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To feel and to bring out the force of this verse stress must be laid upon the word man. The text tells us what a man is; how rare a man is; how valuable a man is.
I. The man that is to be sought out according to the direction in this verse is a person that executeth judgment, and that seeketh the truth. A man, then, is first of all one that does what is light and just from principle, uniformly, and towards all.
Further, a man is one who not only does what is right, but he has in his heart a love of truth. We are told that he 'seeketh the truth'. In doing what he believes to be equitable and just, he has a conscious desire that his views of equity and justice should be according to truth, and that of course is the truth as it is before God, which ought to reign supreme and through all the relationships and the intercourse of intelligent and responsible beings. When on the coronation of Edward VI. there were brought to be carried before him, according to custom, the sharp sword of justice, the pointless sword of mercy, and the two-handed sword of state, he called for the Bible also. 'That,' said he, 'is the sword of the Spirit, by which we all ought to be governed who use these others for the safety of the people by the law's appointment; it is from that that we obtain all our power, and goodness, and grace, and salvation, and whatever we have of Divine strength.'
II. Notice the value of a true man. God says in this verse, 'If ye can find a man,' a man of this character, 'in Jerusalem, I will pardon it,' pardon Jerusalem. What forbearance is there in God, how unwilling is He to destroy. When a man or a community violates truth and justice, he is exposed, they are exposed to the evil consequences. Each of us has an independent responsibility and must give an account of himself to God, but at the same time we are linked with others, we contribute to the general tone of society, we act along with it and as component parts, we have each a share in the aggregate responsibility, the praise or blame, the good or evil that belongs to the whole.
III. One last thing is thought of a centre of trust, a shield of defence, before which God would lower the sword's point. What was that? What have men and women to look to for the defence and prosperity of nations? It was a map. Goethe says no greater good can happen to a town than for several educated men thinking in the same way about what is good and true living in it. But Goethe's standard is insufficient; it falls short of the Divine. The defenders and the benefactors of nations and of their fellow-men are the morally and religiously good in them; men whose lives are regulated by the teachings of God; men who seek to act as Christ did are the men that are worthy, and that are looked upon by God as blessings to the nation. Even one such is a mighty pillar, and on occasion even one such may be the Saviour and mainstay of the State.
Can we ever forget that in regard to the salvation of the world, and of our own souls, we owe everything to the ONE MAN, Christ Jesus, and that it is for His sake alone that we can obtain blessing, and salvation, and pardon!
R. J. Drummond, British Weekly Pulpit, vol. II. p. 81.
References. V. 1. J. Mitford Mitchell, Christian World Pulpit, vol. xxxvii. 1890, p. 117. C. Jerdan, Pastures of Tender Grass, p. 130. W. Reading, Sermons, vol. ii. p. 469. J. Smith, "A Man," Sermons, vol. ii. p. 270. ''The Courage of the True Prophet," Archdeacon Farrar in Christian World Pulpit, vol. xxiii. p. 161. "Christian Manliness," (i.) "Right Doing," Momerie's Origin of Evil and Other Sermons, p. 197, and (ii.) "Right Thinking," Origin of Evil and Other Sermons, p. 209, and (iii.) "The Value of Manliness," Origin of Evil and Other Sermons, p. 222. Wythe, Pulpit Analyst, vol. v. p. 294; and see an admirable outline, "True Manhood," by S. Conway, in Pulpit Commentary, "Jeremiah," vol. i. p. 128. For the history see Geikie's Hours With the Bible, vol. v. p. 165, etc V. 1-6 and 10-31. Spurgeon, Sermons, vol. xlvi. No. 2660. V. 2. C. Kingsley, Sermons on Natural Subjects, p. 199.
God's Dealings with Men
It may well be a source of comfort and strength to a man to know that God's eyes are upon the truth, upon the present reality, and not on mere appearance. Let all men know that God sees things precisely as they are. In the present instance He saw unreality, faithlessness, untruthfulness. And when He smote them, they did not really respond by sorrow for their misdeeds, whatever outward show they may have made. They forgot that, while man looketh on the outward appearance, the Lord looketh on the heart
I. The Gracious End God ever has in View in Afflicting Men. It is that they may return to Him by the path of grief for their sin and of amendment of life. The treading of this path is absolutely necessary for the sinner's return, and it is cast up by the fatherly chastisements of God.
II. But Man has the Power of Frustrating the Gracious End of God. When stricken, he is not grieved. In many ways, consciously or unconsciously, he can frustrate God's gracious purpose on his behalf. For example:
a. By tracing all his sufferings merely to secondary causes. They bring no message from God to his soul; they merely speak of a fellow-man's injustice, or a weak constitution, or some mistake he himself has made in his plans and calculations, etc.
b. By a mere stoical endurance rather than a childlike acquiescence. The child's feelings are acute while he says, 'Even so, Father, for so it seems good in Thy sight'. To drill and school oneself to bear pain of body or spirit without flinching is not to submit to God, but to bow to fate. This will never lead anyone to 'return 'to God.
c. By simple delay in returning to God by repentance and faith. A man may feel and recognize the calls and chastenings of God; but by simple delaying to comply with the message contained in those chastenings, this feeling gets gradually dulled.
'Today, if ye will hear His voice, harden not your heart.'
References. V. 3. Spurgeon, Sermons, vol. xxvii. No. 1585; vol. xlv. No. 2655. V. 10. W. M. Punshon, Take Away Her Battlements, Sermons, p. 453. Phillips Brooks, The Law of Growth, p. 80. Prebendary Grier, The Church of the People, p. 163. Spurgeon, Sermons, vol. i. No. 38, V. 12. R. F. Horton, Christian World Pulpit, vol. xli. 1892, p. 12. V. 22, 23. Spurgeon, Sermons, vol. iv. No. 220. V. 23-25. II. Hensley Henson, Christian World Pulpit, vol. lxxi. 1907, p. 113. V. 24. Spurgeon, Sermons, vol. xv. No. 880. "Plain Sermons" by contributors to the Tracts for the Times, vol. viii. p. 185. V. 30, 31. R. W. Hiley, A Year's Sermons, vol. ii. p. 160. H. Hensley Henson, Christian World Pulpit, vol. lxx. 1906, p. 161. A. G. Mortimer, The Church's Lessons for the Christian Year, part iv. p. 243. V. 31. "Plain Sermons" by contributors to the Tracts for the Times, vol. x. p. 258. A. Maclaren, Expositions of Holy Scripture Isaiah and Jeremiah, p. 257. VI. 2. J. Parker, Studies in Texts, vol. i. p. 187. VI. 14. Spurgeon, Sermons, vol. vi. No. 301. C. Silvester Horne, Christian World Pulpit, vol. xxxviii. 1890, p. 45. F. Ferguson, Peace With God p. 23. T. Chalmers, Sermons Preached in the Tron Church, Glasgow, p. 447.
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Nicoll, William Robertson, M.A., L.L.D. "Commentary on Jeremiah 5". Expositor's Dictionary of Text. https://studylight.org/
the Week of Proper 14 / Ordinary 19