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Bible Commentaries

MacLaren's Expositions of Holy Scripture

Jeremiah 31

Verse 36

Jeremiah

WHAT THE STABLE CREATION TEACHES

Jer_31:36 .

This is the seal of the new covenant, which is to be made in days future to the prophet and his contemporaries, with the house of Israel and of Judah. That new covenant is referred to in Hebrews as the fundamental law of Christ’s kingdom. Therefore we have the right to take to ourselves the promises which it contains, and to think of ‘the house of Israel’ and ‘the seed of Jacob’ as including us, ‘though Abraham be ignorant of us.’

The covenant and its pledge are equally grand. The very idea of a covenant as applied to God is wonderful. It is meant to teach us that, from all the infinite modes of action possible to Him, He has chosen One; that He has, as it were, marked out a path for Himself, and confined the freedom of His will and the manifold omnipotences of His power to prescribed limits, that He has determined the course of His future action. It is meant to teach us, too, the other grand thought that He has declared to us what that course is, not leaving us to learn it piecemeal by slow building up of conclusions about His mind from His actions as they come forth, but inversely telling us His mind and purpose in articulate and authentic words by which we are to interpret each successive work of His. He makes known His purposes. ‘Before they spring forth I tell you of them.’

It is meant to teach us, too, that He regards Himself as bound by the declaration which He has made, so that we may rest secure on this strong foundation of His faithfulness and His truth, and for all doubts and fears find the sufficient cure in His own declaration: ‘My covenant will I not break nor alter the thing that is gone out of My lips.’ No wonder that the dying king found the strength of his failing heart in the thought, ‘He hath made with me an everlasting covenant, ordered in all things and sure.’

The weighty promises of this solemn bond of God’s cover the whole ground of our spiritual necessities-forgiveness of sins, true, personal, direct acquaintance with God, an intercommunion of mutual possession between Him who is ours and us who are His, and an inward sanctification by which His precepts shall coincide with our desires. These are the blessings which He binds Himself to bestow.

And of this transcendent pact, the seal and guarantee is worthy. God descends to ratify a bond with man. By it He binds Himself to give all possible good for the soul. And to confirm it heaven and earth are called in. He points us to all that is august, stable, immense, inscrutable in the works of His hands, and bids us see there His pledge that He will be a faithful, covenant-keeping God. Sun, moon and stars, heaven, earth and sea-’ye are My witnesses,’ saith the Lord.

God’s unchangeable love is the true lesson from the stable regularity of the universe. The tone in which Scripture speaks of external nature in all its parts is very remarkable, altogether peculiar. It does not take the aesthetic or the scientific, but the purely religious point of view.

I. The facts. All nature is directly the effect of God’s will and power. ‘He giveth,’ ‘He divideth’ Jer_31:35 .

The physical universe presents a spectacle of stable regularity.

This regularity is the consequence of sovereign, divine will. These ordinances are not laws of nature , but of God.

II. The use commonly made of the facts.

Ordinary unthinking worldliness sees nothing noticeable in them because they come uniformly. Earthquakes startle, but the firmness of the solid earth attracts no observation. God is thought to speak in the extraordinary, but most men do not hear His voice in the normal.

Scientific godlessness formularises this tendency into a system, and proclaims that laws are everything and God a mere algebraical x .

III. The lesson which they are meant to teach.

God’s works are a revelation of God.

There is nothing in effect which is not in cause, and the stability of these ordinances carries our thoughts back to an unchanging Ordainer.

They witness to His constancy of purpose or will. His acts do not come from caprice, nor are done as experiments, but are the stable expression of uniform and unchanging will.

They witness to His unfailing energy of power, which ‘operates unspent’ and is to-day as fresh as at creation’s birth.

They witness to a single end pursued through all changes, and by all varieties of means. Darkness and light, sun rising and setting, storm and sunshine, summer and winter, all serve one end. As a horizontal thrust may give rise to opposite circular motions which all issue in working out an onward progress, so the various dealings of Providence with us are all adapted to ‘work together,’ and that ‘for good.’

They witness that life, joy, beauty, flow from obedience.

Thus, then, these ordinances in their stability are witnesses. But they are inferior witnesses. The noblest revelation of the divine faithfulness and unchangeable purpose of good is in Jesus. And these witnesses will one day pass. Even now they have their changes, slow and unmarked by a short-lived man. Stars burn out, there have been violent convulsions, shocks and shatterings in the heavens, and a time comes, as even physical science predicts, when ‘the heavens shall vanish away like smoke, and the earth shall wax old like a garment,’ but that to which they witnessed shall endure, ‘My salvation shall be for ever, and My righteousness shall not be abolished.’ The created lights grow dim and die out, but in ‘the Father of lights’ is ‘no variableness, neither shadow that is cast by turning.’

Hence we see what our confidence should be. It should stand firm and changeless as the Covenant, and we should move in our orbits as the stars and hearken to the voice of His word as do they. Let us see to it that we have faith to match His faithfulness, and that our confidence shall be firmer than the mountains, more stable than the stars.

Verse 37

Jeremiah

WHAT THE IMMENSE CREATION TEACHES

Jer_31:37 .

In the former sermon we considered the previous verse as presenting the stability of creation as a guarantee of the firmness of God’s gracious covenant. Now we have to consider these grand closing words which bring before us another aspect of the universe as a guarantee for another side of God’s gracious character. The immensity of creation is a symbol of the inexhaustibleness of the forgiving love of God.

I. A word or two as to the fact here used as a symbol of the divine long-suffering.

The prophet had very likely no idea at all beyond the ordinary one that presents itself to the senses-a boundless vault above an endless plain on which we stand, deep, sunless foundations, the Titanic substructions on which all rests, going down who knows where, resting on who knows what. We may smile at the rude conception, but it will be well for us if we can get as vivid an impression of the fact as He had.

We thankfully avail ourselves of modern science to tell us something about the dimensions of this awful universe of ours. We learn to know that there are millions of miles between these neighbour orbs, that light which has been travelling for thousands of years may not yet have fallen on some portion of the mighty whole, that the planetary masses of our system are but tiny specks in the whole, that every fresh stride which astronomical observation takes but opens up new nebulae to be resolved, where suns and constellations and systems are dwarfed by distance into hazy brightness which hardly deserves the name of light. We know all this, and can find all about the distances in any book. So much for space. Then the geologist comes to bewilder us still more, with extension in time.

But while all this may serve to give definiteness to the impression, after all, perhaps, it is the eye alone, as it gazes, that really feels the impression. Astronomy is really a very prosaic science.

II. The effects which this immensity often produces on men.

Very commonly in old days it led to actual idolatry, bowing down before these calm, unreachable brightnesses. In our days it too often leads to forgetting God altogether, and not seldom to disbelief that man can be of any account in such a universe. We are told that the notions of a covenant, a redemption, or that God cares about us are presumptuous. We all know the talk of men who are so modestly conscious of their own insignificance that they rebuke God for saying that He loves us, and Christians for believing Him.

III. The true lesson.

The immensity of the material universe is for us a symbol of the infinity of God’s long-suffering love.

The creation proceeds from a greater Creator. That gigantic and overwhelming magnitude, that hoary and immemorial age, that complicated and innumerable multitude of details, what less can they show than ONE Eternal and Infinite?

The immense suggests the infinite.

Granted that you cannot from the immense creation rise logically to the Infinite Creator, still the facts that the soul conceives that there is an infinite God, and is conscious of the spontaneous evoking of that thought by the contemplation of the immeasurable, are strong reasons for believing that it is a legitimate process of thought which hears the name of God thundered from the far-off depths of the silent heavens. The heavens cannot be measured, no plummet can reach to the deep foundations of the earth. We are surrounded by a universe which to our apprehensions is boundless. How much more so from expansions of our conceptions of celestial magnitudes since Jeremiah’s days, and what is to be the lesson from that? That we are insignificant atoms in this mighty whole? that God is far away from us? that the material stretches so far that perhaps there is nothing beyond?

The thought of faith is that the material immensity teaches me my God’s infinity, and especially His inexhaustible patience with us sinners. It teaches us the unfathomed depths of His gracious heart, and the abysses of His mysterious providence, and the unbounded sweep of His long-suffering forgiveness. His forgiving forbearance reaches further than the limits of the heavens. Not till these can be measured will it be exhausted, and the seed of Israel cast off for what they have done.

He, the Infinite Father, above all creation, mightier than it, is our true home, and living in Him we have an abode which can never be ‘dissolved,’ and above us stretch far-shining glories, unapproached masses of brightness, nebulae of blessedness, spaces where the eye fails and the imagination faints. All is ours, our eternal possession, the inexhaustible source of our joy. Astronomers tell of light which has been travelling for millenniums and has not yet reached this globe; but what is that to the flashing glories which through eternity shall pour on us from Him? So, then, our confidence should be firm and inexhaustible.

God has written wondrous lessons in His creation. But they are hieroglyphs, of which the key is lost, till we hear Christ and learn of Him. God has set His glories in the heavens and the earth is full of His mercy, but these are lesser gifts than that which contains them all and transcends them all, even His Son by whom He made the worlds, and- mightier still-by whom He redeemed man. God has written His mercy in the heavens and His faithfulness in the clouds, but His mercy and His faithfulness are more commended to us in Him who was before all things, and of whom it is written: ‘As a vesture shalt Thou fold them up, but Thou art the same and Thy years shall not fail.’ God has confirmed the covenant of His love to us by the faithful witnesses in the heavens, but the love shall abide when they have perished. The heavens bend above us all, and over the head of every man the zenith stands. Every spot of this low earth is smiled upon by that serene apocalypse of the loving will of God. No lane is so narrow and foul in the great city, no spot is so bare and lonely in the waste desert, but that thither the sunlight comes, and there some patch of blue above beckons the downcast eye to look up. The day opens its broad bosom bathed in light, and shows the sun in the heavens, the Lord of light, to preach to us of the true light. The night opens deeper abysses and fills them with stars, to preach to us how fathomless and immense His loving kindnesses and tender mercy are. They are witnesses to thee, dear friend, whatsoever thy heart, whatsoever thy sins, whatsoever thy memories. No iniquity can shut out God’s forgiving love. You cannot build out the heavens. He will not be sent away; you cannot measure, you cannot conceive, you cannot exhaust, His pardoning love. No storms disturb that serene sky. It is always there, blazing down upon us unclouded with all its orbs. Trust Christ; and then as years roll on, you will find that infinite love growing ever greater to your loving eyes, and through eternity will move onwards in the happy atmosphere and boundless heaven of the inexhaustible, deep heart and changeless love of God.

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Bibliographical Information
MacLaren, Alexander. "Commentary on Jeremiah 31". MacLaren's Expositions of Holy Scripture. https://studylight.org/commentaries/eng/mac/jeremiah-31.html.