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The Prophet is here entering upon his ministry. He begins with expostulation: and he carries it on, in a way of reproof and correction through the whole chapter.
I pray the Reader to observe, the graciousness of God's dealings with his people, even when he is about to reprove them. He puts them in mind of their past affection, and when matters were different with them, from what they now are: and this serves to heighten to their view his grace, and the unreasonableness of their backsliding. Reader! mark how the Lord takes notice of the smallest affections of his people. What could the Lord say more sweet and gracious than what is here said: I remember thee, the kindness of thy youth, the love of thine espousals. Oh! thou gracious Lord! Should any poor backslider of thine, read this blessed scripture; oh give the poor soul grace to discover here from, how the bowels of thy love yearn over precious souls, in their wanderings, and that thou lost remember them still. See Jeremiah 31:18-24.31.20 .
Having put his people in mind of what had passed; and given them to understand that the Lord had not forgotten the smallest tendencies of their affection towards him; he now begins to remonstrate with them for all their ingratitude and rebellion. And in order to give the greater force to his complaint, he challengeth them to show cause, if anything in him could have left them the least apology. Reader think what an aggravation it is to all our transgressions, that they are against the best of all friends, the kindest of all relations. I know not what you feel in the review; but for myself, I scruple not to say, that the self-loathing, I sometimes experience, in the recollection of what passeth in a fallen nature, is to me abundantly increased, from the consideration, that our offences are all directed against God. It would be impossible to offend in any single instance, had we not first, for the time, lost all reverence and affection also for the person of Jesus. Every expostulation therefore seemeth to speak in the words before us, as though Jesus stood and said; what iniquity have you found in me, that you are gone far from me? If Jesus thus speaks, surely it cuts to the heart.
Observe Reader! the Lord is still pleading. It is the day of grace, not the hour of judgment. And of all the sottish sins of Israel surely, this exceeded the whole, that after knowing the one, true, and only Lord of heaven and earth, they actually took up with idols. A thing hardly to be believed possible. Why the poor ignorant nations around, were never known to change their dunghill gods, for other dunghill gods; if Egypt worshipped the cat; they never could be prevailed upon to make an exchange for any other idol; such was their veneration from father to son. But Israel, the Lord's chosen, the Lord's people, and to whom the Lord had made himself known, by signs and wonders, and a mighty stretched out arm: Israel took up with dunghill gods also, and worshipped they knew not what! Oh! what a degraded state is man brought to, by the fall?
Reader! this is not the first time that we meet with such appeals to heaven, and to other parts of the inanimate creation: for if man will not hear, to whom shall respect be had? Isaiah 50:2 ; Deuteronomy 4:6 . But do not overlook the Lord's tenderness for his people, in the very moment of charging them with such wonderful folly. The Lord calls them his people still. Precious thought! In Jesus they are beheld, and in Jesus beloved. Romans 11:28 . The figure of a cistern, and that a broken cistern, which never can hold water, is uncommonly striking, by way of showing the folly of taking up with any creature comfort, to the forgetfulness of the infinite and eternally satisfying fulness of the Creator. To leave God in Christ, and to take confidence in man, are two mother evils, which bring forth thousands from their womb.
I include all these verses under one view, as the doctrine is one and the same, though varied with several similitudes. But the whole is intended to show, to what a degenerate state the Church was reduced; how the rebellion of the people naturally became their own correction; and yet, in the midst of all, the Lord still watched over Israel for good, and although suffering them to be cast down, would not cast them off. Isaiah 27:2-23.27.5 .
Never surely, was there afforded a more lively instance of the gracious purpose of God's unalterable love to his people, than what this Chapter affords, from beginning to end. The Lord sends the Prophet in the opening, to tell the people of God's remembrance of Israel's first-love: and in the close of the Chapter, the Lord tells them, that though they shall not prosper in their confidence, yet he thereby intimates, that grace shall at length prevail. Through the whole, and every part of the prophet's sermon, we discern, with clear marks all along, that the Lord hath mercy in store, and will not cast away his people whom he foreknew, Romans 11:1-45.11.5 .
PAUSE my soul over the Prophet's sermon, and remark how graciously the Lord pleads with his people for their good; how reluctant the Lord seemeth to give them up, and with what gentle expostulations he reasons with them, on his patience and their determined obstinacy.
Look through the history of the Church then, and look to the Church now: and ask and see, whether we are in better circumstances than they, or more deserving? Did ever Zion languish more than in the present hour? Were ever the interests of Jesus less regarded? Where shall we direct our attention to find any that prefer the prosperity of the Church above their chief joy? My soul! what sayeth thine own personal experience to this statement? While thou lamentest in secret, the little conquests of Jesus's grace in thine own heart; canst thou say, as one of old did, in beholding the sorrowful state of the Church around thee: rivers of waters run down mine eyes because men keep not thy law. Alas! who is grieved for the affliction of Joseph.
Oh! thou great Head of thy Church, and of thy people! Oh! Lord Jesus! take to thyself thine own glorious cause, and come forth by thy Holy Spirit, in the midst of thy Church! Remember Lord when Israel was holiness unto the Lord, and the first-fruits of his increase. And as all Israel's holiness was in thee, and is in thee forever: do thou Lord stir up to thyself an holy zeal, in the hearts of thy people. Thou knowest Lord, that were we to wash with nitre and take much soap, still would our iniquity be marked before thee. Take away therefore Lord all our iniquity, and receive us graciously, and turn to thyself a people with one consent, to call on the Lord: so shall thy name be praised from the rising of the sun to the going down of the same; and the name of our Lord Jesus shall be great among the Gentiles. Amen.
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Hawker, Robert, D.D. "Commentary on Jeremiah 2". "Hawker's Poor Man's Commentary". https://www.studylight.org/
the Second Week of Advent