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The Punishment of Evil
The great teaching of the text is that we must not allow appearances to mislead us respecting the fact and certainty of the law of retribution.
I. We mark some illustrations of the law of retribution furnished by the history of the nations. The Old Testament records many instances of the fact that God makes the law of retribution to act by unlikely instruments, in unlikely ways, and at unlikely times. Very memorable was the retribution that Israel brought on Egypt. At the other end of their national history, Israel itself furnishes a most striking illustration of the working of the law of retribution through all improbabilities. When the Christ was crucified through weakness, the people cried, 'His blood be upon us, and upon our children'. How unlikely did it seem that the Victim of Calvary could ever be avenged upon an unjust nation! And yet that 'wounded Man' rose up invested with strange powers, and burned their city with fire. Let us not think that these instances of retribution are to be placed in the category of the miraculous; they were the natural consequences of great denials of truth and justice. Men unjustly 'pierced through' are terrible avengers in all ages and nations.
II. We note the law of retribution as exemplified in the individual life. What is true of the mass is first true of the atom; what is true of the ocean is first true of the drop. It is easy to see the law of retribution when it is exemplified in the broad effects of national calamity, but not so easy to apprehend its action in the individual fortune. 'Deceive not yourselves.' God has wonderful ways of confounding us, and we may be sure that our sins will find us out.
1. Let us not permit ourselves to be deceived by flattering prophets. God is merciful, but fire does not forget to burn, teeth to tear, water to drown, and no transgression of the Law can pass without detection and punishment.
2. Let us not deceive ourselves because appearances seem to promise immunity. When Joseph's brethren had thrown their young brother into a pit and left him there, how utterly hopeless seemed the lad's condition! He was to all intents and purposes buried alive, and it seemed absolutely impossible that he should ever avenge himself upon the fratricides. But in due time the wounded man was on the throne of Egypt, and the strong-handed clever sinners were lamenting, 'Verily we are guilty concerning our brother'.
3. Let us not deceive ourselves because judgment is delayed. As the Hindoos say, 'When men are ripe for slaughter, even straws turn into thunderbolts'.
4. Let us improve the gracious respite. Many rebel altogether against the doctrine of grace, sternly insisting on inexorable law, justice, retribution; they utterly reprobate the ideas of repentance, forgiveness!, and salvation. But mercy is a fact as much as justice is. The death of Calvary is the most solemn and tremendous sanction ever given to law, and yet it opens a door of escape to a world of sinners. There is forgiveness with Him, and plenteous redemption.
W. L. Watkinson, The Transfigured Sackcloth, p. 181.
References. XXXVII. 11-21. A. Maclaren, Expositions of Holy Scripture Isaiah and Jeremiah, p. 361. XXXVII. 17. J. Paterson, British Weekly Pulpit, vol. ii. p. 597. XXXVIII. T. Champness, New Coins from Old Gold, p. 206. XXXVIII. 3, 4; XL. 4; XL. 6. F. W. Aveling, Christian World Pulpit, vol. lvi. 1899, p. 324. XXXVIII. 5. A. Ramsay, Studies in Jeremiah, p. 221. XXXVIII. 7. D. T. Young, Neglected People of the Bible, p. 165. XXXVIII. 24-26. A. Ramsay Studies in Jeremiah, p. 221. XXXIX. 1-10. A. Maclaren Expositions of Holy Scripture Isaiah and Jeremiah, p. 367. XXXIX. 18. Ibid. p. 374. XL. 4-6. A. Ramsay, Studies in Jeremiah, p. 47. XLIII. 13 (R.V.). C. Jerdan, Pastures of Tender Grass, p. 142. XLIV. 4. Spurgeon, Sermons, vol. xlvi. No. 2684. A. Maclaren, Expositions of Holy Scripture Isaiah and Jeremiah, p. 377. Christian World Pulpit, vol. lxx. 1906, p. 3. W. M. Taylor, Outlines of Sermons on the Old Testament, p. 248. W. Michell, Plain Preaching for a Year, vol. i. p. 236. Hugh Black, University Sermons, p. 9. XLV. 1-5. A. Ramsay, Studies in Jeremiah, p. 159. Stopford A. Brooke, The Old Testament and Modern Life, p. 319.
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Nicoll, William Robertson, M.A., L.L.D. "Commentary on Jeremiah 37". Expositor's Dictionary of Text. https://studylight.org/
the Week of Proper 15 / Ordinary 20