Click here to get started today!
CRITICAL AND EXEGETICAL NOTES.—1. Chronology of the Chapter.—“Tenth year of Zedekiah king of Judah, and eighteenth of Nebuchadnezzar” (Jeremiah 32:1). Cf. note on chronology of chap. 25: “this eighteenth year of Nebuchadnezzar” was about B.C. 585; or, according to the Chaldean cylinders, B.C. 564.
2. Contemporary Scriptures.—chaps. 39., 40, Jeremiah 52:4-5, &c.; 2 Kings 25:0; 2 Chronicles 36:17, seq.; Ezekiel 24:0.
3. National Affairs.—The siege of Jerusalem began in the tenth month of the ninth year of Zedekiah’s reign, and was now going on; but, on the approach of Pharaoh’s army from Egypt, the siege was temporarily raised (chap. Jeremiah 37:5). Jeremiah made an attempt to leave the city during this crisis (Jeremiah 37:13), and was arrested, being afterwards kept prisoner till the siege was over. Many in Jerusalem hoped that Egypt would prevail over the Chaldean power; but Jeremiah declared that the Chaldeans must be supreme; and, as being distrusted for his anti-Egyptian prophecies, was kept in the prison of the king’s house.
4. Contemporaneous History.—The Chaldeans besieged Jerusalem the year preceding the date of this chapter. For a brief while this siege was interrupted by the arrival at Jerusalem of the succour of the Egyptian forces, then resumed with increased vigour. This Egyptian army was led by Pharaoh-Hophra (see chap. Jeremiah 44:30), the Apries of Herodotus (2:116, 4:159). He was an ally of Zedekiah against “Nebuchadnezzar the king of Babylon” (Jeremiah 32:2-3); we learn this from Ezekiel 17:15, but the alliance was fruitless, and this attack upon Nebuchadnezzar’s besieging army ended in either the withdrawal of the Egyptian forces or their defeat by the Chaldeans.
5. Geographical References.—Jeremiah 32:7. “Anathoth;” and Jeremiah 32:8. “Anathoth in the country of Benjamin:” cf. Geographical References on chap. 1. It was a sacerdotal city, and so had 1000 cubits of suburban fields outside the walls attached to it (Numbers 35:4-5). These fields might not be sold out of the Levitical tribe (Jeremiah 25:34). Jeremiah 32:35. “High places of Baal in the valley of Hinnom:” cf. notes on chaps. Jeremiah 7:31, Jeremiah 29:5.
6. Personal Allusions.—Jeremiah 32:7. “Hanameel the son of Shallum thine uncle.” Jeremiah’s first cousin; nothing more known of him. Jeremiah 32:12. “Baruch the son of Neriah.” Jeremiah’s amanuensis and agent (Jeremiah 36:4, &c.).
7. Manners and Customs.—Jeremiah 32:7. “The right of redemption is thine.” On the failure of the owner it fell to the next of kin to redeem it (Leviticus 25:25; Ruth 4:3-6). Jeremiah 32:9. “Weighed him the money,” &c. Coined money was not then in use, therefore “weighed” as in the days of Abraham (Genesis 23:16). The “seven shekels and ten of silver” (as it literally reads) = £2, 2 Samuel 6:0 d. of our money; but its purchasing value may be estimated by remembering that David bought Araunah’s threshing floor, oxen, and implements, for “fifty shekels;” while “thirty shekels of silver” purchased the potter’s field (Matthew 27:7). Jeremiah 32:11. “The evidence of the purchase, both that which was sealed according to the law and custom, and that which was open.” So that there was one purchase-deed duly sealed and closed up—the legal document, and a copy for “open” reference. Jeremiah 32:24. “The mounts are come unto the city;” mounds of earth, batteries, or breastworks for the besieging army, behind which they employed their engines. Jeremiah 32:29. “Upon the roof they have offered incense to Baal:” cf. chap. Jeremiah 19:13.Jeremiah 32:33; Jeremiah 32:33. “Turned the back and not the face:” cf. on chap. Jeremiah 2:27.
8. Literary Criticisms.—Jeremiah 32:10. “I subscribed the evidence:” Heb. I wrote (the facts of the purchase) in the deed. Jeremiah 32:25. “For the city is,” &c.; rather, “Whereas the city,” &c. Jeremiah 32:40. “A covenant with them to do them good.” Omit comma after “not turn away from them,” and read on, “not turn away from them to do them good;” i.e. never cease
SUBJECT OF CHAPTER 32
A PARABOLIC PURCHASE, signifying and predicting Israel’s sure repossession of the land from which they were to be for a time exiled.
The account of the transaction; executed with publicity, and the trust-deed carefully preserved (Jeremiah 32:1-15).
Jeremiah’s confession of misgivings, notwithstanding his assuring purchase (Jeremiah 32:16-25).
God’s explanation of the course of events, and promises of the certain restoration of Israel (Jeremiah 32:26-44).
HOMILIES AND OUTLINES ON CHAPTER 32
Jeremiah 32:2. JEREMIAH IMPRISONED.
He was there “in the tenth year of Zedekiah” (Jeremiah 32:1); but was put there in the ninth year of Zedekiah. The facts occurred thus: As a punishment for foretelling the capture of the city by Nebuchadnezzar, Jeremiah was put into the king’s prison (Jeremiah 34:1-7). At the interruption of the siege by Pharaoh-Hophra, Jeremiah was about to depart the city for Benjamin, when he was cast into the “dungeon;” but he obtained leave to be removed again into the court of the prison (Jeremiah 37:12-21). On the second advance of the Chaldeans to the siege, Jeremiah, from the king’s prison, urged the Jews to save themselves by submission to Nebuchadnezzar (Jeremiah 38:2-3); and, in consequence of this, the princes instigated the king to have him cast into a miry dungeon (Jeremiah 38:4-6). Again he was removed to the court prison at the intercession of Ebed-melech the Ethiopian (Jeremiah 38:7-13), where he remained till the capture of the city (Jeremiah 38:28), when he was liberated (Jeremiah 39:11; Jeremiah 40:1), &c.
Jeremiah 32:3. Theme: OPPOSITION TO GOD’S MESSENGER. See similar topic in chap. Jeremiah 26:9; with Homilies.
Jeremiah 32:4-5. ZEDEKIAH’S PUNISHMENT. “His eyes shall behold his (Nebuchadnezzar’s) eyes.”
Adroitly Jeremiah keeps back the calamity which is here half suggested. Ezekiel declares (prophesying at the same time, but in Babylon among the captives of the same event) that Zedekiah should be brought to Babylon, but should “not see it” (Ezekiel 12:13). The explanation is given by Jeremiah (Jeremiah 39:6-7).
Jeremiah 32:5. GOD’S AMELIORATING MERCY TO ZEDEKIAH. “Until I visit him, saith the Lord.”
Jerome points out that these words are enigmatical, for “visitation means both consolation and punishment.”
Already the prophet had hidden the harder fate which should so soon befall the king; for “it is not the business of prophecy necessarily to aggravate human suffering” (Dr. Payne Smith).
And in chap. Jeremiah 34:4-5, we find some warrant for the hope that the blind king, in his exile, was not treated with severity by his captors; whereas he was held in honour by the Jewish exiles, who paid tenderest homage to him at his death and burial.
Jeremiah 32:5. Theme: A PREDICTED DEFEAT. “Though ye fight with the Chaldeans, ye shall not prosper.”
i. The will of the Lord decides all battles. It matters not however great the army, disciplined the troops, valiant the men, heroic the officers, skilful the commander; nor though the navy be powerful, her ships ironclad, her guns of greatest calibre, &c. If God says, “Ye shall not prosper,” neither power of the army nor prowess of the navy will command success and secure victory. “The great, the mighty God, the Lord of Hosts” (Jeremiah 32:18), can so derange the best-arranged plans that the battle shall not be to the strong. He giveth the victory to whomsoever He please.
ii. As with nations so with men. Though they “rise up early and sit up late,” if God says, “Ye shall not prosper,” failure shall follow every effort and scheme. Nothing can set aside the decisions of His will.
I. What are, then, the conditions of success in life’s undertakings? Philosophers would reply, that the means be adapted to the end, that there be wisdom and skill in using those means, and that provision be made for all contingencies.
This would probably ensure success were there no presiding Power, whose interposition may frustrate all human purposes.
This Power existing, it is evident that success depends, not simply on well-adapted plans, but on the will of God.
Everything then, from a military campaign to a prosperous journey, depends on God’s will. “Though ye fight ye shall not prosper.” “Making request, if I may have a prosperous journey by the will of God.”
II. God’s will should be consulted, and His blessing sought, in all our undertakings. “In every thing, by prayer and supplication,” &c.
1. There is no request which man can make to God but He can answer it. “Nothing is too hard for the Lord” (Jeremiah 32:27). Indeed nothing is hard, nothing is difficult. With Him it is as easy to crush an empire as a moth, &c. His power knows no limit.
2. While the power of God is unlimited, His power is regulated by His will. “Whatever He pleaseth that doeth He.” His will is the dictate of His infallible wisdom. No caprice; no arbitrary determinations.
III. Amid failure of human plans, God is working all things with wisdom and for a beneficent purpose. If “in wisdom He made” all things, in equal wisdom He governs all.
1. Though in ways mysterious to us, yet He works wisely. Men who love God may “fight with the Chaldeans” and lose the battle; may be “diligent in business,” yet unsuccessful; yet, though all things seem against them, God is making all things promote their real welfare. “All things work together for good,” &c.
2. Nor forget that out of darkness God can bring forth light; out of chaos, order; out of evil, good. In the midst of our darkness and confusion we may “hang our harps upon the willows;” but when we see all—in eternity, we put on immortality, we shall shout, “Victory through the blood of the Lamb!”—Arranged from “Walks with the Prophet Jeremiah,” by Rev. D. Pledge.
See Addenda: HELP FROM GOD.
Jeremiah 32:8. Theme: PRESCIENCE SEALED BY EXPERIENCE. “Then I knew that this was the word of the Lord.”
Did Jeremiah distrust the Divine voice within him beforehand?
I. The prophetic inspiration did not always co-exist with personal conviction in the prophet himself. The two were essentially distinct.
Prophets did not always understand their own prophecies. “No prophecy was of private interpretation.”
Messengers from God carried tidings which seemed often to them incredible. The prophecy of repossession of their land seemed incredible to Jeremiah (see Jeremiah 32:24-25).
II. Divine assurances may be accepted by us without strong and vivid realisation of their certainty. We take them as “the word of the Lord,” and in some vague sense hold them to be true, and that they will prove themselves true.
But we do not “know” them to be “the word of the Lord:” there lacks in us firm apprehension of them, as the very utterance of God who is true and faithful.
So that God’s words may be accepted without our perfect and rejoicing confidence in their being fulfilled.
III. Our human weakness and susceptibilities confuse, at times, the clear recognition of a Divine message to us. Jeremiah’s wishes or reluctance in this matter of purchasing the field tended to confuse the sense of God’s word in him. Our feelings and desires, our reluctance or eagerness, does much to make us unduly eager to interpret our wishes as a sense of God’s word in us, or to interpret our disinclinations as being God’s word in us.
The apprehension of the inutility of any course of conduct leads us to mistrust the word of God in us. It seemed eminently useless to Jeremiah to purchase that field. He was nearly sixty years of age, and the captivity was to be for seventy years, how could he ever reoccupy the field he purchased? Much that we feel God wishes us to do seems to us useless. Our judgment, as well as our disinclination, may cloud the Divine word in us.
IV. When the confirmation of God’s Word comes to us in its actual fulfilment, conviction is complete. And “the word of the Lord” does literally vindicate itself. “Behold Hanameel shall come unto thee” (Jeremiah 32:7); “So Hanameel came to me” (Jeremiah 32:8).
Such fulfilments are the common experience of all God’s servants. Not prophets alone. “Not one good thing of all which the Lord hath spoken hath failed.”
Yet faith should not wait for such verification. “Because thou hast seen Me, thou hast believed; blessed are they which have not seen and yet have believed.” See Isaiah 50:10.
Jeremiah 32:9. And I bought the field.” Florus, the Roman historian, records that during the days when Rome was being besieged by Hannibal, the very ground on which he was encamped was put up for sale at Rome, and found a purchaser; thereby indicating the strong confidence of the ultimate issue of the siege which animated the Roman people.
Jeremiah 32:16. Theme: PRAYER THE SOLACE OF A PERPLEXED SOUL. Jeremiah obeys God’s command: purchases the land which seems so useless, parting with money which—in the emergencies of a siege—seemed so invaluable. In a misgiving mood, he carries his perplexity to God’s throne, and in prayer seeks rest of mind and soul. Conviction in him was at strife with God’s command.
I. The soul in prayer rises to majestic thoughts of God (Jeremiah 32:17-19).
His almightiness (17); graciousness (18); righteousness (19). Such thoughts prove like clear shinings from heaven on our dimness and doubt.
II. The soul in prayer gathers up memories of God’s wondrous deeds. Oh, how the recollection of His mercies and deliverances flood the soul while we kneel! (Jeremiah 32:20-22).
III. The soul in prayer realises the appalling unworthiness of man consequent upon his sin (Jeremiah 32:23). It is when near the throne, and looking up into the Divine face, seeing visions of God’s great love and redeeming mercy, that we feel man’s criminality, and cry for ourselves, “I am a man of unclean lips, for I have seen the King the Lord of Hosts.”
IV. The soul in prayer ventures to lay all its misgivings upon God. “Behold the mount!” (Jeremiah 32:24). The difficulties of interpreting God’s dealings, and of faith in God’s words. The soul grows strong and confident when near Him, feels it may and must lay all its fears, and wonderments, and troubles upon a God so tender and wise.
Jeremiah could not reconcile God’s prophecies, through himself, that He would destroy the land, with this command to him to purchase soil as if it were a sure and inalienable possession.
V. The soul in prayer finds relief in the freest and fullest unburdening of itself before the Lord. There is no reserve. Tells God it cannot see the consistency of His own action! “Behold Thou seest it” (Jeremiah 32:24); the ruin Thou declarest should come is at hand; yet “Thou hast said, Buy thee the field!”
And that is the occasion of human anxiety, when God does not seem to us consistent with Himself. Thus Abraham, when called to offer Isaac, in whom the promises centred. And even our Lord, though the beloved Son, cried, “My God, My God, why hast Thou forsaken Me?”
Then, in the mystery the soul learns resignation; and in resignation it enters into rest.
See Addenda: SOLACE OF PRAYER.
“For one thing only, Lord, dear Lord, I plead—
Lead me aright,
Though strength should falter, and though heart should bleed,
Through Peace to Light.
I do not ask, O Lord, that Thou shouldst shed
Full radiance here:
Give but a ray of peace, that I may tread
Without a fear.
I do not ask my cross to understand,
My way to see;
Better in darkness just to feel Thy hand,
And follow Thee.
Joy is like restless day; but Peace Divine
Like quiet night!
Lead me, O Lord, till perfect day shall shine,
Through Peace to Light.”
N.B.—With this outline should be connected the outline on Jeremiah 32:27 : GOD’S REPLY, &c.
Note.—M. Henry observes: Prayer is the salve of every sore, and points out that “before Jeremiah went to prayer he delivered the deeds that concerned his new purchase to Baruch, which may intimate to us that when we are going to worship God we should get our minds as clear as may be from the cares and encumbrances of the world.”
On Jeremiah 32:17, see Noticeable Topics at end of chapter: CREATION—AN ARGUMENT FOR FAITH.
Jeremiah 32:17. A BEWILDERED SOUL. See Sectional Homilies on chap. Jeremiah 12:1-6, p. 246, and on Jeremiah 32:1, p. 248.
Jeremiah 32:17-25. Theme: DIVINE PROMISES OUR BEST CONSOLATION IN EVERY AFFLICTION.
i. There are promises of Divine help for every kind of distress in human life.
ii. These promises often sound very wonderful (24, 25).
iii. Their fulfilment on the part of God is guaranteed by the perfection of the Divine nature (17–19).
iv. Their fulfilment is, on our part, conditioned by faith.—Naegelsbach.
Jeremiah 32:19. Theme: THE GREATNESS OF GOD’S WISDOM AND THE ABUNDANCE OF HIS POWER. Proved from His nature: “Great in counsel and mighty in work,” &c.
I. God has the power of making the deepest affliction of His children produce their highest happiness.
II. The contrivances of tyrants to oppress the Church procure its establishment.
III. The triumphs of Satan turn to the destruction of his empire.—Saurin, in Lange.
Jeremiah 32:19. Theme: GOD’S EYES UPON THE PATHS OF MEN. “For Thine eyes are open upon all the ways of the sons of men.” This serious and important fact should—
I. Shake us and awake us from our security. What if some of our “ways” are sinful, and such as the Lord must disapprove?
II. Humble us if we are under the discipline of God’s Spirit. For though avowedly being “led by the Spirit of God,” we may yet be turning to our own self-made courses, and may not have allowed a fixed and sure heart to be imparted to us.
III. Comfort and encourage us when we are led in dark and difficult paths. For we often are: and are led by Him whose eyes are “open,” though our eyes are dim.—J. M. Mueller, in Lange.
See Homily on chap. Jeremiah 17:10 : GOD’S RULE OF JUDGMENT.
Jeremiah 32:20-21. GOD’S WONDERS IN THE PAST. See Homilies on chap. Jeremiah 11:7, Jeremiah 30:18.
Jeremiah 32:22. COVENANTED BLESSINGS. See Homily on chap. 11, sec. 1–8, p. 232, and on Jeremiah 32:1, p. 234.
Jeremiah 32:27. Theme: GOD’S REPLY TO A PERPLEXED SOUL.
I. He confirms the pleader’s faith in Himself. “I am,” &c. (Jeremiah 32:27). Therefore thy foes (Jeremiah 32:28-29) work My will, and nothing exceeds My power to fulfil my promises of Israel’s repossession of the land (Jeremiah 32:37).
II. He explains the occasion of His just displeasure. “This city hath been to Me as a provocation of Mine anger,” &c. (Jeremiah 32:31) Observe that God reiterates the words, “provoke Me to anger,” five times (Jeremiah 32:29-32; Jeremiah 32:37).
III. He protests against the abuse of His graciousness (Jeremiah 32:33).
IV. He affirms the grand purposes of mercy He cherishes (Jeremiah 32:37-41).
Here, therefore, note—
i. It is in strengthening the soul’s trust in God’s all-sufficiency for all occasions that He allays fear (Jeremiah 32:27).
ii. It is in vindicating the righteousness of His displeasure that He silences our murmurings (Jeremiah 32:31).
iii. It is in reminding us of grace extended to us in vain that He teaches us how patient and longsuffering His nature is (Jeremiah 32:33).
iv. It is in inspiring clear hopes of a merciful issue out of distress that He ends our questionings and leads us into loving trust (Jeremiah 32:37-41).
Jeremiah 32:27. Theme: GOD’S ACCOUNT OF HIMSELF. This is God’s account of Himself—
I. “I am:” Individuality.
II. “I am the Lord:” Dominion, majesty, &c.
III. “The God of all flesh:” Universality; condescension;—not only the God of mighty spirits, but the God of infirm and dying flesh.
IV. “Is anything too hard for Me?” Distrust rebuked, prayer encouraged, completeness guaranteed—completeness of council, and completeness of execution.
Application: Every word of this is a terror to evil-doers. Every word of it is inspiration to the true and noble.—City Temple.
On Jeremiah 32:29. JERUSALEM’S RUINS, see chap. Jeremiah 21:10.
On Jeremiah 32:30. EVIL DONE FROM YOUTH, see Homilies on chap. Jeremiah 2:7; Jeremiah 3:25; Jeremiah 7:22-26; Jeremiah 22:21.
On Jeremiah 32:33. TURNING THE BACK ON GOD, see Homilies on chap. Jeremiah 2:27; Jeremiah 6:24; and on GOD’S EARNESTNESS IN DEALING WITH SINNERS, “Rising up early,” &c., see Homily on chap. Jeremiah 7:13.
On Jeremiah 32:34. “ABOMINATIONS IN MINE HOUSE,” see Homily, “Violated Sanctuaries Doomed,” chap. Jeremiah 7:12-14.
On Jeremiah 32:37. ISRAEL GATHERED AGAIN, see Homilies on chap. Jeremiah 23:3-6, &c.
Jeremiah 32:37-40. Theme: THE FUTURE CONVERSION OF THE JEWS.
I. What blessings God has in reserve for His chosen people.
1. A restoration to their own land (Jeremiah 32:37).
2. A renewed acknowledgment of their relation to Him (Jeremiah 32:38).
3. A spirit of piety poured out upon them (Jeremiah 32:39).
II. What security they have for the final possession of these blessings.
1. The veracity of God (Jeremiah 32:40).
2. The power of God. “I will not turn away from them to do them good” (Jeremiah 32:40).
Learn to realise these glorious expectations, to labour for the desolate and outcast children of Israel.—Charles Simeon.
On Jeremiah 32:38. “My PEOPLE,” see on chap. Jeremiah 24:7; Jeremiah 30:22.
On Jeremiah 32:39. A HEART GIVEN BY GOD, see Homily on chap. Jeremiah 24:7.
On Jeremiah 32:40. A CHANGELESS COVENANT, see on chap. Jeremiah 31:31; Jeremiah 31:33.
On. Jeremiah 32:41. Compare Jeremiah 31:28.
Theme: ISRAEL’S RESTORATION WHOLLY ENGAGING GOD. “Assuredly with My whole heart and with My whole soul.”
I. God’s purposes of grace move His own nature to deepest sympathy. He is not coldly occupied in calculating upon them, but fervently moved by them. His “whole heart and soul” is stirred. “God so loved.”
II. God’s oversight of His people engages His most earnest and tender solicitude. He is no indifferent spectator of their career. His “whole heart and soul” are in their welfare.
III. God’s glorious designs animate Him with unceasing delight. He “rejoices over them to do them good—with His whole heart,” &c. Hence
1. The Church’s joy, in times of great and God-given blessedness, is faint as compared with God’s delight.
2. The soul’s gratitude for restoration to the favours sin forfeited is only a reflection of the joy God feels in his redemption.
3. The bliss of the ransomed in heaven is a prospect which fills the “whole heart and the whole soul” of God Himself with sympathetic delight.
NOTICEABLE TOPIC IN CHAPTER 32
Topic: CREATION—AN ARGUMENT FOR FAITH. Text: “Ah, Lord God! behold, Thou hast made the heaven and the earth by Thy great power and stretched out arm, and there is nothing too hard for Thee” (Jeremiah 32:17).
When Jeremiah came into his chamber alone, it is possible that he began to question himself as to what he had been doing, and troubled thoughts rolled over his mind:—“I have been purchasing a useless possession,” said he. See how he refuses to indulge the thought. He gets as far as saying, “Ah, Lord God!” as if he were about to utter some unbelieving or rebellious sentence, but he stops himself, “Thou canst make this plot of ground of use to me; Thou canst rid this land of these oppressors; Thou canst make me yet sit under my vine and my fig-tree in the heritage which I have bought; for Thou didst make the heavens and the earth, and there is nothing too hard for Thee.” This gave a majesty to the early saints, that they dared to do at God’s command things which were unaccountable to sense, and which reason would condemn. They consulted not with flesh and blood; but whether it is a Noah who is to build a ship on dry land, an Abraham who is to offer up his only son, or a Moses who is to despise the treasures of Egypt, or a Joshua who is to besiege Jericho seven days, using no weapons but the blasts of rams’ horns,—they all act upon God’s command; they act contrary to all the dictates of carnal reason; and God, even the Lord God, gives them a rich reward as the result of their obedient faith. I would to God we had in the religion of these modern times a more potent infusion of this heroic faith in God. When Edward Irving preached that memorable sermon concerning the missionary, who he thought was bound to go forth without purse or scrip, and trusting in his God alone, to preach the Word, a howl went up to heaven against the man as a fanatic. They said he was visionary, unpractical, mad, and all because he dared to preach a sermon full of faith in God. If once again we could, like the world, be hanged upon nothing but the simple power and providence of God, I am sure we should find it a blessed and a safe way of living, glorious to God, and honourable to ourselves.
It is my business to conduct you to Jeremiah’s place of confidence. Seeing that his case is hopeless, knowing that man can do nothing at all for him, the prophet resorts at once to the God that created the heaven and the earth, and he exclaims, “Nothing is too hard for Thee.” Use the text to stimulate the evangelist; to encourage the inquirer; and to comfort the believer.
I. To stimulate the evangelist. And who is the evangelist? Every man and woman who has tasted that the Lord is gracious. There should be no dumb tongue in all our host; we should have no idle hand in the harvest field here, here is your encouragement: the work is God’s, and your success is in the hand of Him who made the heaven and the earth. Let me refresh your memory with the old story of creation:—
1. Remember that the world was created from nothing. You have often said, “Mine is a very hard task, for I address myself to men in whom I see nothing hopeful. I batter against a granite conscience, but it is not moved; I thunder forth the law, but the dead and callous heart has not been stirred; I talk of the love of Christ, but the eye is not suffused with tears; I point to hell, but no terror follows; and to heaven, but no holy desire is kindled! there is nothing in man that encourages me in my work, and I am ready to give it over.” Come back with me to the world’s creation. Of what did God make the world? Was there any substance ready to His hand out of which to mould this round globe? Naught was there anywhere, and yet He spake and it was done; He commanded, and it stood fast. The case of the sinner is a parallel one. You say there is nothing in the sinner. Ay, then, there is room here for a re-creating work; for the Eternal God to come, and with His outstretched arm to create a new heart and a right spirit, and put His grace where there was none before. If you had to convert the sinner, then, indeed, your task were as hopeless as to create new orbs out of nothing; but He who hath created all this marvellous earth, and had nothing to begin with, can give life, and fear, and hope, and faith, and love, where there were no heavenly ingredients upon which He might work.
2. But you have none to help you or go forth in your work with you. When God made the world—and the same God is with thee—He worked alone. “With whom took He counsel, and who instructed Him?” No archangel bowed his head and offered advice to the Most High, for the archangel himself is but a creature. Cherubim and seraphim might sing when the work was over, but help in the work they could not. Look ye to the heavens above or to the deeps beneath, where see ye the impress of any hand but God’s, and that hand a solitary one? Roll thee, then, thy burden on thy God if thou be alone, for alone with Him thou hast the best of company. With Him thou shalt prevail though all men forsake thee.
“When He makes bare His arm,
What shall His work withstand?
When He His people’s cause defends,
Who, who shall stay His hand?”
Let not this, then, trouble thee; that thou art alone. “Ah, Lord God! behold, Thou hast made the heaven and the earth by Thy great power and stretched-out arm, and there is nothing too hard for Thee.”
3. But you reply, “My sorrow lieth not so much in that I am alone, as in the melancholy fact that I am very conscious of my own weakness, and of my want of adaptation for my peculiar work. I am not sufficient for these things; but rather I feel like Jonah, that I would flee into Tarshish, that I might escape from the burden of the Lord against this Nineveh.” Ay, but cast thy thoughts back again upon creation. The Eternal needed no instruments in creation. What tools did God use when He made the heavens and the earth? Had He ought beside His own hand? Are not the heavens the works of His fingers, and the sun and the moon His handiwork? See, then, if God can work without instruments in the creation of a world, He can surely work with a poor and a mean instrument in the conversion of a sinner. If the Lord take in His hand but a smooth stone out of the current, yet when He hurleth it from His sling, it shall pierce even a giant’s brow. He saveth not by man’s strength, nor by human learning, and eloquence, and talent. It is His strength, and not the strength or weakness of the instruments to which we must look. Therefore say, with Paul, “I glory in infirmities, that the power of God may rest on me;” and let this be thy song—“We have this treasure in earthen vessels, that the excellency of the power may be of God, and not of us.” “Ah, Lord God! behold, Thou hast made the heaven and the earth by Thy great power and stretched-out arm; and there is nothing too hard for Thee;” Thou canst do wonders even by the meanest instrument.
4. Dost thou still complain, and say—“Alas! it is little I can say! When I speak, I can but utter a few plain words—true and earnest, but not mighty. I have no power to plead with souls with the tears and the seraphic zeal of a Whitfield. I can only tell the tale of mercy simply, and leave it there.” Well, and did not God create all things by His naked word? Was there any eloquence when God spake, and it was done? “Let there be light,” and there was light. At this day, is not the Gospel in itself the rod of Jehovah’s strength? Is it not the power of God unto salvation to every one that believeth? And doth not Paul constantly insist upon it, that it is not with wisdom of words, nor with fineness of speech, lest the excellency of the power should not be of God, but of man; and lest man’s faith should stand in the wisdom of man, and not in the power of the Most High?
5. Another pleads, “You are not aware of the darkness of the district in which I labour. I toil among a benighted, unintelligent, ignorant people. I cannot expect to see fruit there, toil as I may.” Ah! brother, and while you talk so you never will see any fruit, for God giveth not great things to unbelieving men. But for the encouragement of thy faith, let me remind thee that it is the God that made the heavens and the earth on whom thou hast to lean, and what is that which was written of old? “The earth was without form and void, and darkness was upon the face of the deep.” How dense that darkness was; that primeval darkness which had never been stirred by a single ray of light; that dense, thick, sevenfold Egyptian darkness that had never known a sun or moon, and had never been pierced by light of star! And dost thou think the darkness of thy hearers is thicker than this ancient darkness of the everlasting night?
6. Further, and still to press the same argument. “Ay,” saith one, “but the men among whom I labour are so confused in their notions, they put darkness for light and light for darkness; their moral sense is blunted; if I try to teach them, their ears are dull of hearing and their hearts are given to slumber. Besides, they are full of vain janglings and oppose themselves to the truth; I endure much contradiction of sinners, and they will not receive the truth in the love of it.” Ay, then, I bid thee go back to the old creation that thou mayest be comforted concerning the new. Did not the Holy Spirit brood with shadowing wings over the earth when it was chaos? Did He not bring out order from confusion? Then the earth stood out all fair and glittering, for God had done it; disorder yielded to law; darkness gave place to light; chaos turned to glorious order in His sight. The same marvels can be wrought in your case.
7. “Ah,” say you, “they are all so dead, so dead!” Ay, and remember how the waters brought forth life abundantly; and how the earth brought forth the creeping thing, and the cattle after its kind; and how, at last, man was made out of the very dust of the earth. Oh, God can readily give life to the dead nature of evil men; thou hast but to rely on Him, the quickening influence shall descend, and thou shalt live.
8. See how fair and glorious this earth is now! Well might the morning stars sing together, and the sons of God shout for joy! And dost thou think that God cannot make as fair a heart in man, and make it bud and blossom, and teem with hallowed life? Thinkest thou that Christ cannot make the angels sing even a nobler song of joy over a soul that is washed in blood and a spirit robed in white that shall praise God and the Lamb for ever?
II. To encourage the inquirer. Many really desirous to be saved are full of doubts, and difficulties, and questionings.
Remember that the question about your salvation is not whether you can save yourself, for that is answered in a thundering negative from God’s throne—You cannot! “By the works of the law shall no flesh living be justified.” The question is—Can God save you? Can God save you? That is the question. Your unbelief will suggest the difficulty that—
1. Your mind is so dark. “I cannot see Christ,” says one; “I feel benighted; it is all darkness, thick as night with me.” Yes, but then there is the question, Can God roll this night away? And the answer comes, He who said, “Let there be light,” and there was light, can certainly repeat the miracle.
2. Another of your doubts will arise from the fact that you feel so weak. You cannot do what you would. You would leave sin, but still fall into it; would lay hold on Christ, but cannot. Then comes the question, Can God do it? And we answer, He who made the heavens and the earth without a helper, can certainly save thee when thou canst not help thyself.
No part of the world helped its own creation. No mountain uplifted its own head; no star appointed its own path of brightness. No flower can say, “I created my own loveliness;” no eagle that cuts the air can say, “I gave myself my soaring wing and my piercing eye.” God hath made them all; and so, sinner, troubled because of thine impotency, He wanteth no power in thee. “He giveth power to the faint, and to them that have no might He increaseth strength.” Rest thou upon God in Christ, and cast thyself on Him, and He will do it all. (See Addenda: HUMAN INABILITY.)
3. “Ay,” sayest thou again, “but I am in such an awful state of mind; there is such a confusion within me; I cannot tell what is the matter with me; I know not what I am; I cannot understand myself.” Was not the world just so of old, and did not all the beauty of all lands rise out of this dire confusion? Cannot God, then, do this for thee, and give thee a peace that passeth all understanding? Trust thou in Christ, despite it all, for He can hush the hurricane to slumber and lay the storm to sleep.
4. There is more hope in thy case than there was in the creation of the world, for in the creation there was nothing done beforehand. The plan was drawn, no doubt, but no material was provided; no stores laid in to effect the purpose. But in thy case the work is done already, beforehand. On the bloody tree Christ has carried sin; in the grave He has vanquished death; in resurrection He has rent for ever the bonds of the grave; in ascension He has opened heaven to all believers; and in His intercession He is pleading still for them that trust Him. “It is finished,” remember, so that it is easier to save thee than to make a world, for the world had naught prepared for it.
5. Yet again, God has done something more in thee than there was done before He made the world. Emptiness did not cry “O God! create me.” Darkness could not pray, “O Lord! give me light.” Confusion could not cry, “O God! ordain me into order.” But see what He has done for you! He has taught you to cry,
Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a right spirit within me.” He has made you plead, “Lighten my darkness, O Lord, lest I sleep the sleep of death.” He has taught you to say, “I have gone astray, like a lost sheep; seek Thy servant.” See, friend, the grass cannot pray for dew, and yet it falls; and shall you cry for it and God withhold it? The thirsty earth hath no voice to ask for showers, and yet they descend; and will God let you cry and not answer you?—you! made in His own image, will He let you cry and not hear you, when He has Himself said, “As I live, saith the Lord God, I have no pleasure in the death of him that dieth, but would rather that he should turn unto Me and live”?
6. It was in God’s power to make the world or not, just as He pleased. No promise bound Him; no covenant made it imperative upon Him that His arm should be outstretched. Sinner, the Lord is not bound to save thee except from His own promise, and that promise is, “He that calleth upon the name of the Lord shall be saved.” He cannot withhold saving thee if thou callest upon Him.
7. It is certain that there is more room in your case for God to glorify Himself than there was in the making of the world. In making the world He glorified His wisdom and He magnified His power, but He could not show His mercy. He could have no mercy upon floods and mountains, upon cattle and flying fowl. There was kindness, but no mercy, for they had not sinned. Now, here in your case, there is room for every attribute of God, for His loving-kindness, His faithfulness, His truth, His power, His grace.
III. To comfort believers. You are greatly troubled are you? It is a common lot with us all. And you have nothing on earth to trust to now, and are going to be cast on your God alone? Happy trouble that drives thee to thy Father! Blessed storm that wrecks thee on the Rock of ages! Glorious billow that washes thee upon this heavenly shore! And now thou hast nothing but thy God to trust to, what art thou going to do? To fret? Oh, do not thus dishonour thy Lord! Show the world that thy God is worth ten thousand worlds to thee. Show rich men how rich thou art in thy poverty when the Lord God is thy helper. Show the strong man how strong thou art in thy weakness when underneath thee are the everlasting arms. Now, now is thy time to glorify God. There was no room for courage before, but now there is space for feats of faith and valiant exploits. Be strong and very courageous, and the Lord thy God shall certainly, as surely as He built the heavens and the earth, glorify Himself in thy weakness, and magnify His might in the midst of thy distress. The Lord help us to lean wholly on Him, and never on ourselves, and let His name be had in remembrance while the earth endureth. Amen.—Condensed from Sermon by C. H. Spurgeon, A.D. 1862.
ADDENDA TO CHAP. 32: ILLUSTRATIONS AND SUGGESTIVE EXTRACTS
HELP FROM GOD.
Philip Henry thus wrote upon a studying day: “I forgot when I began explicitly and expressly to crave help from God, and the chariot-wheels drove accordingly.”
“Angels know the happiness of power; we, the happiness of weakness.”—Lady Powerscourt.
Jeremiah 32:16. SOLACE OF PRAYER.
“Thy love, O Lord, restores me
From sighs and tears to praise;
And deep my soul adores Thee,
Nor thinks of time or place:
I ask no more, in good or ill,
But union with Thy holy will.
’Tis that which makes my treasure,
’Tis that which brings my gain;
Converting woe to pleasure,
And reaping joy from pain.
Oh, ’tis enough, whate’er befall,
To know that God is All in all.”
“His heart began to boil with un belief and carnal reasonings; he therefore setteth himself to pray down those distempers. As a man may sleep out his drunkenness, so he may pray away his perturbation.”—Trapp.
“I would, but can’t repent,
Though I endeavour oft;
This stony heart can ne’er relent,
Till Jesus makes it soft.
I would, but cannot love,
Though woo’d by love Divine;
No arguments have power to move
A soul so base as mine.
I would, but cannot rest
In God’s most holy will;
I know what He appoints is best,
Yet murmur at it still.
Oh, could I but believe!
Then all would easy be;
I would, but cannot—Lord, relieve;
My help must come from Thee!”
These files are public domain.
Text Courtesy of BibleSupport.com. Used by Permission.
Exell, Joseph S. "Commentary on Jeremiah 32". Preacher's Complete Homiletical Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/
the Week of Proper 20 / Ordinary 25