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Bible Commentaries

Expositor's Dictionary of Texts

Jeremiah 4

Verses 1-31

Plural, Yet Singular

Jeremiah 4:2

I want to speak about the plural that runs itself up into the singular. 'Truth, judgment, righteousness.' We cannot get rid of the three; when we sometimes think we are farthest from it we are closest upon it. It is a mystery that is to be reckoned with. Indifference, worldliness, folly, may avoid all these subjects, and thus run a downward and self-extinguishing course. There remains the idea of the three. We cannot, let us say again and again to ourselves, get away from that idea; it is in us, it is part of us, it is the mystery of our own being. We deny the three-one, but denial is no argument. We have to account for the triune.

I. You will find instances of this three-one in many places. For example, in the very words of the text 'Truth, judgment, righteousness.' These are not three things differing from one another in quality and opposing one another in policy and in aim; the three are one, and that one is the first 'truth'. How then do the others apply themselves? Adjectivally as qualifying the great and inclusive word truth. Truth yes, truth that stands in judgment, truth that stands in righteousness, truth that runs out in these threefold expressions and yet returns upon itself and stands forth as it were a diamond or a star.

II. In Daniel 3:7 'all the people, the nations, and the languages fell down '. Can languages fall down? Is there not something here highly rhetorical and figurative? Certainly; that is the very subject. The reading, therefore, would be, All the people yes, even nations and languages fell down before the image. The great noun is 'the people'; 'nations and languages' are little aspects of the great substantive, 'the people'. So we do not read, 'All the people and the nations and the languages' as if they were three different things; the great central thought is the people, the incidentals are the nations and the languages, and yet quite essential to the completeness of the figure. How easy it would be to run off on either of these nouns, 'nations,' and 'languages,' and deliver a useless ethnic discourse upon these motto words. These words must be put in their right place, and that place is subsidiary and collateral; the great outstanding noun is 'the people '.

III. Take another instance with which we are very familiar, so familiar indeed that many of us know nothing about it. Matthew 6:13 , 'Thine is the kingdom and the power and the glory,' as if they were three different things. When will we remember that there is a leading noun, and the two other nouns shade away and subside into rhetorical assistances and phases of the thought? The subject is one; the writer is not talking about three different attributes; he is talking about one thing, but he needs the rhetorical three members in order to fill out the expression of his thought. Here also we cannot get rid of the three-one.

IV. Take a wonderful instance from the lips of Christ Himself; you will find that instance in the fourteenth chapter of John and the sixth and contextual verses. 'I am the way, the truth, and the life'. Three things? No, one thing. Jesus Christ is talking about the way and about nothing else. How then does He describe it? 'I am the way, the true way' you see how 'truth' drops into 'true,' the noun into the adjective 'and the living way'. But it is way, way, and only way that forms the subject of the Master's thought. Always get into the one thing that makes the other things possible. Do not waste your very souls on the details. Your first business is to get hold of the central truth, the one thing meant, and then to get hold of what is illustrative, external, and auxiliary.

V. You have the same thing in your own personal constitution. The Apostle describes us as 'body, soul, and spirit'. Three things? Certainly not. One thing? Yes, one thing. What is that one thing? Man; and man is a trinity, and a tri-unity, a three-one and a one-three; and as he studies himself in these aspects there will come upon him great religious moods, visions, and dreamings, and he will find that grass and flesh and air and many things have been made specially for the growth and culture of the body. Then he will ask himself, Is there anything in higher fields growing for the soul? And the answer will be a gracious Yes whispered from the secret places of eternity. There is a spirit, there is a revelation, there is a holy doctrine, there is an altar, and as he watches the fields and the rivers and the seas for the food which he needs for the body, so he will search these greater waters and greater spaces for the nurture of the soul. But is there nothing for the spirit, which seems to be, according to our poor crude thinking, a kind of higher quality, a more spiritualized and etherealized soul, even the spirit? God is a Spirit. God is not what we call a soul, a psyche; God is a pneuma, a spirit, a Spirit of the soul. The soul is but a kind of clothing for the spirit, but body, soul, spirit belong to one another, and constitute what but an ineffable unity?

Joseph Parker, City Temple Pulpit, vol. Iv. p. 214.

References. IV. 3. C. Perren, Revival Sermons in Outline, p. 284. G. W. Herbert, Notes of Sermons, p. 50. J. Parker, Studies in Texts, vol. i. p. 180. IV. 10. Henry Alford, Quebec Chapel Sermons, vol. i. p. 267. IV. 14. H. Harris, Short Sermons, p. 170. Spurgeon, Sermons, vol. xxvi. No. 1573. IV. 19. J. Marshall Lang, Christian World Pulpit, vol. liii. 1898, p. 356. IV. 20. Spurgeon, Sermons, vol. vii. No. 349; vol. xxiii. No. 1363. IV. 30. Ibid vol. xxiii. No. 1363.

A Man

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Bibliographical Information
Nicoll, William Robertson, M.A., L.L.D. "Commentary on Jeremiah 4". Expositor's Dictionary of Text. https://studylight.org/commentaries/eng/edt/jeremiah-4.html. 1910.