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CORRECTION IN MEASURE
‘I am with thee, saith the Lord, to save thee: though I make a full end of all nations whither I have scattered thee, yet will I not make a full end of thee: but I will correct thee in measure.”
There are two kinds of punishments. There is the punishment which is punishment and nothing else. This was what befell the Kingdom of Israel. It was simply extinguished by the righteous judgment of God.
But there is another kind of punishment besides this. There is the punishment which is punishment and something more. In the great mercy of God by far the greatest part of the punishments which fall either upon men or nations are punishments of this kind. Men do wrong. Then the wrong which they have done brings some calamity upon them. Then the calamity drives them away from their wrong courses, and turns them into better ways. This is usually the order of God’s Providence. This is what befell the Kingdom of Judah. It had sinned, but it had not sinned past all cure. So its punishment was intended to be punishment and cure in one. ‘I will not make a full end of thee. But I will correct thee in measure.’
I. What we notice, then, in this case, is, first, the great fact that God does thus apportion His punishments.—So long as there is hope of a man’s amendment God’s punishments of his sins are for his good—for correction, not for destruction. They are ‘in measure’—that is, the punishments are measured out so as to be proportioned to what a man can bear without being overwhelmed by them: they are measured out so as to serve the double purpose of punishing the fault, and yet leaving the sinner able to mend, while they also serve the purpose of turning him back into good ways. Such was the case with the Jews.
II. Then, secondly, we see in this history an example also of the good effects of this kind of punishment when people take it rightly.—Before their captivity we all know that the Kingdom of Judah had been continually falling into idolatry. This was what had brought down God’s anger upon them. But during the years of their captivity they learned the lesson which God intended them to learn, and after the return, whatever sins they fell into, this, at least, they never fell into again. Never more did idolatry defile Jerusalem as it had done, alas! in the latter days even of Solomon himself. And whatever troubles befell the nation after the return from captivity, God always saved it from being swept away again as it had been by Nebuchadnezzar. So the chastisement did its work, and the nation was the better for it, not the worse. Thus, too, we are taught, whenever we are afflicted by any loss or trouble, not to murmur as if any strange thing happened to us, but rather to examine ourselves and see whether there be not something wrong in our course of life which this particular trouble may not be the means of correcting. In the days of the Jews, God sent inspired Prophets to tell His people what He meant by His judgments. Now He teaches us, partly by the Bible, partly by His Holy Spirit. God treats us exactly by the same rules which He followed in old time. What was true of His dealings with the Jews is true also of us, and we may judge of His dealings with us now by what we read in the Bible of what He did then. Moreover, besides this God teaches us by the invisible warnings and guidance of the Holy Spirit, and, whenever we are in doubt, if we pray for the teaching of the Holy Ghost, we are sure to have it. This is His special promise, that He would put His Spirit into our hearts in order to teach and guide us, so that whenever we are in doubt what God’s providences or punishments mean, we may pray for the light of the Holy Ghost to guide us right, and then we shall be guided. And then, too, we may also feel certain that if we pray to use God’s chastisements properly, the punishment is sure to be no heavier than we can bear: not one whit heavier than is just necessary to drive us back into the right path from which we had gone astray. Even as He made the Babylonian captivity lighter to the Jews than it might have been, so also God will temper our punishment to us. It is His promise and He will surely keep it, just as He says elsewhere that He has no pleasure in the death of a sinner, and that He doth not willingly afflict the children of men.
III. For thirdly, observe that this very thing of which we speak, this softening of the troubles of the Jews in their captivity, is the exact thing which Solomon had prayed for in that wonderful prayer which he made, and which God accepted, when the Temple of Jerusalem was first dedicated to His service.—Solomon’s prayer was answered to the very letter, and compassion was extended to the captive Jews among the people who had been their conquerors. Truly one may be reminded of the Scripture saying, that with God a thousand years are but as a single day, and a single day as a thousand years. Here is a prayer which had been offered to God some three or four hundred years before. And now that the first time comes when it can be answered, it is answered so exactly that the very words of the prayer read like a history of what took place. And who of us, therefore, may not be encouraged thereby to feel that, if Solomon’s prayer was thus remembered by God all those centuries and then answered at the last, surely God will in our case be true to His own promises written down in the Bible, when we too, in our turn, come to want His help? If God was true to Solomon’s prayer, surely He will be true to His own Word.
(1) ‘My Lord’s love would be harmful if He did not correct me when I stray. In love’s temple the holy of holies is holiness itself. Love is stricken at the heart whenever it tolerates the unclean. True love is like “a sea of glass mingled with fire,’ and its pervading flame is the sworn destructive of all filth. Love is heat as well as light, and in its burning presence all sin must be consumed. Therefore, when my Saviour’s love touches my sin, it does not bathe it in soft, soothing sunshine, it plunges it in “the everlasting burnings.” “Whom the Lord loveth He chasteneth.” “Our God is a consuming fire.” But my Lord will correct me “ in measure.” His fire is not a capricious flame, blazing beyond control. It is kept under hand, and it is graciously applied where it is needed, and for just so long as it is required. Our Lord “sits as a refiner.” He carefully burns out the alloy, the dross, and the fire is withdrawn when the silver is pure. And so when God’s fire “kindles upon” me I will not fear. It is the only severe side of infinite love, and its tender purpose is to endow me with loveliness, even with “the beauty of the Lord.” If His fire were never hot I could never be pure and sanctified.’
(2) ‘I heard the other day of a young father who was walking to and fro in the dining-room of his house with his first-born babe in his arms. His wife noticed that two or three times he carried his precious burden into a large dark closet at the end of the room, and asked him the reason. He answered that every time he went into the dark, the little one gave a tiny start and clung closer to him, and he found it so delightful to feel the tiny nestling movement, which gave him the chance to press the nurseling nearer him. Perhaps God often carries us into the dark, that we may cling closer to Him, and that He may have the better opportunity of speaking His tender words of reassurance.’
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Nisbet, James. "Commentary on Jeremiah 30". The Church Pulpit Commentary. https://studylight.org/
the Week of Proper 14 / Ordinary 19