Handfuls on Purpose
by James Smith, 1943
CALLED AND EQUIPPED. Jeremiah 1:1-10
The prophets of old knew nothing of human ordination, and instead of rushing hurriedly into the Lord's work, they frequently shrank from it. Moses said, "I am not eloquent." Isaiah said, "I am a man of unclean lips." Jonah fled in fear. Jeremiah exclaimed, "Oh! Lord God, I cannot speak." But out of weakness He ordains strength.
I. The Call. "Before I formed thee...I knew thee...I sanctified you, and ordained you" (v. 5). He was called before he was created, and set apart before he was born. The prophet could neither explain it nor deny it. His call, like all others, was the result of Sovereign grace. My sheep, He says, know My voice. Whom He did foreknow He also did predestine, etc. (Romans 8:29).
II. The Excuse. "Ah, Lord God! behold, I cannot speak: for I am a child" (v. 6). A child is not expected to be an eloquent speaker, it is expected to be obedient, and trustful. The "Kingdom of God" must be received as a little child. Our sufficiency is not in ourselves, but of God (2 Corinthians 3:5). It is not to the wise and prudent that the great things of the Kingdom are revealed, but "unto babes" (Luke 10:21).
III. The Commission. "Say not, I am a child: for you shall go to all that I shall send you, and whatever I command you you shall speak" (v. 7). The prophet has but one Master, and one purpose in his life, to go where he is sent, speaking the Word at His commandment. One is your Master, even Christ. The Lord may ask, "Who will go?" but He never asks His servant, "Where will you go?" It is expected of God's called ones that His own message be faithfully spoken.
IV. The Encouragement. "Be not afraid of their faces: for I am with you to deliver you" (v. 8). In declaring God's will there will be many "faces" that will frown with rage, but "be not afraid of them when you have the smiling face of God's approval with you. To obey God is to oppose the course of this world. Darkness cannot overtake you while the true light of His presence is abiding in you (Hebrews 13:6).
V. The Equipment. "The Lord put forth His hand and touched my mouth...Behold, I have put My words in your mouth" (v. 9). This Divine touch corresponds with the touch of the tongue of fire in the upper room. His "touch" and His "words" are beautifully and vitally associated. With the Divine commanding there goes the Divine enabling (Isaiah 6:6, 7). The touch is the evidence of a personal contact. The hand of the Holy Spirit makes the Word to burn like a fire.
VI. The Work. "See, I have set thee...to root out, and to pull down...to build and to plant" (v. 10). A distinctive work is to be done before the constructive work is begun. The garden must be cleaned of weeds before the good seed is planted. That tottering wall must be pulled down before a proper defense can be built up. Sin must be put away, and the soul put right with God, before a powerful character can be built up. It is the "good and honest heart" that brings forth much fruit. Sow not among thorns. The instrument to be used, in this work of regeneration, is the Word of God, which is quick and powerful to the casting down of imaginations, and every high thing that exalts itself against the knowledge of God (2 Corinthians 10:4, 5).
WHY IS HE SPOILED? Jeremiah 2:1-24.
Israel a servant? A home-born slave? Why is he spoiled? (v. 14). ("Why is he become a prey?" R.V.) Sin spoils all that it touches. How sad to think of lives full of glorious possibilities being deliberately spoiled for God by becoming the prey of an alien power. Even a dead fly may spoil the ointment. See—
I. What He Was. His past condition is characterized as one of great privilege and opportunity.
1. There was FELLOWSHIP. "I remember you, the kindness of your youth, the love of your espousals" (v. 2). A delightful walking with God because there was agreement, the holy bliss of a new and first love.
2. There was OBEDIENCE. "You went after me in the wilderness." Following Him with willing and triumphant feet, even through a waste and howling desert.
3. There was SEPARATION. "Israel was holiness unto the Lord" (v. 3). Separated from Egypt unto God, and a witness for Him. What a high and holy position! How are the mighty fallen? Such were some of you, but, — where are you now?
II. What He Did. Israel has gone astray. "My people have committed two evils" (v. 13).
1. They have FORSAKEN ME, the fountain of living waters." In forsaking God they turned their back on the source of all good. To forsake any one is just to treat that one as if you knew him not. He began to act as if the Lord had no claim on him, and as if he had no more need of Him.
2. "They have HEWED OUT cisterns, broken cisterns that can hold no water." In turning away from the "fountain of living waters Israel discovers the need of trying to invent for themselves some substitute, and their best imitation of God's fountain is a "broken cistern" that can hold no water. The "living waters" represent soul-satisfying grace and truth. To forsake these for the man-made cisterns, of this world's honor, wealth, pleasure, and philosophy, is to let go the substance, and vainly hunt the shadow. They can hold no spirit-refreshing water (Isaiah 55:1, 2).
III. What He Became. "Spoiled" (v. 14). Why? Because he forsook Him who is the Fountain, and sought by his own works to find satisfaction without God. This is the delusion of a sin-blinded soul. Anything is spoiled when it becomes unfit for the purpose for which it was intended. Israel is spoiled for God because he has "become a prey" to others (R.V.). Other lords have got control over him. Self-will and love of the world have so possessed him that he has become their spoil.
1. He is spoiled like a DEGENERATE PLANT (v. 21). "I planted you a right seed: how then are you turned into "a degenerate plant?" The damage is not in appearance only, but deep down in the heart, the character is changed. There is virtually a reversion to type.
2. He is spoiled like a STAINED GARMENT. "Though you wash you with nitre, and take you much soap, your iniquity is marked before Me" (v. 22). The nitre (mineral), and soap (vegetable), of man's invention, like the "broken cisterns," can do nothing to atone for the evil of departing from God.
3. He is spoiled like a WILD DONKEY (v. 24). An donkey is a very useful animal, but a wild donkey represents only wasted energy, uncontrolled and fruitless efforts. Such is the backsliding in heart in the sight of God. Though you have been a prey to the enemies of God, you may yet be a praise by returning to God.
BACKSLIDING, or, Modern Dangers. Jeremiah 8:5-9.
BACKSLIDING is not a crisis, it is a process: a gradual sliding down the hill of "Holiness unto the Lord," into the low valley of the old self-life. Declension usually begins in unwatchfulness, and neglect of secret fellowship and trustfulness in God. "Why, then, is this people backslidden?" (v. 5). The reference here is to Judah and Jerusalem: but there are some beneficial lessons for us in this present age. The causes of their backsliding and the evils incurred find their antitype in modern times. There was—
I. Perverted Belief. "They hold fast deceit" (v. 5). A perverted heart soon leads to a perverted faith. When the fountain of truth is forsaken, it is easy to believe any lie that may seem to favor such a condition (2 Thessalonians 2:11,12). He feeds on ashes because a deceitful heart has turned him aside (Isaiah 44:20).
II. Misleading Testimony. "They spoke not aright" (v. 6). How could they speak aright, when they were not able to think aright? The Lord "hearkened and heard," but in this case no "book of remembrance was written," because they feared not the Lord, neither thought upon His Name (Malachi 3:16). Their words were dishonoring to Him, and hurtful to others.
III. Self-complacency. "No man repented of his wickedness, saying, What have I done?" (v. 6). Their condition was one of "wickedness" in the sight of God, but so deluded were they that they had no thought that repentance was needed. When a backslider, who has lapsed in conduct, is conscious of his guilt, there is some hope of immediate confession; but those who lapse through a perverted mind, and have settled down in self-satisfaction, having come under the spell of some moral delusion, their case is indeed hard and pitiful (see 2 Corinthians 4:4).
IV. Fleshly Enthusiasm. "Every one turned to his course, as a horse rushes headlong in battle" (v. 6, R.V.). There is no lack of self-confidence; they pride themselves in what they can do. They are more energetic in going their own way, than the servants of God often are in His way.
V. Ignorance of the Signs of the Times. "The stork.. .the swallow and the crane knows their appointed times, but My people knows not the ordinance of the Lord" (v. 7, R.V.). These birds, true to their natural instinct, observe their times, and yield to the call; but Israel, with their "fatal gift of freedom," refuses to obey. This is solemnly and sadly true of many of God's people in these present times, which are ominous with indications of coming events. But there are those who, true to the Spirit's teaching, discern the signs of the times, and who look for the new Heaven and the new earth promised. When God's people "know not the appointed times," they are in great danger of being deluded and deceived by the God of this world.
VI. Vain Confidence. They say, "We are wise, and the law of the Lord is with us. But behold the false pen of the scribes has made it (the law) falsehood" (v. 8, r. V.). When false teachers pervert the Word of God and turn it into a lie, then blinded souls believe the lie, and say, "We are wise." They swallow the poison, and boast that the law of the Lord is with them. "Lo, they have rejected the word of the Lord; and what manner of wisdom is in them?" (v. 9, R.V.). The wisdom that is in them when God's Word is rejected, is that which is "foolishness with God" (1 Corinthians 3:19).
A SOLEMN DIALOGUE. Jeremiah 8:19-22
The prophet's manner in dealing with these future events is somewhat dramatic. There are differences of opinions as to how they may be interpreted. We shall note—
I. The Divine Question. "Why have they provoked Me to anger with their images and vanities?" (v. 19). "Is not the Lord in Zion?" Then why seek help in the work of your own hands, and the "strange vanities" of your own imaginations? A picture of guilt and depravity of man's natural enmity to God, and spiritual stupidity. A man nowhere plays the fool so perfectly as in his professed religious life.
II. The Mournful Reply. "The harvest is past, the summer is ended, and we are not saved" (v. 20). In answer to God's question this is a confession of disappointment, and a cry of despair. Their cisterns of hope have turned out broken ones that can hold no water. They are like those who were depending on a plentiful harvest to save their lives, but nothing but famine stares them in the face. Like the foolish virgins, they have found the "door shut." The evil heart of unbelief leads to a dungeon of darkness.
III. The Message of Sympathy. "For the hurt of the daughter of My people am I hurt" (v. 21). This may be taken as the voice of the Lord through the prophet. It is true of both. God feels the terrible hurt that has come upon His people. He was wounded for our transgressions. The tears of Jesus Christ, shed over the great hurt of Jerusalem, were proof enough of how deeply He felt the hurt in His own soul. If His people are "dear to Him as the apple of His eye," it shows how tender the heart of God is toward them. In all their afflictions He was afflicted.
IV. The Frank Confession. "I am black; astonishment has taken hold on Me" (v. 21). Yes, that is the word, "black." Black with shame and guilt because of unbelief and pride. "Astonishment!" Yes, that is the other word. Astonished at your own sinfulness and folly in provoking the Lord, and astonished at His great pity and compassion for you even in your well merited misery. What is more astonishing than the grace of God as seen in the face of Jesus Christ? If we confess our sins He is faithful and just to forgive us.
V. The Gospel of Hope. "Is there no balm in Gilead: is there no physician there?" (v. 22). Is there no provision in Gilead, is there no one there mighty enough to heal your wounds, and restore your souls to true spiritual health and hope? It is said that the balm of Gilead was used for healing the bites of serpents. The bite of the old serpent, the Devil, can only be healed by the balm of Christ's Cross, and the Physician that is found there. You say, "I am black." Yes, but is there no healing balm in Calvary?
VI. The Searching Rebuke. "Why then is not the health of My people recovered?" (v. 22). The balm and the Physician are there. Why then are you not healed? Free and effectual provision has been made in Christ for your salvation. Why then are you not saved? Is there no wisdom to direct, and power to overcome, in the Holy Spirit? Why then is not the health of His people, in these days, recovered? Has Calvary lost its power? Has the Great Physician vacated His place of mercy? Why then not prove the all-sufficiency of His grace by living a healthy, God-honoring life.
SOMETHING WORTH GLORYING IN. Jeremiah 9:23, 24.
Three times in this chapter is the Divine "Me" emphasized in the Hebrew (vv. 3, 6, and 24). God, Himself, is the source and center of all good, and ought to be the undivided Object of all man's glorying.
I. What Some Glory In. There are three phases of worldly glory. Wisdom, might, and wealth. Each has its votaries.
1. The WISE are tempted to glory in their wisdom. Worldly wisdom is the principle thing sought for by the worldly man, and he may glory in it just as another man may glory in his shame, as something that belongs to himself, as the fruit of his work (Isaiah 5:21).
2. The MIGHTY are tempted to glory in their might. It is all the same, whether that might is physical, intellectual, or social. Whatever distinguishes one man from his fellows is apt to become a cause for selfish glorying.
3. The RICH are tempted to glory in their riches. To them there is a sort of divinity in their wealth, and they glory in their golden God. Thus says the Lord, "Let not the wise glory in his wisdom," etc. All this glorying is in vain, for the wisdom of the wise will He bring to nothing... for God has chosen the foolish things of the world to confound the wise... that no flesh should glory in His presence (1 Corinthians 1:27-29). The things that are foolish to the world are the "things that are freely given us of God" through Christ Jesus.
II. What We Should Glory In. "Let Him that glories glory in this, that he understands and knows ME." A modern philosopher spoke of Him as the "Great Unknowable." But it is possible, in a limited sense, of course, to understand and know Him. And this knowledge is the only thing worth glorying in. "He who glories, let him glory in the Lord" (1 Corinthians 1:31). All other glorying will finally be put to shame. It is life eternal to know Him and Jesus Christ whom He has sent (John 17:3). How is God known? Through the revelation of His Word, and more fully by His Son (John 1:14-18). There are three reasons given us here why we should glory in Him—
1. Because of His LOVING-KINDNESS. "I am the Lord which exercise loving-kindness" (v. 24). Because of the excellency of His loving-kindness the children of men put their trust in Him (Psalm 36:7). This great loving-kindness is seen at its flood-tide in the gift of His Son (John 3:16; see 2 Corinthians 4:6). He who loves not knows not God, for God is Love.
2. Because of His JUDGMENT. "Righteousness and judgment are the foundation of His throne" (Psalm 97:2, R.V.). The judgments of God in the past have all been against wickedness and for righteousness. Witness the flood, Sodom, God's dealings with the nations, especially His ancient people Israel. We glory in God's judgment of sin, and also of the sinner, at the Cross of His crucified Son.
3. Because of His RIGHTEOUSNESS. Righteousness, crowned with loving-kindness, is the character of our God. Our Lord, His Son, gloried in this when He prayed, "O righteous Father" (John 17:25). Our Advocate now is "Jesus Christ the Righteous." "He is the Lord, the Righteous Judge, who will give the crown of righteousness to all who have loved His appearing" (2 Timothy 4:8, R.V.). Let us then show our glorying by seeking first the Kingdom of God, and His righteousness. "For in these things I delight, says the Lord" (v. 24). "Let him that glories glory in this."
CONCERNING THE DEARTH. Jeremiah 14:1-9
TIMES of dearth are testing times. Surely God has a perfect right to withhold His gifts when, and, as He may. A dearth of water, or a dearth of spiritual power and fruitfulness, may be intended to have a beneficial influence on the sufferers. "My ways are not your ways," says the Lord. Notice the—
I. Evidence of the Dearth,
1. There was SORROWFUL PERPLEXITY. "Judah mourns, and the gates thereof languish" (v. 2). The nation is distressed in soul, so that the gates—the market place—are deserted.
2. There were EMPTY VESSELS. "Their little ones (servants) returned with their vessels empty." All this is solemnly suggestive of the time of a spiritual drought when God's refreshing and reviving Spirit is withheld, and when there is a languishing of the work of God in the gates (Churches), and when the servants present only "empty vessels" to a thirsty household. No wonder that—
3. "SHAME AND CONFUSION covered their heads" (v. 3). When the well of God's Word becomes dry and personal experience chapped, then empty vessels and dissatisfied souls will be plentiful. The dearth of conversions means the dearth of power.
II. Cause of the Dearth. "O Lord, our iniquities testify against us...our backslidings are many; we have sinned against You" (v. 7). If the Heaven that is over us be brass, and the earth under us iron, it is because of our iniquities and backslidings. The iniquity that separates from God separates from the Fountain of Living Waters. The dew of His refreshing Spirit does not fall upon the barren desert. Shame and empty vessels are the consequences of backsliding hearts.
III. Remedy. But can there be a remedy for a drought? Yes, when man's moral condition has become the cause of Heaven's rebellion. The remedy lies in our attitude toward the Lord Himself as a mighty Savior. "O the Hope of Israel, the Savior thereof in time of trouble...Why should You be...as a mighty man that cannot save?" (vv. 9, 10). This is a confession and an appeal. "Do You for Your Name's sake" (v. 7). We need to waken up to the fact of our God's almightiness to deliver, and to the infinite depth of His compassion for His people. "Why should You be...as a wayfaring man that turns aside to tarry for a night?" (v. 8). Why should His behavior toward us, as our personal Redeemer and Friend, be more like a wayfaring man than our abiding Companion and Helper? The reason is we have become, through our worldliness and unbelief, unfit for His fellowship. Still His desires are after His own to bless them with "abundance of life" (Luke 24:29). There is no use of us saying, "Yet You, O Lord, are in the midst of us, and we are called by Your Name" (v. 9), if we refrain not our feet from the paths of error and unbelief (v. 10). The remedy for spiritual drought is confession, restoration, and resignation (v. 22; John 15).
A CONFESSION AND A PLEA. Jeremiah 14:17-22.
I. The Need. The condition described in verses 17-19 is that of desolation and hopelessness—"A great breach" (v. 17). "A famine" (v. 18). A sense of rejection and despair. "We looked for peace, but no good came; for healing, and behold dismay" (v. 18, R.V.). What a picture of the soul's condition without God.
II. The Confession. "We acknowledge, O Lord, our wickedness," etc. (v. 20). There is no other honest way of dealing with our sin. As God loves a cheerful giver, He also desires an honest confessor (see Psalm 32:5; 1 John 1:7).
III. The Plea. It is based on the honor of His Name. "Do not abhor as for Your Name's sake" (v. 21). It also appeals to the dignity of His throne. "Do not disgrace the throne of Your glory." The throne of His glory was the "Mercy Seat" in the Temple. It was the "Throne of Grace." This throne will never be disgraced by sending the humble, needy ones empty away. It had also reference to the truthfulness of His Word. "Remember, break not Your covenant with us." He is faithful that has promised. The exceeding riches of His grace has ever an open channel toward us through Christ Jesus (Ephesians 2:7).
IV. The Resolve. "Are not You He, O Lord" (who can cause rain and give showers) "therefore we will wait upon You" (v. 22). The God that answered Elijah, by both fire and rain, is well worth waiting on. For all the moral diseases and troubles that are sure to follow a spiritual dearth there is no remedy but in the outpouring of the Holy Spirit of God. His promise is, "I will pour water upon him that is thirsty, and floods upon the dry ground." Wait upon the Lord.
The language here used is truly that which befits penitent lips, but it may be used, as Judah did, in an impenitent spirit (chapter 15:1).
THE EXPERIENCES OF A WITNESS. Jeremiah 15:16-20
As witnesses for God we may learn much from the experiences of the "Holy men of old." Their dangers and temptations, as well as their privileges and responsibilities, were very much akin to our own. Note his—
I. Joy In God's Word. "Your words were found, and I did eat them: and Your Word was unto me the joy and rejoicing of mine heart" (v. 16). This may refer to God's first message spoken to him, as recorded in chapter 1:7. This joy in God's Word implies two things—
1. That we are perfectly sure that it is the Word of God, and—
2. That we have really received it into the heart—eaten it—so that it has become the hope and inspiration of our lives. The Word of God is sweet to the taste of the believer, but it must needs often produce bitter effects in the heart when it begins its cleansing operations (Rev. 10:9).
II. Identification with God's Name. "For I am called by Your Name, O Lord God of Hosts." When God's Word gets into the heart God's Name or character must be stamped on the life. Likeness to God is the mightiest testimony for God. To receive Christ Jesus as "The Word of God" is to be conformed to the image of God.
III. Separation from God's Enemies. "I sat not in the assembly of the mockers," or them that made merry (R.V.) in their sins and over sacred things. "I sat alone because of Your hand." Those whose delight is in the Word of the Lord will not be found walking in the counsel of the ungodly, or standing in the way of sinners (Psa.1:1, 2). How can we witness against "All ungodliness" if we are in any way identified with it? (see 2 Corinthians 6:17, 18).
IV. Perplexity at God's Dealings. "Why is my pain perpetual, and my wound incurable...Will You be altogether unto me as a deceitful brook?" (v. 18, R.V.). The deceitful brook is the one that fails and dries up at the very time when its refreshing waters are most needed. Will God so prove a failure to His servant in the time of need? A feeling of disappointment has crept over his spirit because God's purpose does not seem to run parallel with his expectations. The prophet had yet something more to learn. In the time of perplexity and seeming defeat, wait.
V. Assurance from God. God speaks. The fountain of living waters again break forth. The brook of Divine faithfulness has not proved deceitful (vv. 19-21). Look at-—
1. THE PROMISES. "You shall be as My mouth...I will make you a fenced brazen wall (stability)...They shall not prevail against you...I am with you...I will deliver you...I will redeem you out of the hand of the terrible." They that wait on the Lord shall renew their strength by receiving fresh assurances from His Word, of His grace and goodness, His presence and power.
2. THE CONDITIONS. "If you return." Get back to your first love, into real, unclouded fellowship with God, and unquestioning obedience. "If thou...stand before Me." Abide with Him, and act as before His face. "If you take forth the precious from the vile." Call things by their true name, and give to Caesar the things that are Caesar's, and to God the things that are God's. Then the God of Peace shall bruise Satan under your feet, and make you more than conquerors through "Him with whom we have to do."
THE CURSED AND THE BLESSED. Jeremiah 17:5-8
Two classes are contrasted here, in most simple, but emphatic terms, being prefaced by a "Thus says the Lord." There are certain spiritual and unalterable laws that must come into operation according to our moral attitude to God and to His Word. His blight must come upon the godless as surely as His blessing comes on the godly. The curse means blessing withheld.
I. Who are the Cursed? "Cursed be the man that trusts in man, and makes flesh his arm, whose heart departs from the Lord." To trust in man, and make flesh the arm of our confidence, is heart departure from the Lord. Neither Judah's salvation, nor ours, can come through the wisdom of man, or the power of any of earth's princes (Psalm 118:8, 9). Salvation is of the Lord. It is the evil heart of unbelief that departs from the living God (Hebrews 3:12). There is a faith in humanity which is but a denial of God.
II. What is the Curse? "He shall be like the heath in the desert" (v. 6). The heath in the desert is deserted by the refreshing showers of Heaven. "He shall not see when good comes." He shall be like a blind man incapable of seeing, or profiting by those mercies that are within his reach. "He shall inhabit the parched places in the wilderness." He shall live in a state and condition that is barren of the promises of God. The godless often seem to prosper greatly with regard to earthly possessions, but as in God's sight they are destitute and miserable (Rev. 3:17). Their soul does truly "inhabit parched places" (see Job. 8:11-13).
III. Who are the Blessed? "Blessed is the man that trusts in the Lord, and whose hope the Lord is" (v. 7). To cease from man whose breath is in his nostrils, and to give the Lord the undivided confidence of the heart, is the secret of full and eternal blessedness. Blessed are all they that put their trust in Him (Psalm 2:12). Note these two words, "trust" and "hope." The trust is but a counterfeit if hope does not spring out of it. When we truly trust the Lord we will certainly expect much from Him. "You will keep him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on You: because he trusts in You" (Isaiah 26:3, 4).
IV. What is the Blessedness? The blessedness is very great. This blessed man has—
1. A GOOD POSITION. "He is like a tree planted by the waters" (v. 8). Planted for a purpose, not like the heath in the desert growing wild—without grace. The believer is planted in Christ; a position of security, and infinite favor.
2. A PLENTIFUL SUPPLY. "That spreads out her roots by the river." All the resources of the continuous flow of the river of God's grace are at the disposal of this blessed man whose hope the Lord is. "Spread out all the roots" of your affections and desires into the river of His Word and will, for "My God is able to supply all your need according to the riches of His grace."
3. A HAPPY IGNORANCE. "He shall not see when heat comes." The drought has no effect upon the tree that's planted by the waters of an unfailing river. What are "wild alarms" to others do not disturb his soul.
4. AN EVER FRESH EXPERIENCE. "His leaf shall be green." Abiding freshness belongs to all who abide in Christ, and in the current of His gracious purposes. The leaf of his testimony will be ever green.
5. A BLESSED FREEDOM. "He shall not be careful in the year of drought." Freedom from care when appearances are all against him. Living on the promises of God saves from all fearfulness in the day of trial.
6. CONTINUAL FRUITFULNESS. "Neither shall cease from yielding fruit." The never-failing river of life produces in those who receive of its fullness a never-failing fruitfulness unto God (Rev. 22:2; John 15:5, 6; 16). This blessedness comes by faith.
THE MARRED VESSEL. Jeremiah 18:1-6
The prophet of the Lord is sent to the house of a potter that he might get an object lesson on the work and will of God. God can put a new meaning into the common affairs of life. Even the ants, and the lilies, can teach the sluggard and the overly anxious. The prophet is humble enough to obey the call, and willing enough to learn the mind of the Lord, even through the actions of an illiterate potter.
I. The Clay. This represents the "house of Israel" (v. 6). Dug out of Egypt, and brought into Canaan, the great Potter's house where He desired to work in His people. Like Israel, we have been taken out of the clay pit of darkness and slavery, and brought into the Kingdom of His dear Son, that He might fashion us after His own image. The clay is the raw material.
II. The Wheels. "Behold, he wrought a work on the wheels." The wheels of God's promises, purposes, and providences, were all working together for their good (Romans 8:28). Being in the Kingdom of God we are in the special sphere of His favor and grace. All our circumstances are but the wheels in which our spiritual character is being formed. The lives of all the Bible saints are witnesses to this. We should not shirk our tribulations knowing that "tribulations works patience, and patience experience."
III. The Potter. "Behold, as the clay is in the potter's hand, so are you in Mine hand, O house of Israel." The Lord Himself is the Potter. Oh, what possibilities there are for us, as for Israel, being in "His hand." Think of your position, and of His purpose with you in placing His mighty hand upon you. See what Nehemiah was able to accomplish because of the hand of God upon him (Nehemiah 2:8). The Potter's purpose is to make the best possible use of the material that is in His hand. "The Giver of all grace, who has called you to share His eternal glory, through Christ...will Himself make you perfect" (1 Peter 5:10, Weymouth). The wonder-working hand of God is the Holy Spirit who works in us both to will and to do of His good pleasure.
IV. The Vessel. "The vessel that he made was marred in the hand of the potter, so he made it again another vessel." Even in the hand of the Divine Potter the vessel (Israel) was marred. Through disobedience they became another dishonored vessel. Because of unbelief they have been cut off, and are still, as a nation, a marred vessel. Take heed lest there be in any of you an evil heart of unbelief. If the Holy Spirit, as the hand of God, is to fashion us into a vessel meet for the Master's use, there must be no unyielding part in our " nature. The hard grit of a perverse will, or the sand of self seeking, will hinder and mar the work of the Heavenly Potter, whose gentle hands are so sensible to the least resistance. Every backslider is a marred vessel. Many like Saul, are marred because they have disobeyed the Word of the Lord. What might we not have been if the Divine Potter had had His will all the time with us?
V. The Application. "Cannot I do with you as this potter? says the Lord." Thank God, although the vessel has been marred, "He can make it again another vessel." The regenerating Spirit is able to restore the marred vessel into something like the image of Him who works in you mightily. The vessel may have been dishonored by resistance, but it has not been disowned. Can God do with you as this potter? Can He? Are you as clay, soft, pliable, and refined, in His hand? If so, the Potter's purpose may yet be fulfilled in you. He still needs vessels to bear His Name (character) among the nations of the earth (Acts 9:15). Every vessel made meet for His use will be a vessel used in His service.
TONGUE SMITERS. Jeremiah 18:18-20
The man of God will never be understood by the man of the world. We see the—
I. Purpose of the Persecutors. "Come, let us devise devices against Jeremiah." The devices devised by the ungodly against the servants of God are many. They have nothing against him, but must, in their enmity, devise something. Yet they confess that "the law shall not perish...nor the word from the prophet." They are convinced that the "law" cannot be broken, and that the testimony of God's man will not fail. Yet they say, "Come, let us smite him with the tongue, and let us not give heed to any of his words." They know he speaks the truth in God's Name, yet they smite him with the tongue of scorn and of calumny, and determine not to give heed to his message. This is surely a most humbling evidence of the enmity of the carnal mind against God.
II. Appeal of the Prophet. He appeals—
1. To the LORD HIMSELF. "Give heed to me, O Lord," etc. The tongue of the slanderer is as a poisoned arrow, but there is refuge in God from the strife of tongues. When others give no heed to our message it is good to realize that God gives heed to our cry.
2. To DIVINE RIGHTEOUSNESS. "Shall evil be recompensed for good?" No, God is not unrighteous to reward faithfulness with shame and defeat. The devices of the wicked shall never block the channel of Divine mercy and power to His own people. If we ask a fish will He give us a stone? He appeals also—
3. To HIS OWN FAITHFULNESS. "Remember that I stood before You to speak good for them, and to turn away Your wrath from them." While they were devising devices against him, he was pleading with God for them. While they were speaking evil of him, he was speaking "good for them." Like the Greatest of all prophets, be prayed for his enemies, and like Him also, he was hated without a cause (John 15:25). The servant of God is clear of the blood of the lawless and the unbelieving when he can say, as he looks up into the face of the Eternal Father, "Remember that I stood before You.. .for them," as Abraham did (Genesis 18:22). Pray for them that despitefully use you, remember that you are the salt of the earth. The terrible imprecations which follow in verses 21 -23, show the awful judgments from which he sought to save them. Now, as it were, he steps aside from his pleadings, and allows the merited wrath of God to fall upon them. This the child of grace dare not do.
PASHUR. Jeremiah 20:1-6
This short biography is full of warning to those honored with authority, but who, in their pride of social position, despise and reject the testimony of the Word of God at the mouth of His servant.
I. His Position. "The son of a priest, and chief governor in the house of the Lord." From his connection, and official position, you would expect that he would be in real sympathy with the Lord's prophet. But, No! While he superintended the house of the Lord he was at enmity with the purpose of the Lord. A religious position does not always mean a religious condition.
II. His Enmity to God's Word. "He heard Jeremiah...and smote him, and put him in the stocks" (vv. 1, 2). God's message was opposed to his thoughts and desires (19:14, 15), so he insulted and imprisoned the messenger. As a straw may show which way the wind blows, so a word or a look may reveal the enmity of the heart against the truth of God.
III. His Sudden Exposure. "The Lord has not called your name Pashur ("most noble," or, "joy round about") but Magor-missabib"—fear round about (v. 3). Men may call themselves what they may, but God will name them according to what they are. Men may call themselves believers when God calls them unbelievers. A man is what God sees him to be. He is not mocked.
IV. His Deceitful Life. "You have prophesied lies" (v. 6). His lies were manufactured to discredit the Word of God at the mouth of Jeremiah the prophet. Like Elymas the sorcerer, he sought to pervert the right way of the Lord. But the perverted and the perverters shall all be put to shame.
V. His Doom. "Behold, I will make you a terror to yourself" (v. 4). What could be more terrible than this; a man a terror to himself? A sinner carrying his own brimstone in his own bosom as the product of his own deeds. Who shall deliver him from this body of death?
A CHEQUERED EXPERIENCE. Jeremiah 20:7-11
The prophet here gives us a little bit of personal testimony. Within the compass of these few verses there is such a variety of experiences as makes one feel that he was a man of like passions with ourselves.
I. He was Enticed of the Lord. "O Lord, You have enticed me, and I was enticed" (v. 7, margin) Another reading is, "You have overcome" me, or, "Laid hold on me, and I was overcome." He was overcome by the enticing influence of the Word of God, it was "Stronger than I, and prevailed" (v. 7). This is the initial experience of a true prophet, a preacher, or a Christian. He himself must be "laid hold on," and "overcome" by the power of God's truth if he is to speak it in power.
II. He was Mocked by Men. "I am in derision daily, every one mocks me." The man who has been "overcome" by God is derided by men. The godly man is still "Made a spectacle unto the world" (1 Corinthians 4:9). Marvel not if the world hate you.
III. He was Indignant at the Treatment. "Since I spoke, I cried out" (v. 8). He complained against the violence done to the truth. Reproach for the Word of the Lord was hard to bear. Moses behaved differently (Hebrews 11:26).
IV. He was Discouraged at Results. "Then I said, I will not make mention of Him, nor speak any more in His Name" (v. 9). Faithful testimony had brought but reproach. Why should he persevere? Oh, this is so very human. We would be more faithful to God if we were getting more personal profit and pleasure by it. Shame!
V. He was Inspired by the Word. "But His Word was in my heart as a burning fire shut up in my bones... and I could not stay" (v. 9). This is how God "overcomes" by His Word in the lives of His people. We cannot but speak when the truth becomes like liquid fire in the heart (Acts 4:20). Is it possible to have heard and believed the Gospel of God without feeling the woe of not preaching it? (1 Corinthians 9:16).
VI. He was Misunderstood by His Friends. "All my familiars (every man of my peace) watched for my halting." Even his choice acquaintances were ready to catch any seeming slip of the tongue, and to report it to his enemies. The unfavorable, gossiping of pretended friends is one of the sore trials of the servant of Christ. Personal friends who understand not your spiritual character and mission.
VII. He was Encouraged by the Lord. "But the Lord is with me as a mighty, terrible One" (v. 11). The prophet's Savior is more mighty and terrible than his oppressors. If God be for us who shall prevail against us? (Romans 8:31). When His Word burns like a fire in the bones the mighty and terrible One is at hand. Be not dismayed, for I am your God.
THE FALSE AND THE TRUE. Jeremiah 23:24-32
There are two classes of prophets, or preachers, referred to here, whose successors are still with us: those who dream dreams, and proclaim them as the Word of the Lord, and those who have received God's message into their own hearts, that they might preach it.
I. The Dreamers. They say, "I have dreamed, I have dreamed" (v. 25). They have dreamed, so all the world should listen to them. Dreams may at times be very interesting, but they are destitute of authority. The dreamer is to tell his dream as a dream, but he is a "prophet of the deceit of his own heart," if he dares to substitute the imaginings of his own sleepy brains as the "Word of the Lord." These dreamers, like their modern followers, "prophesy lies," and "think to cause My people to forget My Name by their dreams" (v. 27). Such teachers as devise their own message, and declare it in God's Name, were never sent by Him. "Behold, I am against them that prophesy false dreams...I sent them not, nor commanded them, therefore, they shall not profit this people at all, says the Lord" (v. 32). God's people would profit much more today if His servants would dream less, and trust more to His revealed will, and fearlessly proclaim it. These filthy dreamers are always exposed to "seducing spirits, and doctrines of devils," and those who will not endure sound doctrine, as in these latter days, will readily heap to themselves such man-pleasing teachers (2 Timothy 4:3).
II. The Receivers. "He who has My Word" (v. 28). He has the Word, because he received it from the Lord. There is a vast difference between knowing the truth, and theorizing, or dreaming about it. The apostles could say, "We speak that we do know." "What is the chaff to the wheat? says the Lord" (v. 28). Just what a dream is to the revelation of God. The imaginations of the unrenewed mind are but as chaff in the reckoning of the Omniscient One. God's Word is not a fancy, nor a phantom, it is "A fire, and a hammer" (v. 29). Something that can make itself felt when in operation. God's Word is wheat to feed, fire to burn, and a hammer to break. "He who has My Word," He says, "let him speak My Word faithfully." Worldly wisdom, as exhibited in the dreamer's dreams, is but the savor of death unto death. The wisdom of God, as revealed in His Word, is the savor of life unto life.
FAITHFULNESS AND FOOLISHNESS. Jeremiah 26:1-16
Dryden has said, "To take up half on trust, and half on try, name it not faith, but bungling bigotry." There was no "bungling bigotry" in the mind of Jeremiah, his attitude to God and to the people was one of fearless integrity.
I. The Commission. "Stand in the court of the Lord's house, and speak...all the words that I command you to speak unto them; diminish not a word" (v. 2). In the Lord's house there must be no diminishing of the Lord's Word. Those who attempt to modify the force of God's Word lest the princes of the people should be offended, are in danger of the curse pronounced in Revelation 22:19. What the "worshipers" in our cities need, as well as those in the "cities of Judah," is a faithful declaration of the whole truth as it is in Jesus Christ, that they may "turn every man from his evil way" (v. 3).
II. The Message. "Say unto them, Thus says the Lord; If you will not hearken to Me, to walk in My law... then I will make this house...and this city a curse" (vv. 4-6). When the blight of God comes upon His house because of unbelief and disobedience, then the curse comes upon the city, and to "all the nations of the earth." A backsliding Church is a social and national curse. How can the house of the Lord maintain its dignity and power as a witness for Him if the light of Divine truth has grown dim?
III. The Opposition (vv. 8-11). "The priests, the prophets, and all the people, said...You shall surely die...Why have you prophesied in the Name of the Lord, saying, This house...and this city shall be desolate," etc.? The same charge was made against the Lord Jesus Christ (Matthew 21:23). God's Word, by the mouth of the prophet, cut at the root of their pride, the "house," and the "city," both dishonored, and degraded, by their sins. What is the Lord's house, or the Lord's city to Him,, when His people have backslidden in heart from Him? To kill God's prophet would not kill God's purpose. Every preacher of righteousness will surely become a "pestilent fellow" to hypocritical professors.
IV. The Call to Repentance. "Then spoke Jeremiah...The Lord sent me to prophesy against this house... Therefore now amend your ways...and obey the voice of the Lord" (vv. 12, 13). The messenger can take back nothing, the responsibility of saving the "house and the city" lies in their repentance and obedience (Hos. 14:2-4). If churches and cities are to be delivered from desolation and oppression, then let the "Voice of the Lord be obeyed."
V. The Personal Testimony. "As for me, behold, I am in your hand.. .but know.. .for a truth the Lord has sent me unto you to speak all these words" (vv. 14, 15). The same language is found in Joshua 9:25; 2 Samuel 15:26. Every true servant of the Lord is more concerned about the faithful delivery of His message, than the deliverance of himself out of the hands of the enemies of God. When a man knows that he has the unerring Word of God in him and with him his soul is anchored.
VI. The Voice of Reason. "Then said the princes... This man is not worthy to die, for he has spoken to us in the Name of the Lord our God" (v. 16). The princes and the people were more amenable to reason than the priests and the prophets. Religious pride and bigotry is often the bitterest enemy to the truth of God. The common people heard Christ gladly. Raw heathenism is not such an obstacle in the way of the Gospel as a Christianized paganism. "My sheep hear My voice, and they follow Me."
CLAIMING THE PROMISES. Jeremiah 29:10-14
These words form part of the letter which Jeremiah sent to those who were captives in Babylon (v. 1). This letter like the Gospel of God, is a revelation of His mind and will to those who, because of their sins, and iniquities, have become the slaves of an alien power.
I. The Thoughts of God. "I know the thoughts that I think" (v. 11). If great men have great thoughts, what shall we say of the thoughts of God. What might this world not give to know what God's thoughts are.
1. They are PERSONAL thoughts. "Thoughts that I think toward you." Neither science nor philosophy can tell what God thinks of us. The heavens may declare His glory, but His own lips must tell me what He thinks of me. This He does in Christ, who loved me and gave Himself for me.
2. They are PEACEFUL thoughts. "Thoughts of peace and not of evil." Guilty man naturally imagines that God's thoughts toward him are thoughts of war and destruction. But, "God was in Christ reconciling the world to Himself, not imputing their trespasses unto them." "My thoughts are not your thoughts, says the Lord" (Isaiah 55:8). The Cross of Christ is God's thought of peace toward a warring world. He has made peace by the blood of His Cross.
3. They are PROSPECTIVE thoughts. "To give you hope in your end" (R.V.). Or, to secure for you a blessed future. God's purposes with Judah are not yet fulfilled (Zechariah 12:9, 10; 14:20, 21). There is also a glorious future for the Church of God (Ephesians 2:7). The thoughts of God, revealed to us, and believed by us, inspires with a new and blessed hope, not only for this life, but also for the life which is to come (see Psalm 139:17).
II. The Expectation of God. When God reveals His thoughts to His people, He expects that they will receive them, and act accordingly. He says—
1. "You shall CALL upon Me" (v. 12). How shall we call on Him of whom we have not heard? But now that we have heard, faith and prayer are expected to be exercised. God looks for His promises to be claimed.
2. "You shall SEEK Me, and find Me, when you shall search for Me with all your heart." It is not enough to cry for deliverance, we must seek for the Deliverer. When His thoughts are so good and gracious towards us, why should we not seek the embrace of His Person? Those who see Him with all their heart make a wholehearted discovery, for, when there is the purity of heart, there is the vision of God (Matthew 5:8). "Seek, and you shall find" (Luke 11:9, 10).
III. The Promises of God (v. 14). These promises are the proofs of His exceeding great and precious thoughts to us who believe. He promises—
1. To HEARKEN. "You shall pray unto Me, and I will hearken unto you" (v. 12). His ear is not heavy that it cannot hear, neither is it too far away, or too much occupied with others, to hearken unto you,
2. To ANSWER. "I will be found of you" (v. 14). God promises to reveal and surrender Himself to the seeking soul, and, oh, what a find! Infinite goodness and fullness for the soul's eternal need.
3. To DELIVER. "I will turn away your captivity." The bondage of sin He turns away by the revelation of His power; the bondage of darkness He turns away by the dawning of His light; the bondage of the world, the flesh, and the Devil, by the revelation of His Cross, His Word, and His Spirit.
4. To RESTORE. "I will gather you...and bring you again into the place." Their sin drove them away, but God's grace would bring them back. Christ suffered, the Just for the unjust, that He might bring us to God. As every Jew will yet be gathered out "from all the nations," so every child of God will yet be gathered out as members of the Body of Christ (Acts 15:14).
RUIN AND REMEDY. Jeremiah 30:11-22
Israel is a helpless captive in Babylon. All other nations have forsaken them in their time of need. A picture of a soul's ruin, and the world's indifference to its condition.
I. The Ruin. They are described as being—
1. GUILTY. "Because your sins were increased, I have done these things unto you" (v. 15). Sin leads to bondage, to suffering, and disappointment.
2. BRUISED. "Your bruise (hurt, R.V.) is incurable." Sin has crushed man's soul out of its original shape. Man has absolutely no cure for it.
3. WOUNDED. "Your wound is grievous." Heart rebellion against God is an awful gash in a man's, or a nation's, moral being. It is very grievous in its results, as they reach into Eternity.
4. FRIENDLESS. "There is none to plead your cause" (v. 13). While in the "far country" the prodigal found no one to plead his cause. No man can redeem his brother. But we thank God for 1 John 2:1.
5. HELPLESS. "You have no healing medicines" (v. 13). Man's wisdom and ingenuity has invented many medicines, but there is no healing in them.
6. DESTITUTE. "All your lovers have forgotten you" (v. 14).. The hewn-out cisterns have proved broken and worthless. Their lovers have proved mockers.
7. MISERABLE. "Why cry you" (v. 15). It is the cry of hopeless despair. "Out of the depths have I cried." The discovery of our infinite poverty and need makes such a cry irresistible.
II. The Remedy. The cure for a sinner's woes is found in God alone, in His Presence, and His Promise. "I am with you, says the Lord, to save you" (v. 11). Emmanuel, our Hope (Matthew 1:21-23). In His sevenfold promise there is a perfect salvation. He promises—
1. HEALTH. "I will restore health unto you" (v. 17). Restoration to Himself means health. "He is the health of my countenance" (Psalm 23:3).
2. HEALING. "I will heal you of your wounds." Saved, not only from sickness, but also from unsoundness. The wounds may be deep, but not too deep for His healing power.
3. FREEDOM. "I will bring again the captivity" (v. 18). There is, not only healing, but emancipation from the power of the enemy.
4. FRUITFULNESS. "I will multiply them, and they shall not be few" (v. 19). An increase of numbers as the result of a better testimony for God.
5. HONOR. "I will also glorify them." Despised and rejected of men they may be, but accepted and honored of God they will be. Those who suffer for Christ shall also reign with Him. On the other side of the flood they sang the Song of Moses.
6. PROTECTION. "I will punish all that oppress them" (v. 20). The overthrowing of the Egyptians in the Red Sea is a warning to all who follow God's people with the intent of their hurt. His redeemed are His peculiar treasure.
7. ALL-SUFFICIENCY. "I will be your God" (v. 22). No greater promise could God give. No fuller blessing could He offer than this. "Lo, I am with you all the days." See Hebrews 13:5, 6, Revised Version. Observe God's "I wills" in this provision.
THE RESTORATION. Jeremiah 31
Here again, as in chapter 30, God's promise to deliver consists of seven "I wills."
I. I will gather them out—Separation (Ephesians 2:3-5).
II. I will bring them in—Safety (John 10:27).
III. I will be their God—Assurance (1 John 3:1).
IV. I will give them one heart—Unity (John 17:20, 21).
V. I will make a covenant with them—Satisfaction (2 Corinthians 6:17, 18).
VI. I will put My fear in their hearts—Worship (Acts 9:31).
VII. I will rejoice over them—Praise (Philippians 3:1).
GREAT, HIDDEN THINGS. Jeremiah 33:1-9
The reference is to Jerusalem desolated by war. A picture of a ruined life through sin and unbelief.
I. The Condition of Blessing. "Call upon Me" (v. 3).
II. The Mighty Promises. "Great and hidden things."
1. RENEWAL of health (v, 6).
2. REVELATION of abundance of peace and truth (v. 6).
3. DELIVERANCE from bondage (v. 7).
4. RESTORATION of ruined things (v. 7).
5. CLEANSING from all iniquity (v. 8).
6. GOD-HONORING testimony (v. 9).
THE RECHABITES. Jeremiah 35
Jonadab, the son of Rechab, was a strong, wise man. His life and testimony was a protest, Elijah-like, against the sins of the age, Baal-worship, and intemperance. The Rechabites were a separate family living in patriarchal fashion—dwelling in tents (v. 6), and observing the vow of the Nazarite (Numbers 6:2-4). As they were used as a rebuke to Judah, so may we learn much from them.
I. They were the Sons of a Good Father. Jonadab was a man zealous for the cause of God (2 Kings 10:15,16). A righteous, courageous, and consistent example on the part of a parent goes a very long way in the formation of the character of the son. The good, as well as the evil, that men do live after them in their children.
II. They were Severely Tested. "Bring them into the house of the Lord...and give them wine to drink" (v. 2). They had come into the city for safety when the King of Babylon and his forces came into the land (v. 11). Now they are tempted by the prophet, in God's own house, to break their vow of abstinence. Truly, they might have been excused in the circumstances. City temptations are strong for young men in every age, especially now. How many are still tempted to take the intoxicating wine in the house of God, by God's own servants at "Communion Seasons," when the house of prayer smells like a saloon.
III. They were Faithful to their Convictions. "They said, We will drink no wine, as our father commanded us" (v. 6). Although their father was dead long years ago and although no one might have reproached them for taking it on such an occasion, yet they remained true to their father's wish and their own consciences. Of course, Jeremiah knew well that they would not touch it, if they had his purpose and God's message would have been thwarted. The proverb, "When in Rome do as the Romans do," is often cowardly and immoral. This lax, accommodating principle has been the ruin of multitudes.
IV. They became an Example to Others. Their faith in their father, their obedience, and devotion, to his word and will, were used by God to rebuke His people's unbelief and disobedience. "They obeyed their father's commandment;...I have spoken unto you...but you hearkened not unto Me" (v. 14). They were faithful to their father's words spoken three hundred years ago, but God's professed sons had disregarded and forgotten His words. How true is it still that, in our human and temporal relationships we show far more fidelity, than in our spiritual and eternal. The Rechabites had received but one command, and they obeyed. God's people had servants and prophets sent again and again (v. 15), repeating His Words to them, yet they hearkened not. How slow men are to believe God.
V. They were Rewarded. "Because you have obeyed your father, and kept all his precepts... Jonadab shall not want a man to stand before Me forever" (vv. 18, 19). Their obedience to their parent was well pleasing unto the Lord (Colossians 3:20). As a family they lived long on the earth. This is the special blessing attached to the "Honoring of your father and mother" (Ephesians 6:1-3; Exod. 20:12). Obedience to God's Word is rewarded with everlasting life (John 3:34-36). All who honor His Word shall stand before Him forever.
BURNING THE BOOK. Jeremiah 36
The Book of God, like the people of God, has, in every age, suffered persecution. It has been tortured and ruptured, pierced and ridiculed, burned and buried, but it has quenched the violence of fire, escaped the edge of the sword, stopped the mouths of lions, and turned to flight the armies of the aliens. Here we see Jehoiachin burning it, but God gave it a resurrection in a mightier form.
I. The Message Given. (1) It was from the Lord. "Take you a roll of a book, and write therein all the words that I have spoken unto you" (v. 2). Like the Gospel of Christ, it was a revelation from Heaven. (2) It was a message of solemn warning. "Against Israel, and against Judah, and against all the nations" (v. 2). Like the Gospel, it was of universal import. (3) It was sent in mercy. "It may be that Israel will hear...and return every man from his evil way, that I may forgive their sin" (v. 3). Like the Gospel, it was a manifestation of God's love for them, and His desire after their salvation.
II. The Message Heard. "So the king sent Jehudi to fetch the roll...and he read it in the ears of the king" (vv. 20, 21). What a privilege to hear such words of faithful warning mingled with Divine forbearance and mercy. The importance and responsibility of hearing His Word, and giving heed to it, is powerfully evidenced here. It was the most critical moment in the life of the king. Hear, and your soul shall live.
III. The Message Rejected. "He cut it with the penknife, and cast it into the fire" (v. 23). Any fool could do that. There are some people's tongues like penknives, they cut to pieces the Gospel of God. There is a penknife called "higher criticism" that has done its own share of destructive work, but the most common and persistent weapon used by the ungodly against the Word of God is "an evil heart of unbelief." It was not with the "roll of a book" that the king had to do, but with the God of the book. The paper, or the preacher, may be easily cut to pieces, but not so the message, the Word of God endures for ever. There are many who would not burn the book, but who are not afraid, nor rend their garments when its words are read (v. 24).
IV. The Message Renewed. Another roll was taken and "all the words of the book which the king had burned in the fire" were written, "and there were added besides unto them many like words" (v. 32). The force of the message was augmented by resistance. God will never lower His demands because of the opposition and hatred of men (Acts 5:40-42). No man is done with God's Word when he has rejected and destroyed it. That same Word will yet judge him. A man might as well expect to improve the weather by breaking the barometer, as to relieve his soul by rejecting God's message. The unbelief of some will never make the Word of God of none effect. Remember that He who is "The Word of God" was resurrected from the dead.
THE VOICE OF THE LORD. Jeremiah 38
"Obey, I beseech you, the voice of the Lord...so it shall be well with you" (v. 20). The "voice" here stands for the Word of the Lord. It is—
I. A Warning voice (vv. 3, 4).
II. A Humbling voice (v. 2).
III. A Hated voice (vv. 4-6).
IV. A Convicting voice (secret concern, v. 14).
V. An Assuring voice (v. 20).
VI. An Infallible voice (chapter 39:2-7).
JEHOIACHIN'S DELIVERANCE. Jeremiah 52:31-34
"She sat and wept; with her untressed hair She wiped the feet she was so blessed to touch; And He wiped off the soiling of despair.—Coleridge.
The Divine threatenings in Leviticus 26 find their terrible fulfillment in the reign of Jehoiachin. "Be not deceived, God is not mocked." Sin brings to ruin every nation and individual that yields to its dark and foulsome dominion. The king of Babylon was Jehovah's sword of vengeance in the punishment of Judah for their rebellion against Him. Jehoiachin was taken captive and thrown into a Babylonian prison, where he remained for the long period of thirty-seven years. But Babylon's new king, Evil-merodach, had mercy on him, and in grace wrought a marvelous change for him, giving us an illustration of the wonder-working grace of God.
I. Delivered. "He did lift up Jehoiachin out of prison" (v. 27). This was his first necessity. He could in no wise lift himself up. The grace of God which brings salvation has a mighty uplifting power. "He brought me up out of an horrible pit, out of the miry clay" (Psalm 40:2); and from the darkness and thraldom of Satan into the Kingdom of God's dear Son. As with the king of Judah so with us; there is no uplifting into liberty without the exercise of Royal Authority.
II. Comforted. "He spoke kindly to him." The law has no kind word of comfort to speak, but grace has. By grace are you saved. All those ransomed by the power of Christ are comforted by the ministry of the Holy Spirit. The religion of man attempts to speak comfortably to men in the prison of sin; the religion of God first saves, then comforts. The blood of His victory goes before the water of His consolation. He knows how to speak a word to the weary. In all the coming ages God's people will show forth His kindness towards them through Christ Jesus (Ephesians 2:7).
III. Exalted. "He set his throne above the throne of the kings that were with him in Babylon." Jehoiachin had the pre-eminence among the other kings who were as captives in Babylon. The whole incident may be prophetic of Judah's future exaltation and glory, as it is suggestive of the spiritual uplifting enjoyed by those who are risen and exalted into heavenly places in Christ Jesus. Abounding sin and failure is conquered and overcome by the much more abounding grace of God. If man's fall through sin has been great, his uplifting through grace has been greater. He can make the homeless beggar of the dunghill meet to sit among the princes of Heaven. "Oh, to grace how great a debtor!"
IV. Clothed. "He changed his prison garments." The prison garments speak of guilt, defeat, shame, and bondage; but now they are gone, and garments of beauty take their place. So it is with those whom grace has saved. The old things which spoke of failure, degradation and imprisonment, are put off, and those things have been put on which tell of glory, honor, immortality, and eternal life. A change will soon be evident when once a soul has been emancipated from the law of sin and death— the filthy rags of self-righteousness give place to the righteousness of God, which is unto all and upon all them that believe (Zechariah 3:3).
V. Honored. "He did eat bread continually before him." He had the daily privilege of having fellowship with him who had delivered him from the house of bondage. The prisoner was now the constant companion of his Savior. The grace of God not only saves and transforms, but brings into abiding fellowship with Himself. The kindness of David wrought the same gracious work for Mephibosheth (2 Samuel 9:7). The door of our King's banqueting-house is always open for His own specially invited guests. Eat, O friends!
VI. Supplied. "His allowance was a continual allowance given him of the king, a daily rate for every day, all the days of his life."
1. It was an ALLOWANCE. It was not a reward, or something given as wages. It was something placed at the disposal of him whom the king delighted to honor. It was the provision of grace. How much has God placed at the disposal of those who have been saved by His grace? All the unsearchable riches of Christ.
2. It was a DAILY allowance. "A daily fate for every day." Take no thought for your life. "My grace is sufficient for you." To-morrow's allowance will come with to-morrow's need.
3. It was given him of THE KING; out of the king's fullness, and from his own gracious hand were all his wants supplied. "My God shall supply all your need" (Philippians 4:19).
4. It was an allowance FOR LIFE. "All the days of his life." The royal promise covered his every need. All is yours, for you are Christ's.