CRITICAL AND EXEGETICAL NOTES.—1. Chronology of the Chapter.—This and the following chapter constitute one prophecy against Babylon; and the date of its authorship is given in chap. Jer : "the fourth year of Zedekiah." Jeremiah delivered this written prophecy to Seriah, the king's chamberlain and Baruch's brother (cf. chap. Jer 32:12), who accompanied Zedekiah the king to Babylon, probably at Nebuchadnezzar's summons, for some imposing state occasion: the prophet's design being to send to the exiles there His message concerning the overthrow of the Chaldean power and their return from captivity.
2. National Affairs.—Jeremiah was at this time dwelling in Jerusalem (Jer, lit. "hitherwards," not as in E.V., "thitherwards," the writer being in Jerusalem), yet he regards the city as already captured and in ruins (Jer 50:11; Jer 50:15; Jer 50:17; Jer 50:28, &c.), while the exiles at Babylon, taught by their sorrows and misfortunes, are seeking their God in penitence (Jer 50:4-7). But the expressions are all general, there are none of those minute touches which would certainly have been found had the city and temple been actually destroyed (Dr. Payne Smith). The exact position of affairs will be apparent by reference to Notes in loc. to chap. 29. Comp. also Topic, "Prophecy vindicated in Babylon's Fall" (on chap. Jer 25:13), p. 473.
3. Personal Allusions.—Jer . "Bel," the principal deity of Babylon, and "Merodack" (which means in Syria, little lord), another idol-god.
Literary Criticisms.—Jer . "Their faces thitherward:" but הֵנָּה uniformly means hither: they look "hither" from scenes of exile.
Jer . "A mighty expert man" The pointing of the word מַשְׁכִּיל, maschil, appears in most of the authorities; therefore is rendered expert; but some editions read מַשְׂכִּיל mashchil, a destroyer, or prosperous.
Jer . "Your mother:" אִמְּכֶם is the metropolis of the empire, Babylon.
Jer . "Devoured him … broken his bones." Rather, "The first, even the king of Assyria, ate him (imagery of a lion being kept up), and this last, even Nebuchadnezzar, hath picked his bones." For Israel was so wasted by Assyria, that Nebuchadnezzar had but the bones to pick.
Jer . "Marathaim." Marg. "the rebels;" but מְרַתַיִם is doubly rebellious: it is a dual form, intended as an intensitive, and conveys the sense of the very rebellious land. "Pekod" signifies visitation.
Jer . "O thou most proud." Lit. O Pride; God calls Babylon by that name, זָדוֹן.
SUBJECT OF CHAPTER 50
BABYLON'S PREDICTED OVERTHROW: ISRAEL'S SURE REDEMPTION
i. Why was Babylon's fall announced? That the exiles there might cherish hope in their captivity and nurture faith in Jehovah as still working out purposes of mercy for His covenant people. Comp. "The Theocratic Purpose of the Captivity," p. 472.
ii. What was the power which should effect Babylon's overthrow? "A nation cometh up against her from the north" (Jer ). The Median power, which Cyrus successfully led against Babylon (see Topic, "Sheshach," ii. 2, p. 475). As Judah's overthrow by Babylon had always been predicted "from the north" (chap. Jer 1:14), now, in turn, Babylon's overthrow is to be by a power "from the north." The north is the region where the sun never shines, and emblematical, therefore, of severity and gloom. The Medo-Persian empire was an aggregation of small nationalities welded into unity by Cyaxares (B.C. 633).
iii. In what light is Babylon's ruin to be regarded? Comp. "The Supernatural Termination of Babylon's Power," p. 472. Her work was done; and, as being a graceless and arrogant power, God destroyed it when it had served the end for which He created and prolonged it. For though Babylon worked out God's designs in Judah's punishment, it was not done by her in recognition of Jehovah and His will, but in violent lust of empire, and in disregard of the sanctity of Zion's holy things.
iv. How would the exiles greet this prediction? Surely it would call them to the repentance and re-allegiance to God which Jeremiah describes (Jer ), and foster in them a patient waiting for the hour of their promised redemption, and restrain their souls from Babylon's idolatries by fixing their expectation and trust in Jehovah.
Observation.—The fate of Babylon is homiletically treated in chap. 25; hence in these two chapters the general theme will be left, and only verses selected for homilies.
HOMILIES ON VERSES IN CHAPTER 50
Jer . Theme: WEEPING PILGRIMS. "Going and weeping; they shall go and seek the Lord their God."
i. THE RETURN. "Going." In part fulfilled when some few of the ten tribes of "Israel" joined Judah in a "covenant" with God at the restoration of Judah to their own land (Neh ; Neh 10:29). Its full accomplishment is yet to come (chap. Jer 31:9; see Homilies on "The Watchmen's Call" and "Pilgrims to Zion," pp. 518, 519. Comp also Hos 1:11; Zec 12:10). Its constant fulfilment is realised in souls returning to the Lord in prayer, penitence, and faith.
ii. THE TEARFUL JOURNEY. "Weeping." With sorrow at the remembrance of their sins and sufferings (Ezr ; Psa 126:5-6). With gladness at their restoration, after so long a delay, and in a manner surpassing all hope.
iii. THE DIVINE GOAL. "Seek the Lord their God." More a going back in heart to Him, than a mere geographical return to their land. A happier goal that than to a ruined country; for the goal of piety, "The Lord," is a better and more blessed one than the goal of patriotism—a wasted country. God is more to the ransomed soul than Zion!
Jer . Theme: SINNERS RETURNING TO GOD.
Evident that the verses allude to the return of the Jews from the Babylonish captivity. But as they interestingly describe what is manifest in the return of sinners to God, we will use them to illustrate such a circumstance.
I. Penitents going in company. "In those days the children of Israel shall come, they and the children of Judah together."
There had been much dissension and great enmity between these tribes from the days of Rehoboam (see 1 Kings 12); but it had been foretold that they should again unite, and here we behold them coming "together." Thus it is with sinners in submitting to the teachings of the Holy Ghost and yielding to divine influence.
Whatever was the distance, whatever the enmity existing between them before, now, as with one accord, they come together to the house of God, to the throne of grace, to the Saviour of mankind. See Eph .
II. Sinners returning with weeping. "Going and weeping."
What an affecting sight! Whence have they come? Why do they weep? Whither are they going? They have left the land of their captivity, where they were aliens from God, servants to idolaters, slaves to their enemies; they have left the ways of sin, the company of the wicked, the service of the devil Behold them going.
As they go they weep: not from regret that they are leaving scenes and circumstances to which they have been so long habituated, but rather because they remained connected with them so long. They are affected by a sense of God's goodness to them and by a consciousness of their ingratitude towards God; they weep on account of their sins, and the proof of their sincerity is manifest in their movement; for as they weep they go; they leave their former sinful situation, and they are going.
III. Souls returning to the Lord. "To seek the Lord their God."
The children of Israel and of Judah had wandered from Jehovah, the true God, the God of their fathers; they had provoked the Holy One of Israel to anger, especially by the folly and the infamy of idolatrous practices, and God had left them for a while captives in the hands of idolaters. But mixing mercy with judgment, He remembered them in their low estate; and here we find them again seeking the Lord their God.
Sinners may wander from God, but misery, infamy, and ruin will be the consequence; they must return again to God or perish. And they may return; for oh! how kind are the words of the Lord our God, of Jesus our Saviour, to weeping returning sinners! "Ye shall seek me and find me when ye shall search for me with your whole heart" (Jer ).
IV. Seekers asking direction. "They ask the way to Zion with their faces thitherward."
Zion was the city of solemnities among the Jews, and God was peculiarly present there. But Zion means the Church, and it is in His Church that God may always be found. So Jesus our Saviour promises. Agreeably to this, "they ask the way to Zion;" and as a proof that this is not an idle inquiry, they ask "with their faces thitherward." Their dispositions are turned toward God and His people; their souls are inclined to religion and its ways.
Thus disposed, they next resolve, "Come and let us join ourselves to the Lord in a perpetual covenant, that shall not be forgotten."
They had been joined to idols, to sin, to wickedness. But now they say, "Come let us join ourselves to the Lord."
The way to join ourselves to the Lord is, spiritually, by faith and by love; outwardly, by connecting ourselves with the Lord's people—with those who worship God in spirit and rejoice in Christ Jesus, and have no confidence in the flesh.—Altered from "Sketches of Sermons."
Jer . Theme: DIRECTIONS TO INQUIRERS. "They shall ask the way to Zion, Come and let us join ourselves to the Lord." The evidences of a state of grace are the same in all ages. The thought of the numbers in heaven and the numbers on the way to it may well encourage us.
Text said of Israel in Babylon, but said spiritually of seekers in every age.
Perhaps never a day since first promise in which there has not been some inquirer to heaven.
"We are compassed," etc. It is always instructive to mark the peculiar and characteristic distinctions of the people of God. Though there are some things in which they differ, there are many in which they agree. Unity without uniformity.
There may be circumstantial differences between Moses and Joshua, Paul and John, Martha and Mary, Peter and Nathaniel, but they yet possess a oneness of character. All love Christ; love prayer; love the Word of God; love the fellowship of the Gospel. "All drink into the same Spirit."
Our text exhibits some of these, and we shall set before you—
I. Some of the marks and characteristics of the pilgrims to Zion. "Arise, let us go up to Zion." Earnestness, Union, Effort.
1. By their earnest inquiry. "They inquire the way to Zion with their faces thitherward." Supposes Desire, Ignorance, Docility, Resolution.
As when the bondage of Israel was broken they began to turn homewards, so when the soul is truly converted to God it begins to turn heavenwards. "Arise ye," etc.
The soul truly awakened is no longer content to sleep in sin, to linger upon the brink of perdition, to remain under the sentence and condemnation of a broken law, but determines to seek salvation and escape the wrath to come. "I will arise."
Paul inquires, "What wouldst Thou have me to do?" Peter inquires, "Lord, to whom shall we go but to Thee?" The jailor inquires, "What shall I do to be saved?" Balak inquires, "Wherewithal shall I come before the Lord?"
Depend upon it, it is a great era in any man's history when he feels himself wrong, becomes aware of his danger, has strong convictions awakened, sees his need of a Saviour, feels for the first time the powers of the world to come, and earnestly resolves to make the care of his soul the first concern.
But it is of great consequence that he should at once act upon his convictions. These inquired with "their faces directed thitherward." Not ask the way to heaven and set their faces to the world; not set their faces to heaven and go on at a venture without asking the way; but in all true converts there is both a sincere desire to attain the end and a constant care to keep the way. Guard against trifling with convictions. Pray that they may be deepened and confirmed, that you may be enabled to act upon them, that they may issue in sound conversion.
2. By their penitential regrets. "Going and weeping."
They weep that they have been in bondage so long, that their best days have been devoted to folly and sin, that so few are found walking with them, that the way is so rough, the difficulties so great, and that they find so many traces and footprints of returning feet—of those who professed to set out on pilgrimage, but whose hearts were not right. The open enemies of the way do not discourage so much as the false friends of the way (Psa ).
Repentance awakens a godly sorrow for sin past, a painful sense of sin present, our remaining corruption, and a holy jealousy and distrust of ourselves for the future, lest, like Lot's wife, we look back, or, like Israel, in heart go back (Psa ).
3. By their mutual solicitude and concern. "Come and let us." Roused themselves, they long to rouse others.
Religion delights in unity and association. It consecrates the social principle by bringing it in aid of our own and others' piety. The charity of religion when it begins at home does not end there. One of the first indications of piety is a concern for the salvation of others (Joh ). "Andrew first findeth his own brother." Like lighted torches spread the flame.
He who can forego the communion of saints will probably very soon be able to resign communion with God.
4. By their solemn and determined consecration to God. "Let us join ourselves to the Lord in a perpetual covenant."
"My understanding shall be His to know Him; my will His to choose Him; my affections His to love Him; and all my active powers His to serve and honour Him."—Bishop Beveridge. Williams of Kidderminster records:—"I solemnly devoted and dedicated myself to Him who is the King of kings, resolving by His grace to give a full divorce to all manner of sins, and to the utmost of my power to strive and wrestle with all temptations to sin, whether from without or within; to avoid the society of vain and graceless persons; to commend myself to God by prayer at least twice a day; to be careful and constant in self-examination and meditation; particularly to meditate on the love of God in Christ, and of Christ in willingly offering Himself a sacrifice for poor sinners, and in sending the blessed Spirit, whose strivings and quickening motions I resolved, by the grace of God, never to quench. I resolved to watch narrowly against the wanderings and strayings of my heart in any duty; to make the glory of God and the salvation of my soul my chief business and design; and to account the affairs of this world but as diversions to me in my way heavenward. I determined to call myself to account for the actions of the day, and frequently to write remarks thereon. This was of excellent use to keep me close to God and duty to prevent sin; it helped me to redeem precious time, making conscience of rising betimes for communion with God."
II. Directions to those who are desirous of walking in this way.
1. Solemnly consecrate yourself to God. "Join yourselves to the Lord in a perpetual covenant," &c.
2. Carefully study the directions for the way. "Thy Word is a lamp to my feet." Here your course is clearly marked out all the way from the city of destruction to the heights of Zion.
The uses of the Bible read and heard are to convince of sin, to convert to Christ, to confirm in grace, to conduct to glory.
As ever you would profit by a sermon or a chapter, follow it with the tears of repentance and the prayers of faith. Remember that the Bible without its Inspirer's illumination is like a dial without sunshine.
3. Keep close to your Guide. Jesus says, "I am the way." He is the Lion of the tribe of Judah. Honour Christ in His prophetical office as He who loosens the seals and opens the Book, and throws light on the dispensations of God, and guides and guards the Church from earth to heaven.
Peter followed, but followed afar off.
4. Do not separate yourselves from your godward companions.
5. Keep the end constantly in view.—S. Theodey, 1842.
Jer . Theme: YOUNG CONVERTS STARTING ZIONWARD.
I. God reconciled to them in grace is the object of their inquiry.
II. It is usual with inquirers to associate with those who are like-minded with themselves.
III. This inquiry after God and happiness is frequently accompanied with tears.
IV. Mount Zion is the place to which they will repair for instruction and comfort.
V. Devout and sincere inquirers will gladly avail themselves of the direction and counsel of Christian ministers and of other pilgrims who have made some advance in the way to the celestial city.
VI. Young converts, having found God, to their unspeakable satisfaction, will do well to "join themselves to the Lord in a perpetual covenant that shall not be forgotten."—Rev. R. Frost, Dunmow, 1833.
"The fall of Babylon is to be immediately followed by the return of the exiles homewards in tearful procession because they go as penitents, and yet with joy because their faces are towards Zion. The cessation, moreover, of the schisms between Israel and Judah is one of the signs of the times of the Messiah (Isa ), and symbolically represents the gathering together of all the discordant and warring empires of the world under the peaceful sceptre of the Church's King."—Speaker's Commentary.
Jer . Theme: THE SOUL'S RESTING-PLACE. "They have forgotten their resting-place."
The prophet speaks of the captivity of Israel in language of plaintive and poetic beauty: "My people have been lost sheep; their shepherds have caused them to go astray; they have turned them away on the mountains: they have gone from mountain to hill; they have forgotten their resting-place." Jehovah had now come to seek and save them, and the first evidence that He is among them is that they return penitent to Him. As the lost child that has run hither and thither in the crowded streets, seeking in vain the parent from whom she has wandered, crying herself sick in the bitterness of her sorrow, does at the sight of the mother coming to her relief rush to her embrace, so the Jewish nation rose repentingly to meet God as He drew near, saying with earnest and devout enthusiasm, "Come and let us join ourselves unto the Lord in a perpetual covenant that shall not be forgotten" (Jer ). To take the text in a spiritual sense is not accommodation, but interpretation, for all this was designed to present a striking analogy to the case of the sinner and his Saviour. Viewed in this light, the text suggests—
I. That the human soul needs a resting-place.
This is true of the soul—
1. In innocence. As a creature he could not but be dependent. Without unquestioning trust in God, safety and happiness were impossible to man even before the Fall.
2. How much more true is this since man has become a sinner! To the sense of dependence there is now added the restlessness of a rebel, whose conscience is carrying a load it cannot shake off, whose intellect is revolving questions it cannot solve, whose heart is crying out for love that shall be worthy of its acceptance, and for an object that shall be worthy of its love. His nature is utterly weary. The past is guilty, the future is hopeless, and so the present is restless. Have you never sought to hide yourself from God and from yourself in business, pleasure, excitement, because of a consciousness of guilt, even as Adam attempted to hide himself amid the trees? You become yourself the spectre that haunts your heart, and you carry yourself for ever with you. Never, therefore, until yourself is changed can you enter into an unfailing resting-place.
II. Jesus Christ is the resting-place the soul needs.
The deliverance from the power of sin and the effects of sin can alone remove the soul's distress. In Christ we have—
1. Full redemption. He took upon Himself our sins and redeemed us from the curse of the law, so that "there is no condemnation to them that are in Him." No anodynes of earth can give the soul the rest that the blood of Christ can. What the words of men could not do the voice of Jesus has accomplished; for when He has said, "Thy sins are forgiven thee, go in peace," the heavings of the troubled heart have been stilled, as of old the rolling waves of Galilee subsided at His command.
2. In Him we also have regeneration. "If any man be in Christ, he is a new creature." A new centre has been given to his heart, a new aim to his life, a new joy to his experience. In his heart Christ has opened a fountain that quenches his thirst for evermore.
3. He gives repose to the intellect. Christ is "the truth." Jesus Christ alone brings to the soul the element of certainty, and, worn out by vain flights, it folds its weary wings and rests with quiet thankfulness on this tree of knowledge, which is also the tree of life.
4. He also gives repose to the affections of the soul. Earthly objects prove disappointing or fall away from us, or are torn from us and leave the soul all palpitating with agony, but no power can separate from the love of God in Christ Jesus. Earthly objects cannot last through the soul's immortality, but Christ is the same yesterday, to-day, and for ever, and the repose that Christ brings is as everlasting as Himself.
III. The text implies that this resting-place of the soul is sometimes forgotten, even by those who have known and enjoyed it.
"My people have forgotten their resting-place." This place can be attained even on earth by Christians. Paul, amid the damp and darkness of his prison, exclaimed, "I know whom I have believed, and am persuaded He is able to keep what I have committed to Him against that day." Eminent Christians in all ages, &c. But a Christian may frequently have his peace in Christ disturbed. At moments he may be walking through darkness. Job was a true man of God even when he was crying out, "Oh, that I knew where I might find Him!" True, a Christian is not justified in being in this distressed state of mind.
When does a Christian forget his resting-place?
1. When he falls into perplexity, doubting whether he is forgiven or not
2. When he depends upon merely human and earthly resources.
3. When he loses his confidence in the midst of affliction.
Are there those here who have never known this resting-place? Let them seek it now. Come to Christ—
"Take Him for what He is; oh, take Him all,
And look above.
Then shall thy tossing soul find anchorage
And steadfast peace;
Thy love shall rest on His, thy weary doubts
For ever cease;
Thy heart shall find in Him and in His grace
Its rest and bliss."
—Rev. W. M. Taylor, D.D., New York.
Jer . Theme: ROAMING FROM GOD.
i. However unlike in all other choices and courses of action, men alarmingly concur in this, to neglect religion, forsake the fountain of happiness. "They have gone from mountain to hill, they have forgotten their resting-place."
ii. We find no exception to this rule apart from individual cases in which Divine grace has worked a distinction. As in Nature we never find a stone ascend upwards or a river flow backwards of its own accord, so in the moral world we never find men prefering eternity to time, holiness to sin, the Creator to the creature of their own accord.
iii. Wherever this wrong tendency is found superseded by a supreme attachment to heavenly things, we are sure that this new bias owns a heavenly agency.
These Jews in Babylon wandered from hill to hill, from religion to religion, from comforter to comforter, from one broken dependence to another, but never by any chance wandering back to God.
I. God is the proper rest of the human spirit.
1. Every created life requires some object of hope and trust.
2. The dire effect of human depravity is to separate us from God, and to prompt us to seek some other rest.
3. Actually to know and enjoy God is the triumph of personal and experimental religion.
II. A tendency to forget and forsake God lies at the root of all our miseries.
It plunged Israel into captivity; it exposes us to ruin.
1. This is literally true of the whole world of sinners. We have all "forgotten our resting-place."
2. This is practically true of the whole world of saints—the source of their miseries. Not absolute forgetfulness, but a practical one. What makes us faint in calamity, quarrel with Providence, murmur under disappointments, betake ourselves to unworthy means to avoid calamity or obtain relief, &c.
III. Satisfaction is sought in vain while we desert God. "Wander from mountain to hill."
1. Some concentrate happiness in self.
2. Others seek satisfaction in their worldly possessions and well-planned enterprises.
3. Others in their personal talents.
4. Others in their untarnished reputation.
No matter what be the object of idolatry, if God be "forgotten" and the proper "resting-place" forsaken, if the care of their soul be neglected and the cross of Christ unsought, "destruction and misery are in their ways, and the way of peace have they not known."
(a.) There is criminality in this neglect of God.
(b.) There is degradation in it.
(c.) There is ruin, disaster, in it, sooner or later.
IV. God's dispensations correct this perverse tendency in man to roam from Him.
1. The dispensations of His providence.
2. The influence of His grace and Spirit.
Jer . "My people hath been lost sheep: their shepherds have caused them to go astray." See on chap. Jer 2:8, and especially Jer 23:1 seq.
Jer . "Their adversaries said, We off end not, because they sinned against the Lord." "It is the worst condition into which the Church of God can come when the enemies who desolate it maintain they are in the right in doing so. It is, however, a just Nemesis when those who will not hear the regular messengers of God must be told by the extraordinary messengers of God what they should have done."—Naegelsbach.
Nebuzaradan urged the plea of this verse (chap. Jer ; cf. Zec 11:5). The Jews' guilt was so palpable that they were condemned even in the judgment of heathens. They saw they had apostatised from "the hope of their fathers," from the God whose faithfulness their fathers had experienced.
Jer . "Against Babylon, for she hath sinned against the Lord." By oppressing His people; for their cause is His. Also by profaning His sacred vessels (Dan 5:2).
Jer . Theme: THE SCATTERED SHEEP. "Israel is a scattered sheep; the lions hath driven him away."
Sin made them victims of invading conquerors. Text was fulfilled in the captivity by Assyria. Language appropriate to every lost sinner.
I. A wandering sheep is a very fit emblem of a poor sinner. Entangled in the briars of the wilderness, torn and pierced by its thorns; the lions have devoured us, &c. In plain language: man's heart, affections, powers of his mind, all are alienated from God. A wandering sheep is the emblem of—
1. Indigence, perplexity, and disappointment.
4. An object of pity and anxious solicitude. God pitied the sinner (Joh ); His love is illustrated by Luk 15:3, &c.
II. Jesus Christ is the great Shepherd, who seeks and gathers into His fold His wandering sheep. As such He is frequently described (Psa ; Isa 40:11; Joh 10:11).
1. He knows they are in the wilderness. He came "to seek and to save that which is lost." He finds them in a ruined condition.
2. He pities them, and rescues them from their enemies. He "takes the prey from the mighty, and delivers the lawful captive."
3. He restoreth the soul (Psalms 23) He came to give "life more abundantly" (Joh ). For this purpose He died, paid the price, &c.
III. How blessed is the present state of the restored sheep! Loved, redeemed, enfolded.
1. The fold of Christ is a secure enclosure. The "Lord is round about His people." His perfections are on every side for their security.
2. They are in suitable and congenial society. Sheep associate not with other animals. We "have fellowship one with another."
3. He will ever watch over them, guide and defend them; for they are precious to Him. He will "never leave nor forsake them:" be with them in the valley of death, and then enfold them in heaven.
IV. The restored sheep are amply tended and nourished.
1. They "go in and out and find pasture." But they are not always fed on the same ordinance. The blessing is not confined to one means of grace.
2. All the blessings of the new covenant are for the nourishment of the soul.
3. The endearing character of Christ should engage our confidence, as our Shepherd. He is infinitely good, providentially kind, and graciously tender to His people. His bounty supplies, His wisdom orders, all things for us; and His Gospel brings us every spiritual enjoyment.
V. The sheep shall be eventually removed from the fold below to that in glory.
1. Here they have much enjoyment, but it is often imperfect and interrupted. Sin disquiets, the world disappoints, ordinances only prove a blessing occasionally.
2. The time is nearing when the flock shall be all in one fold, eternally with the Shepherd, led by Him into the eververdant pastures.
(a.) Are you one of Christ's sheep? As a wandering sinner, have you been reclaimed?
(b.) Have you sensible enjoyment of the provisions of the Gospel? Are they to you green pastures, &c.?
(c.) If not identified with the flock of Christ now, at the day of division you will be severed from the redeemed of the Lord (Mat, &c.)
—From "Helps for the Pulpit."
Jer . Theme: GOD'S MERCY TO HIS PEOPLE. "In those days the iniquity of Israel shall be sought for, and there shall be none; and the sins of Judah, and they shall not be found: for I will pardon them whom I reserve."
God's promises seem so "exceeding great" that we are tempted to limit them by conditions. Men may indeed deceive themselves as to their own personal interest in them; but God is sovereign in His affluence.
This promise has been only in part accomplished; for since the Jews' return from Babylon "their sins have been found," and visited, too, in wrathful indignation for many hundreds of years. At a period fast nearing, God's elect among them shall be restored to His favour, &c.
I. The extent of God's mercy to His chosen people.
1. They are constantly represented as a remnant. Yet they are "a remnant according to the election of grace" (Rom ).
2. For them, however, God designs the richest mercy. A full and perfect remission of all sin (Isa ); and to remember their sins no more for ever (Jer 31:31-34; Heb 10:14-17). God will henceforth view them as they are in Christ, "without spot or blemish" (Eph 5:27).
II. The interest which the Jewish nation has in this covenanted mercy.
1. They are the direct objects God has in view in this promise. We do right to apply these words to God's elect generally, but wrong to overlook their primary purpose. This is emphatically a pledge to the Jews.
2. So applied, the promise should fill us with unutterable joy.
III. With what thoughts should we contemplate this promised mercy?
1. Amazement at the riches of God's grace.
2. Humiliation, loathing ourselves for our iniquities against such a God.
3. Gratitude (Rom ).
4. Affiance. In all He has done He gives us the pledge that He will never suffer any one to "separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord."—Rev. Chas. Simeon, M.A., 1828.
Jer . Theme: PLENTEOUS FORGIVENESS. "I will pardon them whom I reserve."
I. In some cases pardon would be both unrighteous and dangerous.
The law must be honoured and the transgressor cease from the sin which needs pardon.
II. The pardon God bestows is sovereign in its exercise.
As pardon is an act of grace, not merited, it must be sovereign; bestowed according to the good pleasure of His will.
III. A universal offer of pardon is proclaimed in the Gospel.
On the ground of "repentance towards God and faith towards our Lord Jesus Christ."
IV. While, therefore, God's grace designs the scheme of pardon through Christ, the responsibility of securing pardon rests on man.
However wicked, no man need despair of obtaining it. "Let him return unto the Lord, and He will abundantly pardon."
How can we doubt this when He pardoned a Manasseh, a Magdalene, a Saul? "The blood of Jesus Christ cleanseth from all sin."—Rev. D. Pledge. (See Addenda: SIN IN OBLIVION.)
Jer . "I have laid a snare for thee, O Babylon." Cyrus turned the waters of the Euphrates into a different channel, and so entered Babylon by the dried-up channel at night. Thus was the impregnable city taken by a stratagem—"Thou wast not aware;" for one-half of the city was in the enemy's hands before the other knew of it.
Jer . Theme: THE STRENGTH OF THE REDEEMER. "Their Redeemer is strong."
I. These words suggest a difficulty. If He be strong, why does Israel so often suffer beneath the hand of the oppressor? If my father have bread, why do I hunger?
1. God does not display His strength at once, in order the more to glorify it. Lazarus dies. Jesus hastens not to him until the third day. Why? We had never known He could raise the dead if He had displayed His power always in healing the sick. Stephen dies full of faith, triumphing. God could have saved him from death, but showed His power by sustaining him.
2. God does not at once display His strength, &c., in order to make His people lay hold of it. When did Jonah, Manasseh, &c., cry loudest? Was it not when His arm seemed far from helping them?
3. Another reason is that He hereby chastens His people. There is no greater punishment than God leaving us to ourselves.
4. Hereby He instructs them. We are taught that God's strength will never be exerted to make us secure in sin and indolence.
5. Often He does not exert His strength to liberate His people so that He may show mercy to their oppressors. He delayed to redeem Israel out of the hand of Pharaoh that Moses might reason with him.
II. These words convey a blessed truth.
1. Consider the might of the enemy from whom He delivers us. From the power of Satan, the world, our evil hearts.
2. Consider the completeness of the deliverance. He saves both body and soul, by His own arm, without the help of another. "His own arm hath gotten Him the victory."
3. Consider His strength upholds to the very end all whom He hath redeemed. He brings up from Egypt to the goodly land. Was there one of all the host He brought out of Egypt that was forced back to captivity?
III. These words imply a terrible warning.
1. To all who oppress God's people. He who blesses the giver of the cup of cold water shall punish all those who touch one of these little ones.
2. To all who reject His help. As strong to slay as to make alive. Seek His blessing. Flee to Israel's strong Redeemer, lest the plagues written in the Book be experienced by you.
Say not, "I am willing to enjoy life now and take the consequences of it hereafter." Say not, "If it be right, I am willing to expiate my crimes." That is but hanging garlands on the sword that must enter your soul.—From "Stems and Twigs."
Jer . BABYLON DESERTED OF INHABITANTS. This utter extinction of Babylon was not effected by one stroke, but gradually. Cyrus took away its supremacy. Darius Hystaspes deprived it, when it had rebelled against Persia, of its fortifications. Seleucus Nicanor removed its citizens and wealth to Seleucia, which he founded close by Babylon. The Parthians removed all that was left to Ctesiphon. Nothing but its walls were left under the Roman Emperor Adrian.
ADDENDA TO CHAPTER 50: ILLUSTRATIONS AND SUGGESTIVE EXTRACTS
Jer . Faces Zionward. Among the old Romans there prevailed the touching custom of holding the face of every new-born infant towards the heavens, signifying, by their presenting its forehead to the stars, that it was to look above the world into celestial glories. It was a vain superstition; but Christianity dispels the fable, and gives us a clear realisation of the Pagan yearning. Young lives should be turned with their faces heavenwards.
Jer . Sin cast into oblivion. Cicero said of Csar, "He forgiveth nothing but injuries only."
"These evils I deserve,
Yet despair not of His final pardon,
Whose ear is ever open, and His eye
Gracious to readmit the suppliant."
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Exell, Joseph S. "Commentary on Jeremiah 50". Preacher's Complete Homiletical Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/
the Third Week after Epiphany