Jeremiah 50:4-5. In those days, and at that time, saith the Lord, the children of Israel shall come, they and the children of Judah together, going and weeping: they shall go, and seek the Lord their God. They shall ask the way to Zion with their faces thitherward, saying, Come, and let us join ourselves to the Lord in a perpetual covenant that shall not be forgotten.
THESE words refer to the Jewish people, and to a period yet future. The junction of Israel with Judah took not place in any great degree at the return of the Jews from Babylon; nor was their return signalized by any such piety as is here described. But, at the time ordained of God for their restoration from their present dispersion, the whole Scriptures attest, that a very extraordinary spirit of piety shall be poured out upon them; and that, in the remembrance of all their past sins, they will be filled with the deepest contrition before God [Note: Jeremiah 31:9.]. But among the Gentiles, also, will the same holy ardour be expressed in returning to the Lord [Note: Isaiah 2:3.]: and therefore we will not confine our attention either to the one or to the other; but rather regard the words before us as expressive of genuine repentance wheresoever it exists; and as consequently declaring,
I. Our duty—
Of the Jews, it is said, “They shall go and seek the Lord their God.”
Now this is a duty,
1. Of universal obligation—
[There is not a man in the universe to whom it does not appertain. There is no man who has not sinned, “in departing from the living God;” and consequently, there is no man who does not need to seek his favour, and to implore mercy at his hands. The king upon the throne is not so elevated, but that he needs to turn to God in this way: nor is the meanest subject in his realm so insignificant, as that this can be dispensed with at his hands.]
2. Of prime and indispensable importance—
[There are many duties binding upon all, and all important in their place: but this is “the one thing needful;” the one thing, without which no man can have peace with God, or peace in his own conscience, or any hope of happiness in the eternal world.]
But in this passage we see also,
II. The manner in which it should be performed—
We must all seek the Lord,
1. With deep humiliation of soul—
[The Jews will look on Him whom they have pierced, and mourn, and be in bitterness, as one that is in bitterness for his first-born. But if they were the agents in the crucifixion of our Lord, our sins were the procuring cause; yea, and we have even “crucified the Son of God afresh,” by continuing in our sins. And who amongst us has not also “done despite unto the Spirit of grace,” “resisting” his sacred motions, till we have even “quenched” them in our souls? It is not, surely, necessary that we should have committed flagrant acts of immorality, in order to call for humiliation before God: the whole state of our souls, from the first moment of our existence to the present hour, shews how totally we have fallen from God, and what contrition becomes us in our return to him. The man that thinks a less measure of shame and sorrow becomes him, because he has not been guilty of any atrocious crime, has yet to learn the exceeding sinfulness of sin, and the desert of every child of man before God. Methinks it is scarcely necessary to remind you, that you must “sow in tears, if you would reap in joy; and that they only who go on their way weeping, bearing precious seed, can ever hope to come again with rejoicing, bringing their sheaves with them [Note: Psalms 126:5-6.].”]
2. With diligent inquiries after the way of life—
[The Jews, dispersed throughout the world, will have to make many inquiries, when once they have set out towards the promised land. And we also, at this time, need to “ask the way towards Zion,” even after “our faces are directed thitherward,” There is but one way, that is, the Lord Jesus Christ; who says, “I am the way, the truth, and the life; no man cometh unto the Father but by me.” But we do not readily find that way: we have many paths which nature points out, and which we greatly prefer: we would come to God in a way of self-righteousness and self-dependence, instead of relying solely and exclusively on the Lord Jesus Christ. Besides, at our first seeking after God, there will arise many doubts respecting the precise path in which it is our duty to proceed, and in relation to which the more experienced Christian may be well qualified to instruct us. To avail ourselves of all possible information, is our wisdom; and especially to seek direction from God in prayer: and it is in answer to such inquiries only that we can hope to “hear a voice behind us, saying, “This is the way; walk ye in it.”]
3. With a fixed determination of heart to give ourselves unreservedly unto God—
[This is implied in entering into covenant with God. A man may make a promise, which yet he has no deliberate determination to keep: but if he enter into a solemn covenant with God, as Josiah did [Note: 2 Chronicles 34:31.], he shews that he is altogether in earnest, and that he is engaged in a transaction which it is his solemn purpose “never to forget.” In this way should every Penitent approach his God; solemnly giving up himself to him in his secret chamber; and openly also, at the table of the Lord; from henceforth renouncing all other lords, and cleaving only to his God and Saviour, in newness of heart and life. In truth, the real penitent will not be content to go to heaven alone. He will propose to those around him to unite in the blessed work in which he has engaged. In perfect accordance with the Church of old, he says, “Draw me; and we will run after thee:” that is, ‘Draw me, O God; and I will never willingly come to thee alone.’]
And now let me ask,
1. Who amongst you are inclined to make this proposal?
[Verily, there is a sad want of zeal, even in multitudes of whom, in the judgment of charity, we should say, They are in the way to heaven, We do not find that holy boldness for the Lord, which every penitent should feel; nor that compassion for man, which a just sense of our own danger would naturally inspire. We affect prudence; or, in other words, we shun the cross which a more decided conduct would bring upon us. But so did not St. Paul, or any of the saints of old. They imparted to others the light they had received; and sought to introduce others to the Saviour whom they had found [Note: John 1:35-45.]. Let us go and do likewise: and if this zeal will characterize the piety of the latter day, let it not be found wanting in the religion which we profess.]
2. Who amongst you would accede to it, if made?
[We wish to lower the standard of true repentance. ‘Surely, a less measure of humiliation will suffice for me; nor can such diligence and self-devotion be required of me.’ But that which will be the duty of men in the latter day, must be our duty now: and therefore settle it in your minds, that we must be wholly for God, if we would obtain favour at his hands; and that, “whatsoever our hand findeth to do, we must,” if we would succeed, “engage in it with all our might.”]
GOD’S MERCY TO HIS PEOPLE
Jeremiah 50:20. In those days, and in that time, saith the Lord, the iniquity of Israel shall be sought for, and there shall be none; and the sins of Judah, and they shall not be found; for I will pardon them whom I reserve.
THE promises of God in his word are said to be “exceeding great and precious [Note: 2 Peter 1:4.]:” and, in truth, they are so great, that we are apt to feel a jealousy respecting them, as though they were not sufficiently guarded: they are apt to appear to us too free, too full, too unqualified, too fixed. Hence we would clog them with limitations and conditions: we would confine them to objects in whom should be found some antecedent worthiness, and suspend the performance of them upon the faithfulness of man. I mean not, by this observation, to say, that great caution is not to be used in the application of them to individual persons; for I well know, that men may easily deceive themselves respecting their own personal interest in them: but I mean to say, that God’s blessings are his own; that he has a right to confer them on whomsoever he will; and that he both does, and will, bestow them according to his own sovereign will and pleasure, without respect to any previous goodness in man, or any dependence on man’s strength for the performance of conditions previously imposed upon him. See to whom the promise in my text is made. It is made to the Jewish people, in their present dispersion. For, if we suppose it to have been in part accomplished by the two tribes renouncing idolatry upon their return from Babylon, yet it can be only in part that it can have been fulfilled at that time; because it is evident that, since the return of the Jews from Babylon, “their sins have been found,” and visited too, in wrathful indignation, for many hundreds of years. At a period, however, that is fast approaching, God’s elect among them shall be restored to his favour, and be made partakers of everlasting felicity in his immediate presence.
In considering these words, I shall notice,
I. The extent of God’s mercy to his chosen people—
God’s people are constantly represented as a remnant—
[Such they have been in all ages of the world; and at different periods they have been “a very small remnant:” but, whether more or less numerous, they are, as the Apostle calls them, “a remnant according to the election of grace [Note: Romans 11:5.].” It is, in fact, for the sake of God’s elect that are yet unborn, that the wickedness of many who are now living is endured. God says, respecting many a corrupt and worthless plant, “Destroy it not, for a blessing is in it [Note: Isaiah 1:9; Isaiah 65:8.].”]
For them, however, God designs the richest mercy—
[When he returns unto them in mercy, which, at his appointed period, he will do, he will vouchsafe to them blessings far beyond any that he conferred upon his people of old. To those who approached him with their sacrifices, he dispensed a pardon for some sins only, and that only till the time should come for a renewal of the same sacrifices: but to his remnant who believe in Christ, and seek acceptance through his all-atoning sacrifice, he imparts a full and perfect remission of all sin; so that, whatever iniquity they may have committed in their unconverted state, it shall be altogether and for ever cancelled: “it shall be blotted out, even as a morning cloud,” which passes over the earth, and is seen no more; and it shall be “cast behind God’s back [Note: Isaiah 38:17.],” never to be seen again; and “into the very depths of the sea [Note: Micah 7:19.],” from whence it shall never be recovered. In a word, he covenants with them to “remember their sins no more;” so that, whoever may “search for them, they shall be found no more” for ever [Note: Jeremiah 31:31-34. with Hebrews 10:14-17.]. God will henceforth view them, not as they are in themselves, but as they are in Christ, “without spot or blemish [Note: Ephesians 5:27.].” Clothed in his perfect righteousness, they are presented faultless before God, and they are so regarded by God himself to their exceeding joy [Note: Jude, ver. 24.].”]
In further noticing this glorious promise, I must proceed to mark,
II. The interest which the Jews have in it—
We ought not to overlook this; which is, in fact, the direct object which God himself has in his view—
[It is evidently spoken respecting the Jews: and though we do right in applying it to God’s elect people generally, we do exceeding wrong in overlooking those to whom it primarily belongs. We are ready to think that the conversion and salvation of the Jews is a subject in which we have no interest: and on this account, we almost grudge the mention of it in a Christian assembly. On the conversion of the Gentiles we are at liberty to expatiate: but a few words on the restoration of God’s ancient people will be deemed more than sufficient, unless the particular occasion demand for it a distinct and formal consideration. But we err exceedingly in this, and cast a veil over numberless prophecies, which, if duly explained, would open to us all the mysteries of God’s love, to the very end of time.]
As applied to the Jews, the promise should fill us with unutterable joy—
[It is plain that it primarily belongs to them. And should it not be an occasion of joy to us to reflect, that amongst them God has a remnant, “whom he has reserved for himself,” and to whom the promise in my text will be fulfilled in its utmost extent? I call upon you, then, to contemplate this blessed event; and to hasten forward, by all possible means, the destined period. Even supposing that their national conversion were not near at hand, I should say, it is nearer than it was in the Apostle’s days; and that if he, at that distant period, laboured to the utmost to turn to the faith of Christ the remnant of God’s hidden ones among them, much more should we do it now: and therefore I commend to you this part of my subject, as deserving at all times the deepest attention [Note: If this be a Sermon for the Jews, it should here be shewn that the time then present was peculiarly proper for a fuller consideration of the subject.] — — —]
But that we may bring home the promise to ourselves, let us consider,
III. The effect which the contemplation of it should produce on us—
Have we any hope that we are of the number of God’s elect? Let the thought of his promised mercy fill us with,
[Can we reflect a moment on the thought that our sins are thus blotted out, and not stand amazed at the riches of God’s sovereign grace? Truly, we should be altogether lost in wonder, love, and praise: and the more assured our hope is, that God has forgiven us, the more determined we should be never to forgive ourselves. We should go softly all our days, in the remembrance of our sins; and should “lothe ourselves for our abominations,” in proportion as we hope that “God is pacified towards us [Note: Ezekiel 16:63.].”]
[What bounds should there be to our thankfulness before God? Methinks our language day and night should be, “What shall I render unto the Lord for all his benefits towards me?” This, at all events, we should do: we should shew our indignation against sin, which is so hateful in his eyes; and take occasion from his mercies to devote ourselves to him in a way of holy and unreserved obedience [Note: Romans 12:1.].]
[St. Paul well says, “If God spared not his own Son, but delivered him up for us all, how shall he not with him also freely give us all things?” The same conclusion would I draw from that perfect forgiveness which God vouchsafes to his believing people: Has he so blotted out our iniquities, and will he refuse us strength to resist and mortify sin in future? Has he rescued us thus from all the powers of darkness, and will he again suffer them to pluck us out of his hands? No: we may ask with confidence, “Who shall lay any thing to the charge of God’s elect,” or condemn so much as one of his believing people? In all that lie has done, in redeeming us from death, he has given us a pledge of what he will hereafter do; and never will he suffer any one to “separate us from his love in Christ Jesus our Lord [Note: Romans 8:32-39.].”]
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Simeon, Charles. "Commentary on Jeremiah 50". Charles Simeon's Horae Homileticae. https://www.studylight.org/
Second Sunday after Epiphany