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Jeremiah's debate with the Jewish fugitives in Pathros; his last prophecy.
Accusation brought against the obstinately idolatrous people.
Which dwell; rather, which dwelt. It appears from this verse that the Jewish fugitives had separated in Egypt, some going to the two northern frontier cities, Migdol (on which see R.S. Poole, 'The Cities of Egypt,' Jeremiah 8:1-22.) and Tahpanhes or Daphnae, others further south to Noph, i.e. Memphis, or, less probably, Napata (see on Jeremiah 2:16), and Pathros (i.e. Upper Egypt; comp. Isaiah 11:11).
Was kindled in; rather, burned up.
Against your souls; i.e. against yourselves. The "soul" is the personality.
That ye might cut yourselves off; rather, that ye might cut (them) off from you. Who are meant is clear from Jeremiah 44:7.
Have ye forgotten, etc.? The prophet wonderingly asks if they have forgotten the sins of their forefathers and the consequent calamities. No other explanation of this present idolatry seems possible; and yet how passing strange is it! Their wives. The Hebrew has "his wives," i.e. according to Kimchi and Hitzig, the wives of each of the kings (sometimes great patrons of idolatry). But it is better to adopt, with Ewald, Graf, and Dr. Payne Smith, the reading of the Septuagint, "his princes."
They are not humbled; rather, not made contrite (literally, not crushed, viz. by repentance).
To cut off all Judah; i.e. the Judah in Egypt, not that in Babylon. Notice the qualification of this too absolute statement in Jeremiah 44:14, Jeremiah 44:28.
They have a desire; literally, they lift up their soul (comp. Jeremiah 22:27).
The reply of the people. The special mention of the women suggests that the occasion of the gathering was a festival in honour of the Queen of Heaven.
Had burned incense; rather, were burning incense. The practice was still going on.
Whatsoever thing goeth forth; rather, the whole word which hath gone forth. A particular vow to the divinity is meant. The queen of heaven (see on Jeremiah 7:18). Then had we plenty of victuals, etc. An extremely important passage, as revealing the view taken of their misfortunes by Jews of the average type. Jeremiah regarded the misfortunes of his country as proofs of the displeasure of Jehovah; these Jews, on the other hand, of his impotence.
This part of the reply belongs to the women, who declare that, their husbands' consent having been given to their vow, Jeremiah has no right to interfere (see Numbers 30:6, Numbers 30:7). Burned …poured, etc.; rather, burn, pour. Did we, etc.; rather, do we, etc. To worship her. The sense of the Hebrew is doubtful; but the best reading seems that of Rashi, Graf, and Dr. Payne Smith, "to make her image." Without our men; rather, without our husbands.
Remember them; i.e. the repeated acts of idolatry.
With your hand; rather, with your hands. Ye will surely accomplish, etc.; rather, ye shall, etc; by all means perform your vows, and take the consequence. The irony of the passage is lost by the "will" of the Authorized Version.
My Name shall no more be named. Because no Jews will be left alive in Egypt.
Yet a small number, etc. Isaiah's doctrine of the remnant. In the midst of judgment, God remembers mercy, and his ancient covenant. A remnant is saved as the nucleus of a regenerate people.
A sign; rather, the sign.
I will give Pharaoh-hophra, etc. The sign consists in the capture of Hophra by his deadly enemies. Henceforth he will live in constant alarm, for he is in the hands of those "that seek his life." All that we know of the fate of Hophra is derived from Herodotus (2:169), who states that Amssis "gave Apries over into the hands of his former subjects, to deal with as they chose. Then the Egyptians took him and strangled him" (see further on Jeremiah 46:13).
Warnings from the past.
History has its moral lessons. We who are heirs of the ages should learn wisdom from the mistakes as well as from the good examples of the past. Let us consider how this may be done.
I. WARNINGS FROM THE SIN OF THE PAST. Jeremiah calls upon the Jews in Egypt to reflect on the wicked conduct of their nation, tracing it back from the present through successive generations of iniquitous court and private life. It is a gloomy task, but a wholesome one. Tacitus was, perhaps, the greatest moralist of his age, because he saw into the moral side of history, and ruthlessly exposed the vice and cruelty and treachery which underlay the splendour of Roman imperialism. Because we can read history with some measure of detachment from the passions and prejudices of the hour, we may learn to see therein the character of actions which are closely parallel to others nearer home. Thus the past may become a mirror of the present, and one that rectifies the images from the confusion which accompanies the direct vision of what is very closely connected with our own person.
II. WARNINGS FROM THE DIVINE VOICE IN THE PAST. God had instructed and urged his people to forsake their sins. He had not left them in the dark or unchecked—"Howbeit I sent unto you all my servants the prophets." This had been done with earnestness and emphasis—"rising early and sending them." It was a revelation of the evil character of their deeds—"this abominable thing;" an appeal to them to cease from such wickedness—"Oh, do not this abominable thing!" and a declaration of the Divine abhorrence of their conduct—"that I hate." All this has been said concerning the wickedness of the past; but it is to be reflected upon for its application to the present. We also may find profit in considering the ancient voices of heaven. The warnings of the Bible may be reread and reapplied in our own day. If we see no new Jeremiah, we have the inspired words of the old Hebrew prophet, and they are as true now as ever. What God hates he hates eternally. What he forbids is always wrong. The object of his urgent appeal should command submission at all times.
III. WARNINGS FROM THE PUNISHMENTS OF THE PAST. The object of punishment is twofold. First, it concerns the guilty; secondly, it has lessons for witnesses. It is chastisement to the offender, it is warning to others. No punishment would be just if it were simply given as a deterrent. But being deserved and needful on account of the conduct of the victim, it is then utilized in perfect justice for the general benefit of the community. We should be thankful for the fact that the fate of others is not altogether obscure, so that we may profit by the sad lessons of their experience.
I. GOD LEAVES US FREE TO ACCEPT OR REJECT HIS AUTHORITY. Whatever may be urged from the standpoints of abstract philosophy and of speculative theology, in practice, as Butler says, we all act as though we were free. In the Bible, too, this practical freedom of the will is constantly implied and appealed to. Though we have no moral right to renounce the Law of God, though we shall suffer if we do so, the terrible power of rebellion is entrusted to us that our loyalty may be proved and our service may remain free and willing.
II. ALL EVIL CENTRES IN THE WILL. The idolatrous Jews will not hearken to the word of Jeremiah. Herein lies the sum and substance of their offence. Depraved appetites and wicked passions are temptations to the evil will or products of its deeds. In themselves they are no more wicked than the external temptations which appeal to the purest elements of our common human nature. Guilt consists in yielding to them—in the act of the will that consents, indulges, or urges.
III. WILFUL REJECTION OF TRUTH IS REBELLION AGAINST GOD. Not to hearken is to revolt. We must be careful to distinguish pure intellectual doubt and unbelief from this revolt of the will against truth. The latter may not deny the correctness of what it rejects; it simply refuses to follow it. If it does fail to believe the truth, but through only wilfully closing all avenues of evidence, the blame of an evil will must be attached to it.
IV. SELF-WILL IS AN EVIL WILL. In rejecting the Divine message the idolatrous Jews insolently add, "We will certainly do the whole word which hath gone forth out of our own mouth" (see verse 17).
1. Self-will even in regard to things innocent in themselves is nevertheless an evil will. For we are not our own masters. The servant is wrong if he disobey his master, though to do a harmless act. The soldier is guilty in disobeying orders, whatever other course he may take. We are "under authority." If our Captain says, "Go," we are not free to stand for the most innocent reason.
2. Self-will is too often directed to evil things. Those Jews who deliberately rejected the Divine message chose to perform acts of idolatry of their own will. Our will is corrupt. Left to itself it chooses much that is evil, To keep it pure we must lift it up to union with a higher will. When it breaks loose and defiantly chooses its own private course, its evil nature will incline it to a bad course.
V. COMPANIONSHIP IN SIN BECOMES CONSPIRACY IN GREATER SIN. The husbands support their wives in the evil practices of the women, and together they declare that for the future they will pursue these practices openly and deliberately. But the closest relationship and the warmest affection are no reasons for defending wicked conduct, much less for encouraging and sharing it. When the love of husband and wife conflicts with the love of God, even that most near and sacred tie should yield to the highest of all obligations. Otherwise the marriage relation, which is instituted for the blessings of mutual comfort and happiness, becomes a curse.
I. IT IS POSSIBLE TO MISTAKE THE CAUSE AND PURPOSE OF GOD'S PROVIDENCE IN CHASTISEMENT. Instead of accepting their calamities as punishments for their sins against Jehovah, the Jews in Upper Egypt argue from them to conclusions of unbelief in the power and goodness of the God of their fathers. They are not alone in their error. The problem of suffering and its source and aim is profoundly difficult. The glib repetition of old platitudes only mocks at the mystery it can never solve. Job's friends were good men, and two of them able men; but "miserable comforters" were they all, because their explanation of the cause of the tragic agony before them was so utterly inadequate. Two reasons for error in the interpretation of chastisement may be detected in the case of Jeremiah's contemporaries.
1. An evil disposition. These men had no desire to recognize the hand of the true God in their experience. They had followed their wives in favouring the immoral rites of a heathenish cult. Jeremiah's teaching was rejected with insult; the idolatrous religion was grasped with obstinate self-will. Behaving in this way, the Jews in Upper Egypt were not in a fit state to judge fairly of the meaning of God's dealings with them. Our "views" of truth depend materially on our attitude towards it. Bad passions and a corrupt will prevent men at all times from profiting by chastisement.
2. The delay of chastisement. This was not contemporaneous with the sin. It would seem that the corruption which followed the reformation of Josiah was not so bad as that which preceded it. Yet it was after this that the blow fell. Now, a similar experience may often be noted. Charles II. was a worse king than James II; and Louis XV. than Louis XVI. The revolutions did not occur when things were at their worst. They took time to ripen. The chief causes of them were not their immediate antecedents. The same may be expected in private lives. Therefore it may require searching thought to trace the trouble down to its real root.
II. IT IS POSSIBLE TO FALL INTO RELIGIOUS ERROR THROUGH MISINTERPRETING GOD'S PROVIDENCE IN CHASTISEMENT. By a false inference drawn from the experience of trouble, the idolatrous Jews were led to fling off the last relic of their ancient faith, and to renew their allegiance to the heathen religion they had partially renounced in outward act, though not, as it now appears, in the inclinations of their hearts. Consider the process by which this result was reached.
1. A delusion as to the nature of repentance and its effects. The Jewish refugees had imagined that their abandonment of open idolatry would have warded off the impending doom. They were enraged at discovering their mistake, and they took the result as a reason for daring scepticism. Important lessons may be derived from their mistake, e.g.
(1) that outward reformation is useless before God without heartfelt repentance;
(2) that there are necessary consequences of sin which no repentance can obviate—improvidence leading to poverty, intemperance to disease, crime to secular punishment, in spite of all the genuine tears of a Magdalene;
(3) that when God accepts repentance and forgives the penitent, it may still be necessary to chastise him for the good of his own soul.
2. The mistake of judging of the truth of a religion by the worldly advantages that accrue from it. Godliness has "promise of the life that now is" (1 Timothy 4:8). Under the Old Testament economy this promise was emphasized. Nevertheless, even in the Jewish religion it was often recognized that suffering might fall upon the people of God (e.g. Psalms 22:1-31.). With our fuller light, we know that the temporal advantages of religion are but a small part of its blessings; that under certain circumstances it may bring more worldly loss than gain; that there are Christians who reckon that if in this life only they have hoped in Christ, they are of all men most pitiable (1 Corinthians 15:19). Therefore we should settle it well in our minds that, as worldly injustice and calamities of all kinds may fail upon the devoted servants of Christ, the experience of these things should not shake our faith. This fact needs to be well considered and realized, because there is no more frequent cause of sudden and violent scepticism than a series of great and inexplicable troubles.
3. The sin of pursuing religion for its worldly profit. Even if godliness is profitable for all things, it cannot be truly followed for the sake of gain. To choose our religion according to the advantages it may give us, is to subordinate truth to convenience, and to degrade to the position of a servant that which claims to rule as a master, or will have nothing to do with us.
The limit of God's forbearance.
I. GOD'S FORBEARANCE IS LIMITED. There is no limit to his love. His mercy "endureth forever." There is no limit to his patience, his endurance of the most provoking wickedness. But there is a limit to God's forbearance. Consider what determines this.
1. Justice. There is a point where necessary justice must interfere to prevent further wrong and punish what is already done.
2. The good of the community. Mercy to the criminal may involve injustice to the victim. There are abandoned wretches whom the world would find inestimable advantage in caging up out of the power of doing further mischief. There must be a point where their rights cease and the rights of others step in. In the Divine government this must be noted and acted on.
3. The advantage of the offender. It is a curse to a man to leave him forever unchecked and unpunished. He may be left for a season to give all necessary scope for the operation of milder measures and for his own free repentance. But when the gentleness has failed, the only chance lies in some drastic treatment.
II. IT IS POSSIBLE TO REACH THE LIMIT OF GOD'S FORBEARANCE. It was reached by the antediluvians, by the cities of the plain, by the Jews at the time of the Captivity, by the Jews when Jerusalem was destroyed by Titus, by many a nation and many a man since. It may be reached by us, This subject, therefore, is not a question of abstract theology, touching only the ideal relations of Divine attributes. It is tremendously practical.
1. The limit may be reached in our lifetime. Men presume on their prosperity till God providentially strikes them down in desolation, and they learn in their anguish the folly of their long abuse of God's long suffering mercy.
2. It will come to the impenitent in the next life. Death will bring it if it has been stayed during all the earthly life. The longer it is delayed the more fearful will be its consequences to those who "treasure up to themselves wrath in the day of wrath."
III. IT MUST BE UNSPEAKABLY TERRIBLE TO REACH THE LIMIT OF GOD'S FORBEARANCE. Then all the vials of wrath will be outpoured. The horror of the judgment ensuing can only be measured by the greatness of the forbearance which restrains it. If that were not very fearful, why should God hesitate so long in letting it loose? Why should he use all other possible means to prevent the necessity of resorting to it? Why should he urge and plead with us to hear his voice today and harden not our hearts?
I. SINFUL VOWS ARE AMONG THE MOST WICKED OF SINS. Some sins are committed hastily and in passion, these with more deliberation; some without strong desire, these most earnestly.
II. IT IS A SIN TO PERFORM SINFUL VOWS. If we were not at liberty to make the vows, we are not at liberty to perform them. We cannot be bound to do that which we have no right to do. If we have promised to do an unlawful act, we should not consider that promise binding upon us, since our word cannot abrogate the law that forbids the act.
III. GOD LEAVES MEN FREE TO EXECUTE THEIR EVIL INTENTIONS. The Jews in Upper Egypt were to be left to the performance of their vows to the queen of heaven. This implied no sanction; it was only the withholding of forcible restraints. What a solemn responsibility lies in the fact that we have this large liberty after we have chosen an evil way, and before we are called to judgment for it!
IV. GOD SOMETIMES CEASES TO WARN MEN OF THE DANGER OF THEIR WICKED COURSES. They are then left to themselves till their sin ripens. It is a terrible fate, but consistent with the goodness of God, as we may be sure that, if God deliberately ceases to warn a man, it is because warnings are lost on him or simply harden him. We may so sin as to become "seared in our own conscience with a hot iron" (1 Timothy 4:2).
V. THE FRUIT OF THE WICKED COURSES WHICH MEN HAVE CHOSEN FOR THEMSELVES WILL BE THE WORST PUNISHMENT OF THEM. They need no external penalties performed by executioners of justice. Sin is its own executioner, the natural effect of sin its own punishment. In the natural results that followed the performance of their wicked vows the idolatrous Jews will reap the bitterest harvest of retribution. "The sin, when it is full grown, bringeth forth death" (James 1:15).
The remnant of the remnant.
Of the Jews who escaped the sword of Nebuchadnezzar in the invasion of their land, "a remnant "fled to Egypt; of this body of refugees "a remnant" was to survive the dangers that would destroy the greater part. Thus but a small number would return to Jerusalem in safety. For their folly in fleeing to Egypt the fugitives would suffer a second desolation, while the captives in Babylon and the patient poor people who remained in the land of their fathers would be spared. Yet even out of this further calamity some few would be brought in safety.
I. JUDGMENT IS TEMPERED WITH MERCY. Many are spared at the first blow. Some of these are only hardened in wickedness. A second blow falls. Still some are spared. God is reluctant to give his people up. If he can find room for any mercy in the midst of the severest judgment, he will exercise it.
II. GOD'S JUDGMENT IS DISCRIMINATING. Even now it must be so; for "shall not the Judge of all the earth do right?" But we do not yet know its purposes and its methods, and therefore to us it looks as though it could not take note of individual deserts. Ultimately we shall see how God has overlooked no exceptional case. Noah is picked out of the drowning world. Lot is remembered in Sodom. Elijah is provided for in the general drought. We can look for no such evidences of an interfering Providence in earthly things now, perhaps, but the truth they illustrate holds good, and must work its blessed results in the day of final account. Natural selection does not always result in the survival of the morally fittest on earth. On the contrary, the good may become martyrs, the bad triumphant tyrants. But we see only the opening acts of the drama. The final catastrophe will reveal the justice that regulates.
III. LEFT TO THEMSELVES, NO MEN COULD ESCAPE THE DOOM OF SIN. In the eternal judgment there could not even. be a remnant of a remnant, "All have sinned, and come short of the glory of God." All would, therefore, receive the wages of sin.
IV. BY THE REDEMPTION OF CHRIST ALL WHO HAVE SINNED MAY BE SAVED. This is large enough to deliver, not merely a remnant of a remnant, but every man who has fallen, however low he lies in the mire.
V. AT FIRST BUT A REMNANT OF A REMNANT ARE SAVED BY CHRIST. The question whether few were to be saved was not to be answered for the satisfaction of idle curiosity (Luke 13:23). But that only a few sought the grace of Christ at first is a historical fact. The number has grown wonderfully, and yet how large a part of the world must be accounted still dark and dead in sin! But the few are saved that they may win the many. The first disciples became apostles. The small remnant laid the foundation of a great nation. The Church is called to evangelize the world.
HOMILIES BY A.F. MUIR
(vide Jeremiah 43:8-13).
The condition of hardened sinners desperate.
I. WHY IS IT SO?
1. Because repeated warnings have been rejected. (Jeremiah 44:4, Jeremiah 44:5.) These have been inspired and infallible. Had they believed ever so little they might have trusted implicitly what was spoken, accompanied as it was with such miraculous credentials. We, in these last times, have had the Lord himself. He has revealed the heart of the Father.
(2) They were sufficiently numerous and seasonable. God "rose up early and sent them." He sent them all. No opportunity or peculiarity of individual influence was emitted. Christ is greater than all the prophets put together, and his gospel is universally declared and universally authoritative over the consciences of men. God cannot send another messenger, nor would it avail if he could.
2. Because the lessons of experience have been ignored. (Jeremiah 44:9, Jeremiah 44:10.) How terribly severe had not these been! It was scarcely possible for greater temporal punishments to be inflicted. Yet it was in the discipline of these judgments they were to have been saved. The path of transgressions, as the sinner looks back upon it, is marked by ruin and death. Yet will he not repent.
3. Their persistent disobedience is an intolerable offence to God. (Jeremiah 44:8.) God's judgments are not exhausted, but his patience may be. The history of offence and punishment will not repeat itself indefinitely. There are abysses of wrath. There is an eternal fire. Let them beware lest they be utterly consumed.
II. WHAT ARE THE SIGNS THAT IT IS SO?
1. The Word of God is wholly against them, The indictment has no redeeming feature.
2. The pathos and pitifulness of God's entreaty. (Jeremiah 44:4, Jeremiah 44:7.) There is compassion in the Divine mind because of the consequences that impend. Who so able to understand the sinner's circumstances as his Father? He who can see before and after, and who can fathom the mystery of iniquity, fears for his erring child.
III. WHAT ELEMENT OF HOPE, IF ANY, IS STILL LEFT FOR THEM?
1. God still pleads. Silence would mean hopelessness. Whilst his servant is authorized to speak, there may remain a way of escape.
2. The fatherly compassion his voice betrays. There are tears in the entreaty: "Oh, do not this abominable thing that I hate!" It is the birth cry of an evangel; a prophecy of Jesus. Mercy may move and melt where judgment has failed. "For the love of Christ constraineth us," etc. (2 Corinthians 5:14); "But God commendeth his own love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us" (Romans 5:8).—M.
Credentials of religion.
Very important to know why we prefer one religious system to another, and also why we ought to prefer it. A man is continually in need of having to give a reason for the hope that is in him. The higher religions find the field already occupied by many great systems, and have to vindicate themselves. The arguments employed here are those most commonly adduced, because most superficial. As appealing to the sensuous and material side of human nature, they are very influential.
I. WORLDLY ARGUMENTS FOR A RELIGION. Here they are employed on behalf of a false religion, an idolatry; but they are often made use of in recommending true religion. They are generally of two classes, viz. pertaining:
1. To authority. The idolatry here defended was
(1) general and fashionable;
(3) patronized by royalty;
(4) practised in the mother city of God's people.
2. To tendency. It was alleged to have promoted prosperity and peace.
II. THEIR INCONCLUSIVENESS.
1. Authority is only valuable as it helps to establish truth. Sin in its most flagrant forms, ignorance and inhumanity, have been more and longer prevalent than the greatest religions the world has seen. The most cruel and debasing religions are the most ancient in most countries. The only authority which can be admitted in such a connection is that of the best, i.e. the wisest and purest.
2. The tendency argument is open to similar objections. It is a great deal to say in favour of a religion that it has promoted the welfare and happiness of its supporters; but it is not so easy to prove it. Here the prophet alleges that it was their idolatry which lay at the root of all the misery of the people of Judah. It requires a very wide, varied, and lengthened induction of a people's circumstances ere such a statement is legitimate either way. And even if it were made out to one's satisfaction that a religious system had a beneficial effect upon the material condition of a people, it must still be remembered that man is a spiritual being, and that his moral and spiritual nature will sooner or later enter an imperious claim to attention and satisfaction. Only that which is right and true can meet the wants of the human spirit under all circumstances. And God is the one Being who can satisfy the spiritual aspirations and needs of his creatures. If the best and the holiest of men cannot be content with material advantages and comfort, but are ever yearning for something beyond, it is evident that utilitarianism must be interpreted in a very spiritual sense indeed ere it can pass muster as a tolerable criterion of any religion. It is chiefly because Christianity has revealed a Divine communion and a universal moral basis that it is destined to supplant all other creeds. But at the same time, it is also enforced by the test of utility in its more material aspect. No religion has so advanced the comfort, civilization, and peace of this world.—M.
The danger of corrupting true religion.
God has from the beginning been solicitous for the purity of his revelation and worship. He would never suffer his ordinances to be tampered with, or share his honour with other gods. "Thou shalt worship the Lord thy God, and him only shalt thou serve" (Deuteronomy 6:13; Luke 4:8).
I. IT HAS BEEN GUARDED BY AWFUL SANCTIONS. Frequently in Old Testament history the death penalty was inflicted upon spiritual pretenders, false prophets, and idolatrous worshippers of Jehovah. The warning of the text is very significant; a time was to come when no Jew would any more swear by Jehovah in Egypt, for the very good reason that there would be none there. "In the form of asseveration the Name of Jehovah would be still retained, although they had long since been devoted to the service of other gods. But Jehovah, who is a jealous God, rejects honour and acknowledgment which he must share with others; and so his Name shall no longer be heard from the mouth of any Jews in Egypt" (Hitzig). In the New Testament men are warned of making the Word of God "a cloke for lasciviousness;" of "perishing in the gainsaying of Core;" of tasting of the powers of the world to come, and falling back; of making gain of godliness; of handling the Word of God deceitfully, and wresting it to their own destruction; or of adding aught to the revealed truth (Revelation 22:18, Revelation 22:19).
II. REASONS FOR THIS SEVERITY,
(1) The slow advance of truth.
(2) The costliness of the Divine relation.
(1) Partly in the very nature of the ease—moral simplicity being sacrificed in the self-consciousness of a corrupt worship.
(2) The necessity of inspiration by the truth in order to the spiritual welfare and true immortality of man.—M.
HOMILIES BY S. CONWAY
Jeremiah's last sermon.
There are other prophecies of Jeremiah recorded in this book in the chapters that remain, but this discourse is the last that we know of his delivering. And with it the curtain falls upon this great prophet of God; upon Baruch, his beloved companion and helper; and upon the wretched Jews for whose good he had laboured, but in vain. A long interval separates it from that in the previous chapter; for we see the people not now at Tahpanhes, at the border of Egypt, but gathering from all parts of the land to Pathros, to a great heathen festival there. And a very awful discourse it is. There is not one word of gospel in it, but the boom of the heavy bell of doom is heard resounding all through it—not one solitary chime of grace, or mercy, or hope anywhere. It is like the words of the Son of man when he comes to judge the world, and all nations are brought before him, to those on his left hand. They are told their sin and their doom. They make such defence as they can, which is rather a defiance than a defence; they are answered, and their sentence is pronounced again. There is throughout both these discourses nought but "a fearful looking for of judgment and of fiery indignation." "There remaineth no more sacrifice for sin." Such sermons might well have suggested these apostolic words. In this one note—
I. ITS COMMENCEMENT—THE INDICTMENT OF THE CONDEMNED. The prophet reminds them that they had seen God's judgments upon their brethren and fathers, and they knew the cause, that it was their sin against God. They had heard warning after warning addressed to themselves against the same sin. And not only had these warnings been repeated, but many messengers had been sent, and these had given their message with all earnestness and zeal, in season and out of season, and God himself had deigned to entreat with them and plead with them, saying, "Oh, do not this abominable thing that I hate!" But they had disregarded, despised, disobeyed all, and they were not humbled (verse 10) even now. Therefore was their judgment pronounced against them and their doom was fixed.
II. THE ANSWER OF THE PEOPLE. They would not believe in their doom. They resolved to persist in their sin. They declared they were every way better off in serving idols than in serving God.
III. THE PROPHET'S REPLY AND REITERATON OF GOD'S JUDGMENT AGAINST THEM.
CONCLUSION. As we read and ponder this terrible chapter, and remember that as its declarations concerning the past were true, so also were those that related to the future; for the judgment came upon them to the uttermost, far more than fell on those in Babylon. What can our hearts say to this? "Who would not fear thee, O Lord?" "Keep back thy servant … from presumptuous sins."—C.
The end of Jeremiah; or, going down in clouds.
With this chapter Jeremiah disappears from view. The sadness which surrounded his first ministry accompanies it to the last and deepens at its close; like a sunset in clouds, going down in darkness and storm, The path along which he had been led had been via crucis, a via dolorosa indeed; a lifelong tragedy, an unceasing pain. We can only hope that death came soon to him after his recorded history closes. We have seen him torn from his native land and carried down to Egypt. We see him in the forty-third chapter at the border of the land; in this, in the heart of Egypt, at Pathros, probably forced to witness the degrading idolatry of his people, and unable to do aught to prevent it. An idol festival, accompanied, doubtless, with all the wonted pollutions of such worship, is proceeding, and he lifts up his voice once more in stern protest. But in vain, as heretofore. He vanishes from our view at an hour when his countrymen, so far from being less addicted to idols, were now open in their sin, vaunting it and declaring their determination to adhere to it, and their reset that they had ever done otherwise. What a farewell between a minister of God and the people of his charge! There never was but one other like it—the farewell of him who said, as he wept over another doomed Jerusalem and a future Jewish people, "Behold, your house is left unto you desolate." What became of Jeremiah from this date we know not. "No man knoweth of his sepulchre unto this day." "There is the Christian tradition resting doubtless on some earlier belief, that the long tragedy of his life ended in actual martyrdom, and that the Jews at Tahpanhes, enraged by his rebukes, at last stoned him to death." The testimony to the martyrs at the close of the eleventh chapter of the Epistle to the Hebrews is thought to contain allusion to him: "They were stoned"—so we read. There is a Jewish tradition, however, which says that he made his escape to Babylon, but Josephus, like the Bible, is utterly silent as to the prophet's end. And it has been suggested that the tradition of the Jew and the silence of the historian are alike owing to a desire to gloss over some great crime. The suggestion is a probable one. "But he did not need a death by violence to make him a true martyr. To die with none to record the time or manner of his death was the right end for one who had spoken all along, not to win the praise of men, but because the Word of the Lord was in him as 'a burning fire.' The darkness and doubt that brood over the last days of the prophet's life are more significant than either of the issues which present themselves to men's imaginations as the winding up of his career." "But a careful examination of his writings show that, whilst the earlier ones are calmer, loftier, more uniform in tone, the latter show marks of age and weariness and sorrow, and are more strongly imbued with the language of individual suffering." How glad we would have been had the clouds lifted ere he died, and a gleam of sunshine had irradiated the hitherto almost unbroken gloom! Some of the prophets were permitted to have a blessed onlook into the better days that were coming. He who wrote the closing portion of Isaiah's prophecies did so; like Moses from Mount Pisgah. But it was not so to be with this prophet of God. His sun was to go down in clouds, and, though he had faithfully kept God's commandments, there was not for him in this life any "great reward." Though out of love for his countrymen he had refused the offer of a peaceful and honoured home in Babylon, like Moses, "choosing rather to suffer affliction with the people of God" he yet failed to win their affection or obedience; and they remained in the same evil mind to the last. He had walked in the fear of the Lord. But those ways had. not been for him "ways of pleasantness," nor its paths "paths of peace." The brokenhearted old man appeals to God and man, "Behold, and see if there be any sorrow like unto my sorrow." The twenty-second psalm—that which seems to tell so clearly of the sufferings of our Lord—is thought by many to have been written by him, and tp tell of his own deep distress. Priest, patriot, prophet, martyr, hero of the faith indeed, what a life was thine from beginning to end, from thy first call by God to thy last rejection by men! These lines, translated for our day, and sung by our comfortable congregations—with what consistency they who sing them best know—
"If I find him, if I follow,
What his guerdon here?
Many a sorrow, many a labour,
Many a tear;"
—are applicable enough to one like that great prophet of God, whose career began, continued, and, most of all, ended, in sorrow, labour, and tears. But the review of such a ministry must assuredly have its lessons. As we think of it are we not reminded—
I. OF "THE MAN OF SORROWS," OUR LORD JESUS CHRIST? No doubt other great servants of God, whose ministry and especially whose end have been like that of Jeremiah, come into the mind. John the Baptist in Bible history, and Savonarola in later days. The parallel between this great Florentine preacher and our prophet has often been noticed. The insistance upon spiritual religion, the sad and terrible close of his career,—these have led many to look upon Savonaroia as the Jeremiah of the Middle Ages. But these resemblances are incidental and undesigned. That, however, between our Lord and his honoured servant who, in so many ways, preceded him, is not incidental, nor can it be called undesigned. But whilst the prophet is like our Lord in so many respects, yet, great as were his sorrows, those of the Man of sorrows were greater still. For our Lord knew more of the evil of sin and hated it more intensely. He sacrificed more and endured more. And so the experience of the prophets, like that of all God's servants, only goes to show that Christ has sounded deeper depths of sorrow than any that his servants can ever know.
"Christ leads us through no darker room
Than he's been through before."
Hence always "underneath," however deep the depths out of which we cry, "are the everlasting arms" of his sympathy and love and help.
II. OF THE LIGHTNESS OF OUR BURDENS COMPARED WITH THOSE OF MANY OF THE SERVANTS OF GOD? How it shames us to think of the things we murmur about, when we contrast them with what such men as Jeremiah continually endured! Surely as we think of the severity of his cross, and especially that of our Saviour, we shall cease to complain of what ours may be.
III. OF WHAT THE GRACE OF GOD CAN DO? Did the prophet of God endure and contend so nobly, and was he faithful unto death? But is not "Jesus Christ the same yesterday," etc.? Then he who so strengthened his servants in days gone by will do the same still. Let us, therefore, go forward without fear.
IV. OF THE NECESSITY OF COUNTING THE COST ERE WE ENTER UPON THE SERVICE OF GOD? We see in the career of Jeremiah what may be required of us. Our Lord said to one candidate for discipleship, "The foxes have holes, and," etc. He would have the man consider if he were prepared to bear a life like that. And as we read what has been demanded of the Lord's servants, and may be of us, it is well that we, too, should count the cost. But do not count it so as to decline it; no, but that you may hasten to the treasure store of Christ, to the riches of his grace who will make his strength perfect in our weakness.
V. OF THE GREAT ARGUMENT FOR A FUTURE LIFE WHICH SUCH A CAREER AS THAT OF JEREMIAH FURNISHES? We have seen how uninterruptedly sad his life was, and how darkly it ended. Now, can any say that there is nothing more for such a man as that; that he and all they "who have fallen asleep in Christ have perished"—that is, the noblest, the purest, the best; those whose lives were beautiful, brave, God-like,—that these have perished? And yet, if death ends all, they have. It is incredible.
VI. IF SUCH MEN DEEMED IT WELL TO SACRIFICE ALL THEIR PRESENT FOR THE FAVOUR OF GOD, ARE WE WISE WHO REFUSE TO SACRIFICE ANYTHING, who love the world and cling to it and make it our good?—C.
The mind of God towards sin and sinners.
"Oh, do not this abominable thing that I hate!" Idolatry is the sin specially referred to here. And it was indeed an "abominable thing." Pollution, cruelty, degradation, were inseparably associated with it. But the words may be applied to all sin—should be so applied. For what is sin? It is the acting out of that evil corrupt nature which we know to our cost lurks within us all. It is the stream that naturally flows from an evil fountain, the fruit that is sure to grow on a corrupt tree. Now, this view declares the mind of God—
I. TOWARDS SIN.
1. He calls it "this abominable thing." Thus he brands it. See how justly. For what do we call abominable? Is wrong done to a benefactor abominable? Is not every sin such a wrong? God does not command more than he deserves when he says, "Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart," etc. What do we not owe to him? and how do we requite him? Is wrong done to one who has entrusted his goods to us that we may employ them for him, who has made us his stewards that we may employ rightly that which he has committed to our care,—is faithlessness to such abominable? But is not sin precisely such a wrong? Our mind, affections, will, our body with all its faculties and passions,—what are they aught else but our Maker's goods with which, as stewards, he has entrusted us? Let conscience declare the use we have made of them—that sin makes of them. Is wrong done to the defenceless and innocent abominable? Do we not cry out loudly against such a one? But is not sin such a wrong? We sin not to ourselves. We entail the consequences of our actions on those who cannot defend themselves, who are utterly innocent, and who will surely suffer by what we do. No man dieth to himself. He drags down in the vortex in which he himself is engulfed children, friends, neighbours, companions, all whom he has influenced and helped to make sinful like himself. Is wrong done to vast numbers abominable, so that when we hear of how one has brought ruin upon multitudes our anger against him grows the more? Surely it is so. But where do the ever-widening circles of sin's deadly influence stop? How wide an area do they enfold? "Jeroboam the son of Nebat … made Israel to sin." Is that which pollutes and defiles, which is sensual and unclean, abominable? But sin is guilty of all this. For all these reasons and others sin is an abominable thing.
2. He hates it. "Do not … that I hate!" God hates nothing that he has made. To us some creatures are hateful and some persons. But not so to God. He does not hate even the sinner, but only his sin. It is not alone that it is abominable in its own nature that he hates it, but it works such ruin, spreads sorrow and desolation far and wide. It has opened and peoples the abodes of the lost. And it does despite and dishonour to the Son of God. How, then, can God do otherwise than hate it?
II. TOWARDS THE SINNER. Note the pleading tone of this verse, "Oh, do not," etc.! What pity, what compassion, what yearning love, are all discernible in this beseeching entreaty which God addresses to the sinner! "Hear, then, God say to you, 'Do it not!' Now, what are you going to do? Do you mean to tell me that you will persist in it? Do you really mean that? Now, think! Do you really mean to go on sinning in the face of such a message as this?—with conscience smarting, and saying in its guilty smart, Do not that abominable thing! with memory weighted with the recollection of past transgressions, and saying by the leaden burden which it carries, Do not that abominable thing! With all this, and much more, do you mean to say that you will continue in sin? With remorse, like spiritual tempest, already springing up within your soul, and threatening to destroy all your joy and peace; with a fearful looking for of judgment and future indignation; with your miserable convictions, and with your bitter fears; with your gloomy forebodings, and with your knowledge of the results and consequences of sin;—do you mean to tell me that you are determined to continue? Well, if you be determined to continue, when the offended Father comes down to you in his marvellous condescension, and cries, 'Oh, do not this abominable thing that I hate!' then, we fear, there is but little hope; and certainly, if this state of heart continue, we cannot have much hope concerning you. It is probable that if some of you pass by many more seasons of conviction, God will say, 'He is joined to his idols; let him alone;' and you will be, in this world, left alone. You will come here, perhaps, according to your custom, but you will be left alone, I shall never have a message to you; I shall never have a prayer for you; no warning from these lips will ever reach you; you will be insensible as the very pews in which you sit, and nothing shall seem, in these ordinances, to be a voice from Heaven to your guilty and needy soul. Thus will you live until, with a seared conscience, you lie down on the bed of death, and there, perhaps, when it is too late, all your old fears will be awakened. You may send to your minister upon that bed of death, and he may come, but by your bedside he may be speechless, his very power to pray may depart from him, and in trying to ask mercy for you all his utterances may be choked; and you may go from that wretched dying bed to hell. And as you sink down into the pit, the millstone about your neck will be the abominable thing which God hates".—C.
Jeremiah 44:17, Jeremiah 44:18
The apparent profitableness of sin.
This was what they asserted. And there seemed something in the assertion. All the great nations around them, and of which they knew anything, were idolaters—Assyria, Type, Babylon, Egypt, and the powerful Philistine, desert and other tribes. But Israel was in great trouble and humiliation. But the argument would have been valid if at the time of their fidelity they had always suffered, and if in their disobedience they had always prospered. They knew, if they would speak the truth, that the very reverse was the fact. When faithful, a thousand fell at their side, etc; but it came not nigh them. But when disobedient—though God bore with them for a while, and this forbearance they perverted into an argument for their sin, as so many do still—then it was their troubles came. But, no doubt, ungodliness did and does at times seem to be the most profitable course. This is so because—
I. If it were not so, then there could be no such thing as faith.
II. Nor could there be holiness—no love of goodness and God for their own sake.
III. The ungodly are held back by no scruples as the godly are.
IV. And they have the advantage of concentration of energy. They care only for one world; the believer cares for two, and most not for this but for the next.
V. The long suffering of God may lead them to repentance.
VI. Therefore, let us not grudge the wicked their prosperity, nor deem their ways better than the ways of God.—C.
Wretched reasons for a wrong resolve.
When we come to a good resolution there can always be found good reasons for it. But when we come to a had resolve the reasons for it do not always appear so bad as they are. They can be plausibly urged and maintained, and appear very valid until they are more closely examined and the light of God's Word is brought to bear upon them. Then they appear what they really are. That Word is the Ithuriel's spear, which detects and declares what seemed to be something altogether different. Thus is it with the reasons urged here by the miserable exiles in Egypt for their persistence in their idolatry. Note—
I. THEIR RESOLVE. It was
(1) that they would not hearken to the prophet of God; and
(2) they would go on paying their vows, and burning their incense "unto the queen of heaven." Now,
(3) this was a resolve proved to be wrong by the plain Word of God, the example of the noblest men of their race, the experience of their forefathers, and by the sorrows that had come and were yet to come upon themselves. But they urged—
II. THEIR REASONS. These were:
1. Their vows. As if a sinful vow could be made less sinful by keeping it; cf. Herod's vow to Herodias's daughter. Bad promises are ever better broken than kept.
2. Custom, which they said had in its favour:
(1) Antiquity. Their fathers did so. Yes; some of them had; but not all, nor the best.
(2) Authority. Their kings, princes, etc. But this, also, largely false.
(3) Unity. They all did it, But there were a faithful few still.
(4) Universality. It was done everywhere. Not everywhere, hut, no doubt, extensively and very much, it was true, in Jerusalem, the metropolis of their land. All this was but a portion of the truth.
3. They pleaded advantage. They were better off when they acted thus; only trouble came when they worshipped God. No doubt sentence against their evil work was not executed speedily, and for a while their prosperity was not interrupted. Hence they perverted this forbearance of God—as men do still—into a pretext for going on in their evil way. Then when the judgments did come, and under the lash of them they gave up their idols, it was only an outward abandonment, not a genuine repentance, and such con. duct did not bring back the forfeited, favour of God. Hence, they said, it had been better not to have forsaken their idols at all
III. AND THESE WRETCHED REASONS ARE IN FORCE STILL. How many excuse and defend their idolatry of the world and self and sin on the ground of custom, of gain thereby, and of loss if they act otherwise! And the force of these so called reasonings is great indeed with "men of this world." Where, then, can be found that reasoning which will beat back and beat down their fatal force? In this alone—the Divine Spirit acting through a consistent, believing, happy Church.—C.
The husband's responsibility.
"Did we make her cakes to worship her … without our men?" These women pleaded that they had their husbands' sanction for what they did. It could not have been otherwise considering the subordinate position women occupied in Oriental nations. No doubt, therefore, the husbands and the male heads of families generally not only permitted, but even prompted these things. Hence it was some sort of excuse and defence for these women thus engaged in idolatrous worship. Such defence is allowed in human law. For the husband, by Christ's law as well as man's, is the head of the wife. If so, then the chief responsibility and the chief guiltiness on account of the sin of the household rest on the man at the head of it. The especial blessing of God was pronounced on Abraham because, says God, "I know him, that he will command his household after him." The anger of God came on Eli because he failed to do this. To escape such guilt, let husbands:
1. Be in the Lord themselves.
2. Marry only in the Lord.
3. Be careful to maintain family religion.
4. Set themselves to seek the grace of God's regenerating Spirit for all their households.—C.
HOMILIES BY D. YOUNG
A severe lesson unlearned.
I. OPPORTUNITY TO LEARN THE LESSON. The suffering had not happened a long way off and to a people of strangers. Those who were to be taught had seen for themselves. The suffering was the very cause that prompted them to seek a home in Egypt, and even at this moment it was no great distance that separated them from the land of desolation. And so also have we opportunities, only too many, to learn from the sufferings of others. All suffering teaches something, if only we are willing to learn, and the suffering that comes through sin should have a peculiarly instructing power. Opportunity is also given, not only to learn ourselves, but to teach others. The daily newspaper, with its records of crime, folly, violent death, and lifelong disgrace, puts all who read it under a great responsibility for ordering their lives aright.
II. THE FULL EXPLANATION OF THE SUFFERING. The cause of it all is clearly stated. The unfaithfulness of a nation to their God. Even to have begun a departure from God was great wickedness, but persistency still further intensified the guilt. Other nations were faithful to their gods, though they were really no gods and had rendered no service, whereas Israel owed its growth, its position, its prosperity, its fame, to Jehovah. We do not know the origin and moulding of any other people as we do those of the people of God. We cannot think of the great suffering connected with the desolated cities of Judah without thinking also of Jehovah's long suffering, and of the continuous prophetic means he employed to set before his people their wickedness and peril. On the other hand, we have a lesson with respect to what seems unpunished iniquity. Suffering is surely being gathered up for it. Time is being given for repentance and amendment.
III. THE LESSON IS ALTOGETHER UNLEARNED. We say "unlearned," because it effected no change. Suffering by itself cannot change. Suffering, indeed, appears to have different effects with different people, but the suffering is not really a cause. It but gives occasion to see whether men will yield to the new life and energy which comes from God. There had been a great upheaval in Judah, but so far as concerned the Jews dwelling in the land of Egypt the only change was one in the scene of their idolatries. They were the same men in Egypt as at Jerusalem.—Y.
The doom on those making sure of safety in Egypt.
I. A FIXED RESOLUTION. The obstinate self-will of man brings into relief the inflexibility of the righteous judgments of God. The remnant of Judah set their faces to go into the land of Egypt to sojourn there. What, then, is to be expected but that Jehovah should set his face against them? The more self-will becomes a power in the life, the more nearly does it move in direct opposition to him who is the true Sovereign and Disposer of every human life. We can guess something of the thoughts of these Egypt seekers. They say to themselves, "Henceforth we shall consult for our own safety." They speak as if the peculiar perils hitherto besetting them were the perils of one place rather than another. Perhaps even they reckoned that outside the land of Israel they were beyond Jehovah's reach. Here there is a lesson for us in our selfish aims and pursuits. All selfishness is bad, but even in selfishness a lesser badness is a degree of goodness, and it is well for a man if he gets frequently shaken in his selfishness; for then, his face not being steadily against God, he will find God looking on him encouragingly, to draw him out of his selfishness altogether.
II. A COMPLETE DESTRUCTION. Complete, that is, in the sense of general and final. There was but a remnant to begin with, and of that a very small remnant might escape. The very smallness of the remnant, however, would but magnify the completeness of the destruction, no place is secure against the visitations of God's righteous wrath. Indeed, the greater the appearance of natural security, the more manifest will be the breaking in on this security of the Divine justice. Men must be taught, even by terrible lessons, that, as there is the best kind of safety under the shadow of God's wings, so there is the worst kind of danger the further we go from God. To multiply our own defences is really to multiply our own perils.
III. A NULLIFIED PURPOSE. This remnant, not finding in Egypt the expected safety, thinks there is nothing easier than to go back again to the land of Judah. Whereas they find too late that, while departure from their own proper place is easy enough, return to it may be impossible. Opening the door to get out was one thing; opening it to get in again quite another. Seventy years was to pass before they of the Captivity should return from Babylon—indeed, it would really be another generation altogether; and should those who sought Egypt in contumacy and rebellion expect to fare better? We must be wise in time. To be wise too late gives suffering its keenest edge. So Judas brought back in vain the thirty pieces of silver, and Esau found no place of repentance though he sought it carefully with tears. This is why God is so earnest in promising wisdom and light to those who seek for them, that we may seek for them at the right time, at the beginning of the great opportunity of life, and at the beginning of every smaller opportunity.—Y.
Supposed and real reasons for calamity.
I. A SUPPOSED REASON. What is the calamity? Sword and famine. Certainly a calamity to be removed and as far as possible averted for the future. And casting about to discover a reason for the calamity, the men of Judah, or rather the women, for it is they who appear most prominently in this declaration, discover that the reason is to be found in the discontinuance of their offerings to the queen of heaven. What a family matter this offering was is shown by Jeremiah 7:18. The women kneaded dough to make cakes to the queen of heaven. These offerings must have been very generally given up when the migration into Egypt took place, and then, on the coming of the sword and famine, what was more natural than for these women to connect the calamity with the discontinued offerings? In one thing they were quite right; there was a supernatural reason for the calamity. Wrong as they were, it was well they did not rest in any mere natural reason. They were sure that a Divine Being of some sort or other had to do with their troubles. The direction of thought is different now. When calamity comes upon people, if they connect it with God at all, they very often do so in an arbitrary kind of way, as if nothing but a mere superior will, without reason or purpose of any sort, had sent calamity to them. It is easy to pity what we call the ignorance and superstition of this crowd of women, but always we can see the errors of other times far more easily than those of our own. The causes of suffering need to be inquired for very carefully, very patiently; for wrong conclusions only bring more suffering than ever.
II. THE REAL REASON. They had forsaken Jehovah. Not that there is any necessary connection between the forsaking of Jehovah and the sword and famine. Nothing but our faith in the reality of a prophet's predictions can enable us to see this connection. There is oftentimes an utter forsaking of God, yet neither sword nor famine follow. The true and necessary result of going after something else than God is found in the consequent misery and emptiness of the life. Continually we suffer from our inability to see things in their right proportions. Bad as sword and famine may be, there are things infinitely worse. The fact that this multitude was debasing itself by worshipping the queen of heaven pointed to a state of things far worse than any physical suffering could be. Physical suffering may at any time be removed, if desirable, by a miracle. But that darkness of the heart producing essential idolatry, a darkness so loved and cherished, who is to remove that? Nay, the very fulness of temporal comforts may become a veil between God and the soul. The very thing which helped to deceive the people here as to the real causes of things lay in this, that at the time when they were worshipping the queen of heaven they had plenty of victuals, and were well, and saw no evil.—Y.
Watching over men for evil.
I. THIS WATCHING IS NEVER IRRESPECTIVE OF CONDUCT. If God ever watches over any man for evil it is because the man's conduct deserves it. It is not so necessarily with our watching. We may watch over a man for evil either from intensity of malice or intensity of selfishness. We may wish to do him ill from revenge or because his prosperity seems to mean our adversity. A word announcing watch over men for evil is a very serious word to fall even from Divine lips; and while ,God may speak it, perhaps we ought never to speak it. But at the same time, we cannot help watching over men for evil, and what we need especially to guard ourselves against is the doing of this from wrong motives. We must follow in the footsteps of God himself. When we censure others, or oppose them, or make them suffer in any way, let it be clear to ourselves and as far as possible clear to the world that their conduct has demanded it.
II. EVIL CONDUCT IS NEVER SEPARATED FROM SUCH WATCHING. God says that he is watching in this particular instance, but we know that he watches for evil against all evil doers. We speak of evil doing as being invariably followed by suffering, but this is only one way of putting the matter. We may also say that when suffering follows our wickedness it is the proof that God is watching for evil over the evil doer. And in this matter we need zealously and boldly to do as God does, though, of course, we must do it according to the measure of human limits and infirmity. When any one is engaged with determination in any evil pursuit, it must be ours to show that we are by no means indifferent. God's watching over wicked men for evil is often done through the eyes of his own people; for if we have the Spirit of God in us there will be something of Divine discernment.
III. A CONNECTED TRUTH THAT NEEDS TO BE CONSIDERED AT THE SAME TIME. If God watches over the wicked for evil and not for good, it is equally true that he watches over the righteous for good and not for evil. Not one life, going on patiently and bravely in uprightness, is unobserved by him. Whatever the appearances may be, the abiding realities of life are against the wicked and for the righteous.—Y.
Human and Divine confidence.
I. IN WHAT THEY ARE ALIKE.
1. In the assurance with which they are expressed. Here are men, in their worldly wisdom, perfectly certain that the course they have adopted will turn out right. It is always important to notice the assured unquestioning spirit in which men will set out on their enterprises. They do not seem to see the failures, disgraces, and humiliations of others; such overwhelming troubles are not to come nigh them. And all this is great testimony to the use of faith to men. God means men to be confident. The confidence which he ever expresses himself is meant to find a correspondent confidence in us. We need never be dubious in matters of a spiritual kind, however dubious we have to be as to certain external results. If we only act in the right, divinely ordained way, then we can continually be confident that all will come right.
2. In the time of waiting needful to justify the confidence. God speaks words, the truth and profound significance of which it may take not merely generations but even millenniums to make manifest to the whole world. Everything immediately apparent to the outward eye may contradict what he says. And something of his own wisdom and insight into the future he gives to men of the right spirit, so that they may work for results which are to be developed through long periods. He makes it possible for men to go on believing, hopeful and patient through all discouragements, and even to die in the faith that what they have sown others will reap. Thus faith which God makes to stand in the beginning he strengthens and establishes even to the end. And that faith which makes men themselves to utter confident dogmatic words will not be shaken all at once. Time is to try all things—the wisdom of the wise and the folly of the fools, the result of that which is sown to the Spirit and that which is sown to the flesh.
II. IN WHAT THEY DIFFER. In respect of real and deep insight into the future. The man who is confident in worldly wisdom is simply confident in the doctrine of chances. His chance of stability and success is equally good with that of others. Some must fail, but some must succeed. But God would have us ever to understand that success el this sort is only a deferred failure. If men could only see far enough, success and honour and safety would be utterly transmuted into failure, disgrace, and ruin. But God's confidence is based on certain and complete knowledge. The end of all unsettlement and change must be something stable and continuous, and when God sees men reckoning themselves on a true foundation, which after all is miserably brief and frail, he can only assert the truth. If men will not believe, the only thing remaining is to wait. The utter downfall of the Jewish nation from such a height to such a depth was predicted even in the days of their outward glory. The Word of God stands because he can discern the certain exhaustion of purely human resources even when those resources show themselves in exuberant exercise and impressive achievement.—Y.
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Exell, Joseph S; Spence-Jones, Henry Donald Maurice. "Commentary on Jeremiah 44". The Pulpit Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/
the Week of Proper 6 / Ordinary 11