All the people . . . came near, and said unto Jeremiah the prophet.
The people and the prophet
I. Prayerfulness. “Pray for us.” The prophet was implored to intercede with God on behalf of his countrymen. That which prosperity had failed to teach, was quickly learned in the day of adversity. God is honoured when His people cast themselves on His all-sufficiency; and He will repay their confidence by revelations of enlarged, and ever-enlarging, favour.
II. Teachableness. “That the Lord thy God may show,” &c. Matthew Henry well says, “In every difficult and doubtful case our eye must be up to God for direction: we cannot be guided by a spirit of prophecy, which has ceased; but we may pray to be guided in our movements by a spirit of wisdom, and the hints of providence.”
1. A teachable spirit is not a credulous spirit. It does not believe, except on evidence; as the preacher is to persuade men, so is he ever to re-echo the first words God addresses to His rebellious creatures, “Come, now, and let us reason together.”
2. A teachable spirit is not a captious spirit.
3. A teachable spirit is not a reluctant spirit. (W. G. Barrett.)
The Lord shall answer you, I will declare it unto you.--
Portrait of a true preacher
I. The true preacher seeks his message for the people from Heaven. “I will pray,” &c. There are preachers who seek their message from the theories of philosophy, from the works of literature, from the conclusions of their own reasoning. But a true teacher looks to Heaven. In his studies his great question is, “What saith the Lord”; in his ministration his language is, “Thus saith the Lord.” We cannot render the spiritual service to humanity, of which it is in urgent need, by endeavouring to instruct it with human ideas, even though they come from the highest intellects of the world. The ideas of God can alone renovate, spiritually enlighten, purify, ennoble, and save the human soul.
II. The true preacher delivers his message to the people full and faithfully. “I will keep nothing back from you.”
For ye dissembled in your hearts, when ye sent me unto the Lord your God, saying, Pray for us.
The hypocrisy of desiring the prayers of others without a suitable conduct
I. Consider on what principles desiring the prayers of others is grounded. They are these; that it is our duty to pray for one another; that God hath often shown a gracious regard to the intercessions of His servants for others; and that it is very desirable, especially in some particular cases, to have an interest in them.
II. When they who desire the prayers of others may be said to dissemble in their hearts. They do so when they desire them without sincerity; when they will not pray for themselves; when they will not use proper means to obtain the blessings they desire; and especially when they will not do what God by His Word and ministers requireth.
III. The hypocrisy and evil of this conduct. It is an affront to the all-seeing and holy God; it is likewise deceiving their friends; and prayers offered for such persons are not likely to be of much avail. Application--
1. We may hence learn, with what dispositions of mind we should desire the prayers of others. Whenever we ask the intercessions of others, let it be in sincerity; with a firm persuasion of the power of prayer; that it is not in vain to seek God; and that it is our duty to engage the assistance of our friends, by their application to the throne of grace. Be solicitous that you concur with them by praying yourselves without ceasing in the best manner you are able; and with your chief dependence for acceptance, not on your own prayers, nor those of your friends, but the mediation of Jesus Christ.
2. That we should be ready to pray one for another. Whenever we think of an absent relation or friend, or hear of him, or receive a letter from him, let us lift up our hearts to God for him in a short petition, as his circumstances may require. But we should be particularly mindful of those who desire our prayers.
3. It is peculiarly wicked to dissemble in our hearts, when we profess dependence on the intercession of Christ. (Job Orion, D. D.)
Dissembling with God
I. Consider, what was that great and general duty, against which the Jews, on the occasion before us, rebelled. “Ye disembled,” said Jeremiah, “in your hearts.” Dissimulation, like other sins, admits of degrees. The heart may dissemble radically and entirely, so as to be wholly hypocritical; so as not to feel any portion of that love to God, of that faith, of that gratitude, of that sense of duty, of that purpose of obedience which the tongue expresses. Or it may dissemble partially; feeling weakly and insufficiently those sentiments towards Him, which dwell with parade and seeming warmth upon the lips. The doom which awaits the complete hypocrite, cannot be doubted. Let the partial hypocrite beware, lest he at last come to the same place of torment.
II. Consider, each for himself, how strong is the probability that you may be guilty, in a greater or a less degree, of dissembling in your heart before God. We have in our hands the Word of God, which describes the character of a true Christian. We have before our eyes the practice of the world. When we compare them, we cannot but perceive how vast is the number of professed Christians who evince little of the spirit of true Christianity in their principles and conduct: and therefore stand self-convicted as dissemblers in their hearts before the Most High. When you call to remembrance the multitudes even among those who styled themselves the followers of God, which in ancient times the sinfulness and deceitfulness of the heart betrayed into hypocrisy: when you survey the multitudes of His professed followers, which in this your day the same sinfulness and deceitfulness render hypocritical before Him: have you not reason for serious dread that you may yourself be found a dissembler in His sight?
III. A scriptural rule, which may assist you in discovering whether, if the Son of God were now to call you to judgment, you would be found dissemblers in your hearts. “Where your treasure is,” saith our Lord, “there will your heart be also.” In other words, Whatever be the object which you judge and feel to be the most valuable; concerning that object will your heart snow itself to be the most steadily and the most deeply interested. Apply this rule to yourself. Thus you may discover with absolute certainty whether your heart is fixed upon God, or whether it dissembles before Him.
1. Compare the pains which you employ, the vigilance which you exercise, the anxiety which you feel, concerning worldly objects, on the one hand; on the other, concerning religion.
2. When you receive a kindness from a friend, you feel, I presume, warm and durable emotions of gratitude, and an earnest desire to render to your benefactor such a return, in proportion to your ability, as may be acceptable to him. You are receiving every day from God blessings infinitely superior to all the kindnessess which can be conferred upon you by any of your fellow-creatures. Do you feel then still more lively and durable emotions of gratitude to Him?
3. Your worldly prosperity is an object which you pursue with industry and solicitude. Are you still more diligent, more anxious, in pursuing the welfare of your soul?
4. You have various occupations to which you resort, as opportunities offer themselves, from inclination and choice. Among these is religion to be found? Does religion stand at the head of them?
5. When you are informed of the events which befall another person, you rejoice, if they are such as promote his worldly advantage; you lament, if they impair it. Do you experience greater joy when you are assured of his advancement in religion? Do you experience greater sorrow if you learn that he has gone backward in the ways of righteousness? (T. Gisborne, M. A.)
Insincerity in prayer
Rarely do men come to Christ, says Leighton, “as blank paper--ut tabula rasa--to receive His doctrine; but, on the contrary, all scribbled and blurred with such base habits as malice, hypocrisy, and envy.”
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Exell, Joseph S. "Commentary on "Jeremiah 42". The Biblical Illustrator. https://www.studylight.org/
Second Sunday after Epiphany