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CRITICAL AND EXEGETICAL NOTES.—1. Chronology. Exact date of chapter uncertain. It naturally divides itself at Jeremiah 3:5, although Dahler, Umbriet, and Neuman contend for the unity of the chapter as a single prophecy. Doubtless there is a continuity of imagery and reasoning (Jeremiah 3:1; Jeremiah 3:8), but the inscription to Jeremiah 3:6 is a difficulty, and their transforence of that inscription to Jeremiah 3:1 is unwarranted. “The Targum,” Vulgate, Jerome, Rosenmüller, Wordsworth, and Henderson regard Jeremiah 3:1-5 as a separate and complete prophecy, and plead that the abrupt commencement “to say” or “saying” (Jeremiah 3:1) is not without parallel (Judges 16:2), and indicates a Divine message. But Luther, Kimchi, Maurer, Hitzig, Starke, Keil, and “Speaker’s Commentary” connect Jeremiah 3:1-5 with chap. 2 as a completion of that prophecy, and read thus: “The Lord hath rejected thy confidences,” &c. (Jeremiah 2:37), “saying, If a man,” &c. (Jeremiah 3:1). This is preferable.
Jeremiah 3:6 onwards to Jeremiah 6:30 gives a lengthy prophecy, forming either one prolonged address (Hend.) or a condensation into one uniform whole of a series of addresses (Keil) delivered during Josiah’s reign.
Date of Jeremiah 3:1-5, the 13th of Josiah; date of Jeremiah 3:6; Jeremiah cf., 17 th of Josiah (Maurer); before the 18th, the year of Josiah’s great reformation (Hend.); after the 18th (Bagster, Blayney, &c.). M. Henry gives the date B.C. 620, i.e., the 21st year of Josiah.
2. Cotemporary Scriptures. With Jeremiah 3:6 may agree 2 Chronicles 34:1 to 2 Chronicles 35:18; Zephaniah 1-3; 2 Kings 22:1 to 2 Kings 23:25; Nahum and Habakkuk.
3. Historic Facts. Josiah, personally journeying through Judah and Israel, continues his purification of the nation; returns to Jerusalem in his 18th year, immediately repairs the Temple for the restoration of Jehovah’s worship therein. Judah’s ostentatious return to Jehovah a solemn mockery (Jeremiah 3:10). (Comp. B. p. 61, “Actual State of Judah.”)
4. Cotemporary History. During these six years, Nabopolassar rebels against the king of Assyria, becomes king of Babylon, and thus founds the Babylonian empire. Cyaxares (Ahasuerus, Daniel 9:1) succeeds Phraortes on the Median throne, and begins to make Media a great power (B.C. 625). Psammeticus continues to reign over Egypt at Nineveh.
5. Geographical References. Jeremiah 3:12. “Towards the north,” i.e., to Mesopotamia, Assyria, Media, where the captive ten tribes were located by Tiglath-Pilesar (B.C. 740; cf. 2 Kings 15:29; 2 Kings 16:7-9; Amos 1:4-5), and Shalmanezar, or rather Sargon, his son (for Assyrian monuments show that Shalmanezar died during the siege of Samaria, and that Sargon carried Israel captive), cir. B.C. 720; cf. 2 Kings 17:6; 2 Kings 18:9-11. (Comp. A.p. 60, “Facts re Outcast Israel.”)
6. Natural History. Jeremiah 3:3. “Latter rain,” i.e., the vernal rain, which fell about April, perfecting the harvest; the “former” rain came early in November, preparing the earth for cultivation. (Comp. C. p. 62, “The Land Withered by Drought.”)
7. Manners and Customs. Jeremiah 3:1; Jeremiah 3:8. “Divorce.” The law found in Deuteronomy 24:1-4. The “bill” was a legal document; it guaranteed legal cognisance of, and justifiable reasons for, the husband’s deed. Jeremiah 3:2. “The Arabian in the wilderness.” The Bedouin lurking and eager for plunder; thus did Israel look out for idolatry as for booty.
8. Literary Criticisms. Jeremiah 3:1. “Yet return again to Me.” “Targum,” Jerome, and A. V. Regard וְשׁוֹב as the imperative. Keil renders it as interrogative, “Wouldst thou return to me!” as being forbidden. “Speaker’s Commentary” takes the verb as an infinitive; “And to return to me!” that is, And thinkest thou to return to Me! “Israel could no more take her place as wife.” Henderson says it is the infinitive absolute, and as such may be used as an imperative. Lange gives as the sense, “Although, in accordance with legal regulations, I ought not to receive you, yet I say, Return to me.” Certainly Jeremiah 3:14; Jeremiah 3:20; Jeremiah 3:22; Jeremiah 4:1, bear out Lange’s sense of the words. (See on Jeremiah 3:14 below.)
Jeremiah 3:5. “Behold thou hast spoken,” i.e., fairly, used devout speeches to Jehovah; but actions have contradicted words; “and hast done evil as thou couldst,” i.e., without self-restraint. Noyes, “doest evil with all thy might.” Calvin, “with incorrigible persistency.”
Jeremiah 3:7. “Her treacherous sister” should be rendered, “and Treacherous, her sister,” as being her appellative. Falsehood, Faithless—not an adjective, but Judah’s name.
Jeremiah 3:9. “Lightness,” as if קֹל were the infinitive of קָלַל, levity. It is rather derived from קוֹל, a cry, noise; the tumult of her idolatrous revelries. Some take it as the cry which rose to heaven against her; but it is here said to “have defiled the land;” therefore “her riotous orgies” is the more correct.
Jeremiah 3:12. “Turn, thou backsliding;” lit., “turn thou that hast turned.” Note the paronomasia שׁוּבָֽה מְשֻׁבָה. “Not cause mine anger to fall.” Lange, “not lower my face against you.” Keil, “not look darkly upon.” Hend., “not continue to frown.”
Jeremiah 3:14. “I am married unto you.” בָּעַל. Hitzig, Umbriet, I will be your lord, master; suggestive of severe domination. Hengstenberg, Lange, Keil, “your husband;” for Jehovah had been, and would ever be, that to Israel. Kimchi, Rosenmüller, De Wette, Gesenius, Henderson contend for the signification, loathing, disdain: “I have rejected you,” since both here and Jeremiah 31:32 is taught that God had abandoned Israel in consequence of her stubborn apostasy. The A. V. is consistent with the prevailing language of this chapter (see above on Jeremiah 3:1). Jerome translates, “quia ego vir vester.”
Jeremiah 3:16. “Neither shall that be done any more,” i.e., the Ark being lost, no effort would be made to replace it. “Neither shall it be made any more.” (Comp. D. p. 62, “The Ark Lost.”)
Jeremiah 3:19. “But I said, How,” &c.; not “but,” as if it were a difficulty; and “how shall I.” The sentence need not be taken interrogatively, but How gloriously will I: with what honours! “Of the hosts of nations; lit., beauty of beauties: צְבִי צִבְאוֹת, not “hosts.” The Hebrew idiom means a heritage of the chief beauty of nations.—Speaker’s Com.
Jeremiah 3:21. “For they have perverted;” rather “because” supplying the reason of their weeping, the burden of their grief.
Jeremiah 3:23. “Truly in vain from the hills,” &c. Umbriet, “Verily a lie is from the hills, tumult of the mountains.” Lange, “As certainly as the hills are false, and mountains an empty sound.” Keil, “Truly the sound from the hills, from the mountains, is become falsehood.” “The Targum” gives as the sense, Delusive and profitless were our idolatrous observances upon the heights. The word הֲמוֹן is rendered the “noise of revelry” in Amos 5:23; and here as “the noisy gatherings for idle worship on the hill-tops.”—Speaker’s Com.
Jeremiah 3:24. “Shame,” וְהַבֹּשֶׁת; lit., the shame, i.e., Baal; comp. chap. Jeremiah 11:13, where the word לַבּשֶׁת is rendered “that shameful thing, even altars to Baal” (cf. Hosea 9:10). Gesenius = “an idol which deceives the hope of the worshippers, and puts them to shame.” Calmet says:—“The Hebrews, instead of pronouncing the name of Baal, of which they had a dread, used in its place the name ‘Bosheth’—shame, confusion. Thus: Mephi-Bosheth, for Mephi-Baal.”
Jeremiah 3:25. “We lie down,” i.e., prostrate ourselves in abasement, abashed at the memory of our disgraceful deeds.
HOMILIES AND OUTLINES ON SECTIONS OF CHAPTER 3
The verdict of law and the appeal of love.
Israel’s divorce: its lessons lost upon Judah.
Israel invited to renew her marriage by repentance.
Restoration to lost spiritual privileges open to both Israel and Judah.
Their penitential return to the Lord their God.
Jeremiah 3:1-5. THE VERDICT OF LAW AND THE APPEAL OF LOVE
Judah, by her idolatry, had broken her marriage vows to God. Her consequent rejection has not been declared by Jeremiah, but Jeremiah 3:1 implies it. She is spiritually divorced from her Husband. God has “put away His wife.” A solemn truth: sin breaks off our relationship with God. The sinner may have “many lovers” (Jeremiah 3:1), but he is “without God;” how will he do, then, on whom call, in calamity, death, judgment? “Return” is indeed desirable, if it may be. Can the guilty one “go in unto the King, which is not according to law”? (Esther 4:16).
I. Legal prohibition (Jeremiah 3:1; cf. Deuteronomy 24:4). A man may not again marry his divorced wife after she has united herself with another. 1. There are legal penalties to sin. 2. The apostate from God is divorced from Him. 3. It is contrary to law for the guilty to find grace. “The soul that sinneth, it shall die.” That is law; no more return to God; but having gone away voluntarily, to “go away” compulsorily and eternally (Matthew 25:46).
II. Condemnatory facts (Jeremiah 3:2-3). Declares: 1. Her unlimited abandonment to guilt (Jeremiah 3:2). 2. Her shameless effrontery and persistency (Jeremiah 3:3). Our sins are (1.) not imaginary, but positive; (2.) not difficult to find, but glaring; (3.) not mere indiscretions, but appalling; (4.) not few, but multitudinous. And our apostasy from God has made us (1.) insensible to affliction (“showers withheld”); (2.) hardened in shamelessness. “Sin is not a conjugal, but an adulterous relation.”
III. Conjugal relationship recalled (Jeremiah 3:4). “My Father, Thou wast the Husband of my youth” (cf. Proverbs 2:17; see also Jeremiah 3:20). 1. God reminds her of what she was in her youth. How have we deteriorated and fallen! 2. God laments her present life of falsity. Backsliding grieves the Lord. 3. God would awaken her from insensibility to penitent reflections. 4. God shows Himself still a loyal, loving Husband. He does not drive the backslider or the sinner away, but mourns, “How can I give thee up?” (chap. Jeremiah 2:2). Yea, He still calls to faithless Judah, “Return to Me” (Jeremiah 3:1).
IV. Desperate trifling with God (Jeremiah 3:5). 1. Judah responds with fair words. “Will he reserve,” &c., is Judah’s soliloquy upon hearing God’s appeal (Jeremiah 3:4). The prophet chides her, “Behold, thou hast spoken!” Such is thine answer to God’s patient and pleading remonstrance. The language shows—(1.) Conscious demerit, “anger;” (2.) dread of punishment; (3.) belief in mercy: that He will not keep it to the end. But there is no cry of repentance and self-abhorrence. Have we only thus spoken? or not rather Job 42:6? 2. Judah persisted in foul deeds. Although “thou hast spoken” thus, yet “thou hast done evil persistently.” To deprecate the continuance of Divine displeasure, and yet by our conduct to “provoke the Holy One of Israel to anger,” is the most solemn trifling. How deplorable the state of a soul which sins on unrestrained by conscience or fear of God’s wrath (Jeremiah 3:5); and more, unmoved by the pathos of love (Jeremiah 3:4).
Jeremiah 3:6-11. ISRAEL’S DIVORCE: ITS LESSONS LOST UPON JUDAH
The kingdom of Israel had been destroyed, and the ten tribes driven into exile as the Divine punishment of idolatry and apostasy. This fact was daily evident to Judah; Israel cast off from God, abandoned to captivity for her criminal impiety. What effect would this produce upon “her sister Judah”?—restrain her? Keep her watchful, loyal? Alas! (Jeremiah 3:10-11).
I. Though both were guilty, there was a distinction and a difference of criminality in their respective sins. 1. The distinction. Israel’s sin was apostasy (Jeremiah 3:6). Judah’s sin was treachery (Jeremiah 3:7). Apostasy, i.e., utter desertion of God, is contrasted with falsehood, i.e., criminal hypocrisy, dissimulation, a show of piety covering the vilest impiety. 2. The degree. Judah had the warning of Israel’s example and ruin. Yet (1.) Israel abandoned herself to impiety (Jeremiah 3:6), and Judah, instead of avoiding her sin, did the same. She “saw it” (Jeremiah 3:7), yet, with open eyes, knowing the doom, she trod the same course; (2.) Israel had gone into exile for her iniquity; yet Judah despised the warning. She “feared not” (Jeremiah 3:8); (3.) Israel refused to return at God’s call (Jeremiah 3:7), but Judah professedly did respond, yet played a false part (Jeremiah 3:10). Feigned a piety she inwardly loathed (Galatians 6:7).
II. Hypocrisy calls forth severer reproaches from God than apostasy (Jeremiah 3:11). Judah had knowledge, “saw” (Jeremiah 3:7), yet cared nothing, “feared not” (Jeremiah 3:8), and mocked God (Jeremiah 3:10). Whereas Israel acted blindly, madly, wickedly, but without deliberation or design. 1. Hypocrisy is deliberate, not merely impetuous. 2. Flauntingly insolent, not merely indifferent. 3. Trifling and pretentious, not madly blind. The pharisee worse than the publican; traitor worse than the rebel. A deeper depravity of heart underlies the sin. A greater provocation to God is furnished by the sin. To delude man by a mock piety is bad, but to attempt to pass a counterfeit repentance on God is daringly blasphemous. (Comp. the Saviour’s “anger” and awful “woes” against the pretentious, hypocritical pharisees, Mark 3:5, and Matthew 23:0)
Jeremiah 3:12-14. ISRAEL INVITED TO RENEW HER MARRIAGE BY REPENTANCE
“Backsliding:” a metaphor taken from oxen which refuse to draw in the yoke put upon them (Hosea 4:16).
i. God sends messages of mercy and not of judgment (Jeremiah 3:12). Well might He have cast them off utterly. But He delighteth in mercy, and “willeth not the death of the sinner.” By many prophets did He thus invite them to return (2 Chronicles 36:15); they even “wearied Him” with their obstinacy (Isaiah 43:24).
ii. God requires that they humble themselves before Him (Jeremiah 3:13). This indispensable. Not consistent with His honour that He should receive them while they hardened themselves against Him. To compensate for their wickedness was impossible, but must confess it, and humble themselves on account of it.
iii. God urges the most affecting considerations in order to prevail upon them. 1. The merciful disposition He felt towards them (Jeremiah 3:12). 2. The relation under which He still regarded them (Jeremiah 3:14). 3. The benefits which He was still ready to confer upon them (Jeremiah 3:14 sq.).—From Simeon.
Jeremiah 3:15-20. RESTORATION TO LOST SPIRITUAL PRIVILEGES OPEN TO BOTH ISRAEL AND JUDAH
Conditional on true repentance (Jeremiah 3:13), God pictures a bright future for His erring people.
i. Suffering a common exile (Jeremiah 3:18) in “the land of the north;” Israel in Assyria, Judah in Babylonia; because of faithlessness (Jeremiah 3:20).
ii. Duration of their banishment limited (Jeremiah 3:16; Jeremiah 3:18). “In those days”—God foresees the dawn. “Seasons are in His power” (Acts 1:7).
iii. Simultaneous return from exile (Jeremiah 3:18). “Come together.” Israel went into captivity 100 years before Judah. Redemption simultaneous.
iv. Restoration to the lost inheritance (Jeremiah 3:18; comp. Amos 9:15). Laid waste by conquerors, yet the land was sacred; kept for them by God, for them to reoccupy (Luke 21:24).
v. Enriched with national prosperity (Jeremiah 3:16). “Multiplied and increased in the land.” This is frequently portrayed (see Jeremiah 23:3; Ezekiel 36:11).
vi. Blessed with spiritual privileges (Jeremiah 3:16-17). Transcending the value of the ark and the Shekinah in the Temple.
vii. Sacred relationship again realised (Jeremiah 3:19). “Thou shalt call me, My Father.” The veil upon their heart removed: light and love!
viii. Revolt no more possible. “Neither shall any more walk after evil heart” (Jeremiah 3:17). “Not turn from Me” (Jeremiah 3:19). Loyal: God all in all.
ix. Ruled by wise governors (Jeremiah 3:15). Civil rulers, who will reign righteously, foster righteousness, and encourage the people to piety.
x. Glorified in the esteem of the world (Jeremiah 3:17). Attracting the heathen (Jeremiah 3:19). “A goodly heritage of the hosts of the nations.” Admired and envied throughout the world.
“That this prophecy was fulfilled by the return under Zerubbabel and Ezra is opposed by the fact—(i.) That not even the whole of Judah, while but a few of Israel, then returned; (ii.) That not even Judah had then returned to the Lord, still less were the heathen converted (Jeremiah 3:17). Its fulfilment by the founding of the Christian Church is contradicted by the fact—(i.) That the reunion of Judah and Israel had not taken place (Israel being still lost); (ii.) That Israel in general has rejected the Lord, and refused to enter the Christian Church; (iii.) That though the heathen are being drawn to the Lord and the Jerusalem that is above (Galatians 4:26), yet this has not taken place in such a measure or manner as to fulfil Jeremiah 3:17, which predicts the conversion of all nations, and the removal of their hardness of heart. We must, therefore, still wait for the complete fulfilment of this prophecy.”—Naeg. in Lange.
“The fulfilment is accomplished gradually. It begins with the end of the Babylonian exile, in so far as at that time individual members of the ten tribes may have returned into the land of their fathers. It is continued in Messianic times during the lives of the apostles, by the reception, on the part of the Israelites, of the salvation that had appeared in Christ. It is carried on throughout the whole history of the Church, and attains its completion in the final conversion of Israel.”—Keil.
Jeremiah 3:21-25. THEIR PENITENTIAL RETURN TO THE LORD THEIR GOD
In prophetic prevision Jeremiah beholds his nation, broken-hearted for sin, seeking Jehovah with tears, contrition, and shame. The revelries of idolatry are silenced on the heights, and cries of poignant grief sound loud throughout the scene. A nation weeps for her sin: exiles come home with supplications; God’s people are restored to their long-lost rest. Here is fulfilled the condition of the sinner’s forgiveness and acceptance (Jeremiah 3:13). Their case proves—
I. That privileged people may so sin as to necessitate bitterest repentance. Israel and Judah had all sacred persuasions to spiritual fidelity (Romans 9:4-5). We may stand amid religious surroundings and helps, yet may equally fall (Romans 11:20). See the sin of this people: 1. Erring from the right way (Jeremiah 3:21); “perverted their way:” began with inconsistent conduct; turning aside. 2. Neglect of God (Jeremiah 3:21); “forgotten the Lord:” advanced from error and inconsistency into habitual disregard of God; practical irreligion. 3. Positive resistance and disobedience (Jeremiah 3:25); “sinned against the Lord:” no longer negative, but wilful, intentional antagonism. 4. Defiance of Divine remonstrance and appeals (Jeremiah 3:25); “not obeyed His voice:” though He called, they refused; despised His prophets, message, warnings: they would not allow God a hearing. This had become a settled state of things (Jeremiah 3:25); “we and our fathers, from our youth even unto this day.” What a warning that we “take heed lest we fall”! None but may repeat their sins.
II. That most criminal revolt from God may terminate in penitential return (Jeremiah 3:21). If these might, who may not? 1. There is hope for the guiltiest. 2. Those longest in sin may awake to loathe it. 3. True repentance is possible to backsliders. 4. The end of life is not too late for return. “After so long a time,” Israel “arose and came to the Father.” “At evening time light.” Let none close the door of hope, of opportunity, of mercy, on others or on themselves. God keeps it open to the last, and for the worst. (Addenda to chap. 3, Jeremiah 3:25, “Even unto this day.”)
III. That an evil course of life wastes and debases those who follow it (Jeremiah 3:24-25). (Addenda to chap. 3, “Shame,” and “Sin debases.”) 1. Sinners are despoiled of self-respect; “shame.” 2. Sinning is an expensive luxury; “devoured the labour, flocks and herds.” 3. Sinful parents cannot hold back even their own children from destruction; “sons and daughters.” Moloch asks them. Society demands the children of godless parents; and how can they restrain them from sacrificing to pleasure, vanity, vice? 4. Sin lays low all its followers in abasement and confusion (Jeremiah 3:25). Well if it does this ere too late. But the guilty will see themselves vile and foolish; the day must come.
IV. That a voice of gracious expostulation pleads with the guilty to return (Jeremiah 3:22). 1. God’s call pursues men when they desert Him. 2. A Divine pleading is heard in every heart. 3. Even the vilest are conscious that a pitying Father awaits their return. 4. Man’s duty is to act on that thought; “return.” 5. There is “healing” for every wrong in God’s graciousness. 6. Appropriate address from the penitent; “we come to Thee;” for God calls men to Himself, not to ceremonies, and self-improvement, and human remedies. 7. All-sufficiency and perfect welcome assured; “for Thou art the Lord,” therefore “nothing too hard;” “the Lord our God,” therefore He is ready to greet and receive them.
V. That hopes of salvation are found to be delusive until the soul rests in God (Jeremiah 3:23).
1. False hopes: in strong things, “hills and mountains;” in numerous objects, “multitude,” = the many gods and scenes of idolatry.
2. True hope: “truly in the Lord,” &c. “Look unto Me, and be ye saved, for I am God, and there is none else” (Isaiah 45:22); “neither is there salvation in any other: for there is none other name under heaven given among men whereby we must be saved” (Acts 4:12).
HISTORIC EVENTS INDICATED IN CHAPTER 3
A. Facts connected with the career of outcast Israel (Jeremiah 3:12; Jeremiah 3:14; Jeremiah 3:18). (See Addenda to chap. 3, “The lost Ten Tribes.”)
i. Outcast, yet not lost (Jeremiah 3:12). God knew where they were. Denationalised and exiled; yet God directed a message to them in “the north.” (See Geographical reference on Jeremiah 3:12 above.) Since the first captivity by Tiglath-pilesar, 115 years had passed, and nearly 100 since Sargon (son of Shalmanezar) swept the land clean of Israelites, and bore them away into the northern provinces of Assyria (2 Kings 17:18; 2 Kings 17:23). Thus outcast, they were to lose all connection with Jehovah, and all recognition of their former history. This was easy; for their habitual idolatry would lead them into speedy surrender of all relics of their religious distinction; and, as their numbers were not vast, they would not long preserve any national distinctness, but become absorbed amid the admixture of peoples which the Assyrian conquests gathered together in the north. But though long lost to themselves, they were not lost to God. He knew where to address them. And He will know where to seek them when the time of their return shall arrive (Isaiah 11:11; Isaiah 11:16; cf. Jeremiah 3:18).
ii. Banished, yet still beloved (Jeremiah 3:14). “I am married unto you.” God respects and preserves His relationship to Israel unchanged, although she had been banished a hundred years, and was fading from national existence. This sanctions Paul’s assertion, “God hath not cast away His people” (Romans 11:1-2). And this unchanging relationship and imperishable love are asserted by God in terms of the most unequivocal and solemn character (Jeremiah 31:37).
iii. Destined to local and spiritual restoration. “I will take you one of a city and two of a family, and I will bring you to Zion” (Jeremiah 3:14). “In those days the house of Judah shall walk to the house of Israel, and they shall come together out of the land of the north,” &c. (Jeremiah 3:18). This promise cannot be limited to the return from exile under the edict of Cyrus. The two kingdoms, Judah and Israel, have not yet “come together,” nor have they yet used the language of Jeremiah 3:22. Nor has Israel learned to cry “My Father!” (Jeremiah 3:19). Their joint restoration and conversion to God are therefore yet future (cf. Ezekiel 37:16 to end). God will keep and fulfil His covenant promises.
B. The actual state of Judah under the eye of God (Jeremiah 3:4; Jeremiah 3:10). The words “from this time,” mark the epoch as special. Judah hath “turned unto Me feignedly,” asserts a national show of repentance. For this incident, Judah professedly repentant before Jehovah, we must turn to 2 Chronicles 35:1-19, the national celebration of the passover, which succeeded Josiah’s reforms, and asserted Judah’s restoration to the Lord. That this chapter coincides with that incident is confirmed by the reference to the ark, both in the arrangements for that passover (2 Chronicles 35:3), and in this prophecy (Jeremiah 3:16). Yet, notwithstanding the great parade of national repentance, God declares it to be unreal (Jeremiah 3:10).
Theme: Reformation no guarantee of religion. A ritual piety not necessarily real piety. (Addenda to chap. 3, Jeremiah 3:10. “Ritual” and “Feignedly.”) In Judah’s case it was the result of authority and policy. Josiah ordered it: not spontaneous; therefore not sincere. The king had cleansed the land, and brought the nation to yield a formal homage to Jehovah: the prophet proclaimed it utterly corrupt and hypocritical.
I. External reform may be unattended by spiritual regeneration. Ostensible repentance, external rectitude, these co-existed with a heart withheld from God. Judah had not cried, “My Father,” &c. (Jeremiah 3:4).
1. To rectify evil habits does not prove inward renewal. “Garnished sepulchres” may contain “all uncleanness.”
2. A revival of ritual may not result from revival of religion. The passover observed with ostentatious care was a mockery. Æsthetic ritual cannot argue religious affections, sanctified lives: decorated altars may not imply devotional worshippers. As well urge that “hewed cisterns” guarantee pure and “living water.” Pharisaism in general may be but another name for falsity.
II. The distinctive province of the king and the prophet in the realm of religion. As far as the king went, all was right. He could do no more: effected complete revolution in religious habits of Judah, rectified abuses of Temple, re-established true religion.
1. Royalty can dictate the forms and mode of religion. History often shown this. What then? Are people thereby made religious? Would another “Act of Uniformity” ensure piety throughout England? Can the king rule conscience, sway hearts?
2. Human effort pauses where true religion only begins. God commences with the “heart” (Jeremiah 3:10). Man’s work must stop there: he can carry reform no further than “making clean the outside of the cup and platter.” Hence God sent the prophet to work where the king could not, to arouse the nation’s inward and spiritual response to the royal reform: to appeal to Judah “from that time,” so propitious for a real repentance, “to cry unto Him, My Father.”
III. Reformation without spiritual renewal may prove a perilous delusion. It may quiet and lull. Possibly Judah felt herself religious, having done so much that was pious. Reformed sinners are not easily won to repentance. They fortify themselves in a self-satisfied pride. 1. Outward piety may co-exist with inward sin. A compromise: but loathsome to God, who “looketh not on appearance.” 2. Outward piety is more readily accepted than repentance. It costs no self-humiliations and heart-conflicts; no “crucifixion of the affections and lusts;” no abasement before God. 3. Outward piety is evanescent and worthless. The king’s work was effective: the people responded: Judah became religious. But what ensued? Revulsion when the king died. Nation rushed back to idolatry and vice so soon as the outward restraint was gone. Test such a piety, and it dies. Take the king away who smiled on it, remove the advantages of such a religion, and the thing is gone! Therefore God was still angry with Judah, and doom was not averted.
C. The land withered by drought because of sin (Jeremiah 3:3). “Therefore the showers withholden, no latter rain.”
Clearly affirmed that fertility of the land dependent on conduct of the people (cf. chap. Jeremiah 9:12-13; Leviticus 26:19-20; Deuteronomy 28:23-24). The “latter rain” was formerly essential to the beauty and fruitfulness of the country: these have been permanently withdrawn; hence the sterility of the land as it now lies, so markedly in contrast with the ancient accounts of its teeming productiveness and delightful richness. Usually this is accounted for by the reduced population and neglect of culture. They may be the effect rather than the cause: cultivation discouraged and population minished in consequence of a disadvantageous change in the climate and seasons. Observe that rain and consequent fertility were promised conditionally (see Deuteronomy 11:13-15); the people’s faithfulness was therefore essential to their being enjoyed and retained; that gone, these have ceased. This a question of fact, certified by competent authority. The physical condition of the climate, the seasons, and the soil have been tested with a view to agriculture. Grass seed, carried from England and sown there, would perish the very first summer. The harvest is marred and impoverished because of drought. Vegetables cannot keep alive; flowers cannot blow and yield their sweets. The land has lost, what it must formerly have enjoyed, “the latter rain.” God has, as it were, turned the key upon the refreshing and fructifying bounties of the skies. He has commanded the clouds that they rain not as formerly upon the inheritance of His disobedient people. Only in this way can be explained the present state of the heights, which were once mountains clothed with grass, but have become bare rocks. The grass must have perished under the hot sun, which now burns from April to November, the soil become loose and pulverised, unable to resist the high winds of the summer and the floods of winter. This, repeated year after year, would soon lay bare the rocks. All this is to be remedied; promises portray the land again fruitful, the mountains rich with produce. It will require no miracle to do this; only the restoration of “the rain in its due season.” (Cf. Kitto’s Bible Illustrations on this text.) The temporary withholding of all the rains for three and a half years during Elijah’s ministry (1 Kings 17:1; Luke 4:25) has become permanent as respects the vernal rain; sin being the occasion in each case.
D. The Ark lost in the Babylonian Captivity (Jeremiah 3:16). (Comp. Literary Criticisms on Jeremiah 3:16.)
Manasseh removed the ark from its place in the Temple to make way for the “carved image” which, in his reckless idolatry, he reared in the holy place (2 Chronicles 33:7). This explains its reinstatement by Josiah (2 Chronicles 35:3). In all probability this ark was carried away or destroyed by Nebuchadnezzar (2Es. 10:21-22); for it disappeared together with the two tables of stone it contained at the Babylonish captivity, when the Temple was plundered and destroyed. Jewish authorities all are agreed that it was never restored, or replaced in the second Temple. The Jews think it will be restored when Messiah appears, but this verse dissipates the delusion.
HOMILIES ON SELECTED VERSES IN CHAPTER 3
Jeremiah 3:4. Them: GOD’S TENDER EXPOSTULATION WITH THE YOUNG.
I. The particulars of the proposal.
1. That you should make God your “Father.” Not merely call Him so, but that you become His children. By disobedience you have put yourself out of His family, like the prodigal. How can you become His children? (Galatians 3:26; John 1:12). By faith we are made one with Christ, and admitted into “the household of God” (see Galatians 4:6).
2. That you should choose God for the “Guide of your youth.” This implies that you regard His authority, follow His will, comply with His directions: these are made known to us:
a. By His Word. “Lamp to our feet,” &c.: reveals Christ as “the Way. Truth,” &c. “Follow me.”
b. By His Spirit. Enlightens and directs our conscience, influences our hearts and desires. “Grieve not the Holy Spirit of God.”
3. That you do these things without delay. “From this time.” A sad propensity to answer with Felix, “Go thy way for this time,” &c. But God counsels that no time is so favourable as the present. “To-day, if hear His voice.”
II. The motives for compliance.
1. The grace and condescension of the proposal. “What manner of love!” (1 John 3:1). Can you refuse to be drawn by these “cords of love”?
2. The reasonableness of such a proceeding. Your own interests urge your compliance. Where find a Father like God? Numberless evils from which He alone can save you. No other Guide can conduct through intricate paths to eternal rest.
3. The seasonableness of the proposal. Opportunities lost are gone for ever. Present time is your own. “Now is accepted time.” “Wilt thou not from this time cry,” &c.?
“From this time:” perhaps this is a special date with you: of affliction, deliverance, rejoicing. Perhaps conscious now of a secret desire to give yourself up to God.—Rev. Ed. Cooper, “Practical Sermons,” 1816.
Theme: YOUTH’S GRACIOUS HOUR; GOD’S TIMELY CALL.
Enticements and appeals fall around the young. “Take me as your guide!” cries Pleasure, Society, Gain, Sin in gay form, Vice with smooth lips. Around none so many calls; mature and aged heard same voices in their youth, but silent now to them. Within none so many cravings: as young life unfolds expectation awakes, curiosity impels; hence snares surround and seducers are alert. Falls a voice from heaven on the young: text. (Addenda to chap. 3, Jeremiah 3:4, “The guide of my youth.”)
I. Youth’s reckless wanderings. “From this time cry to Me.” Had not done so hitherto: other voices heeded and followed: Vanity; Fancy; Indulgence; Avarice; Scepticism. How few young have made God their Guide! Tread “broad road to destruction.”
II. Youth’s eminent value. Young life more coveted than mature. Splendid triumph for Satan when ruins a young character! What a history a young man or woman may mark out; may go through the years like angel of light; or a firebrand. God values young life. “Remember Creator in days of youth.” What a salvation is effected when young soul is gathered into grace!
III. Youth’s urgent need. “Guide.”
1. Way of life is beset with dangers. Evil examples; evil counsellors. “Compass sea and land to make proselyte.”
2. Young are themselves readily deceived. Through their own wayward propensities and inexperience. Hence easily fall into temptation. Certainly ill adapted to hold the rudder of their own life, and steer amid the hidden rocks.
IV. Youth’s precious opportunity. “From this time; my youth.” Young life most easily guided. Call the mountain wanderer back ere he fall! Young—1. Not yet fettered in the captivity of habit. 2. Not enthralled by settled companionships of life. 3. Not lost the sacred influences of early teaching. 4. Not yet insensible to Divine influences. 5. Not forfeited opportunity of grace. “From this time cry.”
V. Youth’s happy resolution. “My Father, Thou art my Guide.”
The resolve indicates: 1. Discrimination; 2. Decision; 3. Distinction; for he will “come out from among them, be separate,” &c.
Who now ready with the cry? Be resolved. “Be not like dumb driven cattle.” “Choose ye this day.”
Jeremiah 3:5. Theme: THE SINNER’S DESPERATE DEPRAVITY. “Behold thou hast spoken and done evil as thou couldst.”
Men are as depraved as they can possibly be in present circumstances. Charge made by the infinitely Holy One against every member of the human family. Substantiated by considering:
I. That God, in His providence, has surrounded the sinner with many circumstances operating powerfully to modify human character.
1. Education. 2. Human law has a similar effect. 3. The law of God. 4. The troublesome supervision of conscience. 5. The whole Gospel, interfering with the sinful pleasures and follies of men. 6. All the Gospel institutions. 7. The desire in man for heaven. 8. The fear of hell. 9. The expectation of judgment. 10. Public sentiment. 11. The domestic affections. These are all so many golden chains, restraining the sinner from wrong. Ought-to thank God for these modifying circumstances. A man’s state is hopeful in proportion as he is held by these moral bonds.
II. By these circumstances every sinner is actually restrained in his wickedness, and held back in his downward career. In proof of which, observe:
1. Men are uneasy under these circumstances, which shows them to be restraints. 2. Men are constantly trying to alter their circumstances. 3. When men succeed in altering their circumstances in any of these respects, they usually show out a worse character. 4. When these restraints are all removed, men are uniformly far more wicked than if they had not been imposed.
III. That every sinner does make the attempt, and succeeds, as far as God will let him, to sunder these ligatures that would hold him fast to reason, hope, and heaven. Trace his steps, and see how he breaks over and breaks through the restraints of—1. Education; 2. Human laws; 3. God’s laws; 4. Supervision of conscience; 5. Institutions of the Gospel; 6. Thoughts of heaven and fear of hell; 7. Public sentiment; 8. Domestic affections.
Such is the obstinacy, rebelliousness, ingratitude of the sinner. Must he not then be “born again,” have new heart and right spirit, or never enter kingdom of God?—“Preacher’s Treasury.”
Comments: Jeremiah 3:6-10. Judah the guiltier sister.
The two kingdoms are described as sisters in iniquity. In Ezekiel (Ezekiel 23:4) the same metaphor is applied to the two metropolises of those kingdoms, Samaria and Jerusalem: “Aholah and Aholibah.” (Addenda to chap. 3, Jeremiah 3:7, “Falsity.”)
Israel is stigmatised as Apostasy and Judah as Falsity: but the heavier sin is laid to Judah’s account. Her criminality is marked as having three stages: (1) she “saw” Israel’s sin, yet repeated it herself; (2) she “feared not” the penalties with which she beheld Israel punished; and (3) she “feigned” a piety when her practices were impious. Hence she is called “Falsity:” and her threefold sin is most solemnly emphasised.
“She sinned against greater convictions.”—W. Lowth.
“Aliorum tormenta aliorum remedia sunt.”—Jerome.
“Though the reform of Josiah was only a pseudo-revival, it furnishes us with the means of judging how deep a genuine revival ought to go. Mark 9:43-48.”—Lange.
This external renovation of Judah, which swept the land of abuses, was uncomprising and severe. Yet was not enough. God was not content. How then will they do who profess and believe themselves Christians, whose lives are not self-denying and pure? God requires “truth in the inward parts,” and thoroughness in religious conduct. “No fellowship between light and darkness;” no accommodating our piety to convenience, circumstances, and sinful ease.
Jeremiah 3:10. “Judah hath not turned to me with her whole heart, but feignedly,” i.e., in falsehood.
i. False repentance. 1. Its ground—servile fear. 2. Its effect—external reform.
ii. True repentance. 1. Its ground—love to God. 2. Its effect—honest fruits of sanctification.—Lange.
Jeremiah 3:11. Theme: COMPARATIVE CRIMINALITY.
This subject may not be used for self-preference and self-complacency, or incalculable injury may ensue (2 Corinthians 10:12). Both had sinned grievously: Israel more openly; Judah in a more covert way. God declared Judah’s criminality exceeded that of Israel. Let me
I. State this decision of the Lord.
Israel, from the time they became a distinct nation, cost off God; therefore given into Assyrian captivity and divorced by God.
Judah had retained the worship of God, but revelled in idolatry at the same time, and paid divine honours to idols (Zephaniah 1:5).
Because of their apparent superiority, Judah would scarcely own her relationship to Israel (Ezekiel 33:24).
Though their sins were ostensibly less, they were committed with tenfold aggravations; for their advantages had been greater, larger number of prophets sent them, enjoyed stated ordinances, presence of God was in their midst (in Temple).
Despising and abusing all these, their guilt was greater.
We argue that any religion is better than none; that the appearance of regard for God is better than avowed contempt. God pronounces other: the form without the power of godliness is more offensive than entire impiety. Therefore text.
II. Confirm this decision of the Lord.
Specious insincerity is worse than open profaneness, because
1. It argues a deeper depravity of heart. Sin is committed against conscience, against the motions of God’s Spirit within.
2. It casts more dishonour upon God. A sinner openly casts off God’s yoke; but the hypocrite professedly says, “I am God’s servant, know my duty and perform it!” It degrades holiness, the name of God is blasphemed, and the way of truth is evil spoken of.
3. It does more extensive injury to man. His example encourages sinners in sin, and gives the ungodly a reason to contemn true Christians as being “righteous over-much.” He thus offends God’s people, and casts a stumbling-block before the guilty. Address:
(1.) Those who are careless about religion. You justify yourselves on the ground that you are not hypocrites and make no profession. Yet think of the judgments which fell on Israel.
(2.) Those who profess religion. God will have “your whole heart;” no feignedness. Christ said to Laodicea, “I would thou wert cold or hot,” &c. Be not “lukewarm,” but wholly the Lord’s—Rev. C. Simeon, M.A.
Jeremiah 3:11. To what reflections should the declaration of Scripture give rise, that the Divine judgment is determined by the comparison of men with each other? 1. We should reflect that it is impossible for us to institute this comparison with perfect justice ourselves. 2. We should therefore draw from comparison with others occasion neither for despair nor false comfort. 3. We should rather allow this comparison to be a motive to severe self-discipline.
Jeremiah 3:12-13. God’s call to repentance. 1. Its ground (I am merciful). 2. Its object (to obtain grace). 3. Its condition (acknowledge thy sin).—Lange. (Addenda to chap. 3 Jeremiah 3:13, “Acknowledge thy sin.”)
Jeremiah 3:13. Theme: TAKING SIDE WITH GOD AGAINST OURSELVES AND OUR SIN. “Only acknowledge thine iniquity.”
Just as the publican, abhorrent with himself, and ashamed of long resistance of God, bowed in abasement and confession. Holding out against God no longer; hiding sin from God—refusing to own it—no longer. Return to God might be through misery—not regret for the sin which caused it; or from policy—desiring escape from evils and gain of benefits, without heart-grief or spiritual surrender.
I. What God asks of the sinner.
“Acknowledge;” which means—1. Capitulation of his pride; realises himself vile. 2. Contrition within his heart; laments and upbraids his folly and rebellion. 3. Confession upon his lips; all covered with shame, coming back prodigal-like, publican-like to God. “Acknowledge;” “If we confess our sin, God will forgive,” &c.
II. What God arrays before the sinner.
“Only acknowledge that,” &c.
1. Spiritual relationship violated. “Transgressed against the Lord thy God.” It is the sin of faithlessness; not of one who never knew the Lord.
2. Spiritual prostitution practised. “Scattered thy ways to strangers.”
3. Spiritual independence asserted. “Hast not obeyed;” resented God’s control.
These three aspects of sin, as God regards it, show the course of evil to be an outrage, debasing, defiant against all law and all love.
III. What God assures to the sinner. Elsewhere in His Word are given precious assurances to the soul who confesses sin (Luke 18:14; 1 John 1:9).
1. Reception to His unalienated love (Jeremiah 3:14.) “I am married.” Israel’s disloyalty had not estranged Him. God keeps the door wide open for the wanderer.
2. Reinstatement in the covenant privileges of Zion (Jeremiah 3:14). Her wandering had surrendered all—far off, in oppression; but “made nigh,” brought again “to Zion.” (Addenda on Jeremiah 3:13, “Acknowledge iniquity.”)
Jeremiah 3:14. TO BACKSLIDERS.
God, the loving Husband. Sin, spiritual adultery. He hates “putting away,” and invites return (Jeremiah 3:1).
I. The nature of backsliding. It is going back—1. Easily; 2. Gradually; 3. Silently.
Backsliding is generally preceded by—1. Pride (Proverbs 16:18); 2. Vain confidence (Matthew 26:33); 3. Negligence (Matthew 26:58).
A man may be—
1. Enticed by sinful pleasures (2 Samuel 11:0).
2. Led back by sinful companions (1 Kings 11:0).
3. Driven back by sinful fears (Matthew 26:69-74).
II. The misery of backsliding.
1. Heavy losses. (1.) His self-respect. (2.) Tender conscience. (3.) Sweetest enjoyments. (4.) Brightest hopes.
2. Severe disappointment. His holy expectations are lost (of what he might have been, and done for Christ, and the after rewards).
3. Terrible disgrace. (1.) Before the world, as a hypocrite. (2.) Before the Church, as “the thief” (Jeremiah 2:12). (3.) Before God (Psalms 51:3-9).
III. The remedy for backsliding. “Return,” &c.
1. Immediately. (1.) Delay makes your case worse. (2.) God is willing to pardon. (3.) The Church is waiting to receive you.
2. Humbly. (1.) Confessing sin. (2.) Abhorring sin (Hosea 14:8). (3.) Forsaking sin.
3. Believingly. Remember—(1.) The love of your espousals. (2.) The individuality of your relationship. (3.) The love of your Husband. (4.) Your own duty.—The Study.
Comments: Jeremiah 3:14.
On “I will take you one of a city,” &c., Dr. Blayney remarks: “This passage relates to their call into the Christian Church, into which they were brought, not all at a time, nor in a national capacity, but severally as individuals, here and there one” (cf. Isaiah 27:12).
On “I am married to you,” the Rev. F. D. Maurice, M.A., writes: “These words affirm that a mysterious bond, which no sin of theirs had been able to break, united even those tribes which were gone into captivity to the God of Abraham; that He was still holding intercourse with them (Jeremiah 3:12), and seeking to bring their hearts back to Himself.”—Prophets and Kings.
“God keeps His covenant, which men have broken by their sins, as strictly and securely as though they had never broken it.”—Starke.
Jeremiah 3:15. “Pastors;” refer to notes on Jeremiah 2:8. Not military usurpers, such as Israel had herself preferred (Hosea 8:4), but men “after God’s heart” (1 Samuel 13:4).
“The evangelical pastorate—i. Its standard; ‘after My heart.’ ii. Its task; to feed them with doctrine and wisdom.”—Lange.
Jeremiah 3:16-17. Theme: A BRIGHT AND BLESSED VISION. “It shall come to pass in those days.”
It was an outlook beyond the Captivity; beyond even the return which Cyrus granted,—the prophet’s eye saw a glory which excelled the gladness of that event: the Messianic age. “Those days” point definitely to Christ’s advent and kingdom (cf. chap. Jeremiah 33:14-16).
In a lower and lesser sense these predicted events may have been verified in the return from Babylonian captivity, but were fulfilled in Christ.
I. The spiritual kingdom: a vision of joyous prosperity (Jeremiah 3:16.) “Multiplied and increased in the land.” The “little flock” shall have and “possess the kingdom.” “Little one become a thousand,” &c.
“Far and wide, though all unknowing,
Pants for Thee each mortal breast;
Human tears for Thee are flowing,
Human hearts in Thee would rest.
Saviour! lo, the isles are waiting,
Stretched the hand and strained the sight.”
—A. C. COXE.
The realisation of the world’s hope is in the kingdom of Jesus.
II. The spiritual kingdom: symbols and external forms abandoned.
“They shall say no more The Ark of the covenant,” &c. (Jeremiah 3:16). The Ark was but a shadow of Christ—in Him dwelt the law; on Him rested the Shekinah. The real displaces and abrogates the sign; and hearts no more rest in signs when the real has come. Who would longer bend over a portrait of a child, when lo! the long-absent boy is now returned and in the home? From the picture the heart turns to embrace the living one. (Addenda to chap. 3 Jeremiah 3:16-17, “Symbols.”)
III. The spiritual kingdom: loving allegiance to the Lord.
Jeremiah 3:17. Gathering to and around “the throne of the Lord” = binding themselves loyally to Him: the heart fixed on Him: no God but Him: His “throne,” or rule, drawing men into happy subjection (cf. Matthew 11:29-30).
IV. The spiritual kingdom: inward love manifested in holy life.
Jeremiah 3:17. “No more walk after evil heart.” Loyally adhering to God, the life shall be free from self-will and pursuit of selfish delights, walking in the Saviour’s steps, following the Lord fully. This Christian walk will be the outward evidence of the inward allegiance to God’s throne.
Jeremiah 3:17. Not the Ark “shall be called the throne of the Lord,” as formerly it had been, but “Jerusalem,” i.e., the Christian Church (Revelation 21:2; Galatians 4:26; Zechariah 2:10-11).—Speaker’s Commentary.
The Ark had just been restored to its place in the Temple with much solemnity and jubilant celebration by king, and priests, and people. What a sublime and far-reaching vision was this of the prophet’s, which descried an age when the Ark would be counted as nothing! And how much more glorious that age!
“They will have the true Ark in Christ. When the prophet says that the Ark will no longer be remembered, and yet Jerusalem will be called the throne of the Lord (Jeremiah 3:17), he means that the whole Levitical economy—of which the Ark was the centre and the key—would pass away, and be succeeded and consummated in the presence and glory of the Lord in His Church.”
“Jerusalem” (the Church), will receive all nations into her bosom: where Christ is enthroned as king (Hebrews 12:22).—Wordsworth.
Jeremiah 3:16. Theme: CHRIST, THE TRUE ARK OF THE COVENANT.
i. A most alarming and unwelcome announcement. That the Ark would disappear, and another not made. “It was the most costly jewel of the people, the central point of their whole existence.” Overlaid with gold, overshadowed by glory (Hebrews 9:4-5), visible symbol of Divine presence: borne by priests around Jericho: national amaze when it was taken by Philistines, joy when restored: disasters befell nation in Saul’s days because Ark neglected; prosperity under David because honoured and a “resting-place” provided; and, finally, the display of Divine glory when Solomon transferred Ark to the Temple.
All this taught Israel that their safety and prosperity were connected with Ark of covenant. Called “Ark of God’s strength” (2 Chronicles 6:41).
By some regarded with superstitious awe rather than reverential fear; yet by all as of incalculable value to the nation.
ii. A bitter and irreconcilable loss.
1. Prophecy soon fulfilled. After destruction of Temple by Nebuchadnezzar, the Ark was no more seen. Absent from second Temple, which was built soon after return from Babylon. This a solemn and perpetual intimation to them of the approaching removal of the whole typical system.
2. Loss deeply lamented. These returned Jews did not cease to remember the Ark, but fondly hoped for its restoration. This prophecy, that an age was nearing when the Ark “would not come to mind,” remained, therefore, unfulfilled in them.
iii. A surpassing compensation predicted. The prophecy, that the Ark would be no more remembered or sought, implied a compensation which would far exceed their loss; so that what they once deplored as a privation, they would rejoice and glory in as an unspeakable gain.
1. The prediction must have seemed incredible at the time; yet afterwards proved consolatory. For in their loss of the Ark, this prophecy assured them God had better things in store.
2. How was the prediction fulfilled? In the appearing of Christ, the antitype of the Ark, Himself “the brightness of the Father’s glory,” God manifest in the flesh.
iv. The realisation in Christ of all the Ark symbolised.
1. The Divine nearness. 2. The Deity bending mercifully over men: for the mercy-seat was overshadowed. 3. The helpful and healing grace of God.
1. Israelites who early became Christians, and enjoyed the presence of Christ on earth, must have readily surrendered and forgotten the Ark in the realisation of Jesus and His tender grace.
2. Believers, though now not realising Christ bodily among them, experience His Spirit’s indwelling, revealing Christ within. So that 1 Peter 1:8.
3. Contrite sinners can rejoice in the tenderness, lowliness, and compassion of Christ. None need any awful visible token of the Divine nearness.
All can come with boldness to the throne of grace: “having boldness to enter the holiest by the blood of Jesus.”
Arranged from Dr. Gordon’s “Christ as made known to the Ancient Church.”
Jeremiah 3:17. THE CHURCH CHRIST’S THRONE. (Addenda to chap. 3. “Jerusalem, God’s throne.”)
a. Jerusalem had been of old the throne of God: the symbol of God rested on the Ark. Hence called the “city of the Great King.”
b. Jerusalem became the throne of God as never before when Emmanuel visited her. “Thou art the Son of God: Thou the King of Israel.” Yet she rejected her King.
c. Christ by His death founded a kingdom in which His Church has become the true throne of God. This is Zion, on which God hath set His King. There He sways kingly power.
I. In the conversion of sinners the kingly power and authority of Christ is manifested. Each case is a victory of Christ over the “enmity” of the carnal mind and the resistance of hellish foes. Soul delivered “from power of Satan unto God.”
II. In maintaining His ascendancy over the lives and affections of His converts. “Law in their members” at war with Him. The world strives to wrest them from His rule. Satan strives to recover his lost power. But they are held “in obedience to Christ,” and “kept by the power of God unto salvation.”
III. In governing the world providentially for His Church’s advantage. Christ reigns as Mediator: “works all things for our good” and His glory; and by, and for, and from His Church He puts forth His power, that shall subdue all enemies under His feet. How does Christ’s rule affect individual members of His Church?
1. To what extent can and may they enjoy personally the presence of their King? Sits enthroned in their heart and affections individually.
2. Christ must hold unrivalled and unlimited sway and sovereignty over their lives. His kingship absolute: their affections undivided: they habitually and entirely under the constraining influences of His love.
3. They will recognise that His care extends to every individual believer, sending expressions of His kindness and love to each, and never—save in faithfulness—afflicting them.
In proportion as they are thus subject unto Christ in everything do they enjoy the liberty of the sons of God.—Idem.
Jeremiah 3:18-19. Theme: DIVISION AND REUNION
As the separation of the kingdoms, Israel and Judah, might indicate the denominational divisions in Christendom, so the reunion here promised may suggest the method and basis of all true union. This must rest on a double negative and positive basis:
i. On the fundamental return of both from the false ground on which they have been standing (typified by the exit of both tribes from the north country, the land of captivity).
ii. On unreserved, sincere devotion to the Lord, who is for both the only source of life and truth (typified in the words, “Thou shalt call me, My Father”).
iii. The result of this will be a condition of glorious prosperity in the Church (typified in the first clause of Jeremiah 3:19).—Lange. (See Addenda to chap. 3 on “Denominationalism.”)
Jeremiah 3:19. Theme: THE TRUE SOURCE OF SALVATION
By Jeremiah God speaks as if at a loss how to exercise towards them the mercy He was inclined to bestow.
I. How the obstructions to the restoration of the Jews shall be surmounted.
1. God Himself presents to them the formidable difficulty. Jews always had been perverse. In wilderness: when in promised land: till at length He gave up ten tribes into hands of Assyria, and the other two into hands of Chaldeans. After restoration from Babylon, still as rebellious: at last filled up the measure of iniquity in the murder of their Messiah. Now, though scattered 1900 years over the earth, as obdurate as ever. How restored to the favour of God? (1.) Extent of their wickedness forbids it. (2.) Honour of God forbids it. To admit rebels to privileges encourages rebellion. Appear an excess of generosity subversive of all moral government.
2. These obstacles, though formidable, shall be surmounted. God had expressed His desire for their reconciliation. “Wilt thou not cry, My Father?” (Jeremiah 3:4). Now He determines to effect it by His almighty power. “Thou shalt cry, My Father.” This will overcome every obstacle. “If God will work, who will let it?” Vain was the resistance of Pharaoh, the sea, the wilderness, the united nations. As God spake the universe into existence, so will He form the “new creation.”
II. How alone the difficulties in the way of our salvation can ever be overcome.
1. There are immense difficulties in the way of our salvation. Our wickedness equals or exceeds the Jews’. If they “crucified the Lord of glory,” have we not “crucified Him afresh”? Jews of Christ’s day were more criminal than Sodom, &c., because they had greater light; but we have far greater knowledge and advantages than even they. Yet Hebrews 10:29.
2. But these shall be overcome. If we looked to ourselves, salvation hopeless; but are to look to Him. He will interfere for us in a way of sovereign grace and by the exercise of His almighty power. (a.) His grace is His own, to dispense as He will. Says, “Thou shalt call me, My Father.” (b.) And His power will perform it. “Thou shalt not turn from me” (Isaiah 46:10).
i. To those who question the possibility of their own salvation. God is able.
ii. To those who have entertained no such fears. You think salvation easy; but only Christ’s blood could atone for such sin as yours; only the Divine Spirit could renew your depraved heart.
iii. To those who profess to have been brought into the family of God. Obey and trust Him as your “Father;” let nothing lead you to “turn away from Him.”—Rev. C. Simeon, M.A.
Note: God does not (Jeremiah 3:19) raise difficulties into sight; it is not a cry of amazement but of admiration; not a contemplation of obstacles, physical, moral, or spiritual, in the way of His plans, but a joyous outlook on the gracious purposes He cherishes; not an allusion to the demerits and crimes of Israel banished, but to the splendours, blessedness, and exaltation of Israel, by Divine grace restored. “How will I put thee?” (So all modern commentators.)
The words “Thou shalt call me, My Father,” &c., do not furnish an answer to a foregoing inquiry as to obstacles; they are a continuance of the strain of admiring contemplation.
Jeremiah 3:20. “Surely as a wife treacherously,” &c. The remembrance of Israel’s past conduct rises unbidden in the mind to cross, like a dark cloud, this bright hope of Israel’s return to God, of its consequent restoration to its place as a child, and of its filial love to Jehovah. The prophet brushes away the passing doubt, and a vision of penitent Israel opens before his gaze.
Jeremiah 3:21-25. TRUE REPENTANCE
1. It proceeds from the inmost heart; the weeping (Jeremiah 3:21) and their shame Jeremiah 3:25) evince this.
2. It is free from all dissimulation, which might originate in a spirit of compromise, or be prompted by alarm at consequences of wickedness. Its principle is sorrow at having grieved God by the abuse of His love (see Jeremiah 3:21).
3. It is made known by the honest fruits of repentance; i.e. apostasies healed (Jeremiah 3:22), detestation of evil (Jeremiah 3:24), and yearning for the Lord (Jeremiah 3:25).
i. Its form: “weeping and supplications” (Jeremiah 3:21). ii. Its subject: (a.) Forgetting God and sinning against Him (Jeremiah 3:21; Jeremiah 3:25). (b.) The destruction resulting from sin’s deceptions (Jeremiah 3:23 sq.). iii. Its object: salvation in God (Jeremiah 3:24).—Homily by Origen; comp. Lange.
Prayers and tears well become those whose consciences tell them that they have “perverted their way” (Jeremiah 3:21).
1. They come devoting themselves to God as theirs (Jeremiah 3:22).
2. They come disclaiming all expectations of relief and succour but from God only (Jeremiah 3:23).
3. They come depending upon God only as their (true and rightful) Lord (Jeremiah 3:23).
4. They come justifying God, judging themselves for their sin (Jeremiah 3:24-25).—M. Henry.
(See Addenda to chap. 3 Jeremiah 3:24-25, “Shame.”)
Jeremiah 3:25. Theme: PROSTRATE IN ABASEMENT.
Guilt wastes the sinner’s substance (Jeremiah 3:24), as it did the younger son’s when he rushed into prodigality.
But that is not the worst: it works devastation of the soul; spoils the character and dignity of the man. How dreadful that God’s living “image” on earth, God’s own nourished and beloved child, should thus “lie down in shame!”
I. An awakened sinner’s self-abhorrent attitude.
1. Appalled at the heinousness of his sin.
2. Horrified at the indignity done to God.
3. Alarmed at the doom he has merited.
4. Overwhelmed by the grace he has experienced.
II. An adoring sinner’s lowly approach to the Saviour.
1. To hide his whole past life in his forgiveness and atonement. For all his whole career “from youth even to this day” plagues him. He must quench the burning fire of his own memory in the “fountain opened for sin and uncleanness.”
2. To draw all his hope for the future from Christ. Having all along “not obeyed,” his long-continued sinfulness has enslaved him; he cannot do the good he would. He must be saved from himself. “Lord, save me, or I perish.” “Can the Ethiopian change his skin?” &c. (chap. Jeremiah 13:23). (Addenda to chap. 3 Jeremiah 3:25, “We lie down in our shame.”)
ADDENDA TO CHAPTER 3 ILLUSTRATIONS AND SUGGESTIVE EXTRACTS
Jeremiah 3:3. “No latter rain.” “Because we obstruct God’s access to us, His beneficence does not reach us. We throw heaven and earth into confusion by our sins. For were we in right order as to our obedience to God, doubtless all the elements would be conformable. But as our lusts tumultate against God, as we provoke Him by our pride, perverseness, and obstinacy, it must needs be that all things above and below should be in disorder. This is to be ascribed to our sins.”—Calvin.
Jeremiah 3:4. “The guide of my youth.” Are we walking through life as directed by our own mind and heart, or by the Word, Spirit, and providence of God? 1. We are all travellers—(a.) as to time; from youth to age: (b.) as to place; from cradle to grave: (c.) as to circumstances; from wealth to poverty or the contrary: (d.) as to mind; from ignorance to knowledge: (e.) as to character; improving or otherwise: (f.) as to destiny; to heaven or hell. 2. We need a guide who will cheer, sustain, protect, direct us on our way. God the only safe guide for the youthful traveller (Psalms 25:9; Psalms 31:3; Psalms 32:8; Isaiah 58:11).
Jeremiah 3:7. “Treacherous Judah.” Falsity; hypocrisy.
“Satan was the first
That practised falsehood under saintly show.”
“An evil soul producing holy witness
Is like a villain with a smiling cheek,
A goodly apple rotten at the core.
Oh, what a goodly outside falsehood hath!”
“The dial of our faces does not infallibly show the time of day in our hearts; the humblest looks may enamel the former, while unbounded pride covers the latter. Unclean spirits may inhabit the chamber when they look not out at the window. A hypocrite may be both the fairest and the foulest creature in the world; fairest outwardly in the eyes of man, foulest inwardly in the sight of God. Unclean swans cover their black flesh with white feathers.”—Secker.
Jeremiah 3:10. External reform; ritual.
“We make beautiful churches more often than we do beautiful Christians. We carve marbles, and rear fine proportions in stone; we decorate walls and altars; but these are only physical representations, material symbols, while the quality of beauty is in holiness. The beauty of love in all its infinite inflections, the beauty of justice and of truth, these languish.”—Rev. H. W. Beecher.
“We are not to judge a man by the loudness of his profession. The one determining question is not ‘Have you a label outside?’ but ‘Have you the grace of God in your heart?’ ”—Dr. Joseph Parker.
“Feignedly.” “It is possible for a man to have a pulpit, and to have no God; to have a Bible, and no Holy Ghost.”—Idem.
Jeremiah 3:12. The lost Ten Tribes. The Beni-Rechab, sons of Rechab, still exist as a distinct and easily distinguishable people, in number about 60,000. They boast their descent from Rechab, profess pure Judaism; all understand Hebrew; live near Mecca.—Comp. Grey’s “Topics.”
There is a vast population in Afghanistan, of very evident lsraelitish origin, their customs, traditions and names giving proof. The Jews of Bokhara themselves suggest that the Ten Tribes will be found in the vast interior of China.
Sir W. Penn traces them in the American Indians; others have recognised them in the Nestorians of Oroomiah, the Falashahs of Abyssinia. In British India there are many indications of their presence; e.g., the Karens of Burmah, distinct from the Burmese, possessing traditions of the Fail, the Flood, and the Divine anger against their nation for worshipping idols.
Dr. Smith, however, remarks in his “O. T. History,” that “The very wildness of the speculations of those who have sought them at the foot of the Himalayas and on the coast of Malabar, among the Nestorians of Abyssinia and the Indians of North America, proves sufficiently the hopelessness of the attempt.”
“Like the dew on the mountain (Hosea 13:12),
Like the foam on the river (Jeremiah 10:7),
Like the bubble on the fountain,
They are gone, and FOR EVER.”
Jeremiah 3:13. “Only acknowledge thine iniquity.” “Pardon can only be secured by the consent of both parties. I may have offended you. You may come to me and say, ‘You have deeply grieved me; but I forgive.’ I can snap my fingers in your face and say, ‘Take your forgiveness away; I don’t want to be forgiven by you.’ Observe, therefore, that you have not the power to forgive me. You can forgive the crime, but you cannot forgive the sinner. But if I come to you and say, ‘I have injured you; I see I must have given you pain; I did you wrong; I am sorry in my heart,’ and you then say, ‘With my heart I forgive you;’ then the transaction is based on moral principles. It is so with God. God cannot pass an act of universal amnesty: He cannot open all the prison-doors of the universe and say to the criminals, ‘Come forth; I forgive you all.’ But if they in their condemned cells would but heave one sigh of penitence, and utter one cry for God’s forgiving mercy, every bolt would fall off, every lock fly back, and there would be no prison in all the universe of God.”—Parker.
ANCIENT HYMN, BY JOHN MARDLEY, 1562, on Jeremiah 3:12-25.
“O Lord, turn not Thy face away
From them that lowly lie (Jeremiah 3:25),
Lamenting sore their sinful life
With tears and bitter cry (Jeremiah 3:21).
“Thy mercy-gates are open wide
To them that mourn for sin (Jeremiah 3:13),
Oh, shut them not against us, Lord,
But let us enter in (Jeremiah 3:12).
“We need not to confess our fault,
For surely Thou canst tell;
What we have done and what we are
Thou knowest very well (Jeremiah 3:20).
“Wherefore to beg, and to entreat,
With tears we come to Thee (Jeremiah 3:21-22),
As children that have done amiss
Fall at their father’s knee (Jeremiah 3:19).
“Mercy, O Lord, mercy we seek,
This is the total sum:
For mercy, Lord, is all our prayer,
Oh, let Thy mercy come”! (Jeremiah 3:22).
Jeremiah 3:16-17. Symbols of the spiritual. “The time is coming when institutionalism shall be lost in spirituality; for the seer said, ‘I saw no temple therein.’ … Why should we have the sign when we have the substance? for He Himself is the Temple, and there needeth no outward building, no outward light. He is Temple, He is Light;—and when we stand before Him, all that is material, visible, and most helpful by the way, will be no longer necessary.”—Parker.
“Jerusalem, God’s throne.”
“Lord, Thou didst love Jerusalem,
Once she was all Thine own;
Her love Thy fairest heritage,
Her power Thy glory’s throne:
Till evil came and blighted
Thy long-loved olive-tree,
And Salem’s shrines were lighted
For other gods than Thee.
“Then sunk the star of Solyma,
Then passed her glory’s day,
Like heath that in the wilderness
The dight wind blows away.
Silent and waste her bowers
Where once the mighty trod,
And sunk those guilty towers
Where Baal reigned as God.”
Jeremiah 3:18. Denominationalism.
“I do not want the walls of separation between different orders of Christians to be destroyed, but only lowered, that we may shake hands a little easier over them.”—Rowland Hill.
Jeremiah 3:24-25. “Shame,” cf. Jeremiah 3:3, “refuseth to be ashamed.”
“Shame is a great restraint upon sinners at first; but that soon falls off; and when men have once lost their innocence, their modesty is not like to be long troublesome to them. For impudence comes on with vice, and grows up with it. When men have the heart to do a very bad thing, they seldom want the face to bear it out.”—Tillotson.
The legend says, that a sinner being at confession, the devil appeared, saying that he came to make restitution. Being asked what he came to restore, he said, “Shame: for it is shame that I have stolen from this sinner to make him shameless in sinning; and now I have come to restore it to him, to make him ashamed to confess his sins.”—Dictionary of Illustration.
Jeremiah 3:25. Sin debases the soul. As Josiah in God’s name desecrated and polluted the idolatrous altars in the land by burning dead priests’ bones thereon (2 Chronicles 34:5); so do transgressors against God degrade their spiritual nature, and profane the altar within their hearts which God intended for His homage and resting-place.
“Even unto this day.” “As it is never too soon to be good, so it is never too late to amend: I will, therefore, neither neglect the time present, nor despair of the time past. If I had been sooner good, I might, perhaps, have been better; if I am longer bad, I shall, I am sure, be worse.”—Warwick’s “Spare Minutes.”
“We lie down in our shame.”
“Weary with my load of sin,
All diseased and faint within,
See me, Lord, Thy grace entreat,
See me prostrate at Thy feet;
Here before Thy cross I lie,
Here I live, or here I die.
“I have tried and tried in vain
Many ways to ease my pain;
Now all other hope in past,
Only this is left at last;
Hare before Thy cross I lie,
Here I live, or here I die.”—
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Exell, Joseph S. "Commentary on Jeremiah 3". Preacher's Complete Homiletical Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/
the Week of Proper 5 / Ordinary 10