to-day produce like effects.
I. A solemn injunction to all who bear the office of the ministry.
The Word of God is put into our hands, and a dispensation is committed to us to preach it. This office we must execute "faithfully;" we must speak the Word—
1. Unreservedly, without concealment (Act ; Act 20:27). Our object must be (Pro 11:30) our manner (2Co 4:2); and our motto (2Co 2:17).
2. Impartially, without respect of persons. All idea of pleasing men must be abandoned (Gal ). We must follow the fidelity of Paul (1Th 2:3-6), using "great plainness of speech" (2Co 3:12-13).
3. Boldly, without fear. The prophets were so enjoined to speak (Jer ; Jer 1:17; Eze 2:6-7). We must expect hatred (Joh 3:19-20): but our answer to opponents must be (Act 4:19-20): and we must account suffering in this work our glory (Act 5:41; Philip. Jer 2:17-18).
This injunction is further enforced by—
II. A solemn appeal to the whole world.
1. To our judgment. "What is the chaff?" &c. Of what use were the assertions of false prophets? They only deceived the people to their ruin. Contrast with this the labours of Moses, David, Elijah, Paul. So the true minister (1Ti ; Jas 5:20). God declares the good effect of faithful teaching (see Jer 23:23).
2. To our experience. God's Word, if faithfully declared, is "quick and powerful" (Heb ). Let any who has observed its effects say whether it is not "like fire," which dissolves the hardest metal, and "like a hammer," &c. Illustrate by Nineveh (Jon 3:4-10), and the scene at Pentecost (Act 2:37, &c.) Verily, "it is mighty through God" (2Co 10:4-5).
There are cogent reasons for ministerial fidelity. False doctrines save no man; but a simple preaching of "Christ crucified is the power of God unto salvation" (1Co ; Rom 1:16). Many are thereby "turned to God from idols," &c. (1Th 1:5; 1Th 1:9-10).
i. Let me now discharge my duty to you. To me is committed the Word of God for you, and woe is unto me if I preach it not with all fidelity (1Co ; Eze 33:6-8).
ii. Let me call on you to make a due improvement of my testimony. Pray; seek God's blessing on the word preached, that it may prove to you "a savour of life unto life," and not of "death unto death." It is He who can make the "fire" burn, and the "hammer" so mighty that no rock can withstand its force.—C. Simeon.
Jer . Theme: THE CHAFF AND THE WHEAT.
"What is the chaff to the wheat? saith the Lord."
We may regard this question as suggestive of the superiority of the real to the superficial, and of the substance to the shadow, &c.
I. There are those who make more of the ritual and ceremonial in religion than they do of the spirit and power. But, "What is the chaff to the wheat? saith the Lord."
II. There are those who make more of the speculative, theoretical, mysterious, and mystical in religion, than of the plain, practical, experimental, and useful. But, "What is the chaff?" &c.
III. There are those who make more of the name, profession, and show of godliness than they do of godliness itself. But, "What is the chaff?" &c.
IV. There are those who attach more importance to words, style, manner, appearance, and persons in preaching, than they do to the truth of Scripture. But, "What is the chaff to the wheat? saith the Lord."—Lay Preacher.
Jer . Theme: LYING COMMUNICATIONS AND GOD'S TRUTH.
"What is the chaff to the wheat?"
Jehovah had contrasted the godless inventions of false teachers with the truth of His own assertions, and having desired that each message might be stated as each deserved (Jer ), proceeds to compare the lying communications of men with the true sayings of God.
In the corrupt heart within us there exists and labours so perverse and destructive a tendency to prefer the chaff to the wheat, as to incur the peril of choosing the false rather than the true. Therefore the attempt is here made to expose some of these misapprehensions.
I. What are worldly maxims compared with the Word of God, but as the chaff to the wheat? The whole world lieth under the power of the "father of lies."
1. Regard the conduct of men of the world, and by what maxim are they governed? to what authority do they bow? Of Him who created, sustains, redeemed them, or of him who deceived our first parents, and has ever since been spreading snares for their posterity?
2. What lessons does the world teach its disciples? To be lovers of pleasure more than the lovers of God; to worship the creature more than the Creator; to spend the precious season of mercy in laying up deceitful treasure for self; to say to the ensnared soul, "Soul, take thine ease," &c.; or, "Let us eat and drink, for to-morrow we die." Does not the world stigmatise all true religion, the privileges of Christian life, &c., as dreams of enthusiasm and inventions of hypocrisy; and a zealous pursuit of "the one thing needful" as the miserable error of "being righteous overmuch?"
"But what is the chaff to the wheat?"—the authority of the world compared with that of the Supreme Lord and King; the ridicule of the world with the indignation of God; the present judgment of men with the decisions of the Book which shall be opened at the last day; the world's standard of morality with Christ's requirement of a new birth?
There are vain dreamers (Jer ). Suffer them not to mislead you from an atoning Saviour, &c. "Love not the world," &c.: but heed the faithful teachings of the Word of God which liveth and abideth for ever.
II. What is the value of that legal righteousness in which carnal man delights, compared with the righteousness of Christ Jesus, as a ground of justification with God? "The carnal man is at enmity with God." He may deem himself, "as touching the righteousness of the law, blameless," and ask, "What lack I yet?" But this delusion results from ignorance of the spirituality of the Divine law. Let the Spirit's illumination come to him, and he will see himself no longer "rich, increased with goods, and in need of nothing; but wretched, miserable," &c.
The terrors of the law will sweep away all refuges of lies in which the sinner has sheltered himself, and drive him to the righteousness of Jesus Christ. Repentance for sin will not form that wedding garment which fits for a seat at the marriage supper of the Lamb. Nor is it by "works of righteousness which we have done" that we are accepted with God. Christ alone is "made unto us wisdom, righteousness," &c. "In Him must all the seed of Israel be justified."
"What is the chaff to the wheat?" Who that knows himself to be a sinner, who knows anything of the self-sufficient salvation of Jesus, would hesitate a moment between leaning on the broken reed of his own goodness, and coming in faith to Christ Jesus?
III. What is the happiness of the worldling compared with that of a child of God, but as chaff to the wheat? "There be many which say, Who will show us any good," &c.
1. An eager desire after happiness is implanted in us all.
2. Men pursue phantoms of enjoyment as children might attempt to grasp a rainbow which has allured them.
3. But while all creature-joys elude, "godliness is profitable," &c. The believer has a "joy which no man taketh from him." "Say ye to the righteous that it shall be well with him."
IV. What are the present pleasures of sin compared with the glories of heaven?
1. This glad prospect sinners have forfeited for the mocking indulgences of life. "Thou hast had thy good things."
2. Christ Himself will effectually forbid heaven's joys to Christless souls. "His fan is in His hand, and He will thoroughly purge," &c.
Has a deceived heart turned you aside? Oh, seek the Spirit's illumination that ye may escape the delusion of earthly vanities and find rest in the Divine love now, and a part in the inheritance with the saints in light.—Partly taken from an old and nameless MS.
Jer . Theme: SYMBOLS OF GOD'S WORD.
I. In its own essential properties God's Word is thus manifold.
1. A vital and vitalising substance: "Wheat." (a.) Life inheres in it. (b.) It nourishes life in the eater.
2. A refining and devouring element: "Fire." (a.) It imparts warmth. (b.) It purges from impurities, from dross. (c.) It consumes rubbish.
3. A subduing and destroying force: "Hammer." (a.) Beating down all resistance in the regenerate heart. (b.) Crushing and destroying the hard and defiant life.
II. In its changeful aspects and revelations God's Word assumes these diversities. It comes in various forms to mankind.
1. Corn covered with husk. The Divine truth covered with the human exterior. "We have this treasure in earthen vessels." Also the God-given message and doctrine mingled with the "chaff" of human theories and interpretations.
2. Fire in its various forms and degrees. Attractive, as the domestic fire which draws us around its genial glow. Beneficial, as the warmth to a chilled traveller, &c. Terrible, as the fiery furnace to those it would consume.
3. A Hammer applied to different uses and with different force. Fastening "a nail in a sure place," i.e., enforcing Divine truth upon the conscience. "Breaking in pieces the rocky vessel," i.e., crushing the alien and antagonistic heart.
II. In the ministries it effects, God's Word needs to be thus diverse.
1. Men, to whom God's Word is addressed, are in such utterly dissimilar conditions. (a.) Some need "wheat"—nourishment; food to sustain the Divine life within them. Men are as soils of various conditions, into which the wheat-grain is cast by the sower. (b.) Others are as metal—"gold and silver," which need refining; or as "wood, hay, stuble," only fit to be burned. (c.) Others are as the rock—either requiring the stroke of affliction to disclose their hidden treasures and graces; or as destined to the stroke of destruction, being valueless for any good end.
2. Men, to whom God's Word is addressed, must respond to its manifold purposes. For God's Word is to be utilised in all its various forms—"wheat, fire, hammer." (a.) Cleanse the corn of the chaff, and eat the precious wheat. (b.) Welcome its purifying mission, and live in its warm glow. (c.) Submit to its strokes, and become compliant to its powerful appeals.
i. God's Word can be refused as "wheat," but cannot be evaded as "fire," nor resisted as "a hammer."
ii. If we receive not the life it can bring as food, we must feel its consuming and destroying force.
Theme: GOD'S WORD AND MAN'S WORD.
i. The former is life and power (wheat, fire, hammer); the latter pretence and weakness (dream, straw).
ii. The two are not to be mixed with each other. Why (add) the chaff to the wheat? This rendering is admissible.—Lange.
i. The vanity of all human imaginations in religion. (a.) What do they afford to man? (b.) How much do they hinder!
ii. The energy of spiritual truth. Let us entreat God that our estimate may be practical.—Cecil.
Jer . Theme: GOD THE ANTAGONIST OF FALSE TEACHERS. "Behold" stands in front of each of the three declarations: it commands notice; the subject is serious.
"I am against:" God in opposition to their wicked work, to their baneful influence, and to their very persons.
I. God repudiates stolen teachings. They were plagiarists (Jer ). (1.) They stole the words they uttered from God's true prophets: (2.) They stole away the Divine meaning from those words by their perverse rendering: and (3.) They stole one another's fictitious messages, thus reiterating and propagating lies.
II. God denounces spurious messages. Having no message from God, the second class used the solemn formula by which Jehovah confirmed the validity of His messages through His own prophets; but in using it they misused it: only employing the form "Saith," instead of "Jehovah saith." (1.) Yet this gave emphasis to their delusive inventions: and hypocrites glibly revel in such free use of solemn asseverations. (2.) They thereby deceived their hearers into the belief that God said what they uttered. So with all who preach human fancies and theories instead of the Divine Word.
III. God contemns lying frivolities. (1.) They acted a solemn part with shameful levity. (2.) They caused the people to err by their spurious teachings.
i. What is a teacher's qualification for his work. That God should "send" and "command" him.
ii. What is the test by which to try all preaching. If it "profit not," it has no Divine origin or authority.
Jer . Theme: THE BURDEN OF THE LORD ON TRIFLERS.
"Burden" (Massa) means hear oracle, prophetic discourse, and there is a play on this double sense of the Hebrew.
I. Men's scoffing inquiry, "What is the burden of the Lord?" (Jer ).
1. How they estimated God's message. Another "burden"—oppressive oracle. So are all God's messages and demands to those "who stumble at the Word, being disobedient." And so will always be God's prohibitions and threatenings to those who love their sins and rebel against reproof.
2. How they reviled God's messenger. A mere burden-bearer. Not a messenger of good tidings—not even an ambassador from God—not greeted with respect as one who authoritatively taught them their duty. No! he only brought them troublesome words, tidings of disaster: and they taunted him therewith (comp. chap. Jer ; see also Mal 1:1).
II. God's derisive answers. You ask, "What burden?" "Ye are the burden" (see Lit. Crit. supra on Jer ). And for you the burden shall be this:
1. God will cast you of as being a "burden" to Him. Or, since My word is burdensome in your eyes, you shall have no more of it, and that will be a far worse "burden" to you—deserted by God and denied His prophetic word!
2. God will deal seriously with those triflers (Jer ). They used God's word in derision, but it would prove dreadfully literal in its fulfilment. Whosoever shall in mockery call the Lord's word a "burden," shall be visited in wrath.
3. God will turn His messages which were intended to prove blessings into burdens, which shall press heavily on every man.
On Jer comp. chap. Jer 20:11.
NOTICEABLE TOPICS IN CHAPTER 23
Topic: JESUS, OUR LORD AND RIGHTEOUSNESS. (Jer .)
Christians believe these words fulfilled in Jesus; Jews look for One to come. All acknowledge they refer to the Messiah: and we may form a judgment from this description as to what religious system they are suited best, that of the Jew, the Unitarian, or the Christian.
i. The Christ, or Messiah, of THE JEW. They believe a man of admirable wisdom will be born, descended from Royal family of David, shall go round the world to where Israelites are now in banishment, and persuade or compel Gentile rulers to let His people return to their native land. There, having rebuilt Temple, and re-established ancient worship, they will be exposed to envy of nations, who will invade and make war upon their country; but, at last, delivered from all their troubles under the anointed Prince, all the world shall become Jews like themselves, and send every year gifts and sacrifices to Temple of Jerusalem.
ii. The Messiah of the UNITARIANS. Already come; Jesus of Nazareth the Saviour, foretold by ancient prophecy. But, when Christ came, He was nothing more than a man; born (so many argue), not of a virgin, but of Joseph and Mary his wife; sent by God to preach to mankind a holy life, and that all men hereafter should be raised from the dead, and be rewarded according to their works.
iii. The Messiah of CHRISTIANS. Jesus; formed as man, but God Himself, eternally one with Father; came from heaven, preached righteousness and resurrection, but these only subordinate ends; by His obedience, merits, and atonement by blood to take off from the world that curse under which, since Adam, it had been.
Examine meaning of language in text.
I. This prophecy is fulfilled to the Jews, who expect in their Christ an earthly monarch, and to Christians, who believe that Christ is a Divine and heavenly monarch. Jews suppose Christ will be man like ourselves, prophet like Moses, but also a mighty conqueror and king. Christians believe that Christ from all eternity has been, together with the Father and Holy Ghost, the Creator and Governor of the world; that He now sitteth in human form at right hand of Father's glory; will be Judge of world at last. But to Unitarians, with whom Christ was a mere prophet, having no power to rule world, no privilege of doing good to His Church, how can this prophecy be fulfilled in Christ? On earth, and in human nature, He was very unlike a "king;" and if He were nothing beyond man, these words are inapplicable to Him.
II. This prophecy points out the salvation Christ would effect. "In His days, saith the Lord, Judah shall be saved." Jews and Christians have reasons, though different, for applying prophecy to Messiah. They suppose He will save them from worldly troubles; we believe that He saves all who trust in Him from burthen of sins and wrath of God. But with what salvation do Unitarians accredit Christ? They answer: By bringing a more perfect moral law, He taught us to avoid sin, and thus saved us from sin; that by teaching resurrection and rising Himself, He saved us from fear of death; that by abolishing law of Moses, He saved us from burdensome ceremonies. In answer: Morality was equally enforced under Old Testament; resurrection believed in; and Christ did not destroy and abolish the law.
III. This prophecy gives a Divine title to the Messiah: "The Lord our Righteousness." Both Jews and Unitarians must be perplexed, since neither allow the Saviour foretold was to be other than mortal man. But the word "Lord" is in Hebrew JEHOVAH. Accordingly, we accept this as proof that the Messiah must not only be man but God. This is not refuted by the attempt to show from Jer, that it is not the Saviour who should bear this awful name, but Judah: for that text should read, "He, who calleth Jerusalem, is the Lord our righteousness;" and also, in this present verse, both Judah and Israel are united in blessing by Messiah; so that, if Judah be meant by this title, Israel must also; and the word should be, not "He shall be called," but "they shall be." Turn it as we may, this passage remains unconquerable by those who deny Jesus to be GOD and LORD for it is allowed He is Messiah, and Messiah is no other than JEHOVAH.
IV. This prophecy further gives to Christ the title of "Our righteousness." Jews and heretics cannot explain this away; they deny that the blood of Christ is a sacrifice, or satisfaction, for the sins of the world; that we are justified by His death. Yet here, the Man, Messiah, is not only JEHOVAH, but in His own Person He is "our righteousness." But how can man or God become the righteousness of sinful creatures, unless He suffer in their stead the punishment of their sin, and in their stead obey and fulfil the law? How can He make another being righteous, except by proving him innocent of faults, or obeying the laws on behalf of the offender, bearing the faults on Himself, and suffering his punishment? Hence it is by the imputed merits, obedience, and death of Christ that we are cleansed from sin and made righteous in the sight of God.
We are herein called to acknowledge in Christ a mighty God and most merciful Saviour: Advocate, pleading on our behalf His own merits; High Priest, who offered up His own life for us; Lamb, whose blood washed us clean. Let us by every action and affection show our faith, love, and thankfulness. Remember that Christ is our righteousness alone; no merit in us; and in Him is the sinner's hope.—Condensed and arranged from BISHOP REGINALD HEBER, A.D. 1838.
Topic: THE RECOVERY OF THE TEN LOST TRIBES FROM THE NORTH COUNTRY. (Jer .)
Israel, or the Ten Lost Tribes, were carried captive into Assyria in 725 B.C. Their captivity was complete in number and time—to this day they have not returned. The captivity of Judah in 588 was partial in number and time; they returned and remained until finally scattered about the year 70 A.D. Now they are all in exile, but they are to return again to their own land. And as surely as the Jews now say, "The Lord liveth which brought up His people out of Egypt," so will they by and by say, "The Lord liveth which brought up His people out of the North country, and from all the countries whither He had driven them."
I. This is, and has been, the expectation of the Church for ages. From earliest centuries this has been a prevailing idea. Six years after the destruction of Jerusalem, as foretold by the prophets and the Saviour, a child was born who in his life was to confront this idea in prophecy. Hadrian, the Roman Emperor, born in 76 A.D., died in 138. He hated, with a deadly hatred, the Jews and the Christians. What of the city of Jerusalem was standing in his day he destroyed, and built a new city on the old site and called it after himself, Elia Capitolina. Then he forbade Jew or Christian, under penalty of death, to enter the same, declaring that he would show them the weakness of their hope and falsity of their prophets.
Again, there was born in Constantinople another child, Nov. 17, A.D. 331, who died June 26, A.D. 363, named Flavius Claudius Julinus, surnamed Julian the Apostate. He said that he would make God a liar and prophecy false, for he would gather the Jews and build the Temple. Some of the Jews he did gather, and he began to build the Temple, but God was against him by earthquake and by balls of fire out of the ground, so he ceased to fight against God. Even England has sought to bring back Israel before the time. Three successive times she has conquered Palestine, and given it over to the Turks for keeping. Nay, for a time the whole Christian world sought to force Providence in this matter. You have read of the wonderful crusades; no less than eight of them, from 1095 to 1272; the time was not yet, but it will come.
II. Let us remember there is a God—a God who has a purpose and design both for His people and this land of Palestine. Hear Him speak: "The land shall not be sold for ever, for the land is Mine, for ye are strangers and sojourners with Me" (Lev ).
1. Men write, talk, and speculate, but they leave out the Divine quantity in their calculations. It is this that has confused the nations and the press. The science of algebra has been passed by, or this quantity could have been found. There is in nature a force, or something, which science names Catalysis. It is the name for the presence of some force or power that acts on other things, rendering precision in the chemical laboratory many times impossible. How much this catalytic power is in any compound or combination it is difficult to tell. It is a Divine quantity. It is present in the analysis, but not in the synthesis. The physiologist meets it everywhere, but the anatomist nowhere. Science can pull to pieces, but cannot put things together the same, for this catalytic power escapes.
2. Nations, kings, rulers, and governments forget that the earth is the Lord's. They think they can part it as they like, but they cannot. This Divine force or quantity enters and vitiates their conclusion. Listen to Jehovah: "Remember the days of old, consider the years of many generations; ask thy father and he will show thee; thy elders and they will tell thee. When the Most High divided to the nations their inheritance, when He separated the sons of Adam, He set the bounds of the people according to the number of the children of Israel" (Deu ; comp. also Isa 44:7, and Act 17:26).
III. But when will Israel and Judah return, and how? That they have to return some time, surely all will agree. The time of the end we believe to be near—
1st. By the general expectation.
2d. By the grand revelations and teaching of the Great Pyramid, this pillar and witness spoken of by Isa . In this remarkable structure the year 1882 is very significantly denoted. Many great facts in Israel's history have been incorporated in this building and have come to pass; so for Israel something is in reserve for 1882—perhaps it is the great deliverance spoken of in the text. This year is also the wonderful prophetic year. The "time and times and dividing of time" makes 1260 years, which, added to the first year of Mahomet, is equal to our 622, which added makes 1882.
3d. By the Church witness. For the Gospel was to be preached as a witness unto all nations before Israel are gathered. This sign is now complete. But how will this great deliverance be brought about—in God's own way, as from the Egyptians? The overthrow and destruction of Turkey may be the preparatory cause. The Jews now feel specially moved, for at their late council in New York they had letters missive from Berlin, Paris, London, on how best to promote the return of those Jews who desire to return to Palestine.—Joseph Wild, D.D., Brooklyn, A.D. 1878.
ADDENDA TO CHAPTER 23: ILLUSTRATIONS AND SUGGESTIVE EXTRACTS
Jer . NEGLIGENT PASTORS.
"Probably many who are called Gospel ministers are more chargeable with concealing truths than affirming direct error; with not properly building the house than wilfully pulling it down."—Dr. Witherspoon.
"Unfaithfulness is to undo our own souls as well as our people's."—Bridges.
"But the unfaithful priest, what tongue
Enough shall execrate!.…
By solemn, awful ceremony, he
Was set apart to speak the truth entire,
By action and by word; and round him stood
The people, from his lips expecting knowledge.
They stood, for he had sworn, in face of God
And man, to deal sincerely with their souls;
To preach the Gospel for the Gospel's sake.
Most guilty, villainous, dishonest man!
Wolf in the clothing of the gentle lamb!
Dark traitor in Messiah's holy camp!
Leper in saintly garb! assassin masked
In virtue's robe! Vile hypocrite, accursed!
I strive in vain to set his evil forth."
Jer . GOD'S OMNIPRESENCE.
During the American war a British officer, walking out at sunrising, observed an old man with his arm upraised as if in adoration. The officer interfered with rude disregard, and demanded what he was about. The old native replied, "I am worshipping the Great Spirit." The officer asked derisively, "Where is He?" To which taunt the old man replied, "Soldier, where is He not?"
The question was once asked of a little boy, "How many gods are there?" "One," be replied. "How do you know there is only one?" He answered, "Because there is no room for any more; for the One God fills heaven and earth."
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Exell, Joseph S. "Commentary on Jeremiah 23". Preacher's Complete Homiletical Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/
the Third Week after Epiphany