Second rejection of Jeremiah's intercession; awfulness of the impending judgment.
Though Moses and Samuel, etc. It is a mere supposition which is here made; there is no allusion to any popular view of the intercession of saints (see my note on Isaiah 63:16). If even a Moses or a Samuel would intercede in vain, the ease of the Judahites must indeed be desperate. For these were the nearest of all the prophets to Jehovah, and repeatedly prayed their people out of grievous calamity (comp. Psalms 99:6). Jeremiah had already sought to intercede for his people (see on Jeremiah 7:16). Cast them out of my sight; rather, Dismiss them from my presence. The people are represented as praying or sacrificing in the fore courts of the temple.
Such as are for death, etc.; a sternly ironical answer. Death, sword, famine, captivity, lie in wait for them in every possible road. "Death" here means "pestilence" (comp. "the black death" in the Middle Ages), as in Jeremiah 18:21; Job 27:15. Similar combinations of evils occur in Jeremiah 43:11; Ezekiel 14:21; Ezekiel 33:27.
Appoint; i.e. give full power to them as my vicegerents (Jeremiah 1:10). Four kinds; literally, families; i.e. kinds of things. The first-mentioned has reference to the living; the remaining ones to the unburied corpses (Jeremiah 14:16; Jeremiah 19:7; Jeremiah 34:20). To tear; rather, to drag along.
Cause them to be removed into; rather, make them a shuddering unto. So in the Deuteronomic curses for disobedience (Deuteronomy 28:25).
For who shall have pity? or, for who can have pity, etc.? (the imperfect in its potential sense). The horror which will seize upon the spectators will effectually preclude pity. Who shall go aside? As one turns aside to call at a house. So Genesis 19:2 (literally, turn aside, not "turn in").
Will I stretch; literally, I stretched—the perfect of prophetic certitude (so in next verse). I am weary with repenting; i.e. with recalling my (conditional) sentence of punishment (see on Jeremiah 18:1-10).
The gates of the land. The phrase might mean either the cities in general (comp. Micah 5:5; Isaiah 3:26) or the fortresses commanding the entrance into the land (comp. Nahum 3:13). The context decides in favor of the latter view. Ewald's explanation, "borders of the earth" (i.e. the most distant countries), seems less natural. I will bereave them, etc. The proper object of the verb is my people (personified as a mother). The population are to fall in war (comp. the same figure in Ezekiel 5:17). The tense is the perfect of prophetic certitude; literally, I have bereaved, etc.
To me; i.e. at my bidding. It is the dative of cause. Against the mother of the young men; rather, upon … young man. The widow has lost her husband, the mother her son, so that no human power can repel the barbarous foe. The word rendered "young man" is specially used for "young warriors," e.g. Jeremiah 18:21; Jeremiah 49:26; Jeremiah 51:3. Others following Rashi, take "mother" in the sense of "metropolis," or "chief city", in which case "young man" must be connected with the participle rendered "a spoiler;" but though the word has this sense in 2 Samuel 20:19, it is there coupled with "city," so that no doubt can exist. Hero the prophet would certainly not have used the word in so unusual a sense without giving some guide to his meaning. The rendering adopted above has the support of Ewald, Hitzig, and Dr. Payne Smith. At noonday; at the most unlooked-for moment (see on Jeremiah 6:4). I have caused him, etc.; rather, I have caused pangs and terrors to fall upon her suddenly.
That hath borne seven; a proverbial expression. Her sun is gone down, etc. The figure is that of an eclipse (comp. Amos 9:9). She hath been ashamed, etc.; rather, she ashamed, etc. Ewald supposes the sun, which is sometimes feminine in Hebrew, to be the subject (comp. Isaiah 24:23); but the view of the Authorized Version is more probable. The shame of childlessness is repeatedly referred to (comp. Jeremiah 1:12; Isaiah 54:4; Genesis 16:4; Genesis 30:1, Genesis 30:23).
These verses come in very unexpectedly, and are certainly not to be regarded as a continuation of the preceding discourse. They describe some deeply pathetic moment of the prophet's inner life, and in all probability belong to a later period of the history of Judah. At any rate, the appreciation of the next chapter will be facilitated by reading it in close connection with Jeremiah 15:9 of the present chapter. But the section before us is too impressive to be east adrift without an attempt to find a place for it in the life of the prophet. The attempt has been made with some plausibility by a Jewish scholar, Dr. Gratz, who considers the background of these verses to be the sojourn of Jeremiah at Ramah, referred to in Jeremiah 40:1, and groups them, therefore, with another prophecy (Jeremiah 31:15-17), in which Ramah is mentioned by name as the temporary abode of the Jewish captives. We are told in Jeremiah 40:4, Jeremiah 40:5, that Jeremiah had the choice given him of either going to Babylon with the exiles, or dwelling with the Jews who were allowed to remain under Gedaliah the governor. He chose, as the narrative in Jeremiah 40:1-16. tells us, to stay with Gedaliah; but the narrative could not, in accordance with the reserve which characterizes the inspired writers, reveal the state of mind in which this difficult choice was made. This omission is supplied in the paragraph before us. Jeremiah, with that lyric tendency peculiar to him among the prophets, gives a vent to his emotion in these impassioned verses. He tells his friends that the resolution to go to Gedaliah may cost him a severe struggle. He longs for rest, and in Babylon he would have more chance of a quiet life than among the turbulent Jews at home. But he has looked up to God for guidance, and, however painful to the flesh, God's will must be obeyed. He gives us the substance of the revelation which he received. The Divine counselor points out that he has already interposed in the most striking manner for Jeremiah, and declares that if he will devote himself to the Jews under Gedaliah, a new and fruitful field will be open to him, in which, moreover, by Divine appointment, no harm can happen to him. Whether this is really the background of the paragraph must remain uncertain. In a case of this kind, we are obliged to call in the help of the imagination, if the words of the prophet are to be realized with any degree of vividness. There are some great difficulties in the text, and apparently one interpolation.
Woe is me, my mother! This is one of those passages (comp. Introduction) which illustrate the sensitive and shrinking character of our prophet.
"If his meek spirit erred, opprest
That God denied repose,
What sin is ours, to whom Heaven's rest
Is pledged to heal earth's woes?"
(Cardinal Newman, in 'Lyra Apostolica,' 88.).
I have neither lent on usury, etc.; a speaking figure to men of the ancient world, to whom, as Dr. Payne Smith remarks, "the relations between the money-lender and the debtor were the most fruitful source of lawsuits and quarrellings."
The Lord said. The prophets are usually so tenacious of the same formulae that even their slight deviations are noteworthy. "The Lord said," for "Thus saith the Lord," occurs only here and in Jeremiah 46:25 (where, however, the phrase has possibly been detached by mistake from the preceding verse). It shall be well with thy remnant; rather, I have loosed thee for (thy) good, or, thy loosing (shall be) for (thy good), according as we adopt the reading of the Hebrew text or that of the margin, which differs in form as slightly as it is possible to do. If we accept the historical setting proposed by Gratz for this paragraph, the reference will be to the "loosing" of Jeremiah from his chains mentioned in Jeremiah 40:4. The rendering given here is, however, only a probable one; it is in conformity with the Aramaic usage of the verb (the Targum uses it in this sense in Jeremiah 40:4), and is supported by its suitability to the context and, philologically, by the fact of the growing influence of Aramaic upon Hebrew. Gesenius, in his anxiety to keep close to the native use of the root, produces a rendering which does not suit the context, viz. "I afflict thee for (thy) good." Jeremiah does not complain of being afflicted by God, but that all the world is against him; Ewald, comparing a different Aramaic verb to that appealed to above, renders, "I strengthen thee," etc; which is adopted by Keil, but does not accord with the second half of the verse so well as the rendering adopted. The Authorized Version follows the Targum, the Vulgate, Aquila, Symmachus, Rashi, and Kimchi, assuming that sherith is contracted from sh'erith (as in 1 Chronicles 12:38), and that "remnant" is equivalent to "remnant of life." But, though the sense is not unacceptable (comp. Verses 20, 21), the form of expression is unnatural; we should have expected akharith'ka, "thy latter end" (comp. Job 8:7). I will cause the enemy to entreat thee well. This expression is as difficult as the preceding, and our rendering of it will depend entirely on our view of the context. If "the enemy" means the Chaldeans, the Authorized Version will be substantially correct. Rashi has already mentioned the view that the phrase alludes to Nebnzar-adan's respectful inquiry as to the wishes of Jeremiah in Jeremiah 40:2-5. In this ease, the literal rendering is, I will cause the enemy to meet thee (as a friend); comp. Isaiah 47:3; Isaiah 64:4. But if "the enemy" means the Jews, then we must render, I grill cause the enemy to supplicate thee, and illustrate the phrase by the repeated applications of Zedekiah to the prophet (Jeremiah 21:1, Jeremiah 21:2; Jeremiah 37:3; Jeremiah 38:14), and the similar appeal of the "captains of the forces," in Jeremiah 42:1-3.
Shall iron break, etc.? Again an enigmatical saying. The rendering of the Authorized Version assumes that by the northern iron Jeremiah means the Babylonian empire. But the "breaking" of the Babylonian empire was not a subject which lay within the thoughts of the prophet. It was not the fate of Babylon, but his own troubled existence, and the possibility that his foes would ultimately succeed in crushing him, which disquieted this conscientious but timid spokesman of Jehovah. The Divine interlocutor has reminded him in the preceding verse of the mercy which has been already extended to him, and now recalls to his recollection the encouraging assurances given him in his inaugural vision (Jeremiah h 18, 19). Render, therefore, Can one break iron, northern iron, and bronze? The steel of the Authorized Version is evidently a slip. The Hebrew word is n'khosheth, which means sometimes (e.g. Jeremiah 6:28; Deuteronomy 8:9; Deuteronomy 33:25; Job 28:2) copper, but more commonly bronze, since "copper unalloyed seems to have been but rarely used after its alloys with tin became known" (Professor Maskelyne). "Steel" would have been more fitly introduced as the second of the three names of metals. "Northern iron" at once suggests the Chalybes, famous in antiquity for their skill in hardening iron, and, according to classical authors (e.g. Stephanus the geographer), the neighbors of the Tibareni, in the country adjoining the Euxine Sea, the Tibareni being, of course, the people of Tubal, whom Ezekiel mentions (Ezekiel 27:13) as trafficking in vessels of bronze. Any Jew, familiar with the wares of the bazaar, would at once appreciate the force of such a question as this. Even if iron could be broken, yet surely not steel nor bronze. Thus the verse simply reaffirms the original promises to Jeremiah, and prepares the way for verses 20, 21.
Jeremiah 15:13, Jeremiah 15:14
Thy substance, etc. These verses form an unlooked-for digression. The prophet has been in a state of profound melancholy, and the object of Jehovah is to rouse him from it. In Jeremiah 15:11, Jeremiah 15:12, the most encouraging assurances have been given him. Suddenly comes the overwhelming declaration contained in Jeremiah 15:13, Jeremiah 15:14. And when we look closely at these verses, two points strike us, which make it difficult to conceive that Jeremiah intended them to stand here. First, their contents are not at all adapted to Jeremiah, and clearly belong to the people of Judah; and next, they are repeated, with some variations, in Jeremiah 17:3, Jeremiah 17:4. It should also be observed that the Septuagint (which omits Jeremiah 17:1-4) only gives them here, which seems to indicate an early opinion that the passage only ought to occur once in the Book of Jeremiah, though the Septuagint translator failed to choose the right position for it. Without price; literally, not for a price. In the parallel passage there is another reading, "thy high places," which forms part of the next clause. Hitzig and Graf suppose this to be the original reading, the Hebrew letters having been partly effaced and then misread, after which "not" was prefixed to make sense. However this may be, the present reading is unintelligible, if we compare Isaiah 52:3, where Jehovah declares that his people were sold for nothing, i.e. were given up entirely to the enemy, without any compensating advantage to Jehovah. And that for all thy sins, even, etc.; literally, and in all thy sins and in all thy borders. The text is certainly difficult. Externally a parallelism exists between the two halves of the clause, and one is therefore tempted to render literally. As this will not make sense, however, we are forced either to render as the Authorized Version, or to suppose that the text is not accurately preserved. The parallel passage has a different but not a more intelligible reading. Ewald omits "and" in both halves of the clause, which slightly diminishes the awkwardness. And I will make thee to pass, etc. The natural rendering of the Hebrew is, "And I will make thine enemies to pass," etc; which clearly cannot be the prophet's meaning. The parallel passage (Jeremiah 17:4) has, "And I will make thee to serve thine enemies," etc.; and so the Septuagint, the Syriac, the Targum, and many manuscripts here. For a fire is kindled in mine anger; a reminiscence of Deuteronomy 32:22, suggesting that the judgment described in the Song of Moses is about to fall upon Judah.
O Lord, thou knowest, etc. The prophet renews his complaints. God's omniscience is the thought which comforts him (comp. Jeremiah 17:6; Jeremiah 18:23; Psalms 69:19). But he desires some visible proof of God's continued care for his servant. Visit me, equivalent to "be attentive to my wants "-an anthropomorphic expression for the operation of Providence. Take me not away in thy long-suffering; i.e. "suffer not my persecutors to destroy me through the long-suffering which thou displayest towards them." "Take away," viz. my life (comp. Ezekiel 33:4, "If the sword come and take him away"). Rebuke; rather, reproach; cutup. Psalms 69:7 (Psalms 69:1-36. is in the style of Jeremiah, and, as Delitzsch remarks, suits his circumstances better than those of David).
Thy words were found. Jeremiah here describes his first reception of a Divine revelation. Truth is like "treasure hid in a field;" he alone who seeks it with an unprejudiced mind can "find" it. But there are some things which no "searching" of the intellect can "find" (Job 11:7; Job 37:23; Ecclesiastes 3:11; Ecclesiastes 8:17); yet by a special revelation they may be "found" by God's "spokesmen," or prophets. This is the train of thought which underlies Jeremiah's expression here. The "words," or revelations, of Jehovah are regarded as having an objective existence in the ideal world of which God is the light, and as "descending" from thence (comp. Isaiah 9:8) into the consciousness of the prophet. So Ezekiel 3:1, "Eat that thou findest." I did eat them; I assimilated them, as it were (comp. Ezekiel 2:8; Ezekiel 3:3). I am called by thy name; literally, thy name hath been (or, had been) called upon me; i.e. I have (or, had) been specially dedicated to thy service. The phrase is often used of Israel (see on Jeremiah 14:9), and, as here applied, intimates that a faithful prophet was, as it were, the embodied ideal of an Israelite.
In the assembly of the mockers; rather, of the laughers. The serious thoughts arising out of his sacred office restrained him from taking part in the festive meetings to which his youth would naturally incline him (cutup. on Jeremiah 16:2). Because of thy hand. The Hand of Jehovah is a figurative expression for the self-revealing and irresistible power of Jehovah; it is, therefore, equivalent to the Arm of Jehovah (Isaiah 53:1), but is used in preference with regard to the divinely ordained actions and words of the prophets. Thus we are told, in the accounts of Elijah and Elisha, that "the hand of the Lord came upon" them (1 Kings 18:46; 2 Kings 3:15). Such a phrase was probably at first descriptive of a completely passive ecstatic state, and was retained when ecstasies had become rare, with a somewhat laxer meaning. Isaiah uses a similar expression but once (Isaiah 8:11); Ezekiel, however, who appears to have been unusually rifled with the overpowering thought of the supernatural world, is constantly mentioning "the hand of Jehovah" (see Ezekiel 1:3; Ezekiel 3:22; Ezekiel 37:1; and especially Ezekiel 3:14; Ezekiel 8:3). We may infer from this variation in the practice of inspired writers that, though symbolical, anthropomorphic language is not always equally necessary in speaking of Divine things, yet it cannot be entirely dispensed with, even by the most gifted and spiritual teachers. Thou hast filled me with indignation; rather, thou hadst filled me. Jeremiah was too full of his Divine message to indulge in impracticable sentimentalities. There was no thought of self when Jeremiah received his mission, nor any bitterness towards those who up-posed him. His "indignation" was that of Jehovah, whose simple instrument he was (comp. Jeremiah 6:11, "I am full of the fury of the Lord").
Why is my pain perpetual? One who could honestly speak of himself in terms such as those of Jeremiah 15:16, Jeremiah 15:17, seemed to have a special claim on the Divine protection. But Jeremiah's hopes have been disappointed. His vexation is perpetual, and his wounded spirit finds no comfort. As a liar; rather, as a deceitful stream. The word "stream" has to be understood as in Micah 1:14. Many of the water courses of Palestine are filled with a rushing torrent in the winter, but dry in summer. Hence the pathetic complaint of Job (Job 6:15). The opposite phrase to that used by Jeremiah is "a perennial stream" (Amos 5:24). The force of the passage is increased if we read it in the light of Dr. Gratz's hypothesis.
If thou return, etc. Most commentators regard these words as containing a gentle rebuke to Jeremiah for his doubts respecting God's care of him. It may be questioned, however, whether such passing doubts could be described as a turning away from Jehovah. If the word "return" is to be interpreted in a spiritual sense, we must surely conclude that the people is addressed (comp. Jeremiah 3:12; Jeremiah 4:1). But this does not agree with the context. Hence Gratz's view seems very plausible, that the reference is to the proposal that Jeremiah should place himself under the protection of Gedaliah (comp. Jeremiah 40:5, "Go back also to Gedaliah," etc.). Then will I bring thee again; viz. into the right relation to me, so as to be my minister (Keil). But by altering one of the vowel-points (which form no part of the text), on the authority of the Septuagint, we get a more satisfactory sense, I will give thee a settled place. The verb must in any case be coupled with the following one. Jeremiah longs for a quiet home, only as supplying the conditions of prophetic activity. Thou shalt stand before me. The phrase is taken from the wont of slaves to stand in their masters' presence, waiting for commands. It is also applied to courtiers (Proverbs 22:29) and royal councilors (1 Kings 12:6), to angels (Luke 1:19) and to prophets (1 Kings 17:1; 2 Kings 3:14). Jeremiah was by God's will to find a new and important mission to the Jews with Gedaliah. If thou take forth the precious from the vile, etc. The metaphor is derived from metallurgy (comp. Jeremiah 6:27-30). The prophet is compared to a smelter. By the fervor of his inspired exhortations, he seeks to draw away from the mass of unbelievers all those who are spiritually capable of better things. The "vine-dressers and husbandmen," whom Nebuzar-adan had left after the capture of Jerusalem, though outwardly "the poor of the laud," might yet be ennobled by the word and example of Jeremiah. [Some explain "the precious" and "the vile" differently, taking the former to be the pure Word of God (comp. Psalms 12:6; Proverbs 30:5), the latter the base, human elements which are apt to be mixed with the Divine message (comp. Jeremiah 23:28). But was it not the very fidelity of Jeremiah which exposed him to the persecutions of which he has been complaining? Others suppose an inward purification of Jeremiah himself to be intended, "the vile" being those human infirmities of which he had just given evidence, as opposed to "the precious," i.e. the spiritual impulses which come from above. But is not such an explanation too evangelical, too Pauline, for this context?] Thou shalt be as my mouth. For devoting himself to this possible "mustard seed" of a better and holier people, the prophet should be rewarded
"Mouth" for "prophet," as Exodus 4:16 (comp. Exodus 7:1). Let them return unto thee, etc.; rather, they shall return unto thee, but thou shalt not return unto them. They shall come over to thy side, and thou shalt not need to make humiliating advances to them.
And I will make thee, etc.; a solemn confirmation of the promises in Jeremiah 1:18, Jeremiah 1:19.
Out of the hand of the wicked, etc. The "wicked" (literally, evil) and the "terrible" may be the banditti, composed of desperate patriots, who ultimately assassinated Gedaliah (Jeremiah 41:1-3).
Various destinies of punishment.
I. PUNISHMENT WILL BE ASSIGNED AS A DEFINITE DESTINY. It is not casual. It cannot be evaded. It is decidedly appointed and inflexibly executed. The destiny it involves, though not original but a consequence of voluntary actions, is as certain as if it were in accordance with a primary law of nature (Galatians 6:7, Galatians 6:8).
II. PUNISHMENT WILL BE ASSIGNED IN A VARIETY OF DESTINIES. All the wicked will not suffer alike. There will be various forms of penalty and various degrees of suffering. Some are appointed to the painful death of the plague, some to the sudden death of the sword, some not to death at all but to exile. Punishment will be various,
III. PUNISHMENT WILL BE ASSIGNED TO ALL THE GUILTY WITHOUT EXCEPTION. They may be numerous, yet some penalty will be found for all. The variety of destinies might suggest that among them some would find a way of escape, but, alas! they are all penal. This variety will ever secure the punishment of all. They who escape one form of punishment will only fall into another. Some hope to elude justice because their case is very exceptional. But exceptional punishment is found for exceptional crime.
IV. PUNISHMENT WILL BE SEVERE IN ALL CASES. There is a choice of destinies, but the list is given with somewhat of irony. How terrible is the mildest fate! All future punishment must be inexpressibly awful (Hebrews 10:31). Therefore let us not delude ourselves with hoping that ours will be of the milder kind, but seek deliverance from the certain fearful doom of sin in the forgiving mercy of God in Christ.
God weary of repenting.
I. GOD OFTEN APPEARS TO REPENT. He seems to repent of his merciful intentions when the conduct of men has called forth his righteous indignation—even repenting that he had ever made men (Genesis 6:6), and to repent of his wrathful intentions when his children repent of their sins (e.g. Exodus 32:14). Absolutely it cannot be said that God repents (1 Samuel 15:29). He never does wrong, never errs, is never moved from reason by passion, knows the end from the beginning, and therefore never sees a new thing to modify his thoughts. Yet he acts as if he repented, i.e. he grieves for the sorrow he has righteously brought, and desires that it may cease as soon as possible; and he changes his action towards his children as they change their conduct towards him. This fact is not inconsistent with the essential Divine immutability. The sun does not vary in itself because, after developing a flower in moist weather, it withers it in drought. A government does not change its policy if it enters into amicable arrangements with a loyal dependency, though it was carrying out warlike measures so long as the province was in revolt. So God does not change in his own nature because his action is varied according to the varied requirements of his people. Such variation is rather a result of his essential changelessness. Righteousness, which requires the punishment of the guilty, approves of the forgiveness of the penitent; so that if the action of God did not change from wrath to mercy with the change of the guilty person to penitence, it would seem as though the nature of God had been turned aside from its essential righteousness. Because the sun is stationary it appears to rise and set as the earth revolves; if it did not so appear it must be moving too; and because God is eternally good it must seem to us, who are constantly giving occasion for differences of treatment from the hand of God, that he repents. We can only speak of God after the manner of men; therefore we say he repents.
II. GOD MAY BE WEARY OF REPENTING. Here is a second anthropomorphic expression, which corresponds to a great and terrible fact.
1. We may cease to repent of our sin; then God will cease to repent of his wrath.
2. We may sin so deeply and so persistently that he may no longer find it possible to withhold his threatened punishment. God is long-suffering; he waits for the return of his children. Though the recompense of evil-doing is due, it is deferred; God spares the guilty for the sake of the intercession of the righteous. But this cannot be forever. We may sin away the grace of God. Though God's mercy endureth forever the enjoyment of it by the impenitent cannot be perpetual. Eternal mercy may have to give place to eternal justice.
Sunset at noon.
A premature ending of any human affairs may be compared to sunset at noon.
I. THIS IS A COMMON OCCURRENCE. A nation suddenly collapses; a sovereign is overthrown in the height of his power; a life is cut off in middle age. How often do we see these things?
II. THIS IS AN UNNATURAL OCCURRENCE. No such event could occur in the physical world. Therefore it proves that the human world is deranged.
III. THIS IS A CALAMITOUS OCCURRENCE. National modifications may be both peaceful and profitable. Empires are slowly welded together, colonies gradually assume powers and rights of independence, internal reforms are quietly effacing the old order. To the individual natural death in old age is painless. It is the violent and premature end that causes disaster.
IV. THIS IS AN OCCURRENCE RESULTING FROM ERROR OR WRONGDOING. We cannot say that the cause is always to be traced immediately to the sufferers. With nations it may be generally so, but not with individuals. But still a law of morality, of social order of nature, has been broken, if not by the sufferers still by some agent.
V. THIS IS AN OCCURRENCE THAT MAY COME AS AN ACT OF DIVINE JUDGMENT. It is not universally so, particularly in regard to individuals. But it often is the case. Thus it was with the Jews, with Rome, in the dark ages, etc. Therefore let us beware of presuming on the apparent distance of the day of judgment.
The prayer of the persecuted.
I. THE GROUNDS OF HIS PLEA.
1. A confessor's fidelity. Jeremiah was suffering for God's sake. This plea implies
He who can urge such a plea is the heir of one of the great beatitudes (Matthew 5:10). It is important to note that the promise of Christ rests, not on the mere fact of persecution, nor even on unjust persecution, but on persecution for righteousness' sake. The martyr is honored, not for his suffering, but for his fidelity.
2. The knowledge of God. "O Lord, thou knowest." When men misjudge, God knows all. They who are cruelly maligned by men may take refuge in the fact that God knows their innocence. It is better to have his approval in face of a world's scorn and hate, than the flattery of the world for false merits together with the anger of the all-seeing God. How happy to be in such a case that we can fearlessly appeal to God's knowledge of our fidelity in suffering! Too often trouble is consciously deserved.
3. The long-suffering of God. The best man can but ask for God's mercy. Often has that been sought in the past. Yet God is not weary of hearing his helpless children's repeated cries. "His mercy endureth forever."
II. THE OBJECTS OF HIS PRAYER.
1. To be remembered by God. It is something to know that God thinks of us. His sympathy is a great consolation. The traveler in the desert is not utterly alone when he calls to mind those dear ones at home, in whose memory he is constantly cherished, and who are therefore with him in spirit, while the unfortunate man who is buried in a crowded city, neglected and forgotten by his old friends, is essentially lonely and desolate. God's remembrance of us is the prelude to his active help. He remembers" for good." If Christ remembered the dying malefactor when he came into his kingdom, that fact carried with it the assurance that the poor man should be with Christ in paradise (Luke 23:42, Luke 23:43).
2. To be visited by God. Our consolation is not in a pitying though absent God, but in an abiding presence and a close communion. If God visits he will come in power to save.
3. To be avenged of his enemies. This was a natural desire, considering that
4. For life to be spared. Jeremiah does not ask for triumph, for comfort and ease, for liberation from his arduous lifelong task, but simply for life. The love of life is natural. Men have work to do, a mission to fulfill, and it is right to desire to have time to complete this. Others were benefited by the life of Jeremiah. He was the prophet of his age, and a voice speaking for all ages. It is our duty to seek to escape persecution if we can do so honorably, that we may continue to serve God and work for the good of mankind (Matthew 10:23). Courting a martyr's death is practically equivalent to committing suicide out of personal vanity, and much the same thing as falling under the second of Christ's temptations. Yet if martyrdom is unavoidable without unfaithfulness, we may honor God and benefit me-more by our death than by our life.
The words of God found and eaten.
I. THE WORDS OF GOD REQUIRE TO BE FOUND. They are not emblazoned on the face of the world that the most careless may fret miss them. They are hidden treasures to be dug for, pearls of great price to be sought after. Divine truth in nature is only discoverable after thoughtful observation and reflection. The prophets were especially commissioned to toil in deep mines of spiritual thought. Revelation was born in them with labor, fasting, watching, praying. But the words of God are not so hidden that they cannot be discovered by the earnest and prayerful seeker after truth. He that seeks shall find (Matthew 7:8). Many honest, earnest men pass through a season of doubt, but few such remain hopeless skeptics all their lives. Of those who never find the light probably some are suffering from some moral or intellectual perversity which distorts their vision, and others are not content to trust to the measure of light that has been given to them, and remain restless and questioning because they desire satisfaction in a 'direction wherein it cannot yet be afforded. But so long as all such men do not convert doubt into settled unbelief, and are not satisfied with doubt, we may be assured that ultimately the Father of lights will dispel the darkness that now troubles their souls.
II. THE WORDS OF GOD ARE FOOD. Truth is food for the soul. Christ, the "Word made flesh," is the "Bread of life." Truth is not simply revealed to amuse our curiosity; it is intended to feed our starving souls. The object of revelation is practical The result of rightly using revelation is seen in an increase of spiritual vitality, 'in refreshment, heightened energy and growth in the inner life. If the words of God have not attained this end, they have failed of their object. They are food because they are not empty breath but the vehicles of vital truths—of spirit and life (John 6:63). God is in his own words. They are inspired words. With the spoken words we receive the life-giving Spirit.
III. THE WORDS OF GOD MUST BE EATEN TO PROFIT US. It is not enough that they are spoken, heard, understood, believed, remembered, admired; they must be eaten.
1. We must apply them to ourselves. The starving man gains nothing by looking at food through a shop-window. The external intellectual study of truth is profitless to the soul. We must bring it to bear upon our own circumstances—hear the voice of God speaking directly to us and in regard to our immediate conduct.
2. We must meditate over the words of God. Food must be masticated and digested. Truth must be analyzed, ideas separated and compared, "inwardly digested," hidden in the soul and quietly thought over. Our common habit is to treat it too superficially and hastily.
3. We must abstract the vital ideas from the dry husk of words. Words are not profitable so long as they are regarded from the outside as mere language. We must break the shell and get at the kernel, casting aside the flesh that profiteth nothing and assimilating the spirit that quickeneth.
IV. THE WORDS OF GOD BRING JOY WHEN THEY ARE FOUND AND EATEN. To some they appear to be dull sayings, to some stern utterances of law, to some harsh messages of judgment. This is because they are not properly applied. They must first be truly found and eaten—applied, meditated on, spiritually assimilated. Then they lead to joy, for:
1. All truth is essentially noble, beautiful, and glorious.
2. Even the darker truth is wholesome as a warning, like nauseous medicine that cures pain and restores the serenity of health.
3. The highest truth is a revelation of the love of God—a gospel of good will to men.
V. THE SECRET OF THE JOY AND PROFIT OF GOD'S WORDS IS IN THE RELATION OF THE SOUL TO GOD. Jeremiah is called by the Name of Jehovah, the God of hosts. If we are strangers to God, his words will seem distant and of little interest. We prize the words of those we love. God speaks helpful and comforting words to his own reconciled children.
The sadness and solitude of a prophet.
I. A PROPHET'S COMMUNION WITH GOD DOES NOT PRECLUDE EARTHLY SADNESS AND SOLITUDE. Jeremiah was not plunged into grief through any unfaithfulness; he was under no shadow in regard to heavenly communications; yet he was sad and solitary.
1. Consider the sadness. While we am in this world we suffer with it and from its action upon us, even though we may be living very near to God. Christ was a man of sorrows; he sighed and wept and groaned in spirit. It is not sinful to grieve. It is not a proof of unbelief. Faith should engender patience, resignation, peace, and hope; but it cannot destroy natural sorrow. It would not be pious but simply unnatural for the Christian mother not to be wrung with grief at the death of her child.
2. Consider the solitude. A good man will not be wrapped up in himself, for out of the love of God springs naturally the love of man. Godliness rouses human sympathy, and this inclines to sociability. So Christ was remarkable for his social habits. Yet there may be an inevitable solitude, and a solitude which is good both for self and for others. The more a good man sympathizes for his brother men the less can he sympathize with them when their conduct is wicked.
II. A PROPHET'S COMMUNION WITH GOD MAY LEAD TO EARTHLY SADNESS AND SOLITUDE. Jeremiah was sad and solitary because he was filled with Divine indignation. His was no atrabiliar moroseness, no theatrical Byronic self-pity. The prophet's sorrow and solitude were reflections of the grief of God for his people's sin and the aloofness of God produced by their wanderings from fidelity.
1. A prophet's communion with God will induce sorrow for the world's sin and wretchedness. Jeremiah was a young man. The scenes of mirth which he shunned may have been pure, innocent, and naturally attractive; but his vision of the thought and heart of God made him look behind this superficial joy to the wretchedness it sought to cover, and then it Seemed but a mockery to him.
2. This will lead to a separation from the world. It will cause a perpetual separation from the spirit of the world as far as that is earthly and sensual, and at times a complete withdrawal to solitude. The Christian is to live in the world as its salt, its light, its leaven of righteousness, and not to flee to the wilderness, selfishly cultivating his own soul for heaven, while he leaves his task undone and his fellow-men in hopeless sin and ruin. But he will meet with occasions for solitude and scenes from which he must withdraw himself, and sometimes feel an inner sense of loneliness as he moves among the gay crowds, since he is a pilgrim and stranger, a citizen of another country, possessed by thoughts and swayed by motives quite outside those of worldly life. Thus Christ, in character and outward habit the most social of men, was in inner life and in secret thought the most lonely. The Christian has a life which is "hid with Christ in God" (Colossians 3:3).
A wide recognition of the good without compromise with the evil.
Jeremiah is bidden to return from his solitude to his mission among his people when he will owned and encouraged by God if he will see the goodness that still lingers among them- and yet not enter into any unrighteous compromise with the wicked ways of the multitude of them.
I. WE SHOULD EXERCISE A WIDE RECOGNITION OF THE GOOD IN ALL THINGS—take out the precious from the vile. The gold-washer may find but a grain of gold in a ton of gavel; yet he will search diligently for it, and treasure it when he finds it. Carelessness and uncharitableness lead to an unjust, wholesale repudiation of what is no doubt largely corrupt. But it is not right to judge of things thus "in the lump."
1. Apply the principle to persons. Because ninety-nine men out of a company of a hundred are guilty, it is grossly iniquitous to condemn the whole hundred—the one innocent man with the rest. Jeremiah was directed to look out for the pious remnant among the mass of the unfaithful people. We are too ready to ignore the existence of the seven thousand who have not bowed the knee to Baal. Goodness should be recognized in bad society, in heathen nations, in corrupt Christian communities, in questionable avocations. We should beware of sweeping condemnations of a whole class; e.g. of actors, of publicans, etc.
2. Apply the principle to religious systems. Few are wholly good; but few are wholly bad. The dross and precious metal are mixed, though in varying degrees, in all of them. The various Church systems of Christendom partake of this mixed character. Most Churches have some peculiarly precious ideas to which it seems to be their mission each severally to testify. It is well if we have the insight to seize on these, and the charity to begrudge none of their value because of the error, the superstition, or the perversion with which they may be associated. Thus, not by an amorphous eclecticism which can minister to no deep, organic unity of life, but by a genuine assimilating power, we should learn