This seems to be but a continuation of the former Chapter; and a most blessed continuation it is! We have here, the Lord speaking most graciously to his people; and giving them exceeding great and precious promises in Christ, confirmed with all the sanction and authority of Jehovah.
The first observation, that I desire to offer on this most glorious chapter is, to mark to the Reader, the repeated confirmation we meet with of its blessed contents, in a thus, and a thus saith the Lord. No less than one and twenty times, within the space of forty verses, doth Jehovah graciously condescend to set his seal of authority to the merciful promises delivered, by the mention of his own great and incommunicable name. Reader! I beseech you never to overlook this, in whatever part of the Sacred Word it occurs. It is the testimony of Jehovah, which becomes the ground and warrant of our faith. The testimony of the Lord is sure; yea, the Psalmist saith, that the Lord's testimonies are very sure, holiness becometh his house forever, Psalms 93:5 and Psalms 19:7. And it is the Father's testimony, and approbation of his dear Son, as our glorious Head and Surety, which must give assurance to our faith. Every poor unbelieving sinner, who fears the salvation of his soul is too great to be believed, could never desire stronger assurances for his faith to rest on, than the Word of God. If the Lord would but say it, I should believe. Here then comes in the blessedness of this short, but comprehensive expression. Thus saith the Lord. But what time is this to which the Lord refers, in which he will be the God of all the families of Israel, and they shall be his people? I apprehend, not simply the time of restoring them from Babylon, but looking forward unto Gospel times, when both Jew and Gentile shall be brought into the fold of Christ. In confirmation of this, see Isaiah 49:6; Galatians 3:29.
The sword probably hath an allusion to the sorrows of Egypt, from whence the Lord brought the people out, into the wilderness, and then brought them to rest in Canaan.
I do not presume to determine, but I venture to observe, that I conceive the former part of this verse is the language of the Church; and the latter the words of Jehovah. The Church having heard the Lord say in the foregoing verse, how gracious the Lord was, in bringing his people out of Egypt, takes up the subject in the opening of this verse, and is about to speak of some of the ancient proofs of God's love, when Jehovah himself interrupts her by speaking. Yea, saith the Lord, wouldst thou speak, of ancient love, how ancient wouldst thou make it? It began not in Egypt; not with the Patriarchs; not with the creation of the world; but from everlasting. And the one sole cause for which I have drawn thee is, because, from everlasting I have loved thee. Precious consideration to the believer. In Jesus the Church hath been beheld, and loved, from all eternity. John 17:23.
All these blessings arise out of what went before. The Church was now partly in bondage, and the residue of the people were shortly to be sent thither. But the Lord looks beyond times of bondage, and comforts the people with these assurances. There shall be a day in Christ, when all these sweet effects shall follow. And whereas the Church is now without ordinances and means of grace, there shall in gospel times be great plenty, and men shall invite one another to attend them. Songs of praise shall be sung in the same to the Lord.
I do not doubt, but that these verses had respect to the bringing back the people from Babylon. But, I still think, the Holy Ghost had yet a much greater object in view, in bringing back the Lord's heritage from worse than any earthly captivity, even from the captivity of sin and Satan. For what blindness is equal to the blindness of the soul; or what captivity like the bondage of hell? If we read the passage in this spiritual point of view, we shall find it precious indeed. The Lord puts a behold! before the words, that the Church may take notice. And surely most worthy of notice it is: for both the north country, and all the coasts of the east shall give up God's children, when the Lord demands his own. He saith to the north, give up; and to the south, keep not back. Isaiah 43:6. But who are they that shall come? Both the blind and the lame. Jesus will be eyes to the blind, and feet to the lame. No impediments shall obstruct, for even a woman in travail shall not plead excuses, but joyfully follow the Lord's royal camp. And observe, Reader! the Lord saith, it shall not be a few, but a great company. John when in vision he saw heaven opened, tells the Church, that in his day it formed a multitude that no man could number. And what an host of redeemed souls since born, and who have joined the society of the spirits of just men made perfect, who shall calculate? Revelation 7:9. And I beg the Reader yet further to remark on this beautiful passage, how the redeemed are said to come. They are to come both with weeping and supplication. Tears of holy joy, under a conscious sense of undeservings but, as holy mourners in the view of divine mercy. The same Prophet hath elsewhere more particularly described this sweet frame of soul. Jeremiah 50:4-5. And what sums up the whole beauty of this lovely passage, is in the close of it, wherein the Lord assigns the reason of this mercy; that it is not in human merit, but divine favor; and God's relationship to his people in Christ. As the Lord said to Pharaoh in Egypt, so now he saith to all: Israel is my son, my first born. Oh! precious cause of all our mercy in Christ! Exodus 4:22.
I do not detain the Reader with any comment here: for the words are too plain to need any, and too sweet to admit of any without injury. Let the Reader read the passage again and again, and then mark the gracious tendencies of the Lord to his people.
The Evangelist hath made application of what is here said to the murder of the young children by Herod: and thereby hath very clearly shown, that the whole of this blessed chapter is of gospel signification. Rahel, or Rachel, is, probably, put for the whole of the afflicted Parents; meaning that all felt in the general calamity. The grave of Rachel was near Bethlehem: and therefore formed a suitable image of grief. Genesis 35:19; Matthew 2:18. Pious parents, in the loss of their little ones, may find some rich, consoling thoughts from these scriptures, in the consideration of covenant mercies!
Perhaps there is not a more beautiful and interesting representation in the whole compass of the Old Testament scripture, than what is here drawn, of the melting heart of a sinner by grace; and of the Lord's bowels of mercies, yearning over a returning sinner on the occasion. Here is Ephraim falling down at the footstool of the mercy-seat: and the Lord stooping down, as it were, to raise him up. I am a worthless sinner, cries Ephraim; like a beast, stubborn and restive I have been. Thou art a dear child, saith the Lord. My soul is troubled, saith Ephraim, in the recollection of what I have done: my bowels are troubled for thee, saith the Lord. Oh! what a representation is here! It can only be equaled by that divine drawing which the Lord Jesus hath given in his parable, Luke 15:17-24. I hope the Reader cannot want a single observation, to take the whole blessedness of the instruction home to his own heart. It speaks of God's grace, mercy, and love in Christ equal to a volume; and it holds forth the most unequalled persuasion to poor sinners, in prompting them to return. Isaiah 55:7-9.
I do not presume to decide upon this passage, but I venture to propose my views of it to the Reader. I do not object to the comment of those who suppose the return of the people from Babylon might be implied in it. But I cannot but think an infinitely higher object was intended from what is here said. A woman compassing a man, cannot have the smallest connection with the mere event of the people's returning from Babylon. Surely an eye to the incarnation of Jesus, is here plainly set forth. Isaiah's prophesy compared with it, and explained together, make the matter pretty clear. And if so, what a blessed prophesy is here? Isaiah 9:6; Isa_7:14. And yet further, God's creating a new thing in the earth, is eminently so, in respect to the incarnation of Christ. For, if Christ's human nature had been made out of man, as Eve was, this would not have been a new thing. Neither, had his human nature been made out of nothing, as Adam was, would this have been new. But to make Christ's human nature of a woman, yea, of the seed of the woman, and that without an human father; this was a thing new indeed. Isaiah 43:19.
I put this verse by itself from the singularity of its contents. And while I propose my views of it, I pray the Reader to look up to the Lord as his teacher, to lead him, and to guide him into all truth. Is not this verse (for I ask the question) a new subject, a new paragraph, and a different speaker from the former? Who was it that is said here to have awaked? If we suppose it to be the blessed Jesus, may we not without violence to the expression conceive, that it refers to that period, when after the third day from our Lord's death, he arose from the dead! And when he arose, might he not be supposed to say, that the short sleep of that temporary death was sweet to him, because by it he destroyed the everlasting sleep of eternal death to all his people? By death he destroyed him that had the power of death: and now, as the glorious Head of his body, the Church, he felt a blessedness and a sweetness in it, because in his triumphs all his people were concerned. I leave the Reader to his own thoughts on the subject. May a gracious and infallible Teacher instruct both Writer and Reader on the point, to the glory of God in Jesus Christ, Hebrews 2:14-15; 1 Corinthians 15:20.
Perhaps, in allusion to the flourishing state of Christ's church, under the latter day dispensation, this prophesy had respect. But what I particularly desire the Reader to remark with me is, the different features which are here drawn between the Old Testament Church and the New, on this subject. The covenant under the law entailed all the effects of the breaches of it upon the children. But in Christ Jesus, the new nature from him and in him, as the covenant himself, entails all his blessings on all his seed. Compare Exodus 20:5 with Isaiah 59:21.
The Holy Ghost hath himself given the comment of this passage, in Paul's Epistle to the Hebrews, Chap. 8 which supersedes all that might be offered. I only beg to remind the Reader, while comparing both scriptures, and pondering well the subject, that he looks out for the fulfillment of it in himself in the evidences of divine teaching. If that promise be in your own instance completed: and as a child of God you are taught of God, then must the Lord have given you a new heart, and proved himself as your covenant God in Christ, and in you, as belonging to his people. Isaiah 54:13; John 6:45.
I pray the Reader not to overlook the abundant grace of God, in thus appealing to his covenant concerning his providences, made after the flood, and the confirmation of it in Jeremiah's days, as a token and pledge of his covenant concerning grace. And I pray the Reader not to forget the further confirmation of it, from Jeremiah's days to the present. See Genesis 8:21-22. See it again Jeremiah 33:20-21; Jer_33:25.
If we accept this promise as in the smallest degree referring to the building of the second temple and the city, after the people's return from Babylon, we must still look further to gospel days, to observe the full accomplishment of it: for there we find holiness indeed unto the Lord, in Jesus the glorious Head of his church, so as the church must be preserved in him forever.
PONDER well my soul, from the perusal of this most blessed Chapter that sacred source of all thy happiness, the everlasting love of God. See to it, that from thence it is, that Jesus Mediator with all his fulness comes, and God thy Father, becomes the God of all the families of Israel. And do not fail to connect with this soul-transporting view, that if thou art Christ's, then art thou interested in this family, being Abraham's seed, and heirs according to the promise.
And oh! most gracious Lord! do as thou hast said; bring Lord, thy sons from far, and thy daughters from the ends of the earth: bring them both from the north and south; let the blind eyes be opened, and the ears of the deaf unstopped. Nothing shall be impediments in the way of salvation, when Jesus gives but the power; even the women with child shall come, and her that travaileth with child together. And, as true penitents and holy mourners, shall all thy dispersed come, for thou wilt lead them as thou hast said: and their way in Jesus shall be a strait way, wherein they shall not stumble. No lamentation in Ramah; no sorrow for children in the church of Jesus shall be heard, for the child in Christ shall die an hundred years old; while the sinner, who is an hundred years old, out of Christ, shall be accursed. Precious Lord! all thy ransomed ones, when instructed and brought back, shall come like Ephraim; and our covenant God will be full of bowels of compassion to his poor long lost wanderers. In the incarnation and ministry of Jesus will be all joy; and as Jesus himself was in the morning of his resurrection, as one refreshed with sleep, so shall the triumph of his people be in him!
Will the Lord then bring on to every child of his the sure and certain promise, and now in the last days, fulfil that gracious word, in putting his law in our minds, and writing it in our hearts; in being our God, and making us his people: that henceforth we may no longer ask around, or say to others, Know the Lord; for all shall know thee from the least to the greatest? We look up to thee O Lord for this unspeakable gift of the latter day glory! We wait for the sure accomplishment of it! For as sure as the ordinances of day and night are in the Lord's own appointment; so equally sure are the children of Christ heirs of the promise. Blessed God and Father in Christ Jesus; so let all thy promises be yea and amen in him. Amen.
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Hawker, Robert, D.D. "Commentary on Jeremiah 31". "Hawker's Poor Man's Commentary". https://www.studylight.org/
the Second Week after Epiphany