CRITICAL AND EXEGETICAL NOTES.—For Chronology of the Chapter, &c., vide preceding chapter. The words (Jer ). "In the beginning of the reign," and immediately described as "in the fourth year," accords with the common mode of reckoning by dividing a term into two halves. And as Zedekiah reigned eleven years, this date was in the first half—at "the beginning" therefore.
Personal Allusions.—Jer . "Hananiah the son of Azur." Nothing known of him; but being "of Gibeon," one of the cities of the priests, he was most probably of the order.
Geographical Reference.—Jer . "Gibeon." A priestly city (Jos 21:17; 1Ki 3:4), now called El-Jib, and situate about 40 stadia north-west of Jerusalem.
Manners and Customs.—Jer . "Hananiah took the yoke from off the prophet Jeremiah's neck:" vide notes on chap. Jer 2:20; Jer 5:5.
Literary Criticisms.—Jer . "Jeremiah." Notice that the name appears throughout this chapter in its abbreviated form, יִרְמְיָה, instead of יִרְמְיָהוּ. Marked specially as "Jeremiah the prophet," in order more strongly to mark the distinction between him as the true prophet of God in contrast with "Hananiah the prophet."
Jer . "Evil." Some MSS. give the reading רָעָב, famine, instead of רָעָה, calamity, evil.
HOMILETIC SURVEY OF THE CHAPTER
LYING PROPHECY DISTINGUISHED FROM TRUE
Both Hananiah and Jeremiah are styled prophets. Men are not distinguished from each other, as false or true, by a difference of titles, but by a difference of deeds; and it is the responsibility of hearers to "try the spirits" and choose between the counterfeit and the true.
The effrontery and offensiveness of Hananiah in selecting such a scene, and when surrounded by such hearers (Jer ), for a display of his pseudo-prophetic mission in opposition to Jeremiah (for he "spake unto me;" it was a kind of personal attack on Jeremiah), is in remarkable contrast with Jeremiah's meekness (Jer 28:6-9).
I. General characteristics of false messages. Hananiah illustrates the ministry of lies by which arrogant teachers delude the people.
1. Divine authority is blasphemously assumed. Hananiah prefixes to his words the most solemn formula by which inspiration is claimed. Rome equally dares to speak in the Name of God. Lying teachers always fortify their theories by an imposing seriousness and confidence which tends to deceive the simple.
2. False messages are usually pleasant to their hearers (Jer ). Possibly Hananiah may have fostered this pleasant prospect within himself until he imagined its truth. "Deceiving and being deceived." Bad men, and they who neglect salvation, who wish good as the issue of a life of evil, find it possible to persuade themselves that good cometh. And false prophets are always at hand to quiet fear and lull apprehension.
3. Extreme emphasis is needed to make doubtful messages seem really true (Jer ). A lie needs strong language to make it sound like truth. Hananiah had to act with startling boldness in order to keep up his delusion. Deceivers are driven to great daring, in word and deed, in order to encourage the credulity they entice.
4. Defeat ultimately covers the false prophet with shame. The lying words fail in fulfilment (Jer ); and the righteous judgment of God asserts itself in their personal destruction (Jer 28:15-17).
II. Distinguishing features of true prophecy. Jeremiah represents here the faithful teacher of Divine oracles and salutary truths.
1. The people's present good is tenderly desired. Even though the pleasant messages are false, he would gladly say, "Amen, the Lord do so," to all words of hope. The prophet of God may not be able to predict good, yet he would fain do so if he dared; for he wishes only the well-being even of those against whom he witnesses in God's name. (Comp. chap. Jer .)
2. Yet, no delusion can be permitted. He may not say, "Peace, peace, when there is no peace." And he is too fully convinced of the falsity of alluring hopes to sanction them (Jer ). If houses are being reared on sands, he must foretell the destroying storm.
3. God's own message, however unwelcome, must be proclaimed (Jer ); even though it tell of "yokes of iron" and tyrannical despotism. To soften down God's terrible messages into "smooth things" is a crime against fidelity to God and duty to man.
4. Liars must be refuted by the messenger of truth (Jer ). This is no task to be coveted, and it requires courage; but false leaders have to be "withstood to the face," and told frankly that they lie! Paul thus withstood Peter, and Luther thus withstood the Pope and his emissaries, and honest believers have ever since had like services to perform. Deceivers must be met in personal confutation and their heresies demolished.
5. Vindication is on the side of truth (Jer ). Jeremiah thus received another Divine assurance of his mission, and an additional encouragement to prosecute his work with confidence and boldness as the prophet of Jehovah.
COMMENTS AND HOMILETIC OUTLINES ON CHAPTER 28
Jer . Within two full years. Probably this period was fixed by Hananiah in the belief that the international confederacy being formed would within that time defeat Nebuchadnezzar.
Jer . Theme: SELF IN SERVICE. "And the prophet Jeremiah went his way."
This, compared with Jer, leads to the same truth; laying aside of "self" in God's service when called upon to give testimony for Him. Hananiah takes the yoke, breaks it, thus discredits Jeremiah's prophecy in the presence of the people, yet all we read is—"Jeremiah went his way." Left it to God to vindicate His own honour; which He soon did very terribly.
So before the princes (in 26) he tells out uncompromisingly all the truth, though he knew he did it at the peril of his life. He was not insensible to suffering, still himself—he was nothing. He tells them that if they slay him they will bring innocent blood upon them, and there leaves the matter. This suggests—
I. The complete abnegation of self in service.
1. There is a period in the Christian life when the existence of "self" is unsuspected. Then we mistake its energies for those of the spiritual life. We may carry on the Lord's work without suspicion as to the principle on which we carry it on.
2. Further on, there occurs a partial detection of "self." The Spirit of God has led us onward in our education, partly purified our mental vision, raised our standard, made us watchful, distrustful of "self."
3. It is a more advanced stage when we see "self" enough to dread it greatly; see it to be ever intrusive, substituting mean and low motives.
4. Yet higher, when we have attained to such knowledge of "self" that we war with it and repress it, yet know that we shall never be wholly done with it till heavenly life be gained.
II. See the workings of "self" in service. The wrong workings of "self." Much we do may be from mere natural feeling; nothing of God in it; and work that seems earnest and true may be the gratification of natural energy. Allowing "self" thus to influence us, we shall be subject to its disturbing influences—
1. Self-love will be easily wounded by the opposition which meets us.
2. Our judgment will be warped by personal feeling and our self-interests being imported,
3. "Self" will drive us too far; we shall not know when "to go our way;" we shall be for seeing more than the case requires; for passing beyond testimony for God to testimony for ourselves; wanting to secure our own honour and importance.
We cannot separate ourselves from our service; what we are will tell on it. Failure in service is generally the consequence of failure in "self." And "self" can gratify itself upon what was originally God's: because His message i rejected we look upon the case as if we were rejected, and then lose sight of the grievous injury done to God in the apparent one done to us!
All denominational rancour comes of the wrong operation of "self" in service. It leads to the confounding persons with principles. And our imperfections bring the cause of God into disrepute.
III. The expulsion of "self" from service.
1. HOW TO BE DONE? This is a work of degrees.
(1.) By enlightenment of the Holy Ghost; showing a man himself, and where "self" works ill results.
(2.) By sympathy with Christ. This will make "self" fall out of prominence.
(3.) By learning our own insignificance. We have inflated thoughts of our own self-importance.
(4.) We need realisation that we are simply instruments; persons to be used. We sometimes act as if all were by us and for us; the cause and object of all.
2. Happy results will flow.
(1.) We shall leave things without undue pushing. Do what is needful, and then have faith in truth that it will act by its own weight. Truth put in front, we shall retire avoiding undue prominence of ourselves, which often offends men and mars our work.
2. We shall leave our sayings and doings for God to fructify. Much has to be left before they will fructify; left to themselves and to God. As with the sower, seeds spring up "he knoweth not how."
(3.) Restlessness of self is thus quieted; we wait the order of events, not grasping an unripened harvest.
(4.) We must not think God's affairs suffer because we have to "go our way." When we have gone, He remains. Often the consciousness of having borne testimony is all we can attain to; all we can do; all we are required to do: we may "go our way."
IV. "Self" has a right place in service.
1. Our energies and faculties were given to us for use. Jesus could assert Himself: as in the Temple when He drove out the money-changers. Jeremiah returned, when his "yoke of wood" was broken, with a "yoke of iron."
2. Yet, in all the energy which circumstances may require, the action of mere human feeling need not be seen. That which is truly for God will commend itself as such. Consecrated "self," taught by the Holy Ghost, will show that there is a time for every purpose under heaven; a time to keep silence as well as to speak, a time to act and testify, and also a time "to go our way."—Constructed and condensed from "Breviates," by Rev. P. B. Power, M.A.
Jer . Theme: THE TWO YOKES. "Thus saith the Lord, Thou hast broken the yokes of wood, but thou shalt make for them yokes of iron."
Jeremiah taught by symbols: hid his mantle in the earth, broke earthen pot, &c. The preacher to-day would evoke harsh criticism if he ventured on any such symbolic action.
Opposition of false prophets assailed him. Always so. If there be a Christ, there will arise an Antichrist; if a Simon Peter, there will arise a Simon Magus; if a Luther, an Eckius. Yet the gates of hell shall not prevail against the Gospel, mighty though the sophistries of opponents be.
I. Men must wear some yoke. In every stage of life—childhood, youth, manhood; and in every station of life—servants, masters, &c.
1. God has made and sustains us, and asks that we submit to His will.
2. With our passions and propensities, if we break the yoke it is meet we should wear, and do not serve God, we at once bend our necks to another yoke and serve slavishly our own selves.
II. Christ's yoke is an easy one to wear. Only as a "yoke of wood."
1. The yoke of Christ is a right one. Serve Jesus Christ, and it is found that the Christian law is perfection itself.
2. The yoke of Christ is framed in our interest. To believe in Christ is the highest wisdom; to repent of sin is the most delightful necessity; to follow after holiness is the most blissful pursuit; to become a servant of Christ is to be made a king and priest unto God. His is a blessed life.
3. Christ's yoke is not exacting. He, in His grace, always gives us of His bounty when He asks of us our duty. A sinner must believe; it is his own act; the Holy Spirit never believes for anybody, yet the Holy Spirit gives the faith which the man exercises towards God. He must repent; yet Christ is exalted to "give repentance."
4. It is an easy yoke. Never did a man wear it but he always loved to wear it. The life of a Christian is not chafed and galled by vexatious prohibitions. Though the duties of holiness are irksome to men who are not holy, grace makes the heart rejoice in it. See Addenda: "CHRIST'S YOKE EASY."
5. The bright example of Christ makes the yoke pleasant to bear. He Himself has carried the very yoke we bear, and we have blessed fellowship with Him in this. See Addenda: "CHRIST'S EXAMPLE."
6. All who have borne Christ's yoke have had grace given equal to the weight of the burden. Never heard a complaint of aged Christian against Christ or against His yoke. Wolsey regretted that he had not "served God with half the zeal he had served his king," but none has ever bewailed the zeal with which he followed Christ!
7. Christians who have borne this yoke always desire to get their children into it. They long that their sons also may serve the Lord. Often men say, "I do not want my sons to follow my trade, it is wearying, its pay is small," &c.
III. Those who refuse Christ's easy yoke will have to wear a worse one.
"Yokes of iron."
Adam wore an easy yoke in Paradise: he broke it, and himself and his posterity had to wear "iron yokes" ever since.
1. Turning from the right road, from the cry of rectitude, because it threatens shame or loss, will entail vaster after-losses.
2. Backsliders, by putting off the yoke of Christianity, have not improved their condition.
3. They who refuse the Bible and follow tradition. Do these perverts of the true Christian religion get an easier yoke? No; there are penances and mortifications, &c.
4. The self-righteous who attempt to work their own way to heaven. Self-righteousness is an iron yoke indeed.
5. Unbelievers, who will not believe the simple revelation of God, presently find themselves committed to systematic misbeliefs, which distract reason, oppress the heart, and trammel the conscience.
6. Lovers of pleasure. Pleasure often means lust, and gaiety means crime; and self-indulgence brings beggary and degradation.
In the last tremendous day of Christ's coming to judgment, the Christian's yoke will be as a chain of gold about his neck; but sin, pleasure, will be as an iron yoke, a burden of enslaving woe.—C. H. Spurgeon.
Jer . Theme: TRUST PLACED IN LIES. "The Lord hath not sent thee; but thou makest this people to trust in a lie."
I. Vastness of individual influence. "Thou makest this people," &c. For good or ill.
II. Dastardly cruelty of deception. Like the leading of unsuspecting children along a flowery path to a precipice. "Makest them trust in a lie!"
III. Perilous readiness to rely on fair words. Not merely to listen, or to find pleasure in hearing, but to "trust." Man is stupidly incautious. The syren's song charms him, so he trusts her leading, goes alter her even to death!
IV. Appalling arrogance of falsity. "The Lord hath not sent thee, yet," &c. Without any Divine commission, nevertheless Hananiah assumed the airs and wielded the influence of a messenger of God.
V. Conflict of falsehood with truth. "Thou makest them trust in a lie, though the Lord hath not sent thee."
1. It was war against the true word of God.
2. It was successful conflict with truthful teaching.
3. It illustrates the lying ministry which has been in all ages active.
4. It shows the hindrances amid which God's messengers work.
Jer . Theme: THE SOLEMN WARNING. "This year thou shall die."
That we must die is certain, but the hour is hid. Yet, if some prophet could open to us the Divine decrees, it is quite possible one or other of us would see this sentence.
I. Possibility of this event. This year we may die.
1. For our life is the greatest uncertainty in the world (Jas ).
2. Because thousands have died the last year (Ecc, "a time to die").
3. Thousands will certainly die this year, and we may be of the number.
4. Though we be young; for the regions of the dead are crowded with those who have died in youth.
5. Though we have not finished our education.
6. Though we be in health and vigour.
7. Though we be full of business.
8. Though we be not prepared for it.
9. Though we deliberately delay preparation.
10. Though we be unwilling to admit the thought.
11. Though we may strongly hope the contrary.
12. Though we promise ourselves many years of pleasure (Luk ).
II. Important consequences should we die this year.
1. If we die unpardoned, unrenewed, we should be for ever cut off from the pleasures of this present life.
2. We shall have no pleasures to substitute for those we lose.
3. All our hopes, as to the present life, will for ever perish.
4. We shall be deprived for ever of all the means of salvation (Ecc ).
5. All our hopes of heaven will eternally vanish (Pro ).
i. How awful the thought of dying if we are yet in our sins! Let us use the interval for salvation.
ii. How pleasing the thought, and how happy the consequences, if we are believers in Christ, that eternal redemption is so near!—Hannam.
Theme: ON THE NEW YEAR. "This year thou shalt die."
The unexpected death of this false prophet is an instance of the extraordinary interposition of the Almighty. But the event holds lessons of universal extent and application—
i. That it is "in God we live and move and have our being."
ii. That the period of death of each individual is known to and appointed by Him.
I. This sentence is doubtless expressive of the decision of God concerning many this year.
1. The page of history affords no record of a single year in which death desisted from his work of destruction, or the insatiable grave said, "It is enough." More than twenty millions die every year.
2. The last year of many is now commenced. The aged; bowed down with the weight of years, &c. In the meridian of life, though bound to earth by tenderest associations. Thousands in the very morning of life, though hearts beat high with hope, &c.
3. Various are the means by which God's design will be executed: through the failure of nature; sickness; accidents; after protracted illness; suddenly and without warning; retire at night to rest but called into eternity before morning; or leave their homes in the morning never more to return alive.
II. No individual can be certain that this does not express God's decision concerning himself.
1. Utterly impossible for us to know who are, or who are not, included in God's appointments.
2. The circumstances of some render it most probable that this year will be their last—the old, the infirm, &c.
3. Doubtless, those who think least of death, and confidently reckon on future years, will find this sentence fulfilled.
III. It is the duty and interest of all to use wisely the gracious hours they enjoy.
1. A solemn question arises: What is it to die? Not merely to cease from cheering scenes of earth, &c., but to pass from this state of being into the immediate presence of our Maker and Judge to "give account" (2Co ). It is to be rewarded (Rev 7:14) or doomed (Mar 9:49).
2. Surely it is the duty of each to ask, Am I prepared to die? The word of God declares that "except ye repent," &c. (Luk ); "that he who believeth not," &c. (Mar 16:16); that "without holiness," &c. (Heb 12:14); that "except born of the Spirit," &c. (Joh 3:5). Let each ask, Am I thus prepared?
3. Let this year be commenced with earnest preparation. Never can a more favourable opportunity present itself.—J. Bunter, A.D. 1828.
See Addenda: THE AVERAGE OR LIFE.
ADDENDA TO CHAP. 28: ILLUSTRATIONS AND SUGGESTIVE EXTRACTS
Jer . CHRIST'S YOKE EASY. Queen Elizabeth carried the crown in the procession of her sister Mary at the coronation, and she remarked that it was very heavy; but some one standing by told her it would not be heavy when she had to wear it herself. So the precepts which some men do but carry in their hands seem very heavy; but when a man comes to know Christ and to love Him, those very precepts become light and easy.—Spurgeon.
A man shall carry a b cket of water on his head and be very tired of the burden; but the same man when he dives into the sea shall have thousands of buckets on his head without perceiving their weight, because he is in the element and it entirely surrounds him. The duties of holiness are very irksome to men, who are not in the element of holiness; but when once those men are cast into the element of grace, then they bear ten times more and feel no weight, but are refreshed thereby with joy unspeakable.—Spurgeon.
CHRIST'S EXAMPLE. Have you never read in Grecian story how the Grecian soldiers on their long marches grew exceedingly weary, and wished that the war were closed, they felt so dispirited? But there was a man whom they almost adored as a god—Alexander himself, and they saw him always sharing their toil. If the road was rough, the monarch walked with them; if they were short of water, Alexander would share their thirst. At the sight of him every man grew strong. Oh! it is grand to the believer to feel that, if there be a trial or a difficulty in the Christian life, Christ has borne it, and Christ is with us bearing it still.
Jer . THE AVERAGE OF LIFE. "The average of life has altered. If a man now lives a hundred years, we go miles to see him. There is but one apple where there were five blossoms. The sexton rings the bell merrily at first; at last he tolls it.
"Men in these days undergo suffering, and great wear and tear of brain and physical powers. Not one of the hundreds of the brainworkers use any moderation. Of printers, few ever live to fifty. The watchmaker shortens his own life as he measures the hours and minutes for others. The chemist breathes in death. The shoemaker wears out his life at the last. The foundryman breathes in filings. The miller breathes in dust as he toils at the grist. The mason digs his own grave with his trowel. What you do, do quickly; "for this year thou shalt die."—T. De Witt Talmage, D.D., A.D. 1872.
The past is a dream,
The future a breath,
The present a gleam
From birth unto death.—Oriental.
"Men should strive to live well, not to live long."—Earl of Stirling.
"Then let us fill
This little interval, this pause of life,
With all the virtues we can crowd into it."
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Exell, Joseph S. "Commentary on Jeremiah 28". Preacher's Complete Homiletical Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/
the Third Week after Epiphany