CRITICAL AND EXEGETICAL NOTES. 1. Chronology of the chapter. Keil regards chaps. 7 to 10 as later addresses, delivered during Josiah's reign. Bagster places an interval of merely two years between chaps. 6 and 7, dating this B.C. 610, two years before Josiah's death. The A.V. places it ten years after Jehoiakim became king. But Dahler, Graf, Naeg., Lange, Hend., and Dr. Payne Smith identify this chapter with chap. 26. (cf. the corresponding verses, Jer ; Jer 7:13-14, with Jer 26:2; Jer 26:5-6 respectively), and, therefore, date chap. 7 "in the beginning of the reign of Jehoiakim." Yet identity of verses is not itself conclusive of chapters being synchronous, for the book abounds in repetitions of theme and language. Besides (as Keil points out) there is no trace in this discourse, chap. 7-10, of the hostility towards Jeremiah which became so impetuous and implacable in Jehoiakim's days (contrast this address with chap. Jer 26:14-15, sq.). However, this chapter depicts such idolatrous degradations as agree more with the relapse under Jehoiakim than with the reforms of Josiah's reign (see Jer 8:9; Jer 8:18; Jer 8:21).
Jehoiakim came to the throne B.C. 608. Assyrian chronology changes that date to B.C. 589.
2. Cotemporary Scriptures: 2Ki ; 2Ch 36:4-5; cf. Habakkuk 1. Ezekiel lived through the epoch of Josiah's death, the abject dethronisation of Jehoahaz, and Jehoiakim's installation as king; but his prophecies date after the first group of captives had been carried into Babylon.
3. National History. B.C. 605 [Assyrian date, 586]. Josiah had fallen in battle with Pharaoh Necho at Megiddo (2Ki ). Jehoahaz had reigned three months, and now Jehoiakim was king—Pharaoh Necho having placed him on the throne of Judah as vassal king, and laid the land under tribute to Egypt (2Ki 23:33; 2Ki 23:35). During, his wicked and abject reign the nation hastened back to idolatry and vice.
4. Cotemporaneous History. Two years before Josiah's death Nineveh was wrested from Egypt by the combined assault of the Medes (under Cyaxares) and Babylonians (under Nabopolassar)—these two rising empires being intent on crushing the despotism of the Pharaohs. Against this Babylonian usurper Pharaoh Necho marched B.C 608; and by successful war at Charchemish, recovered a temporary Egyptian ascendancy. This ascendancy terminated finally in the fourth year of Jehoiakim, when Nebuchadnezzar led his father's forces against Necho, vanquished Egypt, and inaugurated the Chaldean dominion. Cf. Critical Notes on chap. 1.
5. Geographical References. Jer . "Shiloh," situate north of Bethel, in tribe of Benjamin (Jud 21:19), distinguished as being the first sacred resting-place of the ark, and therefore the centre of the nation's worship. Ark abode there for a period of cir. 300 years (Jos 18:1; 1Sa 4:3-4). Scene of Samuel's call, and Eli's judgeship. Must have been a populous town then; still existed in the reign of Jeroboam I. (1Ki 14:2); but in Jeremiah's time it had sunk to a mean village. Divine displeasure over idolatry led to its degradation from historic eminence. Dr Robinson traced its site in the Arabic Seilun. Jerome wrote, "At Silo, where once was the tabernacle and ark of the Lord, there can scarcely be pointed out the foundation of an altar." Jer 7:31. "Valley of the Son of Hinnom," skirting the western base of Mount Zion, and meeting the valley of Jehosaphat; a most picturesque scene, with gardens, groves, and cool refreshing shade; regarded as the temple of Palestine. Jerome says, "The valley of Hinnom was watered by the springs of Siloam, and was pleasant and well wooded; and at this day delightful gardens are situate there" (cf. Personal References below). "The high places of Tophet" were artificial mounts on which sacrificial altars were reared, on the heights on the south side of the valley, and facing Mount Zion.
6. Personal References. Jer . "Ephraim," put for Israel, the ten tribes God had "cast out." Their having had the ark so long did not protect them from banishment; nor would Judah, escape, though possessing the Temple (Jer 7:4). Jer 7:18. Queen of Heaven—i.e., the moon. She was revered as a deity by Persians and Syrians. Her name מְלֶכֶת was a fem form of מֹלֵךְ, Molech, or מֶלֶךְ, Molech. In Babylonia her name was Molatta. She was regarded as the wife of Molech or Baal, the king of heaven. The sun and moon were worshipped thus as being the generative powers of nature. Jer 7:31. "Tophet," perhaps a contemptuous name given by Jeremiah to their god, Baal [see Literary Criticism on chap. Jer 3:24]; or else not a proper name at all, the word "Tophet" meaning merely a thing or place of abhorrence; and any place where human sacrifices were offered was stigmatised as a Tophet, or place of horror (See Addenda to chap. Jer 5:31, "High Places of Tophet"). Jer 7:31. "Son of Hinnom," a name without traceable personal identification. Mentioned in connection with the "valley" so early as in Jos 15:8. Possibly he was some ancient or fabulous hero. The valley called Vale Ben-Hinnom in the Old Testament, is sometimes in Heb. shortened into Ge-Hinnom, גֵ־הִנֹּם; is rendered by the LXX. γαίεννα; and hence the New Testament name Gehenna. To end the idolatrous abominations practised there, Josiah had poured into the valley the city's refuse and corruption, to consume which perpetual fires were kept burning. From the torturous fires of Molech, and the ever-burning fires to consume the loathsome refuse cast into it, Gehenna became suggestive and figurative of the place of eternal torment.
7. Manners and Customs. Jer . "Make cakes to queen of heaven: probably specially prepared for her worship, made round and flat like the disc of the moon, and burnt to her honour, with added libations. Jer 7:21. "Burnt offerings" were wholly consumed upon the altar fire; "sacrifices" were in part eaten by the offerers. This "Eating the flesh" was regarded as a reconciliation meal, God and the offerer dividing and sharing the sacrifice. Jer 7:29. Cut off thine hair:" the ancient sign of mourning (cf. Job 1:20; Mic 1:16). "Lamentation on high places" (cf. Isa 15:2; Jud 11:37-38). Jer 7:30. "Abominations in the house;" this refers to what Manasseh had done (2Ki 21:3-5), and of which sacrifice the people had never repented, notwithstanding Josiah's external reforms. Jer 7:31. "Burn sons and daughters in the fire:" probably not burnt alive, but first slain (see Eze 16:21). Jer 7:34. "Voice (or sound) of the bridegroom and bride:" an allusion to the musical procession with which the bridal pair were accompanied through the streets; a custom still, in many parts of the East, among the Jews.
8. Literary Criticisms. Jer . "I will cause you to dwell." Hend. would give to the Piel form of the verb a continuative force, "I will still cause you to dwell:" for they were already there; and this is no promise of re-occupancy. Blayney and the Vulgate adopt, "I will dwell with you." Speaker's Com., "I will let you dwell." Jer 7:4. "Temple of the Lord are these," i.e., the sacred buildings of the Temple (Hend.) Or, as the pronoun is masc., some think the Jews themselves. But the Jews boasted in their material edifices, and were not sufficiently spiritual to claim for themselves a personally indwelling God. Jer 7:7. "For ever and ever," lit. "to from eternity and unto eternity:" the strongest Heb. formula for perpetuity. The antecedent may be either, I gave the land, or I will cause you to dwell. Jer 7:9. "Will ye steal," &c.; a succession of infinitives. "What! to steal, to murder," &c. Jer 7:10. "We are delivered to do all," &c., i.e., by Temple attendances and observances "We are secured" against evil consequences while we continue to sin; no harm will come to us. It expresses daring self-justification, and blasphemous self-assurance. (Comp. Noticeable Topics, end of chap. Sermon by Horton). Jer 7:12. "Set My name at the first," i.e., in the first period of the Jewish commonwealth. (See above, Geographical References. "Shiloh"). Jer 7:18. "Queen of heaven," margin of A. V. "frame, or workmanship of heaven." The Syriac and LXX so translate; although in corresponding verses (chap Jer 44:17-19), the LXX render the word "queen" ἡ βασίλισσα τῶν οὐρανῶν. The Vulgate has "regina cœli" in every instance. Jer 7:22. "For I spake not," &c., if this be taken as a denial of their Divine institution, it must be understood as stating that God imposed moral duties (Jer 7:23) at an earlier date than He instituted the sacrificial code (cf. Exo 15:26; Exo 19:5, with Deuteronomy 5, 6). Or as a repudiation of their sacrifices it suggests their repulsiveness to God when alone, unattended with performance of the higher obligations: "I spake not" that sacrifices might be presented, while moral duties were at the same time refused. The words may be rendered, "I spake not to your fathers for the sake of (A.V. ‘concerning') burnt offerings," &c., they were not the primary results God sought; He desired not sacrifices, but spiritual obedience. Jer 7:24. "Went backwards," lit. "were backwards," i.e., their faces turned from Me (Psa 78:57). Jer 7:28. "Truth" (see criticisms on the word, chap. Jer 5:3). Jer 7:29. "Cut hair," נֵזֶר a diadem (2Sa 1:10). The Nazarite's hair so called (Num 6:7, rendered "consecration") as being the symbol of his consecration to God, ergo of his royalty and dignity: and hence, leaving the primary meaning, the long, unshorn hair of a woman. This "diadem" she must "cast away," for she is no longer consecrate to God: she has violated her sanctity and forfeited her alliance with Jehovah.
HOMILETIC OUTLINES ON SECTIONS OF CHAPTER 7
Righteous requirements and gracious promise.
Demoralising trust placed in external piety.
Indignity done to God in uniting His worship with idolatry.
Reliance on the value of outward religious service refuted.
Retribution for idolatrous abominations.
Jer . RIGHTEOUS REQUIREMENTS AND GRACIOUS PROMISE
Jehoiakim, an irreligious king; consequently the maintenance of divine worship was not now, as when Josiah reigned, an object of public care and royal encouragement. Probably this concourse in the temple assembled on a public fast-day. Jeremiah commissioned to use the opportunity for making known God's revulsion from "a form of godliness, not having the power thereof."
1. Express communication from Jehovah: "word which came to Jeremiah from the Lord." 2. Proclaimed in a solemn scene: "stand in the gate of the Lord's house." 3. Addressed to a vast audience: "hear, all Judah." 4. Relating to professedly godly persons: "that enter in at these gates to worship the Lord." 5. Spoken with the weight and sanction of Highest Authority: not the outcome of his own patriotic fervour, or pious solicitude, but "Thus saith the Lord of hosts, the God of Israel." 6. Summoning to thorough reformation: "amend," &c. (Jer ). 7. Granting gracious permission and opportunity: the door of hope not closed, the day of grace prolonged.
I. In what Divinely approved piety consists. God leaves them in no uncertainty as to what He demands of man: we do not grope in darkness towards truth; are not left to conjectures and adventures. "This is the way, walk ye in it." "The wayfaring man, though a fool, shall not err therein." Here is urged both a refusal and a requirement.
1. Repudiation of superficial piety (Jer ; Jer 7:4). Mere "entering" sanctuary, formal "worship," pride in religious externals. "Not they who say unto Me, Lord, Lord," &c. (Addenda to chap, Jer 7:4, "Ecclesiasticism.")
2. Delineation of essential righteousness (Jer ). Personal goodness, justice and mercy to others, fidelity to God. Compare our Lord's reply to question, "What do to inherit eternal life?" (Luk 10:27).
II. To what extent true reformation must be carried. "Thoroughly … thoroughly" (Jer ). With resolution, with sincerity, with completeness. Note what it embraces; self, "amend," &c.; others, "execute judgment," &c.; God, no "other gods."
1. Personal renewal: "ways"—i.e., general principles and methods of life: "doings"—i.e., separate and minute deeds. Entire change of self. "Neither circumcision, &c., but a new creature."
2. Uprightness of conduct: specially acting justly and mercifully. We are "created in Christ Jesus unto good works."
3. Cessation from wrong: and this wrong is of three forms—harming the weak, "hurting" ourselves, and dishonouring God (Jer ).
III. With what rewards godliness is encouraged. Civil and sacred privileges (Jer ).
1. Present advantages. "In this place;" Jerusalem or temple; where holy comforts and favours cluster, the meeting-place of God. "Godliness hath the promise of the life which now is."
2. Imperishable prospects. "This land for ever." "Begotten to a lively hope, to an inheritance incorruptible, and fadeth not away."
IV. To what disasters irreligion tends. The conditional promise implies a possible reverse, dark and sad.
1. Loss of boasted heritages. Not "dwell in this place;" the temple and city, with all civil and religious advantages forfeited; exiles.
2. Banishment from God Himself. "Removed from land" into captivity. To be cast out from where God dwelt, "Zion," equivalent to a Jew to being banished from Him who dwelt in Zion. "Depart from Me, ye cursed." "Punished with everlasting destruction, from the presence of the Lord, and the glory of His power."
Jer . DEMORALISING TRUST PLACED IN EXTERNAL PIETY
A startling truism that evil simulates good. Satan himself takes the form of "angel of light" in order to cover his own hideousness and deceive others. Sinners hide conscious wrong by pretentious righteousness. Two results:
1. Self-deception. A dangerous device to assume a mock piety. Deceivers come to "deceive themselves." Reflex action of insincerity: "believe a lie," and thus ignore danger while courting and hastening to destruction. Wicked taken in their own net, fall into pit digged for others, are hung on gallows themselves prepared for different use.
2. Self-degradation. Pretence of goodness blinds sinners to the revulsion and awfulness of iniquity: "conscience seared." Evil looks less heinous to sinners themselves when clothed with the garb of pietism. Licence is thus given to iniquity, and sin grows at once bolder, self-excusing, shameless, and runs unchecked to vile excesses. Christ pronounced those men worst and most hopeless who robed villainy with piety (Mat ).
I. The attitude of devotional sincerity (Jer ). 1. In right place: "this house." 2. In right posture: "stand before Me." "Ye outwardly appear righteous unto men" (Mat 23:28). Judged of at that moment, all seemed well. But what manner of men were they when away from God's house? Life has two sides: most men seem good when in holy scenes and on sacred occasions; what is their conduct elsewhere? Moreover, there may be vast difference in a man's outer and inner life; and God looks within; so that even when standing piously before Him they may be loathsome in His sight. Attitude is not everything.
II. The subtlety of religious delusions. 1. False trusts: "in lying words" (Jer ), and "this house wherein ye trust" (Jer 7:14). Ready to believe in smooth words of lying prophets (Jer 7:31), or to rest upon mere cant phrases (Jer 7:4), or to repose on religious externals (Jer 7:14). 2. Presumptuous assurance: "We are delivered" (Jer 7:10)—i.e., having performed our religious observances in the temple, we have atoned for past sins, and are free to start afresh. Romanists assume the same licence: attend "mass," and so leave all burdens behind, and gain liberty for indulgences in sin. Protestants, too, who "attend the Sacrament" and return to worldliness. They also who trust in penitent prayers, and excuse themselves in wrong: "sin that grace may abound." God hates every false way.
III. The degradations of spiritual falsity. The delusion that sin may be continued with impunity or easily escaped acts as an encouragement to every form of wrong. Hypocrites, who make external ceremonies a kind of expiation, readily fall into the seductions of sin, and follow the enticements of their own evil hearts. To what depths did these sink! 1. Glaring immoralities (Jer ). 2. Revolting idolatries (Jer 7:9). 3. Ecclesiastical profanities (Jer 7:11).
IV. The futility of sacred messages. "I spake unto you, rising up early," &c. (Jer ). 1. Instructions and admonitions were not withheld: thus God did His part to restrain and rectify them. 2. Invitations to true religion were sent: "I called you:" thus they were allured and entreated as well as warned. 3. Indifference and insensibility marked their conduct: they were without disposition to repent, without desire for holiness; so they trifled still by offering to God a ceremonial piety, but refusing practical godliness. Note: The most potent and urgent messages from God are neutralised by the carnal security in which hypocrites entrench themselves.
V. The overthrow of sinners and their subterfuges (Jer ). 1. Zion seemed a secure possession. They "trusted" in it; relied upon the fact that God had given it in covenant with their fathers; they deemed it inalienable and imperishable (Psa 132:14). Yet, being used for evil ends (Jer 7:11), and made a delusive trust (Jer 7:4; Jer 7:14), it had lost its worth in God's sight, and should come to ruin as Shiloh had done. Nothing retains its sacredness or its security when prostituted to purposes of falsehood and impiety. 2. Judah believed herself safe from banishment. David was of Judah; God had made special promises to this royal tribe. Messiah was to come of it. Judah arrogated to herself a safety Israel did not possess. But no privileges or promises screen the guilty from judgment. God's special plans never interfere with His common laws. Sinners are condemned, wicked shall not escape; and these laws will not be suspended, even though we seek to hide ourselves behind covenants and decrees.
Application: Delusion works demoralisation. Demoralisation ensures destruction.
Jer . INDIGNITY TO JEHOVAH IN UNITING HIS WORSHIP WITH IDOLATRY
"Seest thou what they do?" (Jer ). The sight was abhorrent to God. They had professed to accept Him as their Lord, by standing before Him in His house (Jer 7:10); but their conduct outside the temple, in the very "streets of Jerusalem," as well as throughout the "cities of Judah," was flauntingly audacious and provoking. Such hypocrisy was loathsome to God.
Compromises, combining God's worship with idolatrous practises, incense Jehovah. They dishonour Him, rob worship of all worth, render religion a mockery and homage a vanity. By their compromises they wronged and provoked God; for
1. They divided His glory, by raising idols to equality with Him. 2. They degraded His glory, by lowering Him to equality with them. For by sharing worship between God and "other gods," they treated Him as worthy no more homage than they.
I. Man's astounding insolence towards Jehovah. Their idolatrous conduct had as its motive malice; and as its end, "that they might provoke God to anger" (Jer ). They aimed at that result. But, in so doing, men may ignite a fire they would fain yet cannot quench. 1. The Divine anger is a solemn reality. 2. Man's conduct is capable of provoking the anger of the Almighty! 3. Indignity to God evokes indignation from God. Wonderful man's power! Terrible this dire abuse of it!
II. Outrages done to God revert on the sinner (Jer ). Which means, Is it Me they provoke; or will they not rather provoke themselves to wrath against themselves, and to confusion and shame? 1. They injure themselves more than they incense God. 2. They will bear the heavier consequences of their wickedness. God is dishonoured and provoked thereby, but they ensure destruction to themselves and "revelation of the righteous judgment of God." Sinners will then be wrathful with themselves; "gnashing of teeth:" and reap "shame" for every dishonour they have done to the Lord.
III. Pitiful intercession refused on their behalf (Jer ). Jeremiah was compassionate, and ready to interpose with prayers: but, 1. God corrects the prophet's mistaken charity. Piety before patriotism; what is due to God before unthinking intervention on the behalf of wrongdoers. Pity must not blindly interpose to prevent justice. "Shall not the Judge of all the earth do right?" 2. God directs attention to their guilty deeds. "Seest thou," &c. (Jer 7:17). Jehovah sees; and He fathoms the depths of malice which prompt men's hostile actions.
IV. Anger provoked in God will be assuredly poured out (Jer ). 1. As a deluge, in fulness and fury: "poured out." 2. Falling upon the whole people: on the offenders themselves ("man"), and their treasures ("this place, on beasts, trees, fruits"). 3. Unquenchable in its ravaging work: for it will be a deluge of "fire," and will "burn" inextinguishably. "Who will dwell with the everlasting burnings?" "Flee to the mountain, lest thou be consumed."
Jer . RELIANCE ON THE VALUE OF OUTWARD RELIGIOUS SERVICE REFUTED
Jeremiah swept this false security utterly from beneath them: their ceremonial observances were worthless in themselves, except as an expression of spiritual homage and loyalty, and were without Divine sanction, except as they were accompanied by practical godliness. He appeals to the original covenant of God with them, and affirms: i. That the moral code was primarily given; the ceremonial laws followed at a later date, and as a concession to their weakness, when, by the worship of the golden calf, they had proved themselves unworthy of, and unfitted for, a purely spiritual dispensation. ii. That the moral code was of primary importance. God could readily dispense with sacrificial offerings if their practical obedience were maintained; but however lavish their sacrifices, all were repulsive if obedience was withheld.
HENRY—"See with what contempt God here speaks of their ceremonial service (Jer ). Go on in, and add to, your sacrifices, and ‘eat flesh,' for that is all the good you will obtain from them; no other benefit while you live in disobedience!
"I. He shows them that obedience was the only thing He required of them (Jer ). He appeals to the original contract when they were first formed into a people (Exo 15:26). The condition of their being God's people was, ‘If you will obey my voice indeed' (Exo 19:5). Afterwards He gave them ceremonial institutions, as trials of their obedience, and assistances to their repentance and faith. The Levitical law begins thus, ‘If any man of you will bring an offering' (Lev 1:2; Lev 2:1), as if intended rather to regulate sacrifice than to require it.
"II. He shows them that disobedience was the only thing which offended Him. They broke God's commandments in their conversation, while observing them, in some instances, in their devotion (Jer ). 1. They set up their own will in competition with God's. ‘Hearkened not, nor inclined their ear' to God's laws; and made their own counsels their guide, and evil imaginations became their law. 2. If they began well, they did not proceed, but soon flew off: ‘went backward.' 3. When God sent messages to them by His prophets, they were still disobedient (Jer 7:25). As deaf to the prophets as they were to the law (Jer 7:26). 4. Their practice and character were still the same: worse, and not better, than their fathers. (a.) Jeremiah can himself witness to their disobedience (Jer 7:27). (b.) He must therefore own they deserved God's displeasure and abandonment to destruction (Jer 7:28). Notorious for their obstinacy, incapable of receiving or uttering ‘truth:' false both to God and man."
Jer . RETRIBUTION FOR IDOLATROUS ABOMINATIONS
"Cut off thine hair," &c. (see Lit. Crit. supra on Jer ): both as a token of extreme woe, and also of the loss of the consecrated character.
I. A mournful occasion for bitterest grief (Jer ). 1. Loss of holiness entails loss of happiness. 2. Rejection by God and abandonment to His wrath suggest alarming calamities. Spiritual, in that the soul loses her light, her security, her comfort, her hope; and temporal, in that protection, promises, benefactions, are all forfeited and alienated. A desolate case! Yet not loss of God alone, but the positive woes of "His wrath." All good things withdrawn, all evil things threatened.
II. A revolting spectacle of impious desecration (Jer ) 1. Insulted God to His face in His own house by their abominations. A loathsome intrusion upon and pollution of sacred scenes. Equally so when sin is cherished in our hearts (Eze 14:4). 2. Practised the most heinous atrocities in their idolatrous homage (Jer 7:31). Deeds so dreadful as never to have "come into the mind" of God. Man's fertility in wicked inventions.
III. A terrible visitation of righteous judgments (Jer ). 1. Slaughterers (of their own children) shall be visited with slaughter (from the Chaldeans) 2. The scene of cruel death (of helpless infants) shall be burdened with the dead; the victims of the avenging sword should be more than graves could inter. 3. Ravaging beasts of prey would usurp the very spot where now living men assembled for idolatrous ceremonies; so complete would be the devastation of human life. "Ge-Hinnom," a figure of hell. (See Personal Allusions, Jer 7:31, above.)
IV. A woful desolation of happy scenes (Jer ). 1. All joy silenced in the now cheerful streets. 2. All life departed from now crowded cities. 3. All beauty and fertility swept from the now luxuriant soil; "the land desolate." Music, life, and fertility: these symbolise the sum of Divine favours: God's choicest benefactions. Their loss portrays illimitable woe. So utterly does sin reverse all the blessedness of life and the hopes of religion.
HOMILETIC OUTLINES ON SUCCESSIVE VERSES OF CHAPTER 7
Jer . Preliminary Notes.
Though the people were rioting in idolatry they yet visited God's temple; and even came thither from "all Judah" (Jer ): "all the cities of Judah" (Jer 26:2). This discourse must have been delivered on a public feast-day or fast-day, for on no ordinary occasion would so representative an assembly be convened. Probably it was an assembly specially summoned; the apathy and alienation of the people being too settled to allow of their coming together in such vast numbers from distant "cities," unless called to Jerusalem by royal edict, or impelled to come in consequence of national calamities. The occasion was well suited for a searching and solemn appeal to the national conscience. Jeremiah seems to have stood in the inner gate, and faced the crowds as they thronged in at the outer gates into the open court. He detained them there with his faithful discourse ere they passed through "the gate," where he himself stood, into the inner court, where worship was performed and sacrifice offered. He thus stood between them and further religious mockeries, calling them to pause, reflect, and repent.
Jer . Theme: A COMMISSION TO PREACH
Certainly, this is not running without being sent. Some mistake their avocation,—rush to a "charge" which God has not committed to them. The result: "Things without life, giving sound." Nothing higher than that; words, but no "word,"—no definite message for men from God. How different when the speaker must testify the truth Divinely intrusted to him! (Rom ). Jeremiah's case is identical with that of every true preacher (Jer 7:1).
I. The Divine regulation of the preacher's work. 1. The scene of the preacher's labour: "stand in the gate," &c., definitely localised by God. 2. The opportunity: "ye that enter," the very hour fixed by God, as they were entering; an auspicious and appropriate moment. 3. The audience: "all ye of Judah," and ye of Judah "that enter;" extensive, yet limited; for the Gospel and truth are for all, yet only for those who will hear. 4. The topic: "this word," definite and direct. Many themes might fill our thoughts and our speech, but God has something to say, and "we cannot but speak the things," &c. Note its origin (Jer ). (Addenda to chap. 7, "The Preacher.")
II. The preacher's performance of his Divine commission. Like Jeremiah, who subordinated himself and his powers to God's requirements, he fulfils his "charge." 1. In literal obedience. "Stands" where he is directed, speaks what he is commanded. 2. With fearless ardour. "Proclaimed;" not cowardlily whispered it, nor humbly apologised for it. 3. As Jehovah's witness (Jer ): an ambassador, a spokesman for God and in His name. It makes obedience easy, though the duty be onerous and dangerous, to realise that there is a solemn Authority behind us and our words.
III. The practical lessons of this prophetic incident. (See Preliminary Notes on Jer, above.) 1. Large audiences present special opportunities; and a preacher, like "Wisdom, cries in the chief places of concourse." 2. Professedly religious persons need the preacher's word. Simply because they "enter gates to worship" does not show them beyond error and without need of earnest ministrations. 3. Before men worship, they require solemn and special warning; need be summoned to pause and know what worship God accepts and demands (Php 3:3). 4. God discerns the spirit, as well as the attitude, of those who enter His temple for outward worship. 5. He sends messages according to the condition of the people: warning for those in error, consolation for the sad, calls for the weary, &c. Hence, hearers should seriously take heed to what they hear: for the message suggests God's estimate of them and their needs.
Jer . (See on Jer 7:5-7.) "Your ways," = general lines of conduct, common habits, prevailing laws of feeling, thought, and practice. "Your doings," = the separate and individual acts which, by frequency and repetition, form habits. "I will cause you to dwell," i.e. peaceably, protected from the spoiler and from captivity. It promises nothing new, but pledges the continuance of the blessings long enjoyed (Jer 7:7). "In this place," primarily, the temple, as the central joy and privilege of Israel; and, secondarily, "the land," of which the temple is the ornament and glory.
Theme: SINNERS SUMMONED TO SELF-IMPROVEMENT. "Thus saith the Lord, Amend your ways!"
Faulty conduct is to be rectified. God asks practical righteousness; correcting the wrong of our life, culturing the good and the godly.
Unwarrantable to teach that human virtue and goodness are nothing to God, are, indeed, repulsive to Him. "He hath shown thee, O man, what is good:" and both summons to attempt it, and approves its attainment.
Equally unscriptural to teach that God bids men desist from effort to rise out of evil into a good and godly life (Isa ; Rom 8:13). True, no self-improvement can save a soul. Jesus alone saves. But there is room for the free action of a man to "cease from evil and do good" both before and after his conversion to Christ.
This Divine call
I. Marks out the prevailing faultiness of an irreligious life. Both your "ways and doings," in large and small matters, in principles and practices. Yet, observe, here is no call to abandon altogether their course of life, but to alter it; remedy the errors and mistakes and blemishes. Ceremonialism not itself wrong and forbidden, but it should be accompanied by practical righteousness. 1. The direction of the life may not be wholly wrong: not required to reverse or abandon their ways, but "amend them." 2. Yet good deeds may be performed in an evil manner: life, a series of faults, in spirit and method. 3. So a life ostensibly good may be repulsive to God: so much so, as to threaten the loss of God and the "holy city."
II. Sanctions man's resolute efforts to rectify his faults. "Amend." So far from repudiating man's endeavour to reform his wrongs, and acquire virtue and goodness, God here calls to it. Hence it is: 1. Possible to man. 2. Approved by God. 3. Incumbent on each. (Mar .)
III. Pledges God's beneficent recognition of man's diligent reform. 1. This implies a terrifying alternative: that, neglecting the duty of rectifying existing evils, God would outlaw them. 2. This covenants a gracious recompense: that, "redeeming the time," and living "soberly, righteously, and godly in this present world," He would retain them in His merciful favour, and give them a perpetual heritage in Canaan. For this end, "the grace of God hath appeared" (Tit ); and Christ "gave Himself for us;" and to such rectitude of life men are to be "exhorted with all authority."
Jer . Theme: SANCTIMONIOUS SELF-DELUSIONS.
When religious sincerity is absent from the heart, all religious words upon the lips, whether pious talk or sanctuary exercises, are "lying words." Generally, too, when the heart's religion is false, the lip religion is more emphatic: it utters itself with a threefold fervour. Hollow things emit most sound. So "The temple of the Lord," thrice over: words must speak out lustily when the consciousness bears no witness. Mighty rivers flow in silence; shallow streams compensate for their poverty by making more noise.
First, Concerning lying words.
I. They falsify God's character: implying that God would not destroy His temple, though profaned; that He connived at their criminality: their sins would not lead the glory to depart, or the sanctuary to be destroyed.
II. They delude men's souls: allure to false trusts, import a vain hope between a sinner and the punishment of sin. "The temple" promised them a guarantee against and an asylum from ruin, thus encouraging presumption and iniquity.
III. They pervert sacred things: God's house was abused,—became a rendezvous of villainy, evil felt itself secure there. God's altar was perverted; instead of its sacrifices being regarded as a surrender of sin, they were offered to condone and license sin. God's covenants were misused. He had, indeed, promised to dwell for ever in Zion, and to give His people a lasting heritage and resting-place there; but they ignored the conditions of this promise, that they should be a "holy people," and keep unstained His "holy sanctuary."
Thus sinners allow themselves to "continue in sin that grace may abound;" silence, rebukes of conscience by boasting the cleansing blood of Christ; make the cross an asylum for sin rather than a resting-place from sin.
Second, Concerning trusting in lying words.
The triple repetition of "the temple of the Lord" may express the intense feeling, the vigorous assurance, with which this confidence in their safety, because they had the sanctuary among them, was cherished. The triple utterance seems to denote intensity. (Comp. also Isa ; Jer 22:29.) Or, the repetition may suggest the frequency with which this boast of possessing God's temple was heard among them. Henry says, "It was the cant of the times. If they heard an awakening sermon, they lulled themselves asleep again with this, ‘We cannot but do well, for we have the temple of the Lord among us.' It is common for those who are farthest from God to boast themselves most of their being near to the church."
Jeremiah's remonstrance against this delusive and sanctimonious cry suggests, concerning the Jews—
I. A preference for peaceful prophesyings. Most probably this illusory boast in having the temple was the theme of false prophets, who prophesied smooth things among them (comp. Mic ). The sentence looks like a quotation from the teachings of one of these deceitful leaders; which was speedily caught up into popular currency, and become the answering retort whenever Jeremiah denounced the people or foretold the coming woes. They sought to drown his serious words with this mocking boast. They desired only to hear what flattered them, even though it beguiled them.
II. A repose on false securities. This audacious appeal to the temple may be thus interpreted: "The temple of the Lord" in Jerusalem has been consecrated as His abode; therefore, enemies shall not conquer and capture the city; we are, therefore, safe within its shelter. "The temple of the Lord" is the throne of His glory; and He will not vacate His throne for heathen to possess it; an invincible stronghold have we; we are, therefore, safe under its strong protection. "The temple of the Lord" has been given in covenant to His people; it cannot therefore be alienated. God's word may not fail; we, therefore, are safe in enjoyment of covenanted blessings. Thus men say still, "We are in the church!" "We have been baptized!" "We are the elect!" Refuges of lies.
III. A vaunting over external sanctities. "Men in all ages have evinced a proneness to attribute to external and ceremonial circumstances a virtue which does not inhere in them" (Hend.). Because, forsooth, these Jews presented themselves thrice a year in this temple, they imagined they had done all Jehovah required of them: He could not withdraw His favour from such a pious nation! Or, because within the temple the sacrifices and ceremonies went on continually, they were doing all that was required by Him, and were entitled to His gracious regard. Or, because as a nation they maintained by their contributions the temple fabrics and ministries, they had purchased a right to Divine care and blessings: "These temple edifices were only kept up at great cost; how generous have we been for God's cause, how deserving therefore are we" (comp. Zep ). God accepts no substitute for personal holiness. Punctilious outward observance, lavish and ceaseless sacrifices, free bestowment of wealth, all are repudiated when they are made the boast of the proud and the excuse of impiety. (Addenda to chap. Jer 7:4, "Ecclesiasticism.")
Jer . Theme: THOROUGHNESS. "If ye will thoroughly amend, and thoroughly execute judgment."
Over against their self-delusive words (Jer ), Jeremiah places the indispensable requirements of Jehovah: not an outward ceremonial piety, but a personal religious life; not a partial and evasive obedience, but a righteousness all-inclusive and practical,—"thoroughly" (Luk 11:42). Only when temple-worship (Jer 7:2) is the expression of sincere and sanctified hearts, and is attended and attested by works of righteousness, is it accepted of God. He asks that our whole life, equally in sacred and secular scenes, "towards God and towards men," be holiness unto the Lord.
I. The largeness of the Divine outgoings toward men justifies His demand for thoroughness. He who asks "thoroughness" should himself so act, or there is inconsistency in the demand. But certainly in the lavishment of God's gifts, the beneficence of His dealings, the wealth of His covenanted promises, and His faultless fidelity in fulfilling His word, He had done all things "thoroughly" for Judah.
In general, and with universal application, it stands that: 1. There is no incompleteness in God's works, or paucity in His provisions for human good. Look out on nature, look into revelation, ponder redemption, and all show God's works and ways for man to be lavish, perfect, "thorough." 2. There is no neglect by God of one side of human need while attending to the other. He did not overlook their temporal good while working for their spiritual, nor vice versa. Judah had been thus one-sided; but not God. Ergo, as God's ways with men are characterised by thoroughness, He is justified in asking and entitled to receive thoroughness in man's response of obedience and love. (Addenda to chap. Jer, "Thoroughness.")
II. The sphere and action of religion compasses our whole life with thoroughness. There is no part or phase of our life which escapes the control of religion; so that he who is truly religious, responsive to the dictates and demands of religion, is thoroughly religious. Thus:
1. It claims and controls the whole of our nature and faculties.
2. It asserts an empire over every act of our life, "whatsoever we do."
3. It extends its sway to, and utters its counsels upon, all the relationships and duties of society. (See Jer .)
4. It reaches all along the path of our life, from birth into eternity. Religion is thorough in its comprehensive rule over, and directions for, the life of man.
III. The response which God receives from man should be distinguished by thoroughness. Wherever else man practises reservation, here he should hold back no part of the price. Our godliness should be thorough if it is to be happy to ourselves or honouring to God.
1. It is the natural issue of honest acceptance of religion. The heart that finds and resolves for Christ, and obeys its own instinctive promptings, cannot yield a mere partial response.
2. It is the inevitable return of filial gratitude. "How much owe I unto my Lord?" "Ye are not your own; body, soul and spirit are the Lord's."
3. It is the essential law of piety. God deserves all. "Love the Lord thy God with all thine heart, &c., and neighbour as thyself." He who responds rightly yields himself fully to all the claims of God (Rom ).
IV. The piety which refuses full obedience to God is a lamentable violation of the sacred law of thoroughness. Christ says, "I would thou wert cold or hot." He loathes the "lukewarm." He Himself held nothing back from us; gave Himself, His life, His redemption, His perfect virtue, all for us; "what shall we render unto the Lord?" Less than "all for Christ" is wholly undeserving.
1. It is a mean return for the grace we have received.
2. It is a worthless fulfilment of religious obligations. God abhors a compromising piety, a divided heart.
3. It is a discreditable exhibition of godliness. Degrades piety in the eyes of scoffers, and evokes swift rebuke. (Comp. Act .)
"Thine am I by all ties;
But chiefly Thine,
That through Thy sacrifice,
Thou, Lord, art mine:
By Thine own cords of love, so sweetly wound
Around me, I to Thee am closely bound."
Only in full dedication of our love to God and life for men in Christ's name, can we approach the standard of godly thoroughness.
Jer . Comments.
In thus particularising the evils they must discard, the prophet (1.) implies that justice and equity were violated, that cruelty and perfidiousness, fraud and rapine, prevailed amongst them; and (2.) enjoins upon them the observance of the moral law as evidence of their sincere repentance and loyalty to God. He thus demanded "fruits meet for repentance," which would make their religion a practical reality, not a mere lofty sentiment.
"Shedding innocent blood" refers (1.) To judicial murders (condemnation of innocent persons). (2.) To violent attacks on prophets and godly men, as in Manasseh's case (2Ki )."—Keil. (Comp. chap. Jer 26:15; Jer 26:23.)
"Innocent blood" probably points with indignant emphasis to the murder and sacrifice of infants to Molech (Jer .)
Jer . Theme: THE EVERLASTING INHERITANCE. "I gave to your fathers for ever and ever."
I. Its duration conditional. God covenants with men for an inalienable heritage; but the terms require that they do not themselves alienate it by unfaithfulness and apostasy.
II. Its forfeiture possible. Men's sins neutralise sacred covenants. No standing in grace but our sin may overthrow. We may lose our securest and most boasted possessions.
III. Its continual enjoyment desired. (1.) By God; for He gave the inheritance to them, and pleads with them to retain it. (2.) By man; for as the Jews valued and hoped to keep their land, so we desire to preserve for ourselves a place in grace, and obtain an eternal home in the promised land. But desire is not sufficient; obligations must be fulfilled. "If ye amend, &c., then will I cause you to dwell in this land," &c. (Addenda to chap. 7, "Covenant.")
Note the terms of their "everlasting possession" of Canaan, in the original covenant (Gen ): "I will be their God." But instead, "they walk after other gods" (see Jer 7:6); hence the covenant was broken, and the gift reverted to its Donor.
Jer . Theme: INJURIOUSNESS OF FALSE THEORIES.
These "lying words" were either teachings of delusive prophets, or their own unwarantable arguments. (See on Jer, above.) They "cannot profit," i.e., they tend to mischief.
Calvin remarks that their words of falsehood turned to a contrary end what God had instituted. Services performed in the temple were designed to preserve unity of faith among the whole people. Sacrifices were intended to show the people: 1. They deserved the death which victims endured. 2. Expiation was only by blood, typical of the blood of Jesus Christ. But there was no repentance for sin, no true appropriation of sacrificial merit—for they were not led to holy faith; nay, their ceremonies licensed them to freer sin. Thus they were "lying words," when the signs were separated from their end.
Dealing dishonestly with God brings delusions upon ourselves; and the three steps are: 1. Wilful dishonesty. 2. Self-delusion. 3. Inevitable destruction.
Jer . Theme: DETESTABLE GUILT UNDER SANCTION OF RELIGION.
"Will ye steal, murder, &c., and come and stand before Me, and say, We are delivered to do all these abominations?"
An outcry of Divine revulsion and indignation. In the presence of such profanity even God stands appalled; and utters Himself in exclamations of horror: "What! to steal? to murder? &c. And yet come and stand before Me in this house!"
1. What appalling criminality is here! Surely such sins could only have been perpetrated in some "dark place of the earth, full of the habitations of cruelty." But lo! in Jerusalem!—in the very centre of sacred revelations and holy privileges.
2. What treachery against Jehovah is here! Surely the result of ignorance; "they knew not what they did;" for had they known the right, they never could have done such wrongs (Jer ), insulted God and polluted His house. Alas! they knew the right; but sinned thus foully amid fullest light, and notwithstanding the persuasions and protests of God's prophet. Consider, with amaze:
I. Into what revolting iniquities godly men may relapse (Jer ). Yes, "godly men;" for they believed, and boasted themselves such (Jer 7:10).
1. The glaring enormity of their sins. Set forth in two trios: (a.) Violation of civil laws and domestic decencies: "steal, murder, commit adultery;" outraged the security of property, sacredness of life, sanctity of homes. (b.) Violation of sacred laws and Divine obligations: "swear falsely, incense to Baal, walk after other gods." "Swear falsely" may mean perjury, or be an allusion to former charges (comp. Jer, Jer 5:2), of swearing by false gods. Then this second trio of crimes points to their idolatrous oaths, idolatrous homage, idolatrous service: "swear, burn incense, walk after."
2. The special aggravation of their guilt. They knew better; their guilt was wilful, habitual, and persistent; their sins were manifold; they committed themselves to evil fearlessly, without restraint, in open shamelessness; they did not even shun the worst and most horrible forms of sin—violence to property, life, and virtue; they wronged each other and then insulted God. (a.) Rejection of God's laws. (b.) Outrage of social rights and happiness. (c.) Adoration presented to that abominable thing, Baal. (d.) Substitution of unknown deities in God's stead: thus they deserted Jehovah notwithstanding all they "knew" of His grace, miraculous favours, and resplendent glories, and sought out idols of whom they knew nothing. Thereby they injured their own selves, their happiness, peace, and safety; "to your own hurt" (Jer ). Wrong always avenges itself upon wrongdoers. (Comp. Heb 10:26, sq.).
II. Unto what audacious effronteries and excuses hypocrisy may attain. (Jer ; cf. Eze 23:39.)
1. Their detestable attitude of piety. There was no piety in their hearts, yet there they "stand" in their brazen hypocrisy "before Me," as though having done nothing offensive, and having no cause for confusion of face.
2. Their insolent pollution of holy scenes. "In this house," where such godly kings and worshippers have done true homage; where your pious king Josiah so recently restored religious services. "Which is called by My name,"—which bears My name (Hitzig); on which my glory rests (Keil). In the holy place of the tabernacles of the Most High these polluted hypocrites dared to come!
3. Their blasphemous language of self-extenuation. "We are delivered," &c.; i.e., by our temple sacrifices we have atoned for our sins, and therefore are free to start afresh upon new courses of wickedness (Speaker's Com.) We are discharged from our guilt; now it shall do us no hurt (Henry). We have appeased God's wrath by our offerings, and turned aside all punishment for our sins, now we may go on again in "doing abominations." Their standing before God and service in the temple, were put in substitution for the holy living God required, and used as an excuse for continuance in sin, and as a guarantee against threatened punishment. (Addenda to chap. 7, "Insolent profanity.")
["They thought themselves freed from guilt when they had offered their sacrifices, and at liberty again to be immoral and idolatrous. We might think such a state of infatuation impossible, but it has existed among those calling themselves Christians, and exists now. Gataker mentions a common saying among ignorant Papists, ‘We must sin to be shriven, and shriven to sin.' The turning of the grace of God into lasciviousness is the same thing."—Ed. of Calvin.]
Jer . Theme: ROBBERY IN THE SANCTUARY.
It was no mere conjecture, an exaggerated supposition. "Behold, even I have seen it, saith the Lord." The charge points to:
I. The robbery of the temple services of their cleansing design. By such miscreants as you are (Jer ), consorting here and coming here with the design to secure immunity to sin and impunity from punishment, ye rob My temple of its true end, its services of their significance and intention, and make this house an asylum for malefactors,—a robbers' retreat. There they comforted themselves in their iniquities, acquired fresh assurance in sinning, and used the place designed to terminate sin, by expiating it on the altar and extinguishing it in the heart, as a shelter for encouraging, licensing, and fortifying themselves in iniquity.
II. The spoliation of its services of their acceptableness to God. They were fragrant and well-pleasing to Him as expressions of penitence for sin and the return of the soul in humility and faith to Him; but abhorrent when, as now, they were used superstitiously as convenient external methods for quieting the conscience and licensing crime. Better that there be no temple and no sacrifices, than that men should use them so perversely. Thus they robbed the services of all worth to God, and made them an evil savour to Him.
III. The discredit cast upon Jehovah's holiness and glory. These vile worshippers, encouraging their profanity in God's very house, virtually made God the patron of their enormities. So all who use Christianity as a cloak for their sins, or as a convenient expiation of daily evils, which are neither repented of nor abandoned, make Christ a minister of sin. Religion is thereby travestied, and the holy Lord degraded,—His character is contaminated. It was charged upon Christ, "Friend of publicans and sinners," as implying He Himself was no better than those who gathered around Him, ignoring the fact that Christ only befriended sinners in order to save them from further sinning.
IV. The withholding from God of His true deserts. "He desired not sacrifice; the sacrifices of God are a broken heart and contrite spirit." He asked not ceremonial homage, but the adoration of the reverent soul; not altar-services, but life obedience. "Will a man rob God?" Yes: see Mal ; Mal 1:10; Mal 1:13-14; Mal 3:8. So do all who offer Him the mere "form of godliness;" hymns sung without heart, prayers offered with spiritless routine, service rendered without joyous love, gifts bestown without grace in the heart, profession made where there is no true piety behind; the flippant cry, Lord, Lord! but not doing the things that He commands; the Olivet "Hosannah!" followed by the Pretorium "Crucify Him!" the impulsive testimony, "I will go with Thee to prison and judgment," ending in, "I know not the man." Heartless piety is a robbery of the best and most prized offerings which the holy God can receive.
V. The grief and indignation of God over such profanity. "Behold, even I have seen it." His eyes behold, and His eyelids try the children of men. The fair show in the flesh carries well with men, but Jesus, when He found the leafy tree fruitless, cursed it! "I hate robbery for a burnt-offering." (Addenda to chap. 7, "Sacrilege.")
Note: The limestone ranges of Palestine were full of inaccessible caves, whither robbers sheltered themselves securely from the penalties of their violent deeds. In like manner, these "robbers" sought refuge in the sanctuary from the consequences of guilt, but were in no disposition to abandon their evil ways: for they "loved the gains" and indulgences "of unrighteousness," the "pleasures of sin."
"Den of robbers;" words adopted by Christ in upbraiding the defilers of the temple (Mat ), and suggesting the parallel in the spiritual prostitution and moral degradation of Jerusalem in Jeremiah's days and our Lord's time. The like evil state merited like condemnation, and led on to like disasters and overthrow.
Jer . Theme: VIOLATED SANCTUARIES DOOMED.
No place, however sacred, Shiloh or Jerusalem, will be spared from overthrow, when wickedness has desecrated its sanctity. Jehovah Himself will "overturn and overturn" where His reign is impeded and His holiness impugned by profanity. Nothing evil shall escape, because, forsooth, it once bore a better character. Shiloh, God's first resting-place, falls into disrepute because of iniquity. Even "angels, who kept not their first estate," were outcast from their former dignity and blessedness. Israel, though once "holiness to the Lord" (Jer ), was banished into captivity. "The righteousness of the righteous man shall not deliver him in the day of his transgression" (Eze 33:12). Violated sanctuaries are overthrown.
I. A historic fact (Jer ). 1. Easily verified: "Go to Shiloh and see." 2. Fully accounted for: "On account of the wickedness," &c. 3. God's own work: "See what I did to it." Where "I set My name at the first," there see My work of desolation. For God will let no profaned thing stand.
II. A present peril (Jer ).
1. No exemption because of special favour. Shiloh was God's "first" resting-place; it had, therefore, the tender charm of being His earliest abode, and the honour of antiquity.
2. Like provocations evoke like consequences (Jer ). The evils which came upon "my people Israel" will not be evaded by Judah if Jerusalem is desecrated by "abominations" as Shiloh was by "wickedness."
3. No self-assurance of immunity will avert the result. "This house wherein ye trust" (Jer ), and of whose security ye boast (Jer 7:4), will perish notwithstanding. Our confidence will be of no avail.
III. A symbolic truth. Pass from material fabrics to the larger application, and—1. There are temples still which bear God's holy name,—not only sanctuaries, but ecclesiastical systems and sects, on which Christians pride themselves, and of which they boast (Jer ). And there are personal shrines, believing hearts, where Christ has rested; and many, many are the Christian hearts wherein His Spirit still dwells, as truly as in the "house at Shiloh" and "temple at Jerusalem" (2Co 6:16; Eph 2:21-22). 2. God's indwelling presence may be alienated and lost. Not a safe theory that "once a Christian always a Christian." 3. To retain the Divine presence we must maintain the "holiness which becometh His house." 4. There are souls which have known the light and love of God now desolated. Like ancient Shiloh and beautiful Jerusalem, and the graceful churches of Asia—forsaken: so Judas and Demas, and those who have "made shipwreck of faith and a good conscience." (See Heb 10:38.) And "if any man defile the temple of God, him shall God destroy; for the temple of God is holy, which temple ye are" (1Co 3:16-17).
Jer . Theme: GOD'S EARNESTNESS IN DEALING WITH SINNERS.
The earnestness and activity which prophets exhibited in seeking to rouse the nation to realise and avert the nearing destruction, God appropriates to Himself: it was Jehovah Himself earnest and active. His prophets were but channels along which the Divine fervour flowed. It was God who "rose early and spake." Shows
I. Deep solicitude. "Rising up early, I spake, I called." 1. Apprehensive of Judah's danger. 2. Anxious for Judah's salvation. 3. Awake to Judah's help. God did not, does not, wait till entreated to act for imperilled sinners' good: He "rises early," ere men realise peril, and "seeks to save."
II. Zealous effort. Solicitude does not remain passive: rises and calls. 1. God is astir when efforts are made for human weal: "Rising up." 2. God works at most auspicious hours: "Early;" while opportunity is yet before the sinner, and when his heart is most open to sacred influences. 3. God Himself speaks to man by those He sends: "I spake." He is too concerned individually in man's welfare to stand apart from endeavouring to rescue and help.
III. Incessant ministries. "Rising up early and speaking," a metaphor for ceaseless vigilance and endeavour. (Comp. Jer, Jer 26:5, Jer 29:19.) 1. Abundantly. 2. Assiduously. 3. Continuously.
IV. Pleading appeals. God's messages were characterised by the same qualities as His efforts; they were earnest and fervent also. 1. Direct in their aim: "Spake to you." 2. Diverse in their tone: "I spake," with quiet solemnity; "I called, with urgent importunity.
V. Barren results. "Ye heard not, ye answered not." 1. Heedlessness of the heavenly word. 2. Resistance of Divine importunity. 3. Abuse of "the abundant grace." 4. Provocative of merited wrath (Jer ). When speaking is fruitless, God acts: "Therefore will I do," &c.
"God is earnest, do not stay:
Thou may'st perish e'en to-day."
Jer . Theme: RUINED NATIONALITIES.
How do Jehovah's majesty and might stand out upon our thought when we see Him dealing thus with whole nations! What magnitude! To Him the "nations are but as a drop in the bucket:" it awes and solemnises us to see God lifting up an entire kingdom, "Ephraim," and "casting it out of sight," from their land and their God; and now declaring He will do similarly with Judah. Who will not fear before Him?
"All your brethren:" whose were the covenants, and promises, and fathers, as much as they are yours; yet their sacred ancestry and privileges afforded them no protection.
"The whole seed of Ephraim:" i.e., the ten tribes; superior, therefore, in numbers, resources for defence, and power of resistance. Yet all proved worthless when God's disfavour was incurred. Profaned places and profane people God abhors and will reject.
I. There is comprehensive breadth in God's proceedings. Moves with majestic tread, controls great nations with His will, determines the fate of empires with a word. Greater still: He "loved the world," and will judge "all peoples and nations."
II. There is appalling magnitude in God's overthrows. The whole ten tribes outcast from Him: now Judah to be swept away in contempt! For "casting out" is an act of contempt as well as violence. What mighty empires are wrecks! Great Babylon, Nineveh, Rome, God stamped them into dust.
III. There is solemn forewarning in God's judgments. God proceeds uniformly in the administrations of His justice. What He did to Israel for her "wickedness," He will do also for Judah if her cause of condemnation be equal (Jer ). The experiences of others stand as an admonition and a warning. Like sins incur like sentences (Luk 13:2-5).
Jer . Theme: INTERCESSORY PRAYER FORBIDDEN.
Jeremiah did sometimes check himself in uttering direful prophecies, and betake himself to passionate and mournful prayer; stopped short, as it were, God's word of doom to man, and interposed man's word of pleading to God. (Comp. Jer ; Jer 14:19-22, Jer 18:20.) What preacher has not likewise interrupted proclamation with invocation? Who, that carries dark tidings, has not paused first near God in the anguish of prayer? Pity, patriotism, piety, all conspire often to drive the prophet from his feet to his knees (comp. 1Sa 12:23.) (Addenda to chap. 7, "Intercessory prayer.")
I. A specification of the varied aspects of prayer.
General petitions: "Pray." Supplicatory entreaty (with loud voice and pathos): "Lift up cry." Importunate pleading: "Make intercession."
[There are three things forbidden. Be not an intercessor (i.e., undertake not their cause as one who mediates between a judge and a criminal); nor a deprecator of evils (i.e., lamenting their woes, and crying suppliantly for mercy); nor a solicitor of favours (i.e., entreating Me to deal graciously with them). Interceding mercy, lamenting evils, entreating favours.—Ed. of Calvin.]
II. The power of earnest prayer Divinely acknowledged. He bids Jeremiah restrain it, refrain from it. It would stand in God's way as a barrier, a hindrance. Thus with Moses (Exo ). "Let Me alone!" pleads God. The Almighty is both restrained and constrained by "the effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man" (Num 11:2; Num 14:13-20; Num 16:22).
III. Prevailing intercessory prayer is dependent on conditions.
1. The slate of the people must be remediable. 2. The hour of hope must not have been lost. When Moses prevailed the people were but stepping into the Theocracy; they sinned, but it was through lack of training and knowledge. Now they had known all inducements to godliness, nothing more could be done to keep them right; God had exhausted His resources of persuasion upon them. In this condition neither the intercession of Moses, Samuel, or Jeremiah could avail for them (see chap. Jer ). Their day of grace was gone. (See also Joh 5:16.)
IV. No prayerful outcry may interpose to stay God's imperative justice. And now their case demanded retribution, for every persuasive had been abused. The Intercessor could plead, "Let be this year also!" and was heard, because there were yet other remediable processes availing; "Till I dig about it," &c. But if after that it continued fruitless, "Cut it down!" This was Judah's case.
"God here forbids prayer for them, for they have sinned unto death, therefore, pray not for their life, the life of their souls (1Jn ). See here: 1. That God's prophets are praying men. 2. That God's praying prophets have a great interest in heaven, how little soever they have on earth. 3. It is an ill omen to a people when God restrains the spirits of His ministers and people from praying for those condemned. 4. Those that will not regard good ministers' preaching cannot expect any benefit by their praying. If you will not hear us when we speak from God to you, God will not hear us when we speak to Him for you."—Henry.
Jer . Theme: UNABASHED APOSTASY.
Not hidden from gaze, but in open streets, shameless! Though Jehovah's temple rose in dignity before their eyes, and even threw its colossal shadow across the streets where they practised their idolatries, they were not restrained, "neither could they blush."
I. Religious devotion the secret of general and tireless activities. Though erroneous, nevertheless it impels to service and sacrifice as nothing else can do. Much more should it inspire diligence when true. All hands to the work. And "both hands earnestly," for much to be done.
1. Enlists all ages and sexes. 2. Incites each to appropriate effort. 3. Combination in service effects speedy results and sure success.
II. Noble energies lavished upon ignoble superstitions.
For what end was all this? Alas! look out upon heathen scenes, where devotees squander years, treasures, life; and for what? Look also on votaries of pleasure, pursuers of wealth, &c.; the eager lives with which modern civilised society is full; for what end do men live and labour?
III. Prostituted homage awakens the indignation of God. For here it was not done in ignorance, but wantonly and wilfully.
1. Perversion of the true aim and design of man's being. God made man for Himself—a jealous God. 2. Ignores God's claim on human service, loyalty, and love. He merited their trust and devotion. 3. Enslaves men's soul in ruinous vices. "O Israel! destroyed thyself." 4. Provoking Heaven's wrath by despising His love. Deliberate design, "that they may provoke," &c. What a reversion of our true relation to God, and our experience at His hand; for "God hath not appointed us to wrath, but to obtain salvation by our Lord Jesus Christ!"
Jer . Theme: REFLEX CONSEQUENCES OF SIN.
They harmed themselves more than God (cf. Deu ; Deu 32:21; Job 35:6; Job 35:8; Pro 8:23): for
i. They forfeited present consolation and assurance. "There is no place to the wicked."
ii. They entailed future confusion and calamity. Shame would come, and with it ruin.
Jer . Theme: SACRIFICES CONTEMNED AND COUNTERMANDED.
"Put your burnt-offerings," &c. I will not accept them. Take away your burnt-offerings which ye are about to lay upon Mine altar as a whole burnt-sacrifice to Me. I will have none of them (comp. Jer ); put them on your own tables, and eat them yourselves. They are not burnt-offerings, holy to God, but are mere flesh, to be eaten by men. So our Lord said to the Jews concerning the temple, "Your house" (it is no longer God's, for ye have profaned it by your sins, and therefore He has forsaken it) "is left unto you desolate."—Wordsworth.
Jer . "I SPAKE NOT CONCERNING SACRIFICES."
The apparent contradiction between this statement and the fact that the Mosaic institutes abound in sacrificial enactments may be removed in two ways:
i. That moral obligation was inculcated upon the Hebrews before the sacrificial code (cf. Exo ; Exo 19:5). Then follows the proclamation of the moral code, amidst all the solemnities of Sinai. Not till afterwards were regulations given respecting sacrifices, which properly belonged to the Levitical law. Hence God reminds them here, "I spake not in the day that I brought them out of Egypt."
ii. It is not unusual for the Hebrews to express in absolute terms what is to be understood relatively and comparatively. Thus "to hate," = to love less (Gen ; Mal 1:2-3). According to this idiom the meaning will be: That ritual observances were regarded by God as matters of secondary importance (see Luk 14:26; Mat 10:37; Hos 6:6; 1Sa 15:22); and that when these are substituted for moral duties and supreme love to Himself, God retorts with merited reprobation (comp. Hend.). Similarly our Lord states negatively what was of inferior importance: "Labour not for the meat which perisheth; but for that which endureth" (Joh 6:27).
Calvin thinks "Jeremiah seems to speak too contemptibly of sacrifices; for they were seals of God's grace, and had been instituted to lead men to repentance of sin, and to realise they merited the death which the victim endured. But it is true that God commanded nothing respecting mere sacrifices for their own sake; it was never His will to be served with mere external rites; His design in instituting them was to remind the Jews of their sin, and also to show to them the way of reconciliation."
Venema suggests that there is a repudiation of sacrifices as the basis of God's covenant with His people. Obedience and not sacrifice was the condition of this sacred relationship. God did not say, "If you sacrifice to Me, I will be your God;" but, "If you obey My voice, I will be your God and you shall be My people."
Evidently the antithesis, "Not concerning sacrifice.… But this thing, Obey!"—points to the basis and terms of the Sinaitic covenant; and what is here affirmed is, that when that covenant was made and entered into, obedience was the supreme and essential factor in that covenant. To withhold obedience, therefore, and to substitute mere sacrifice, was to withhold that on which the continuance of God's covenant relationship absolutely depended. In Amo, God reminds them that for forty years He dispensed altogether with sacrifices, ergo, they could not be of primary importance.
Note: Hitzig, Graf, and others find in this passage proof that Jeremiah was ignorant of that part of the Pentateuch which contains sacrificial enactments; "that at his time nothing was known of the legislation on sacrifice given by God on Sinai." This gives them an argument for denying that Moses was the author of the middle books of the Pentateuch, and for ascribing their authorship to Ezra. But this is manifestly a "wresting the Scriptures." No canon of criticism can sustain such an interpretation of these words. They do not deny the Divine authority of sacrifices, but assign to them a subservient place. (Addenda to chap. 7, "Sacrifices.")
Jer . Theme: SACRIFICES SUBSTITUTED FOR OBEDIENCE
An external piety offered to God, while righteousness and true holiness are withheld.
I. Men are constantly adopting expedients by which to evade obedience. Obedience entails self-conquest, and daily service, and a surrendered life; sacrifice, on the contrary, is soon offered, and costs less. 1. An easier offering. 2. A shorter process. 3. A smaller surrender.
II. God prefers an obedient life to any sacrificial oblation.
Obedience is preferable to sacrifice: 1. As denoting a better spirit. 2. As involving a fuller compliance. 3. As containing a gentler law—not suffering, but service. "For I desired mercy, not sacrifice, and the knowledge of God more than burnt-offerings." "And to love Him with all the understanding, &c., is more than all whole burnt-offering and sacrifice. Jesus saw that he answered discreetly, and said, Thou art not far from the kingdom of God!"
Jer . God had commanded them (Jer 7:23), "Walk ye in all the way," &c.; but instead, they "walked in the counsels and in the imaginations (properly, stubbornness) of their evil heart." (See on chap. Jer 3:17.) The result was: they moved in a totally opposite direction from that in which God designed. Note: God's way for us is not merely deserted, but positively reversed, when we follow our own way. (Comp. Isa 53:6; Heb 3:12.) To pursue our "counsels" we have to turn our back upon both God and His commands.
On going backward in regard to the great matter of practical religion.
I. Illustrations of going backward in regard to religion.
An advanced state of religious knowledge, of moral purity, of spiritual power may be attained, from which men may go backward. Illustrations:
1. From the history of the Jewish nation. Compare best days of Solomon, when temple was dedicated, with these when Jeremiah preached at gate. National mind darkened, conscience enfeebled, heart hardened. People gone backward in Divine knowledge, moral rectitude, devout feeling (Isa ; Isa 1:21-23).
2. Churches may go backward—e.g., Galatia (Gal ; Gal 5:7-8), Ephesus (Rev 2:4), Sardis (Rev 3:1).
3. Individual life furnishes saddest illustrations. (a.) Brought up in Christian home; go back into thoughtlessness, dissipation, and infidelity. (b.) Awakened by the power of truth, and gained a place in the household of faith; go backward and "make shipwreck of faith and good conscience. (c.) Trod noblest heights of Christian service; go backward to stagnation and ease. "Demas hath forsaken," &c. (2Ti ).
II. Consider, for conviction and warning, some of the causes of this going backward. Negatively: (1.) God never causes a human being to go backward from what is pure and good and true. (2.) Nor must the charge be laid at the door of men or of Satan. 1. The primary cause of retrogression must be sought in man himself, in his inclination to the things which are behind; in spiritual feebleness. 2. The secondary causes are temptations; the lusts, pleasures, and gains he desires to enjoy. 3. His weakness in yielding results from neglect of the means of strength, the Word of God, prayer, means of instruction and grace.
III. Contemplate some consequences of going backward in regard to religion. Jewish history full of records of misery, affliction, desolation, conquest, captivity, which resulted from apostasy. But what are the consequences of apostasy from Christian profession and life? 1. The displeasure of the great God (Heb ). 2. Such as turn back are liable to sink into the very lowest depths of irreligion (2Pe 2:20-22). 3. Experience of deepest remorse and reproach of conscience.
(1.) Stand fast in the Lord. (2.) Despair not, but return.—Rev. R. Ann, "Christian World Pulpit."
Jer . Theme: DISOBEDIENCE TO GOD'S WORD.
I. Its cause. 1. Not neglect on God's part to make known His Word to men (Jer ). 2. Not the imperfect performance by the preacher of his duties (Jer 7:27); but, 3. The hardness of men's hearts; who (a.) walk after their evil imaginations and counsels (Jer 7:24); (b.) do not hear or believe (Jer 7:28), and do not wish to improve (Jer 7:26).
II. Its consequences. 1. Increasing moral corruption (Jer ; Jer 7:26). 2. Rejection on the part of God (Jer 7:29).—Naeg.
Jer . Theme: SAD CHARACTERISTICS OF AN UNBELIEVING EPOCH.
i. Contempt of the preaching of the Divine Word.
ii. Stiff-neckedness in respect to the visitations of Divine chastisements.
iii. Increase of wickedness in spite of all the warnings of the past.—From Lange.
Theme: A PEOPLE RIPE FOR DESTRUCTION. When?
i. When it despises the visitations of Divine grace (Jer ).
ii. When it hardens itself in unbelief against God's Word and voice (Jer ).
iii. When in spite of Divine judgments it departs the more into sin (Jer ; Jer 7:28).—Idem.
Theme: ISRAEL A WARNING EXAMPLE OF PREVAILING UNBELIEF.
Their example is admonitory to us in our own times.
i. With respect to their ingratitude for God's gracious visitations.
ii. With respect to their opposition to the true friends of the nation.
iii. With respect to their frivolity in view of inevitable destruction.—Idem.
Jer . Theme: GOD'S FOREKNOWLEDGE OF THE SINNER'S REFUSAL OF HIS WORD.
The infinitely perfect God knows all things. Ignorance incompatible with His originating and governing power. This true not only of material things, but of mind, thoughts, and actions of all His intelligent and moral creatures. So that all we freely do is known to Him, and His government is adapted to all such creatures. Jeremiah is to tell Judah God's will, make known His Word; yet it is added, "They will not hearken." We understand their condition as described Jer ; Eze 2:7. But there is a peculiarity in telling them, and yet knowing they will not regard.
I. Seek for instances illustrative of text, where God knew His Word would not be regarded, nor His messages answered.
1. The original transgression of our first parents. God's Word clear, easy, distinct; yet He knew how they would act; saw hearts.
2. The old world. He saw rise of evil and progress; yet Noah preached 120 years, built ark; Spirit strove.
3. Pharaoh, Moses and Aaron are sent, miracles wrought, God's messages proclaimed, demands enforced; yet He knew Pharaoh would harden his heart and sin to his destruction.
4. Jews as a nation. How prophets and holy men went to them. John also and Christ Yet God knew their unbelief and cruelty. Christ referred to this in His own ministry; He declared their obstinacy and ruin. So that text is but one of many cases in Word of God.
II. How can this be explained and defended? Unless God did know results such as described:
1. He would be imperfect; not the all-wise, infallible God, and He could not govern His world. But His perfect knowledge of the future
2. Does not make Him the cause of the rebellion He foretells. He does not predestinate it, but foreknows it. Just as He foreknew Noah's sin, yet did not make him drunk; murder of Abel, yet did not impel Cain to the deed, &c. The astronomer by calculation foreknows every visible and invisible eclipse of the year, but does not produce them.
3. He never influences men to do wrong because He foresees it (Act ). Though God designed His Son to be a Saviour, and hence a sacrifice, and foresaw the conduct of the Jews, they freely and wickedly crucified Him.
4. There are many ends to be attained by God. By His speaking, though He knows men will not hearken:
(a.) God exhibits His true desire for their salvation. He truly, earnestly calls. (b.) He thereby treats men as reasonable and responsible beings. (c.) He thus leaves them without excuse. "I called, but ye refused," &c.
Conclusion: (1.) Man's free agency is his glory. (2.) God's infinite goodness is undoubted. (3.) Our duty is most manifest; to hear, obey, believe. (4.) Thus men will be finally inexcusable, having had means employed for their restoration to holiness and God.—J. Burnes, D.D.
"But they will not hearken unto thee." Howbeit, speak—"whether they will hear, or whether they will forbear"—for a testimony against them.—Trapp.
"It was a most grievous trial to the prophet to know that his words would pass away with the air and produce no good. His mind must have been greatly depressed; for he doubtless laboured for the good of his own nation. Yet his sympathy and sorrow (for he loved his nation and felt great grief in declaring God's coming judgments) did not prevent him from executing in a bold manner and with unshaken zeal what God had committed to him.… God then declares to his servant what would be the issue, in order that he might not cease to execute his office with invincible courage, even if no fruit appeared."—Calvin.
Jer . "This is a nation that obeyeth not," &c. Rather, This is the nation. "Israel occupies so unique a position among all nations that for it to disobey God is marvellous. (See Isa 1:3; Jer 2:11)"—Speaker's Com.
The prophet is not here bidden to address the Jews, but to pronounce on them a sentence, that the whole world might know how base and detestable had been their contumacy, and how abominable their impiety.—Calvin.
"Truth is perished." The ancient versions and the Targum render אֱמוּנָה (truth) by πίστις, fides, faith or fidelity. (See on chap. Jer .) Their conduct was utterly perfidious toward man as well as God.
"Is cut off from their mouth"—i.e., their language has become wholly insincere, mere mockery, profession without intention; their lips flippantly used Jehovah's name, and could "swear by Him" (chap. Jer ); but duplicity, falsity, was their settled habit in speech as in practice. No "truth" remained in either their word or deed.
Jer . Comments.
"Cut off thine hair." The word rendered "hair" is nzer, and signifies a crown. From it the Nazarites obtained their name, for their hair was the badge of their consecration to God, their crown (Num ; Num 6:7). Cutting off this hair was equivalent to abandonment of the consecrated character. Her profanation entailed the loss of her crown (comp. Lam 5:16); her dignity, as well as her adornment and beauty (1Co 11:15) were forfeit.
Neumann would retain the literal interpretation of the word, and regard the command as implying the abandonment by Judah of national dignity, the total forfeiture of the crown; for her royalty, the kingly office, was lost entirely to the nation in the Babylonish captivity, never again restored.
Jer . Here is
I. A loud call to weeping and mourning (Jer ). Jerusalem had been—1. A joyous city; now she must "take up lamentation." 2. A consecrated city; now she must "cut off her hair," in token both of sorrow and slavery; she must be degraded, separated from God, as she had been separated to Him. It is time for those who have lost their holiness to lay aside their joy.
II. Just cause given for this great lamentation.
1. The sin of Jerusalem appears here very heinous (Jer ). Two things charged upon them in their idolatry: (a.) They were very impudent in it towards God, and set Him at defiance (Jer 7:30). (b.) They were very barbarous in it towards their own children (Jer 7:31). (Addenda to chap. Jer 7:31, "High places of Tophet.")
2. The destruction of Jerusalem appears here very terrible. General misery (Jer ). Sin makes those the "generation of God's wrath" who had been the generation of His love. He disowns them. And He will give them up to the terrors of their own guilt. (a.) Death shall triumph over them (Jer 7:32-33). So great shall be the slaughter that even the spacious valley of Tophet shall not be able to contain the slain. (b.) Joy shall depart from them (Jer 7:34). God can soon mar the mirth of the most jovial, and make it to cease; which is a reason why we should "rejoice with trembling" (with reverence).—Henry.
Jer . "They have set their abominations in the house." So do those now that broach heresies in the Church.—Trapp.
Jer . Theme: SINFULNESS OF WILL-WORSHIP. "Which I commanded them not."
Hence it is justly concluded that i. To add anything to God's Word (as of necessity to salvation), and to enforce it as an article of saving faith; and ii. To propose anything as an object of worship which God has not authorised, is hateful in His sight. Here, therefore, is a solemn protest against the worship of the Virgin Mary, the invocation of saints and angels, and other like acts of "will-worship" (Col ), as prayers for the dead. What is not "commanded" in Scripture is, therefore, forbidden as an object of worship.—Wordsworth.
"The purpose of God was to teach His people both unto whom they should offer sacrifice, and what sacrifice was to be offered. To burn their sons in fire unto Baal He did not command them; He spake no such thing, neither came it into His mind; therefore this they ought not to have done. The prophet chooses rather to charge them with the fault of making a law unto themselves, than with the crime of transgressing a law which God made. For when the Lord hath once Himself precisely set down a form of executing that wherein we are to serve Him, the fault appeareth greater to do that which we are not, than not to do that which we are, commanded."—Hooker, "Eccles. Pol.," quoted in Wordsworth.
On creating objects of superstitious homage.
"God here cuts off from men every occasion for evasions, since He condemns by this one phrase, ‘I have not commanded them,' whatever the Jews devised. There is, then, no other argument needed to condemn superstitions than that they are not commanded by God; for when men allow themselves to worship God according to their own fancies, and attend not to His commands, they pervert true religion. And if this principle were adopted by the Papists, all those fictitious modes of worship in which they absurdly exercise themselves would fall to the ground. When God says that ‘it never came into His mind,' He suggests that men assume too much wisdom when they devise what He never required—nay, what He never knew."—Calvin.
i. Sacrilege (Jer ), and ii. Superstitions (Jer 7:31), would entail iii. Slaughter (Jer 7:32-33) and iv. Sorrow (Jer 7:34); joy silenced, homes solitary, and the land spoiled. "The wages of sin is death." (Addenda to chap. Jer 7:32. "Punishment")
NOTICEABLE TOPICS IN CHAPTER 7
Topic: THE DOCTRINE OF THE CHURCH (Jer ).
I. The Church externally. Fulfils beneficent purposes, administers external benefits. 1. What are her ministries? The Word, sacrament, &c. 2. How far are her external ministries essential? Romanism and Protestantism reply differently. 3. What reasons have we for guarding against danger? The Church may be overestimated (Jer ).
II. The Church internally. Her true constitution and character are indicated. 1. It is essentially a community of saints and true believers (Jer ). 2. Its existence is manifested—(a.) In the holy walk of its members (Jer 7:3; Jer 7:5-6). (b.) In the blessings of the Divine presence (Jer 7:3; Jer 7:7).—Naeg.
Topic: EXTERNAL ECCLESIASTICISM (Jer ).
An earnest warning against mere outward adherence to, and trust in, church ordinances and services, unaccompanied by practical piety and heart religion.
I. Its essence. 1. False confidence in church testimony (Jer ). 2. Delusive trust in the unconditional saving efficacy of sanctuary rites (Jer 7:10).
II. Its consequences. 1. Demoralisation (Jer ). 2. Desecration of the holy (Jer 7:11). 3. Destruction of the offenders (Jer 7:12-15).—Idem.
Topic: ABUSE OF RELIGION: IMMORALITY JUSTIFIED BY TEMPLE OBSERVANCES (Jer ).
Nothing more usual among hypocrites than to mingle and confound in their lives what is commendable and what is sinful—virtue and vice—palliating their wickedness with some pretences and appearance of goodness. Here they attended upon the ordinances of the temple, and from them drew a licence to sinful courses, crying, "The temple of the Lord," &c. (Jer ).
I. Their abominable hypocrisy. Consisting in their profaneness, in "theft, murder," &c. (Jer ); and their formality, in "coming and standing before God in His house." These words may be taken in a sense
i. Absolutely and positively. This question, Will ye steal, &c., has included in it an assertion, ye do so; and an accusation, for by God's direction Jeremiah charged upon this people their guilt in these respects. Regard this profaneness and formality as meeting in the same persons. 1. Their consistency; they may go together, it is possible. Men may "steal," &c., and yet "come before God in His house;" and men may "stand before God," &c., and yet be guilty of such crimes. The reason is, that bare external works of religion have no changing or improving influence upon the heart. On the other side, corrupt affections, which tend to such wicked practices, do not restrain men from external performance of religious duties. It is no impediment to wrong-doing now and then to go to church; yea, frequenting ordinances may give licence to lust. 2. Their concomitancy: they do go together. No rare business for profane men to be at the duties of religion. There is double ground for it. (a.) To blind the eyes of men. (b.) To stop the mouth of conscience. All this shows a sad and miserable condition. Its relevancy to Popery, which encourages outward attendance upon ordinances, yet lets loose "the lusts which war against the soul."
ii. Interrogatively and expostulatory. "Will ye steal, … and come and stand," &c.? The Lord calls this people to an account for this admixture of profaneness and formality. This expostulation has a double emphasis with it.
1. How can ye do so in regard of yourselves? How satisfy your minds and consciences with such kind of doings? God appeals to their own judgment, can ye think it fitting? This is the great unhappiness of hypocrites and formalists, they are condemned of themselves. Their actions were incongruous and repugnant.
2. How can ye do so in regard of Me? Can ye think to please Me by such ways? The Lord thus not only argues with them, but reproves them. (a.) He taxes them for their formality in that they thought to propitiate Him by their bare external performances. He requires external duties of religion; their actions in this respect were good, but their affections were bad (comp. Isa ; Mat 15:8; Eze 33:31). This was odious in God's sight, as a piece of sacrilege—robbing God of His due; of dissimulation—pretends to worship, but denies God the frame of his heart, although "He desires truth in the inward parts;" and it is un rofitable—neither bettering the heart, nor restraining from evil practices. (b.) He taxes them for their presumption, in that they durst approach Him in their sinful indulgence (comp. Isa 1:11-12; Isa 56:3; Psa 50:16-17; Lev 10:3). Here is an aggravation of their sinfulness; for there is a trespassing upon God in His majesty—to come before Him in such vile habits showed they did not much regard Him; and there is a suspicion of God in His wisdom—they think He will not see or take notice of their vileness, and assay to flatter Him by some fair pretences. Also, here is an intimation of their greater danger. Will ye do it? Dare ye be so bold? Do ye consider the hazard ye run? There are three sorts of judgments which are commonly consequent upon such daringly guilty conduct: Spiritual—become more hardened and confirmed, increase their corruptions; Temporal—He inflicts grievous calamity on such, of which Scripture supplies instances: Eternal—the vengeance of everlasting destruction; "hypocrites have their portion in the lake," &c. The greater sin has always the greater danger.
II. Their notorious stupidity. "And say, We are delivered to do all these abominations!" Different translations. The Septuagint (and Arabic) read the words thus: We have withdrawn or abstained from all, &c., i.e., they impudently deny their manifest wickedness. The Syriac thus: Deliver us, because we have abstained, &c.; more impudent still, not only to deny their notorious guilt, but also plead innocency as meritorious of preservation. But there are other translations specially to attend to. The Chaldee paraphrase (with which agrees the Geneva and Old English translation): "We are delivered, though," &c. The rendering of St. Jerome and the Vulgate: "We are delivered, because," &c. The authorised English version: "We are delivered, that we may," &c., i.e., it is lawful to commit, &c.
1. Their security and insensibleness of their present condition in regard of sin: "We are delivered, though we commit, &c.; making their iniquities no hindrance to their preservation, as in Isa . There is a various ground for this carnal security: (a.) A false conceit in them of the mercy and indulgency of God (Psa 9:7). (b.) A freedom and preservation from judgment and punishment at the present. "We are delivered, and therefore shall be" (Ecc 8:11). (c.) Carnal refuges and reliances: they think it impossible they will be punished; and the Lord in this expostulation, Do ye say so? implies, Ye are mistaken in saying so.
2. Their stupidity; according to the reading, "We are delivered, because," &c. Thinking that not only shall they receive no hurt in their sins, but that they shall have good for them; that the more they abound in abominations, the more they shall abound in deliverances (comp. Jer ). Our iniquities are advantageous to us!
3. Their incorrigibleness and persistency, or their ingratitude and perverse improvement of God's deliverances and preservations of them: "We are delivered to commit them," i.e., as an opportunity for the more free commission of them. As if God had delivered them on purpose that they might "continue in sin." This is met by the remonstrance of the text: "Will ye say so?" What a fearful thing is this! Such a mood calls for heaviest judgments, for they are the worst of sinners: means are perverted and mercy is abused; they are not bettered by God's spiritual physic, and His "goodness," which should "lead to repentance," is turned into an occasion of wantonness. God will surely bring His dire woes on such, and make them at last and effectually to know that they are not "delivered to commit all these abominations."—Th. Horton, D.D., A. D. 1678.
Topic: WHAT CAN CHILDREN DO FOR GOD? (Children's Sermon): "The children gathered wood" (Jer ).
A description here of honours which heathen pay to their gods. Though these idols were such stupid things, every one works for them. Should not, therefore, every one do work for our God? He is better than idols; and had done for us great things; and for such a God you ought to work.
I. God is setting up a kingdom in this world. A very glorious and gracious kingdom: "righteousness, peace and joy in the Holy Ghost" Righteousness—teaches us to do justice; peace—to love peace and pursue it; joy—God makes all happy who come into His kingdom.
II. God expects us all to work to set up this kingdom. Christ came to set it up; ministers preach and labour for it; missionaries go to heathen; all God's people aid. Every one has something to do; and God expects each should do it.
III. Children can do something to set up this kingdom. The children did something when Christ rode into Jerusalem; "spread garments" and cried "Hosanna!" 1. You can pray; that God would make you subjects of this kingdom. 2. You can talk; speak to others about Jesus, pardon, God, heaven. 3. You can work; give to missionary society, deny yourselves to send Bibles to heathen.
IV. Children are always happy when trying to set up this kingdom. Why? Because make others happy. Angels are happy because they are employed in making others happy. God is happy, for He blesses every one. And, when we act like God, we ourselves are happy.
V. God will never forget the labours of little children for Him. When children wanted to come to Jesus, He noticed their disposition, and said, "Never prevent a child from coming to Me!" then took in arms and blessed. When they sang in temple, He noticed their song, and said, "Hearest thou what these say!" Josiah was only eight years old when he became king; and, because he was a good boy, it is put down in the Book of God that he gave money to the priests to build God's house, and did everything in his power to serve God. God loves everything done for Him by children, because it is a proof of their obedience and love. May He give you His Holy Spirit and bless you, make you willing to labour for Christ now, that have His approval when you die, and dwell with Him in heaven.—James Sherman, A. D. 1844.
Topic: SACRED OVERTHROWS MONUMENTAL WARNINGS. "See what I did to Shiloh" (Jer ).
The world is full of historic overthrows: Nineveh, Babylon, Rome, Herculaneum; each with an admonitory lesson—that its peculiar guiltiness evokes Heaven's curse. But even holy edifices are among the ruins; though sanctioned both by antiquity and Divine authority. Sin shakes the strongest foundation, and the structure falls. Confidence in the inalienable sacredness and therefore security of a place is a delusion against which the ruins of holy scenes admonish us. Sacredness does give security; but if the former is lost, the latter is forfeit. Henry remarks:
I. Shiloh was ruined, though it had God's sanctuary in it, when by wickedness it profaned that sanctuary. There God "set His name at the first" (Jos ); but sin arose. Was it protected by its having the tabernacle? God forsook it (Psa 78:60); and we read of the city afterwards only as a monument of Divine vengeance upon holy places when they harbour wicked people. It is good to consult precedents and make use of them. "Remember Lot's wife;" remember Shiloh, and seven Churches of Asia; and know that the ark and candlestick are movable things (Rev 2:5; Mat 21:43).
II. Shiloh's fate would be Jerusalem's doom, unless speedy and sincere repentance prevent it not. 1. Jerusalem was as sinful as ever Shiloh was (Jer ). 2. Jerusalem should be as miserable as ever Shiloh was (Jer 7:14).
"The tabernacle and the sanctuary at Shiloh have disappeared; so also the temple built by Solomon, and the Ark of the Covenant itself; and even the temple re-erected without the ark by Zerubbabel; so too the temple of Herod. All the places consecrated by the presence of our Lord Jesus Christ and the ministry of His apostles have been destroyed, and given up to the abomination of desolation: Jerusalem, with the Mount of Olives and Golgotha, Bethlehem, Nazareth, the whole of Palestine, Asia Minor and Greece, became Christian, and yet fell a prey to the Crescent. All the less may Rome count on perpetuity, since the chair of Peter rests not on Divine, but on arbitrary human institution."—Naeg.
ADDENDA TO CHAP. 7: ILLUSTRATIONS AND SUGGESTIVE EXTRACTS
Jer . "Proclaim there this word."
"He that negotiates between God and man,
As God's ambassador, the grand concerns
Of judgment and of mercy, should beware
Of lightness in his speech. 'Tis pitiful
To court a grin when you should woo a soul:
To break a jest when pity should inspire
Pathetic exhortation; and address
The skittish fancies with facetious tales
When sent with God's commission to the heart."
Jer . "The temple of the Lord!" Ecclesiasticism. "They clung with a desperate tenacity to the hope that the local sanctity of Jerusalem was a sufficient safeguard against all calamities; and repeated, with that energy of iteration which only belongs to Eastern fanatics, the very name of the temple of Jehovah as an all-sufficing talisman."—Stanley, "Jewish Church."
"It is much easier to give oneself to a church or a sect than to God."—Toplady.
"Men seem to think, Only let me get into the Church that has apostolicity, and catholicity, and orthodoxy!… An organised institution I believe in; but the New Testament idea of a Church was a moral society of those who had a common faith, hope and love. That Church which is most positive about its apostolicity, that thinks there is no other Church but itself in the world, is a mere crustaceous, not a spiritual, Church. And that Church which has the most altars, the most vestments, the most externalities, the most things that appeal to the lower nature of men, which has the most physical embodiment, and therefore occupies the largest space in men's sight, is farthest from the true spiritual Church."—Beecher.
Jer . Thoroughness. "I have tried for twenty years to be a half-way Christian," said a business man on whom life's cares pressed heavily, and over whom worldly allurements were very powerful, "and find it is impossible; we must be at one or the other extreme. And as for myself, I am determined to do my whole duty, and be a complete Christian."
A proud Indian chief became deeply convicted of sin, and, trembling under a sense of guilt, sought the missionary, and proffered his belt of wampum to be freed from his anguish of fear. "No," said the missionary, "Christ cannot accept such a sacrifice." The Indian departed, but soon returned offering his rifle and the skins he had taken in hunting. "No," was the reply, "Christ cannot accept such a sacrifice." Again the Indian went away, but with a troubled conscience once more returned, and offered his wigwam, wife, child, everything, for peace and pardon. "No," was still the reply, "Christ cannot accept such a sacrifice." The chief seemed oppressed with surprise for a moment; then, lifting up tearful eyes to heaven, he feelingly cried out, "Here, Lord, take poor Indian too!"—Dictionary of Illustrations.
"Place not thy amendment only in increasing thy devotion, but in bettering thy life. This is the damning hypocrisy of this age, that it slights all good morality and spends its zeal in matters of ceremony, and a form of godliness without the power of it."—Fuller.
Jer . Covenant. "God's promises are with a condition, which is as an oar in a boat or stern of a ship, and turns the promise another way."—Trapp.
The two Rabbis. A little while after the city of Jerusalem was destroyed, two Jewish rabbis were walking over its ruins. Both seemed affected at the mournful sight, but one wept, the other smiled. Turning to his companion, the one asked, "How can you smile now, when you see our holy city laid low in ruins?" "Nay," replied the other, "let me rather ask you, Why do you weep?" "I weep," said the first, "because I behold around me the fearful judgments of the Almighty. Our beautiful city is no more—our holy temple is laid waste—our brethren, where are they now?" "All that," replied the other, "is the reason why I smile. I see, like you, how sure God's judgments are; but I can learn how true must be His promises. God hath said, ‘I will destroy Jerusalem.' I see He has; but He has also said, ‘I will rebuild Jerusalem.' Shall I not believe His word?"
Jer . Insolent profanity. The very heathen refused to admit any polluted person to their religious services. That saying of Æneas to his father, when he came from the war, is a clear proof: Tu genitor, &c., "Father, do you meddle with the sacrifices; but as for me, it is a sinful thing to touch them till I have washed myself in the fountain." This was an outward external rite amongst them for cleansing themselves. These heathen cried out to the people that came to sacrifice, "All you that are unclean and profane, go far from these sacrifices." Not only the Word of God, but the very light of nature taught them not to meddle with holy things till they were sanctified.—Caryl.
In the mystical sacrifices of Ceres, profane persons were excluded, the priest calling out, ἕκας ἕκας ὅστις ἄλιτρος.
"I venerate the man whose heart is warm,
Whose hands are pure, whose doctrines and whose life,
Coincident, exhibit lucid proof
That he is honest in the sacred cause."
Jer . Sacrilege. The spirit of God will not have holy things profaned. Belshazzar converted the consecrated vessels of the temple into instruments of luxury and intemperance. Herod polluted the sepulchres of saints by a sacrilegious search for treasures presumed to be hidden there, and God made fire to rise out of the earth and consume the searchers. Antiochus ransacked the temple of the Lord. Heliodorus emptied the treasures of their consecrated monies. Pompey defiled the Sabbath and the sanctuary. Crassus robbed the house of God of 10,000 talents. But inquire into the event of these insolences, and we shall find that true then of which later ages give many examples, that ruin is the child of sacrilege, that mischief setteth a period to the lives and designs of profane men.—Bishop Reynolds.
Jer . Intercessory prayer. Luther had boundless confidence in the power and prevalency of prayer. "At the time the Diet of Nuremberg was held," says Tholuck, "Luther was earnestly praying in his own dwelling; and at the very hour when the edict granting free toleration to all Protestants was issued, he ran out of his house, crying out, ‘We have gained the victory! Do you understand that?'" On another occasion, Melancthon was sinking into death through severe illness, and Luther entered his chamber. "We cannot spare you yet!" was Luther's exclamation to his dying friend; and then he threw himself upon his knees in wrestling prayer. Then, seizing Melancthon's hand, he said, "Be of good courage, Philip: thou shalt not die!" After his recovery, Melancthon wrote to Camerarius, "If Luther had not come to me, I should certainly have died; he recalled me from the gates of the grave."
"More things are wrought by prayer
Than this world dreams of. Wherefore, let thy voice
Rise like a fountain for me night and day," &c.—TENNYSON'S "Morte d'Arthur."
Jer . Sacrifices. Christ never despised sacrifice, but relatively He undervalued it. The idea of sacrifice among the Jews had taken precedence of humanity, justice, and right. (See Mat 5:23-24.) What does it mean but this, Do not think that sacrifice to God is the highest religious duty. Sacrifice depends for its value on preceding moral qualities. A principle is higher than the ordinance which you take to exhibit that principle. The life of religion in the soul is first in importance: the instruments by which you develop that life are of secondary consideration.—H. W. Beecher.
Jer . Obedience. Some persons would make religion to consist of little else than a self-denying course of the practice of virtue and obedience. They make it a kind of house-of-correction work. But no! I love the service of my God; like the bird, I fly on the wings of obedience to His holy will.—Chalmers.
Jer . "High places of Tophet." In the parallel passages (Jer 19:5, Jer 32:35), Jeremiah substitutes the word "Baal," thus identifying the two names. Probably "Tophet" was a contemptuous name for "Baal," derived from תּוּף, to spit out, an object, therefore, of loathing. The word occurs in Job 17:6, and is rendered "tabret," i.e., "I was as a contemptuous thing." And it is to be noticed that in the consecutive verses (Isa 30:32-33) the word occurs twice, and is rendered "tabret" and "Tophet" respectively. Dr. W. Smith affirms that "the Hebrew words are nearly identical," and hence concludes that "Tophet was probably the king's ‘music-grove' or garden, denoting originally nothing evil or hateful." But Ewald, Hitzig, Gesenius, and others, appeal to Isa 30:33, "Fire and much wood; the breath of the Lord, like a stream of brimstone, doth kindle it," in favour of the meaning, place of burning, from תַף, to burn. This beautiful valley Josiah "defiled" (2Ki 23:10), pouring into it all the filth of the city, till it became a foul and revolting scene. Others suggest its significance to be "a drum," because that instrument was employed to drown the cries of victims who were "caused to pass through the fire." "To the worship of Molech a temple was dedicated in the valley of Hinnom, and infants sacrificed, to drown whose cries, when the little innocents were locked in the burning embraces of the brazen image, a loud flourish of trumpets and cymbals was constantly kept up, whence the place was called Tophet. Hezekiah and Manasseh, both slaves to this revolting superstition, immolated their sons to the savage divinity."—Paxton.
Jer . Punishment. The seed holds in embryo the form into which, by an inviolable law, it will develop; the full development will be but an enlargement and likeness of the germ. Sin is thus embryonic; our guilty deeds will expand into results which will reflect in intensity their origin. Whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap."
"Punishment is the recoil of crime; and the strength of the back-stroke is in proportion to the original blow."—French.
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Exell, Joseph S. "Commentary on Jeremiah 7". Preacher's Complete Homiletical Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/
the Second Week after Epiphany