The restoration of Israel. The publication thereof. Rachel mourning is comforted. Ephraim repenting, is brought home again. Christ is promised: his care over the church: his new covenant. The stability and amplitude of the church.
Before Christ 606.
Jeremiah 31:1. At the same time— This is a continuation of the discourse which was begun in the last chapter. "This second part (says Calmet) principally respects the return of the ten tribes. I have shewn in a particular dissertation, that not only Judah, Benjamin, and Levi, but all the twelve tribes, returned into their own country." Nothing is more expressly marked out in the prophets than this event; Jeremiah here foretels it in the clearest manner. But many great men have considered the return of the ten tribes here referred to, as an event which is to take place in the latter days of the Gospel.
Jeremiah 31:2. The people which were left, &c.— The first-fruits of salvation among the Jews are here specified, and that wilderness is meant, in which the Author of grace and his forerunner made their first appearance. The Jews were then a people left to the sword, namely, of the Chaldeans and Romans. Then the first Jews found a way to their rest, and guarded it for their posterity, to whom they left the example of their faith. The people left of the sword, and all the families of Israel, are different; as the beginning of salvation was with a few Jews, so the general salvation will take place in the whole nation. The prophet touches upon the first-fruits as a prelude to that complete and general salvation which will take place on the restoration of the Jews. Houbigant. Instead of, Even Israel, &c. Schultens reads, As Israel was marching to his glory.
Jeremiah 31:3. The Lord hath appeared of old unto me— From afar off Jehovah appeared unto me. These words, it is certain, were not spoken in reference to the same time that those were which go before. They may well be included in a parenthesis, and seem designed to intimate, that the prophet was favoured with a visionary prospect of a remote period to come, in which God is represented as discoursing of the transactions belonging to that period, as if they were already at hand; and this accounts for the use of verbs in the past tense, both in the preceding verse, and in Jeremiah 31:6-7. It is manifest from Jeremiah 31:26 that the prophet had been in a vision or trance, out of which he awaked. And it is no less evident, that the general restoration of Israel, the subject of the discourse which he had heard during his vision, so much to his satisfaction, is not yet accomplished, nor entered upon, nor is there any certainty when it exactly will be.
Jeremiah 31:4. Again I will build thee— "Thy inhabitants shall be again restored, who shall rebuild their cities and habitations which lay desolate during the time of their captivity: thou shalt again hear rejoicing in thy land as before," &c. The Jews are called the virgin of Israel, to imply that, they returning in repentance and faith, the stains of their former idolatries, so often compared to whoredoms, have been taken away through the merit of their great Deliverer, the Messiah. See Lowth and Calmet.
Jeremiah 31:6. The watchmen—cry— Though the first reference may be to the leaders and teachers of the Jews returning from Babylon; yet, in the full completion of the prophesy, by watchmen the preachers of the Messiah, or of the Gospel, are to be understood; for the Jews apply the Hebrew word נצרים notsrim, expressly to this purpose. The phrase, Arise ye, alludes to the Jewish custom of going to Jerusalem at their three annual festivals.
Jeremiah 31:7. Among the the chief of the nations— On the tops of the mountains. Houbigant. See Psalms 72:16. Micah 4:1. We may read the whole clause, For thus hath JEHOVAH said, Shout forth joy unto Jacob; and congratulate with the chief of the nations; publish ye, praise ye, and say, JEHOVAH hath saved thy people, the remnant of Israel.
Jeremiah 31:8-9. Behold, &c.— The reader will understand these verses best by referring to Isaiah 35:5; Isaiah 35:10; Isaiah 41:18; Isaiah 49:10 where that prophet foretels the same things, though with much more magnificence. All this was but imperfectly verified in the return of the Jews from Babylon, but was made good in those who were made partakers of the Gospel of Christ, in the miracles, in the preaching of the apostles, in the free grace and pardoning mercy of the Redeemer; but will be still more fully accomplished, when the Jews shall be restored, and the fulness of the Gentiles arrive. Houbigant renders the beginning of the 9th verse, They went out with weeping; I will restore them with comfort.
Jeremiah 31:14. I will satiate, &c.— See Psalms 36:8; Psalms 63:5. Isaiah 55:2.
Jeremiah 31:15. A voice was heard in Ramah— The prophet describes the lamentations in and about Jerusalem at the time of the several captivities, under the image of a mother lamenting over her dead children. The mournful scene is laid in Ramah, in the tribe of Benjamin mentioned Joshua 18:25 and Rachel, the mother of that tribe, is introduced as chief mourner on so sad an occasion. This figurative representation was in a great measure literally fulfilled when Herod slew the infants at Bethlehem, the place where Rachel was buried; and, therefore, she may with great propriety be represented as rising from the grave, and lamenting the death of her innocent children. It is observable, that the Vulgate, Chaldee, and LXX. understand the word רמה Ramah, not as a proper name, but as an appellative; and translate it on high, or aloud; according to which the sense will be, A voice is heard on high, or aloud, lamentations, weepings louder and louder; Rachel weeping over her children, refusing to be comforted over her children, because they are not. The prophesy might primarily have alluded to the afflictions in which the Jews were immerged when collected by Nebuzar-adan at Ramah, in order to be transported into Babylon: but when considered in its secondary sense, as alluding to the massacre made by Herod at Bethlehem, we may infer, that had the prophet lived at that time, and heard the mothers' shrieks increasing, as the murderers proceeded in their havoc, he could not have given a more lively description of that massacre. See Grotius.
Jeremiah 31:16. For thy work shall be rewarded— The Scriptures frequently allude to the years or days of a hireling: see Job 7 l, 2 Jeremiah 14:6. Isaiah 16:4; Isaiah 40:10; Isaiah 62:11.
Jeremiah 31:17. And there is hope in thine end— "Though these of the present age do not live to see a return from the captivity, yet their posterity shall enjoy that blessing." This was particularly fulfilled with respect to the tribe of Benjamin in their return under Cyrus.
Jeremiah 31:19. Surely, &c.— The smiting of the thigh is an expression of great surprise and concern. The Lord commands Ezekiel to deplore the miseries of his people, and to smite upon his thigh; chap. Jeremiah 21:12. We find the same custom in Homer, Xenophon, and other ancient writers. If, therefore, this be one of those natural expressions of the internal state of our mind, the phrase will imply true contrition, and in this view the climax will appear proper. See Pilkington's Remarks, Calmet, and Pope's Iliad, 16: line 155.
Jeremiah 31:20. Is Ephraim my dear son? &c.— Some render this passage, Is not Ephraim my dear son? Is he not a delightful child? Verily, the oftener I speak of him, I shall still remember him more and more: therefore my bowels yearn upon or towards him, &c. Houbigant, however, defends the common reading; he thinks that God means to deny that Ephraim was his son, in order to shew him that his bowels were moved towards him solely through free mercy, and not on account of any merit or deservings of this people.
Jeremiah 31:21. Set thee up way-marks— The prophet bids them to think of preparing for their return to their own country; and, in order to that end, to set up landmarks to direct travellers in the right path. Instead of, make thee high heaps, Houbigant reads, erect monuments of thy grief; that is, tokens in thy return of thy late unhappy and captive state.
Jeremiah 31:22. How long, &c.— How long wilt thou turn backward, or be a backslider, O rebellious daughter? Houbigant. In which words, says he, the Jews are described in their present state, refusing assent to the Gospel, though they confess that they have erred in interpreting the prophets and promises of God. The next clause is understood by many of the best Christian writers of the miraculous conception of the Virgin Mary; nor, say they, will it be thought that such a prophesy concerning the conception of Christ is here inserted abruptly, if it be considered that as the coming of the Messiah is the foundation of all the promises both of the first and second covenant; so it contains the most powerful argument to persuade men to obedience; and that covenant of which Christ was to be the mediator, is plainly foretold and described in the 31st and following verses of this chapter.
Jeremiah 31:24. Husbandmen, and they that go forth with flocks— These words are descriptive of the circumstances in which the ancestors of the Jews were placed upon their first introduction into the land of Canaan. The land was by divine appointment divided by lot among them, and every man had his separate portion or patrimony assigned him, which he was forbidden to alienate or exchange, and consequently was bound to cultivate himself for the maintenance of himself and family. Besides which, I conceive, there were certain districts of waste or unappropriated plain, known by the name of the wilderness, reserved for the purpose of grazing and feeding their cattle in common. Thus every citizen was literally a husbandman, without any exception, and also a shepherd, or feeder of flocks. Nor could any institution be better calculated to render a people virtuous and happy, by training them up to habits of sobriety, frugality, and industry, and restraining them from the pursuits of luxury and pernicious elegance; while the prodigious increase of their numbers under such circumstances afforded a sufficient proof, that through the divine blessing co-operating with the natural fertility of their soil, they were all plentifully supplied with every article requisite for their commodious and comfortable subsistence. Accordingly it here appears to be the avowed design of divine Providence, upon bringing the Jewish people back to inhabit once more their ancient land, to revive among them an institution so favourable to their happiness.
Jeremiah 31:25. For I have satiated— For I have refreshed the thirsty soul, and every soul that pined for hunger have I filled.
Jeremiah 31:26. Upon this I awaked— But, considering these things, I awaked, and was delighted with my sleep. Houbigant. The prophet, on awakening, perceived himself comforted by these agreeable promises. This is the conclusion of the preceding discourse.
Jeremiah 31:29-30. In those days, &c.— See the note on Exodus 20:5.
Jeremiah 31:31-34. Behold, the days come, &c.— The covenant here spoken of Jeremiah calls a new covenant; Jeremiah 31:31 and what kind of covenant? Not such a one as was made with their fathers; Jeremiah 31:32. This was declarative enough of its nature; yet, to prevent mistakes, he gives as well a positive as a negative description of it. This shall be the covenant,—I will put my law in their inward parts, &c. Jeremiah 31:33 that is to say, "This law shall be spiritual, as the other given to their fathers was comparatively carnal; for the ceremonial law did not so scrutinize the heart, but rested chiefly, or in a great measure in external obedience and observances. But to crown the whole we may observe, that Jeremiah fixed the true nature of the dispensation: In those days they shall say no more, &c. Now, &c. For I will forgive, &c." Jeremiah 31:34. For it was part of the sanction of the Jewish law, that children should bear the iniquity of their fathers. If it be objected, that it was not possible that the Jews, who believed the covenant of the law to be eternal, should look for a new covenant by the Messiah; it may be replied, that they could not well doubt of a second covenant, when a new covenant was plainly promised them in this passage of Jeremiah, different from that made with their fathers on their coming out of Egypt. In that he said a new covenant, he hath made the first old: see Hebrews 8:13. Their ancient Targum, and their פרושׁים Peruschim, or literal expositions, refer the fulfilling of this promise in Jeremiah to the days of the Messiah; and their old traditions to be read still in the Talmud, and in the books of Midrash, are the best comment upon it. Such as these: "The law of Moses shall last no longer than the coming of the Messiah; the week the Son of David comes, the law shall be made anew:" and they declare that most of their festivals, oblations, and distinctions of meats, obliged but for a time, and shall cease under the Messiah. See Bishop Chandler's Defence, p. 272 and Peters on Job, p. 283. Instead of, Although I was unto them; Jeremiah 31:32. Houbigant reads and I disregarded them, or regarded them not. We shall enlarge farther on this subject when we come to the eighth chapter of the Epistle to the Hebrews.
Jeremiah 31:35. Which divideth the sea— Who vibrates, or stirreth up the sea. Schultens, and Houbigant.
Jeremiah 31:36-37. If those ordinances depart, &c.— These promises cannot respect the carnal Jews; they certainly regard another people, who were taken into their place, and succeeded to their prerogatives and promises; that is, the church of Jesus Christ, which shall subsist for ever, consisting of all the faithful redeemed.
Jeremiah 31:38-40. Behold, the days come, &c.— The prophet here describes the limits of that new Jerusalem which the Jews were to build upon their restoration. This must certainly refer to some future restoration; for that it was not fulfilled from the return out of Babylon to the days of Christ, we are assured from sacred history; where we read that mount Goath or Golgotha was situated without Jerusalem. The same may be said of the valley of dead bodies. As to Gareb, we know nothing certain. See Houbigant, and Zechariah 14:10. We may also add, that the last clause of this chapter cannot refer to the Jerusalem which was rebuilt after the captivity, and which was plucked up and thrown down by the Romans. We must necessarily recur, therefore, either to some future building of that city, or to the church of Jesus Christ, (of the faithful saints of God,) which hath been assured that the gates of hell shall not prevail against it. See Matthew 16:18.
REFLECTIONS.—1st, The great mercy that God had yet in store for his faithful people is here at large declared, for the support of their faith and hope.
1. They shall all be his, and he will work for them a greater deliverance than when he brought them out of Egypt. At the same time, in the latter days, will I be the God of all the families of Israel; he will take them into covenant with him, after their long alienation from him; and all shall know him, from the least to the greatest: and they shall be my people; drawn by his grace, and devoting themselves to his service. For, as of old the people who escaped the sword of Pharaoh in Egypt found grace in the wilderness, being preserved and protected, even Israel when I went to cause them to rest in Canaan; so now should they be preserved, and restored from their captive state to their own land. But then the people might be apt to say, admitting his past deliverances, The Lord hath appeared of old unto me, but now we see none of his tokens, and therefore conclude ourselves rejected: No, says God, I have loved thee with an everlasting love, am unchangeably the same, as determined as ever to bless my faithful spiritual Israel, and to receive every returning sinner into my fold: therefore with loving-kindness have I drawn thee; I have delivered thee out of thy former troubles and from all thy captivity. Note; (1.) Long afflictions are apt to breed despondence; but we should remember the past experience of God's people, and comfort our souls in hope. (2.) All the mercies of the faithful in time or eternity flow from the love of God; and every sinner in the world may say, We have not chosen him, but he hath chosen us, and called us by his grace; but he has delivered the penitent from the horrible pit of nature, constrained the believer by the cords of love to follow him; and, with the powerful energy of his grace, has overcome the strong bias of our corruptions, and drawn every faithful soul from sin to holiness, from earth to heaven. Lord, thus draw me that I may run after thee!
2. They shall be re-settled, and blest with plenty; either literally, when they should return from the captivity in Babylon; or spiritually, when, being converted to the Lord, Israel should be presented a chaste virgin to Christ, be built up on him the sure foundation, a glorious church, and filled with the abundance of spiritual joy, far exceeding the music and dances with which they celebrated the ceremonial festivals. See Revelation 14:2-4; Revelation 19:7-9. In all their country, even Samaria, the seat of idolatry, Gospel churches, represented by vines, should be planted, and enriched with numerous converts, from whom the planters, the ministers of the Gospel, would receive the most abundant fruit.
3. They shall with one heart, and in one place, unite in the worship of God. The kingdoms of Israel and Judah shall be no more divided, but there shall be a day, the gospel-day, that the watchmen upon the mount Ephraim, the ministers of the Gospel, shall say, Arise ye, and let us go up to Zion unto the Lord our God. Though Ephraim was chief in the revolt from the house of David, and the worship at Jerusalem, now they shall be among the first to express their zeal for the worship and ordinances of the church of Christ, the spiritual Zion, and confess him to be their Lord and their God. Note; They who were once chief rebels against God, do frequently, when converted, become his most zealous subjects and servants.
4. The Gentiles are called upon to rejoice in the conversion of Israel, and to pray for their complete salvation; for thus our praises for past mercies should ever quicken our supplications, and confirm our faith of greater yet in store for us.
5. Notwithstanding all difficulties in the way, God will lead them safely home; either from Babylon, when no bodily infirmities should detain them, God being their strength and helper; or this may be interpreted spiritually of their recovery from the bondage of corruption, when God will lead the blind in the way that they knew not, and make the lame man leap as an hart; when the travailing soul shall find rest from its pangs in Christ, and all the faithful, a great company which no man can number, shall be brought into the church, with weeping for past offences, while they look upon him whom they have pierced; and with supplications for present grace, which, in the most abundant measure, God will bestow, like rivers of waters, to refresh them in their journey to glory; and he will make straight paths for their feet, that they may not err; whilst, as a father, with tenderest regard he watches over, and in his arms supports his faithful children, as Israel and Ephraim would then become. Note; (1.) All who return to God in truth, come to him with weeping and sorrow for past guilt, and supplication for present help. (2.) When we follow a divine call, we are sure of a divine protection, and shall find comfort in all the way. (3.) They who have God for their father, can want no manner of thing that is good.
2nd, The distant nation, and the isles afar off, are called upon to hear and observe the designs of mercy and grace which God hath toward his Israel.
1. He will collect them from their dispersion, keep them as a shepherd his flock, and redeem them from the hand of all their mighty enemies, who had prevailed against them, which was true of Israel after the flesh, when they were restored from Babylon; and will be still more eminently fulfilled, when they are brought in from their present state of captivity. But it is also especially applicable to all the spiritual Israel of God, pardoned through the blood of Jesus, rescued from the power of sin and Satan, and gathered into the fold of Christ from the state of nature and corruption in which they lay before, amid the ungodly and wilfully impenitent.
2. They shall be filled with plenty, joy, and gladness. The returning captives with delight once more will stand on Zion's hill, and sing his praise, Ezra 3:11. His goodness shall engage their hearts to him, and all temporal good things shall abound: they shall flourish as a watered garden; their sorrows be at an end; the voice of joy again fill the streets of Jerusalem; and God's hand, seen in the visitation, shall turn their mourning and sorrow into overflowing joy and consolation; so that both priests and people shall be satiated with God's goodness. The souls of sinners, whether Jews or Gentiles, shall also find this prophesy more gloriously fulfilled, when brought into the church of Christ, the spiritual Zion, their hearts shall be enlarged with love and praise; and, moved by the experience of divine goodness, and flowing together to Jesus, they shall be filled with good things, the heavenly bread of Gospel grace, the word of life; the cheering wine of the great and precious promises, whereby we become partakers of a divine nature; the oil of gladness, the unction from the holy One; and all the best of blessings that he has to bestow; making the soul as a watered garden, abounding in all the gifts and graces of the Spirit, in all the fruits of righteousness; the effects of which will be, the exchange of all their mourning over their sins, corruptions, temptations, desertions, for joy in the sense of pardon, strength, and the light of God's countenance lifted up upon them; so that both ministers and people shall be satisfied with God's goodness. And as thus the tears at present are wiped away from the eyes of all the faithful, so shall they quickly go where they shall not sorrow any more at all, where every cause of it will be removed for ever, and their everlasting blessedness be complete. Hasten, Lord, this happy day!
3. The great cause of their grief would be removed. Rachel, as if rising out of her grave, which lay between Ramah and Bethlehem, to bewail the dreadful catastrophe, personates the Jewish mothers with inconsolable anguish weeping over their children rain or gone into captivity; but the Lord silences her mourning, with assurances, that she has not borne these children in vain, since, though now they seemed lost irrecoverably, he would bring them to their own border again; so that there was still hope in their end, that it would be happy, and make the former days of sorrow forgotten. This prophesy, we are assured, had also a particular reference to the slaying of the infants by Herod, Matthew 2:16-18 the massacre reaching from Bethlehem to Ramah, and waking, as it were, Rachel, that mother of Israel, from her sepulchre, to lament the inhuman deed; and she is comforted with the assurance, that there is hope in their end, and at a resurrection-day these infants shall come from the land of Death, their enemy, to their own borders, the heavenly Canaan. Note; (1.) If we have hope in our end, we ought to be comforted under the troubles of the way. (2.) Parents are too apt to indulge inordinate sorrow for the death of their children, and refuse to be comforted; whereas, if they were gracious, they have cause to rejoice, and, if they died in infancy, have abundant reason to believe that there is hope in their end: we shall meet them in a better country.
3rdly, We have,
1. Ephraim's repentance, representing the whole body of the Jewish people, and the figure of every awakened soul which returns to God. He bemoans himself in the remembrance of his past iniquities; acknowledges the justice of the chastisement which his sins had provoked; and reproaches his own stubbornness for struggling so long against God, as a bullock unaccustomed to the yoke. He prays to the Lord for that converting grace which only can turn his perverse heart; and God will hear and work, and then shall the happy change be wrought, and he be enabled by faith to rest upon God, and claim an interest in his regard; for thou art the Lord my God. And when he can thus call his burden upon the Lord, instantly the blessed effects appear: Surely after that I was turned, I repented; the sense of the divine love, now more experimentally tasted, wrought a deeper sense of the evil and ingratitude of sin, and a greater abhorrence of it: and after that I was instructed, in the knowledge of his own impurity and pollution, by the light of God's Spirit, and of the transcendent excellence and infinite grace of the neglected Saviour; I smote upon my thigh, with holy indignation at his baseness, stupidity, and perverseness: I was ashamed, yea, even confounded; scarcely able to look up to God from the consciousness of guilt, because I did bear the reproach of my youth; all his sins, long since committed and forgotten, rose up fresh to his memory; which, even from the earliest days of youth, gave him abundant cause for confusion and self-abhorrence.
2. God's arms of love are open to receive the returning prodigal; with delight he bends over him, and pours out his paternal heart. Is Ephraim my dear son? is he a pleasant child? it expresses with a kind of surprise, the joy that God takes in seeing such a change wrought upon a hardened sinner, and intimates his readiness to own the endeared relation of father, however unworthy the sinner is to bear the name of child: a pleasant child too, for when the penitent returns to God, all his evil is forgiven and forgotten, and he becomes dear to God, as if he had never offended. For since I spake against him, corrected him with some rebukes, and threatened him with more, I do earnestly remember him still with tender affection; my bowels are troubled for him, grieved for his afflictions, yearning over him, lying in the dust of humiliation: I will surely have mercy upon him, saith the Lord; pardon all that is past, restore him to what he has lost, bestow new favours, and make him the object of my grace and mercy. Note; (1.) God's compassions to his undutiful but returning children should teach parents never to be inexorable, however offended. (2.) When the heaviest afflictions for their sins light on those who have once known the Lord, it is not because he hath forgotten to be gracious, but that they have neglected to be dutiful; when they return to him, he will return to them, and will again be found a father of mercies.
3. The people of Israel, in the person of Ephraim, repentant and obtaining mercy with God, are called to return to their own land. Set thee up way-marks, make thee high heaps, as a direction in the road, that they may not err; set thine heart toward the highway, even the way which thou wentest from Judea to Babylon; turn again, O virgin of Israel, turn again to these thy cities, which God now would restore to them. How long wilt thou go about, O thou backsliding daughter? departing from God, and therefore wandering in endless mazes of error and misery; for the Lord hath created a new thing in the earth, a woman shall compass a man, a mighty one, the Messiah, born of a virgin, by the immediate power of God, a strange and unheard–of conception; to him the gathering of people shall be, and the penitent be confident of their recovery, when this breaker shall go up before their king at the head of them. Note; (1.) The incarnation of Jesus is the foundation of every blessing to God's believing people. (2.) Go about where we will, our souls never can find rest, till we return from our backsliding to the God from whom we have so greatly departed. (3.) We may expect many a difficulty in our path, when our faces are turned from the house of our prison towards God's Zion, and therefore we had need set our heart towards it, discouraged by no opposition.
4. Great shall be the peace and prosperity of God's Israel. Those who behold them will admire them, and wish them the best of blessings; The Lord bless thee, O habitation of justice, and mountain of holiness, for such Jerusalem should become; and this, whatever reformation might be wrought by Nehemiah and Ezra, seems to have its full accomplishment yet to come. In consequence of such piety, great plenty should be given them of all good things; their flocks shall abound, and a liberal provision be made to replenish and satisfy every weary and sorrowful soul; and this is especially to be referred to the spiritual Israel, to whom God will raise up pastors after his own heart, under whose ministry they shall be abundantly replenished, and their souls, weary and heavy-laden with guilt and sin, be refreshed with a sense of the love of Christ, and their sorrows exchanged for joy and peace in believing.
5. The vision afforded the prophet great satisfaction and delight. Upon this I awaked, perhaps with the transport of joy that he felt at the revelation of these designs of grace to God's believing people; and beheld, for nothing fills a faithful minister's heart with greater pleasure, than the prospect of Christ's kingdom increasing; and my sleep was sweet unto me, peculiarly refreshing and strengthening. Note; The mind much occupied on God will often in sleep find the communion still maintained with him, and the very dreams holy and comforting.
4thly, Farther discoveries of God's designs of grace towards his believing people are made.
1. They shall be multiplied exceedingly: as a field sown with seed, so shall both the men and cattle increase under the divine blessing; and, instead of their former desolations, God promises to turn his hand, and to be as careful to protect and prosper them, as ever he had watched over them to afflict and destroy them. Note; They are truly safe and happy who have God for their guardian.
2. They should no more be visited for their fathers' iniquities, and should have no more reason to complain that the fathers have eaten a sour grape, and the children's teeth are set on edge; being punished for the sins of their ancestors, particularly of Manasseh: but now every one shall die for his own iniquity; for though the nation be no more exposed to wrath as a body, sinful individuals should bear their own guilt. Every man that eateth the sour grape, his teeth shall be set on edge; and sin, however tempting to the eye, will ever be found sour in its effects, and produce much anguish to the soul, either in time or eternity.
3. God will establish his covenant with them: the covenant of grace in Christ Jesus, of which all the Israel of God are partakers; not of the Jews only, but of the Gentiles also; for so the apostle understands these words, Hebrews 8:8-12. This covenant is called new, not as in substance different from that made with the people when they came out of Egypt, but in the form in which it was exhibited. Then it was delivered in type and figure, wrapped up under the figure of ceremonial rites and services; while now, as with open face, we behold the glory of God manifest in the face of Jesus Christ, and in the Gospel see the clearest discoveries of his grace. The first covenant made with them they quickly broke, by the most ungrateful departures from God, and setting up that hated thing idolatry; notwithstanding all the distinguishing kindness of God to them as a tender husband, patient under their provocations, and wooing them to return to him.
4. The tenor of the covenant here promised displays wondrous mercy; and the blessings are wholly spiritual, where God is all and in all. He engages to write his law upon the hearts of believers, and to strengthen them for the obedience which he demands. He will be their God, to bless them, and they shall be his people, feeling his powerful grace, and giving up themselves to his government. Abundance of divine knowledge shall then be diffused, and all the Israel of God be enriched with wisdom and spiritual understanding: and he concludes with the crowning blessing of all, I will forgive their iniquity, and I still remember their sin no more; and every true Israelite is now entitled to these inestimable blessings.
5thly, We have,
1. The perpetuity of the church of Christ—the continuation of the great work of God, engaged for by Jehovah. That Lord of Hosts, whose power created, and whose arm upholds and guides, the ordinances of heaven in regular succession; who first shut up the sea in bounds, and still, when it rages, causes the foaming billows to subside; who meted out the heavens, and laid the foundation of the deep; immense the space, unfathomable the abyss: this mighty God declares, that, sooner shall these heavenly orbs unruly leave their spheres, and the deep forsake its bed to cover again the earth, than Israel cease to be a nation; yea, sooner shall impossibilities be practicable, the immensity of space be measured, and the foundations of the earth be searched out, by what supported, and how it is hung in air, than the Jews as a nation be cast off, so as to be utterly abandoned, notwithstanding all that they have done. And this will be equally true of the church of Christ—of the work of God in the latter days: it shall not decay, but shall increase till the whole lump be leavened, and all the people praise Jehovah.
2. The rebuilding and duration of the city of Jerusalem, the figure of the church. Though it would quickly be laid in ruins, it should be raised again as large as ever, and be holy unto the Lord; no more polluted with idols, but wholly devoted to the worship and service of God. It shall not be plucked up, nor thrown down any more for ever; which, if applied to the city of Jerusalem, can only signify that it should continue a long time; or, spoken of the church of Christ, the glorious revival of religion in the latter days, it may be taken in a most enlarged, extensive sense.
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Coke, Thomas. "Commentary on Jeremiah 31". Thomas Coke Commentary on the Holy Bible. https://www.studylight.org/
the Third Sunday after Epiphany