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CRITICAL AND EXEGETICAL NOTES.—1. Chronology of the chapter. See on chap. 11, Bleek’s theory; for which there is a weight of argument. All commentators agree to connect Jeremiah 12:1-6 with the conclusion of the previous chapter. The following Jeremiah 12:7-17, fall into two strophes, 7–13, and 14–17. Hitzig and Graf regard Jeremiah 12:7-13 as a lament over Judah’s devastation consequent upon Jehoiakim’s defection from Nebuchadnezzar in the eighth year of his reign. And Eichborn, Dahler, and others hold section 14–17 to be a distinct oracle, belonging to the time of Zedekiah, or to the seventh or eighth year of Jehoiakim (cf. Keil). The “evil neighbours” mentioned in Jeremiah 12:14 are taken by many to be hordes of Syrians, Moabites, Ammonites, Idumeans, and Philistines, by which the land was overrun, and who, in their alliance to Chaldean supremacy, undertook a war of spoliation against insurgent Judah in eighth year of Jehoiakim. Dr. Payne Smith and Keil preserve the chronological unity of the entire chapter, and contend that Jeremiah 12:7-17 contain Jehovah’s answer to Jeremiah’s complaint, 1–6. 2. Cotemporary Scriptures. 3. National Affaire. 4. Cotemporary History: as in notes on chap. 11. See above, on “evil neighbours.”
5. Geographical References.—Jeremiah 12:5. “Swelling of Jordan:” lit. the pride of Jordan. Ewald, Umbreit, and A.V. interpret it as the rise and overflow of the river; but Keil, Payne Smith, and Hend. as “the luxuriant thickets along its banks.” The river did overflow its lower banks in April and May, and fill the Ghor valley: this resulted from the melting of the winter’s snow on Hermon and Lebanon. The expression is not inappropriate to such an inundation (cf. Job 38:11); but, as nothing is known of dangerous overflows of the river, the comparison of the text, implying serious peril, is void of force or significance. On the other hand, taking the reference to the marshy banks, overgrown with shrubs, trees, and reeds, which were the natural haunts of lions, the comparison is most striking. Just as in the reedy thickets of the Euphrates lions hid themselves, so in the rank vegetation which abounded on the banks of Jordan, especially between the Sea of Tiberias and the Lake Merom, affording shelter for wild boars, tigers, bears, and lions. Maundrell says the banks are in some parts so wooded that the traveller cannot see the river at all until he has fought his way through the tangled and lofty growths. How would the prophet do in the wooded haunts of wild beasts! Jeremiah 12:14. “Evil neighbours:” in 2 Kings 24:2, are mentioned the Syrians, Moabites, and Ammonites; and in Psalms 137:0 the Edomites also. The Idumeans and Philistines likewise joined themselves to the Chaldean power; and all these nations, being in the vicinity of the Jews, made use of their opportunity for molesting Judah.
6. Natural History.—Jeremiah 12:9. “Speckled bird:” the interpretation of הַעַיִט צָבוּעַ is disputed. Gesenius and the LXX. render it hyæna; thus “a ravenous beast, the hyæna.” But עַיִט always elsewhere means bird of prey (cf. Isaiah 46:11; Isaiah 18:6, &c.). The word צָבוּעַ as an adjective is naturally derived from צָבַע, to tinge or dye. By this parti-coloured or speckled bird is probably meant a vulture. It is a familiar fact in natural history that birds, and especially birds of prey, will unite in attacking an intruder whose appearance is distinctive and peculiar. But birds of prey are not known thus to attack hyænas. Jeremiah 12:12. “High places through the wilderness” (see notes on chap. Jeremiah 3:2), i.e., “the bare-topped hills of the desert.” מִדְבָּר, is the name for such parts of the country as were suited only for rearing and pasturing cattle, like the so-called wilderness of Judah to the west of the Dead Sea” (Keil).
7. Literary Criticisms.—Jeremiah 12:1. “Let me talk with Thee of judgments:” rather, Yet will I speak with Thee on a matter of right.—(Speaker’s Com.). “Wherefore are all they happy that deal very treacherously!” Rather, secure, tranquil, at ease; who “deal faithlessly” (Keil); “practise knavery” (Lange); “prevaricate prevarications” (Septuagint)—which is truer to the Heb. בֹּגְדֵי בֶגֶד. Jeremiah 12:3. “Pull them out like sheep.” נָתַק, to tear, pull away with violence: although, in Judges 20:32, the gentler significance of to draw or lead is given. Properly the word implies force and violence. Jeremiah 12:4. “He shall not see our last end;” the LXX. refer the seeing to God, thus: οὐκ ὄψεται ὁ θεὸς ὁδοὺς ἡμῶν; and Rosen., Ewald, and others interpret the meaning as, God will pay no heed to our fate, so that we may act as we choose unpunished! Graf refers “he shall not see” to Jeremiah; because “they” (the wicked, Jeremiah 12:1) intended to destroy him (Hitzig); or because his threatenings against us will not come to pass (Kail). Henderson takes the word as impersonal, and renders them, “no one shall see our end;” i.e., it shall not be realised, we shall not be destroyed. Jeremiah 12:5. “Contend with horses:” from the root חָרָה, to burn; Hith., to be eager, be hot. The Vulgate has given “contend.” Jeremiah 12:6. “They have called a multitude after thee:” מָלֵא (here rendered “multitude”) has been given as “in a troop,” “in a mass,” “with a full voice:” the last is most correct (as in Jeremiah 4:5; see notes); loudly, lustily, vehemently: as being an adverb. “After thee:” i.e., behind thee. The sentence suggests that they would follow the prophet with a clamorous hue and cry. Jeremiah 12:9. “Come to devour:” i.e., Cause them to come, bring them. Jeremiah 12:11. “They have made it desolate:” the Heb. word is impersonal: One has set it for a desolation; or set it is an utter desolation. Jeremiah 12:14. “That touch the inheritance:” נָגַע, to touch an enemy, to attack (cf. Zechariah 2:12). “I will pluck them out, … and pluck out the house of Judah:” a promise of two removals; the heathen from the land of Canaan, and the Jews from the land of the heathen.
HOMILIES ON SECTIONS OF CHAPTER 12
Complaint that treachery prospers; admonitory warnings given.
God’s faithless people abandoned to desolation.
Penalty for oppressors, mercy for penitents.
Jeremiah 12:1-6. COMPLAINT THAT TREACHERY PROSPERS; ADMONITORY WARNINGS GIVEN
Affairs seemed to Jeremiah all discordant with God’s righteousness: he must plead with Him respecting them. He speaks to God humbly yet honestly about the difficulty he finds in interpreting God’s ways with men; letting the treacherous prosper, allowing the godly to suffer. Learn how to go “boldly to the throne of grace:” take all burdens, and open all our thoughts fully to God: “casting all our cares upon Him.”
I. A bewildered soul making complaint of wrong. For it seemed wrong to the prophet. 1. Impiety enjoyed every luxury and advantage: “the wicked prosper;” the treacherous are “happy” or at ease (Jeremiah 12:1). 2. God Himself appeared to favour them. That was the blinding mystery: “Thou hast planted them;” and they continue to “grow” and “bring forth fruit” (Jeremiah 12:2), as if God would allow nothing to harm them. It would have been different had there been no God to execute justice and judgment in the earth. 3. Hypocrisy was employed as a disguise. God was “near in their mouth, but far from their reins;” yet surely the All-seeing One could detect the blasphemous fraud; He would not be deceived, and reward this religious pretence with prosperity as if it were sincere! 4. Godliness seemed left unvindicated. Jeremiah could not attempt to exalt his own loyalty to God and love of truth against this prevalent hypocrisy; yet “Thou, O Lord, knowest me,” &c. (Jeremiah 12:3.) Nevertheless, while God appeared to favour the wicked, he, His servant, was left to suffer! 5. Indignation against transgressors utters itself. “Pull them out like sheep,” &c. (Jeremiah 12:3): the prophet’s incensed soul rises into impatience, he adventures to appeal to Jehovah as to what should be done to them. This seems daring, but observe that: 6. Holy patriotism impelled his remonstrance with God. “How long shall the land mourn?” &c. (Jeremiah 12:4): the “wickedness” of these men was working havoc and ruin on his loved country; and while they revelled in iniquity they arrogated to themselves safety—“He shall not see our last end” (see Literary Criticism on words). All this “vexed his righteous soul.”
II. A wearied sufferer admonished of heavier trials. No word of comfort or explanation from God in return to this complaint: only prophecy of greater ills. It indicates: 1. That evil must be allowed to reach maturity ere God will interpose. These men would go on “from iniquity unto iniquity.” They may enjoy immunity for awhile, but their measure is being filled up. Malignity against God’s prophet was reaching more and more to the very heart of the nation (Jeremiah 12:6); then no word from God through him would receive the faintest regard; not a willing listener would be left: God held back the vindication of His prophet, and His own righteousness, till the last hour of hope had been abused.
2. God’s witnesses must not expect immunity from hardships. Fidelity entails hostility. In every calling it is so. The more virulent the evil around, the more fidelity is needed, yet the more will the faithful have to endure. Jeremiah’s trials would enlarge (Jeremiah 12:5), for the people’s wickedness was becoming more daring (Jeremiah 12:6). We must expect the penalties of godliness, must not shrink from ordeals. “Endure hardness as good soldiers of Jesus Christ.”
3. Darker days are foretold so that preparation may be sought. That is the lesson of Jeremiah 12:5. The evils from which you suffer, and of which you now complain, will grow more appalling: “how wilt thou do?” Is there in you a timid heart, a shrinking from the stern experiences incident to your holy work? More need of grasping God firmly, trusting Him implicitly, leaving all issues with Him, and drawing from Him “strength to be made perfect in your weakness.” “We may boldly say, The Lord is my helper, I will not fear what man shall do unto me.”
Jeremiah 12:7-13. GOD’S FAITHLESS PEOPLE ABANDONED TO DESOLATION
Note here, that Jeremiah had complained to God of having suffered from the hostility of his people and even his own family: now, in turn, Jehovah tells His prophet that the nation had turned upon Him with an appalling malignity, as a “lion roaring against Him” (Jeremiah 12:8). God had suffered more griefs and wrongs from His people than had Jeremiah. The enmity showed by his “house” (Jeremiah 12:6) to Jeremiah was only a symbol of the enmity of God’s “house” (Jeremiah 12:7) to Him. The sore penalty is, “I have given over the dearly beloved of my soul to her enemies.”
I. The downfall of the nation was occasioned by no want of love on God’s part for Judah. He may cherish a people still, may “love the world,” may yearn towards the sinner, and yet God’s love may not avail to shield the wicked from the consequences of guilt. Right cannot abdicate even to Love.
II. The abandonment of Judah to her foes was necessitated by her having become herself God’s foe. Though He loved her, she set herself against Him as a roaring lion (Jeremiah 12:8). One whom God loves may therefore unite with God’s enemies: 1. In the attitude of defiance; 2. In the experience of God’s displeasure (Jeremiah 12:8).
III. The penalties of Divine abandonment are utterly desolating. As God’s favour is life, so is His hatred death: Jerusalem’s punishment must be severe as if inflicted by one who held her in abhorrence. 1. Having ranked herself with God’s foes, she is given over to her enemies (Jeremiah 12:7; Jeremiah 12:9). 2. Having repudiated God’s minister (Jeremiah), alien “pastors” are called upon the sacred land (Jeremiah 12:10). 3. Desolation without pity (Jeremiah 12:11), and devastation without restraint (Jeremiah 12:12), would ensue. 5. “The fierce anger of the Lord” would reduce the people to dismay and shame: their crops a failure; their defences against a siege, which had cost them “pain” to contrive, would prove profitless; and their “revenues” in which they relied would purchase them no protection from the devouring “sword of the Lord.”
Jeremiah 12:14-17. PENALTY FOR OPPRESSORS, MERCY FOR PENITENTS
“The spoilers of the Lord’s heritage are also to be carried off out of their land: but after they, like Judah, have been punished, the Lord will have pity on them, and will bring them back one and all into their own land. And if the heathen, who now seduce the people of God to idolatry, learn the ways of God’s people and be converted to the Lord, they shall receive citizenship amongst God’s people, and be built up amongst them; but if they will not do so, they shall be extirpated. Thus will the Lord manifest Himself before the whole earth as righteous Judge, and through judgment secure the weal not only of Israel, but of the heathen peoples too.”—Keil.
Here is a message of mercy blended with judgment to the nations bordering upon the land of Judah, who had been, or would be, injurious to the peace of God’s people. Obs.
I. To touch with unhallowed hand the heritage of God’s people is criminal (Jeremiah 12:14). 1. The godly are often closely pressed by ungodly neighbours. 2. God permits those whom we copy in wrong-doing to become our oppressors. 3. Yet He watches jealously over the possessions as well as the persons of His people. 4. And will hold them guilty of sacrilege who touch Israel’s inheritance. 5. Their oppression shall return in kind upon themselves: “I will pluck them out of their land.”
II. The compassion of Jehovah embraces peoples outside of His covenant (Jeremiah 12:15). God has uncovenanted mercies to bestow, even on such as (1) had wronged His people—compare Saul of Tarsus; (2) had incurred Israel’s hate, as these “evil neighbours” did: yet God is not implacable even to the enemies of His people (Colossians 1:21). 1. God’s judgments are ever tempered and followed by compassion. 2. His graciousness to wrong-doers designs to restore to them all which their sinfulness forfeited. 3. The godly should cherish a comprehensive charity as wide as God’s compassion.
III. Preparation for the experience of Divine mercy is essential. 1. God discriminates and selects the objects of His compassion: not extended to all regardless of their state and conduct. 2. The sinner must make earnest efforts if he would avert judgment and inherit the mercy (Jeremiah 12:16). 3. With what sacred favours God crowns the life that allies itself to Him: though “not of Israel,” united to Israel, “built in the midst of My people.” 4. But the rebellious shall receive judgment without alleviation (Jeremiah 12:17). True equally for nations, families, individuals: grace is offered; abuse it, and only severity can ensue.
HOMILIES AND COMMENTS ON VERSES OF CHAPTER 12
Jeremiah 12:1. Theme: GOD’S RIGHTEOUSNESS: ITS BAFFLING ANOMALIES.
This is the objection which unbelievers urge against Providence in all ages, and the difficulty which the godly often feel. Since the Mosaic covenant recognised the administrations of righteousness in this life, many Old Testament saints stumbled before the mysteries (cf. Job 12:6; Job 21:7; Psalms 37:1; Psalms 37:35; Psalms 73:3; Malachi 3:15).
I. The broad operations of Divine righteousness trustfully acknowledged. “Righteous art Thou, O Lord.” A firm conviction of the rectitude of God’s character; ergo, of His proceedings, despite anomalies. It is well that we get on to this broad rock when perplexities, like riotous waves around, make us afraid, and the spray blinds our eyes. When hard thoughts of God’s providence trouble us, rise up to this wide truth—He is righteous. To concentrate our thoughts on a narrow line of vision may mislead us: look over the ages, the course of human history, the laws which assert themselves in man’s experience, the Divine rule over the world, the vindication of His righteousness on Calvary, the witness of a righteous God in every conscience; and this broad view compels the acknowledgment.
II. The particular administrations of Divine righteousness anxiously questioned. “Wherefore doth the way of the wicked prosper,” &c. The worldly comfort and success of these Anathoth conspirators seemed to confute God’s righteousness. (See on Section of chapters, supra.) “It is a common grievance to live and experience that the ungodly are prosperous and the godly are unfortunate” (Cramer). “A difficulty to many wise and good men; they see the designs and projects of wicked people successful, their affairs and concerns prosper. Hypocrites are chiefly meant (as appears, Jeremiah 12:2), who dissemble in their good professions” (Henry). These “dealt treacherously” not only with God’s servant, but with Jehovah Himself. Yet they were prosperous and happy. E.g., Dionysius is reported to have said that God favoured the sacrilegious; for he had sailed in safety after having plundered temples and perpetrated robberies. Wrong-doers seem “in their lifetime to receive their good things.” Sin looks the grand success.
III. A fuller acquaintance with the secrets of God’s righteousness solemnly entreated. He would “plead with God and talk with Him of judgments;” i.e., reason the case, inquire into the causes why the wicked are allowed to succeed, or ask for a clearer vision of the hidden workings of God’s providence, to “see the end of the Lord.” We have faulty sight; our gaze is clouded, partial, dim; we have limited sight; our eye does not travel far enough; we cannot see afar off along the years; we look at the near, at the present moment. Watch, wait: God is working out of our sight; His plans take in a longer time than our impatience reckons.
“Can we conceive anything more humane and gracious than our dear Lord? We know beforehand that we are wrong; we do not doubt that He does all well, yet it oppresses us. Straight to our Lord, the eternal and living God, with all our ill-humour, doubt, care, scruples! Pour out your heart before Him.”—Zinzendorf.
God allows our expostulations, indeed, welcomes us to such pleading; and the soul who “talks with” God of the perplexities and difficulties which beset him, will find that “light is sown for the righteous,” and that—
“God is His own interpreter,
And He will make it plain.”
Jeremiah 12:3. Theme: A RIGHTEOUS SOUL PLEADING WITH THE RIGHTEOUS GOD
I. Value of conscious integrity. It enables the soul to go before the Lord unabashed, boldly, with filial trust, assured of acceptance.
II. Appeal to Divine omniscience. The “pure in heart” shrink not from the searching light of God’s eye. A joy to the sincere that the All-seeing knows his whole life and inmost thoughts.
III. Consolations of holy innocence. It flings off slander, is a shield from conspirators, sustains the soul in persecution, and gives inward comfort amid surrounding strife.
IV. Indignation against malevolent wrong-doers. They seemed to hinder and refute God’s providential righteousness, and to cast discredit upon His wise and beneficent rule. Let them “reap what they have sown,” and thus witness to God’s antipathy towards sin and His friendship towards innocence. A sufferer at the hands of sinners can lawfully entertain such feelings; yet the Gospel attitude towards persecutors is—“Pray for (not against) them that despitefully use you,” and leave God in His own way to vindicate His righteous providence, and show His approval of His loyal servants.
Jeremiah 12:4. Theme: DISASTERS CONSEQUENT UPON SIN.
“The land mourned,” indicating general misery; probably a drought (see Jeremiah 14:2, &c.). The cause of this was “wickedness,” i.e., wrong-doing, oppression, rapine, violation of the rights of property and sanctities of home; criminal doings which carried dismay and sorrow everywhere. “The wicked were in great power.”
I. What miseries sinners inflict on society. They can make a whole “land mourn.” Think of the devastations wrought by habitual intemperance, reckless speculations in commerce, circulation of obscene literature, profanation of religion, virulent assaults on faith, allurements of the young to evil courses of life, &c. Homes are invaded with evils worse than bereavement; society is infested with moral plagues which destroy virtue and honour and reciprocal faith; churches are robbed of the hopeful seekers after God. Sinners are cruel destroyers; they ruin not themselves alone.
II. What outrages sinners commit against Divine law. “Wickedness” interrupts the beneficent action of the ordained laws of Heaven. Personal happiness and social prosperity are the natural issues of God’s laws. “Wickedness” outrages those laws, works against them, breaks down the banks of flowing, fertilising rivers, and lets in a destructive inundation. Jeremiah recognised that this “wickedness” was an offence to God, as being a defiance of His kindly laws, as well as an outrage on society. Nations and societies and individuals secure their weal by respecting the right and obeying the will of God. Miseries—as now in Judah’s experience—follow upon the violation of God’s laws, which are ordained for human good.
III. What delusions sinners practise upon themselves. “They said. He shall not see our last end” (comp. Lit. Crit. on words). 1. God will not see, &c.: that affirms the theory that Jehovah does not notice and punish human sin. 2. Jeremiah will not see, &c.: the prophet’s threatenings are vapid and untrue; punishment will not follow upon our wickedness. 3. No one shall see (impersonal): our safety is in no wise imperilled by our sins; man’s conduct does not affect God, provokes no retributive Providence, nor influences human experience and destiny, so we need not be apprehensive of ill. And thus, in every age, self-beguiled sinners say, “Peace, peace, whereas sudden destruction cometh upon them.”
Note, that there is a “last end” to the career of “wickedness.”
Jeremiah 12:5. Theme: THE BACKWARD GLANCE OF SORROW, AND THE FORWARD GLANCE OF FEAR. “If those hast run with the footmen and they wearied thee, how canst thou contend with horses? and if in land of peace, &c., how in swellings of Jordan?”
A contrast instituted between a state of comparative quiet and peace and one of great commotion and trouble; and from the remembrance of the prophet’s weariness amid auspicious circumstances, the inquiry arises as to results likely to follow when all is adverse and perilous. Applies to all who have found themselves weak in lesser trials, yet before whom rises the prospect of greater.
I. Sad recollections.
A review of the past with its humbling memories. 1. Weariness was experienced when conflicting difficulties were insignificant. Merely “running with footmen,” with whom our own strength and perseverance might forsooth be matched. 2. Weariness was felt when external circumstances were favourable. “In the land of peace they wearied thee.” Amid even life’s comforts experienced “vexation of spirit.” Even in youth “fainted and grew weary, and young men utterly fell.”
II. Anxious forebodings.
A glance at the future with painful misgivings. 1. Trials would be more overwhelming with circumstances less propitious. “Horses;” “swellings of Jordan.” Larger and more ominous. When storms lower, afflictions come, friends are gone, age upon us, death lays hand upon our heart, eternity looms before our gaze, with God and judgment-seat.—“How will thou do?”
2. This severer ordeal may come at a time when least expected. As came the inroads of the Chaldean army: cavalry “horses,” the “swelling,” or pride, perhaps the lions of Jordan. Heavy troubles, dreadful losses, desolating bereavements, the event of death—who can anticipate them?
III. Refuge desirable.
The need of a Helper suggested by the prospect. For the prophet would be unequal to the emergency. He would want God, His presence, succour, and hiding. So shall we, or how shall we do? Seek Him as
1. A Refuge suited to every emergency; whether “contending with horses,” or “in the swellings of Jordan.”
2. A Refuge accessible in every extremity.
Having Him, we can say: “I am persuaded that neither death nor life, &c., can separate me from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.”
Theme: THE SWELLINGS OF JORDAN.
Jeremiah had become impatient with his troubles. God says to him: “If you cannot stand these small trials and persecutions, what are you going to do when the greater come?” In a very practical way, ask
I. If it is such a difficult thing to get along without the religion of Jesus Christ when things are comparatively smooth, what shall we do amid the overpowering misfortunes and disasters of life that may come upon us?
If troubles, slow as footmen, surpass us, what do when they take the feet of horses? If now submerged with sorrows because we have not the religion of Jesus to comfort us, what do we when stand in death? A sad thing to see men, all unhelped by God, going out to fight the giants of trouble, no promise of mercy to soothe the soul, no rock of refuge in which to hide. How compete when the swift coursers of trouble come up for the race?
We have all yielded to temptation; been surprised afterwards that so small an inducement could have decoyed us from the right. But, if overthrown by small sins through lack of the religion of Jesus, how can we stand up against great ones?
II. The great tides of eternity will rise about us, and amid the swellings of Jordan we must all quit this life.
Our natural courage will not hold out then. The first dash of Jordan’s waves will swamp all natural resources for ever. We feel how sad it is for a man to attempt this life without religion; but how will he feel when the shadows of the last hour gather about his pillow? If the religion of Christ is so important for us amid life’s troubles and temptations, and in the hour of death, how much more important in the great eternity! You will want Christ. When the world is going away from your grasp, and all the lights that shine about you are going out, and friends around you can do you no good, and you feel your feet slipping from beneath you,—then you will want Jesus to stand close by you, and hold you up amid “the swellings of Jordan.”—De Witt Talmage.
Theme: THE CHRISTIAN’S TRIUMPH
One who had fought many battles, and seldom, if ever, lost any, was asked to what he attributed his remarkable success. He replied, “I owe it, under God, to this, that I made it a rule never to despise an enemy.” To what warfare is this so applicable as to the Christian’s? Those conflicts were best maintained which we counted most hazardous. Estimate your foes: “If run with footmen and wearied, how contend with horses?” The difficulty implied by this proverb appears in this—
I. That man is less a match for Satan now than when Satan, at their first encounter, proved himself more than a match for man.
Defeated in Eden, where can man now hope for success? Overcome in our state of innocence, what triumph can we effect in our state of guilt? None apart from Christ.
II. If we were overcome by sin ere it had grown into strength, we are now less able to resist it.
If we could not turn the stream near its mountain-cradle, how shall we turn the river that pours its flood into the sea? Sin gains power by time and habit. Some things weaken and wear away by use, but not the power of sin. All sinners, as well as “seducers, wax worse and worse.” Overcome by sin when it was weak, how hope to resist it when strong? By His grace alone, with whom nothing is impossible: “I can do all things through Christ who strengtheneth me.” Thus can “they that are accustomed to do evil learn to do well.”
II. How these contending forces are to be overcome.
Renew the combat, never surrender: “Hope in God.” Recall how Peter, “wearied by the footmen,” nobly and successfully “contended with horses”—a coward before the maid in the judgment-hall, yet bold before the judges, declaring he would not keep silence, but would “obey God rather than man.” God makes good His promises—“My grace is sufficient for thee;” “one man shall chase a thousand;” “he that is feeble among them shall be as David, and David shall be as God.” With His presence we may contend with greatest difficulties; and, clinging to Jesus, may go down undaunted even into “the swellings of Jordan.”—“Way to Life,” Thomas Guthrie, DD.
Note: “The argument is a fortiori. A proverbial phrase. The injuries done thee by the men of Anathoth (‘footmen’) are small compared with those which the men of Jerusalem (‘horsemen’) are about to inflict on thee. If the former ‘weary thee’ out, ‘how wilt thou contend with’ the king, the court, and the priests at Jerusalem? If in the campaign country alone thou art secure, how wilt thou do when thou fallest into the wooded haunts of wild beasts?”—Critical Bible.
i. While we are in this world we must expect troubles and difficulties.
ii. God’s usual method being to begin with smaller trials, it is our wisdom to expect greater than any we have yet met with.
iii. It highly concerns us to prepare for such trials, and to consider what we should do in them.
iv. In order to our preparation for further and greater trials, we are concerned to approve ourselves well in present smaller trials, to keep hold on the promise, keep in our way, and, with our eye on the prize, so run that we may obtain.—Henry.
Jeremiah 12:6. Theme: TREACHERY CROUCHING BEHIND FAIR WORDS. In the perilous times nearing, Jeremiah’s own relatives would raise the hue and cry after him, or seek by “fair words” to allure him from his mission.
I. Godliness may estrange family relationships. “Even thy brethren, &c., dealt treacherously.”
II. Guilesome words will assay to decoy the faithful from his fidelity. “Speak fair words unto thee.”
III. Insidious speech from the ungodly is not to be believed. It is like the serpent’s voice to Eve. “Believe them not!”
IV. Refusal to heed guilesome words will provoke abusive raillery. “Cried loudly after thee.” (See Lit. Crit. on words.)
V. Treachery will attack the godly from most covert scenes. In the very “house of thy father,” and from thine own “brethren.”
VI. Ceaseless watchfulness and unswerving constancy must be maintained. “Watch and pray, lest ye enter into temptation.” Pause not to heed any “fair words,” even when loved ones of the home softly and gently “speak” them: heed God alone. “He that loveth father, mother, brethren, &c., more than Me, is not worthy of Me.” “A man’s foes shall be they of his own household.”
Note: “Even thy brethren.” Abel was slain by his own brother; Paul suffered most from his own countrymen; Christ found no little depreciation at the hands of those near akin.
“They have called a multitude after thee.” Trapp comments, “Or with full mouth—Clamant post te pleno gutture—as those did against Christ who cried, ‘Crucify Him, crucify Him;’ and those against Paul, ‘Away with such fellows from the earth;’ and those against the primitive Christians, ‘Christianos ad leones.’ ‘In Rhodanum, in Rhodanum,’ cried many at Geneva against Farellus, their faithful preacher, ‘Into the river with him;’ but God preserved him from their fury, for the good of many other cities after that converted by him.
Jeremiah 12:7. Theme: CHERISHED TREASURES CONSIGNED TO FOES.
God seems here to use most endearing terms in order to mark the dreadful desolation about to overtake Judah. This heartless people boasted in the thought that they were God’s “heritage,” His “dearly beloved;” yet, instead of valuing their high estate in grace, they presumed upon it, trifled with it, and even set themselves lion-like (Jeremiah 12:8) against their benignant spiritual Benefactor. And their lofty distinction as a people, which should have prompted them to proportionate jealousy to remain worthy of it and act in harmony therewith, led to spiritual pride and national degeneracy. Observe:
I. How God lingers fondly over the objects of His gracious regard. As if reluctant to think other than loving thoughts of them: enumerates all that was attractive, “house, heritage, beloved of My soul,” as if He would keep the good and beautiful in His sight, and thereby hide from Himself the loathsome.
“House” may mean Temple; “heritage,” the goodly land; “beloved,” the people whom God had chosen and cherished. Note how He—
1. Asserts His claim.” Mine house, mine heritage,” &c.
2. Reveals His love. Language instinct with affection: “The dearly beloved of My soul.”
“Loved us not with standing all.”
3. Laments His loss. Theirs would be the greater loss far; God alienated, themselves expatriated from their country, &c.; yet God grieves to lose His children: “How can I give thee up?”
II. How God necessarily withdraws from those who violate their sacred relationship.
1. He is not first, but last in alienating Himself. “Slow to anger, and of great kindness.” Separation between humanity and Jehovah began with humanity: Adam’s sin. Separation between the individual and God begins with the individual:
“Heaven lies about us in our infancy;”
but wickedness banishes God as the life advances. Separation between the heart and God begins with the heart; doubts and hard thoughts admitted, or “iniquity is regarded in the heart,” and hence the withdrawal of God. “Your sins have hid His face from you,” &c. (Isaiah 59:2).
2. He cannot perpetuate a violated relationship. It would be unrighteous in itself, and injurious in its results.
3. He wholly abandons the faithless. “I have given—into the hand of her enemies.” For there is no other alternative; either in God’s love, or in the grasp of foes.
III. How God permits those who revolt from Him to suffer appropriate penalties. The correlate fact to “I have forsaken,” is that Judah should be “in the hand of her enemies,” It was only by Jehovah keeping near that enemies were kept afar.
1. They forfeit His providential protection.
2. Enemies are alert to seize as prey those whom God does not defend and befriend.
3. Their own resources of security and strength are futile.
4. A melancholy reversion of their former estate of privilege. “The dearly beloved” of God in her enemies’ hand! Such repudiation of God’s love has but one alternative: “delivered over to Satan,” consigned to the foe of God and man.
I. Pre-eminent spiritual distinction. Raised into highest privilege, honour, and blessedness.
II. False grounds of assurance. Presumed upon her advantages, and violated the conditions of retaining them.
III. Glaring abuse of Divine grace. Her enjoyment of God’s tender love makes her faithlessness the more criminal and abominable.
IV. Merited retribution. The “dearly beloved” given over to those who hated her, “her enemies.” Even worse: the loving Jehovah Himself came to “hate His once cherished” “heritage” (Jeremiah 12:8).
How repugnant is sin to God! What dire results ensue to determined and defiant wrong-doers! The brighter the light, the blacker the darkness of its shadows; so the more “dearly beloved,” the more terrible, the “outer darkness” of being “hated” by the Lord!
Starke comments: The heart of a believer is God’s most cherished abode, but if man corrupt it with wilful sin, God must forsake His house (Isaiah 59:2).
Jeremiah 12:8. “Mine heritage it unto me as a lion in the forest.” One’s heritage and patrimony is, we know, his delight. God shows that He was in His own heritage as though He was in a vast and wild forest, and the fields which ought to have been His delight were become places of the greatest horror, as though a lion were roaring and raging.—Calvin.
Judah has not merely refused obedience, but shown itself intractable and fierce like an untamed lion. It has roared against God with open blasphemy.—Speaker’s Com.
The reason why Jehovah gives up His people for a prey—it has behaved to God like a lion, i.e., has opposed Him fiercely like a furious beast. Therefore He must withdraw His love.—Keil.
Jeremiah 12:9. The form of the verse is interrogative: Is My heritage unto Me as a speckled bird? Are birds of prey round about her? As around a strange bird—probably here a vulture—other carrion birds collect and cruelly abuse it, so would Judah’s foes surround and destroy her; for God summons also “all the beasts of the field” to “devour” her.
Jeremiah 12:10-13. Theme: COMPLETE DEVASTATION OF THE LAND.
God speaks of this utter desolation of the land by the Chaldean army as a thing done; so near, so sure was it.
i. See with what a tender affection He speaks of this land, notwithstanding the sinfulness of it, in remembrance of His covenant, and the tribute of honour and glory He had formerly had from it. It is “My vineyard, My portion, My pleasant portion” (Jeremiah 12:10). Note, God has a kindness and concern for His Church, though there be much amiss in it.
ii. See with what a tender compassion He speaks of the desolations of this land. “Many pastors have destroyed My vineyard,” without any consideration either of the value of it or of My interest in it; they have with greatest insolence and indignation “trodden it under foot,” and that which was a pleasant land they have made “a desolate wilderness.” The destruction was universal: “the whole land is made desolate” (Jeremiah 12:11). It is made so by the sword of war; “the spoilers,” the Chaldean soldiers, “have come through the plain upon all high places” (Jeremiah 12:12), made themselves masters of all the natural fastnesses and artificial fortresses. “No flesh shall have peace;” all have corrupted their way—none shall have peace.
iii. See whence all this misery comes. 1. From the displeasure of God: it is “the sword of the Lord that devours” (Jeremiah 12:12). It was the “fierce anger of the Lord” (Jeremiah 12:13), which kindled this fire among them, and made their enemies so furious. 2. It is their sin that has made God their enemy. Though the land “mourneth unto Me,” pouring out its complaint over desolation before God, the inhabitants are so senseless and stupid that “none of them lays it to heart,” unaffected by God’s displeasure, while the very ground they go upon shames them.
iv. See how unable they shall be to guard against it (Jeremiah 12:13). “They have sown wheat,” i.e., have taken pains for their own security, but “shall reap thorns,” what shall prove grievous and vexatious to them. Instead of helping themselves, they shall but make themselves more uneasy. “Ashamed of your revenues,” that they have depended so much upon their preparations for war; and their silver and gold shall “not profit” them in the day of the Lord’s anger.—Henry.
Jeremiah 12:11. Theme: UNPITIED MISERY. “The whole land is made desolate, because no man layeth it to heart.”
Applicable to any scene where evil thrives, where ruin goes on unchecked, where ignorance, sin, and oppression work human wretchedness and overthrow.
Applicable to any special national vice: intemperance, poisonous literature, polluted pleasure; by which homes are wrecked, youth betrayed, the country weakened, wasted, or degraded.
Applicable to the scenes of heathenism, where benighted souls droop, where “the habitations of cruelty” rear themselves, where outrages on homes and conscience and life are enacted in the name of idolatry.
I. National woes should move us to patriotic sorrow. We ought to “lay it to heart” when our “land mourneth.”
1. As being ourselves a part of the nation;” identified with it, therefore, in quick sympathy with what happens to it, feeling its sorrows and wrongs to be our own. “If one member suffers, all the members suffer with it.”
2. As being intrusted with responsibilities toward our nation. We each share the benefits of the commonwealth, its laws, its protection, its commercial and social security, &c., therefore, we should to our ability protect its interests, rectify its wrongs, take part in its struggles, enter deeply into its great woes and wants.
3. As being solicitous for our nation’s weal. Fired with the patriotic spirit, glowing with a sense of power to help and alleviate and bless; realising the service we can render to men and to God in a life of wise and benevolent enterprise, however lowly and obscure, or however public and imposing. What can be done for my people’s good?
II. Torpid indifference surrenders a land to spoilers. These “spoilers” were intent on their end (Jeremiah 12:12); they would capture and desolate the land. Spoilers are still active and plotting, seeking the young, the gay, the ambitious, the intellectually vain, aiming at their moral, social, mental, and spiritual overthrow.
1. Indifference as to the menacing evils which were gathering. No foresight, no apprehension. Some sleep unsuspecting till the enemy is at the gate. “We are not ignorant of his devices.” “Watch and pray that ye enter not into temptation.”
2. Indifference as to the real cause of prevailing misery—irreligion. Many seek to remedy ills without recognising the spring and source. Neglect of God explains human woe. But, ignoring the fact that impiety is at the root, they bring superficial ameliorations.
3. Indifference as to the Divinely-sent calls to reform. God appealed by His prophet to the nation to turn again to Him. Had they complied, the desolation would have been averted; but they cared not to hear the sacred message. So still the people sink into the power of sin, pleasure, worldliness, atheism, which bring desolations, because they despite God’s messages, repudiate the Gospel of Christ, turn from the only Saviour of sinners, whose healing grace remedies human woes, and rectifies all the desolations sin has wrought.
III. Scenes of desolation summon us to holy endeavour. “Lay it to heart,” not as an idle sentiment, but an inspiration to help.
1. Christianity commissions its followers to helpful work. It is the meaning of the Saviour’s own example: “Seek and save that which is lost.” It is the teaching of the New Testament: “Go and do likewise,” i.e., as did the good Samaritan to the man who had fallen among thieves, find your neighbour in the first sufferer you meet. Christianity makes missionaries, philanthropists, patriots of its disciples.
2. Where the spoiler has desolated, there the Christian must go. With a heart pitying the fallen, the perishing, and the blighted. “Into all the world.” “To the help of the Lord against the mighty.”
Jeremiah 12:14. Theme: A TRIPLE CONSOLATION. Equally true of the Church of Christ as of the kingdom of Judah.
I. God is watching, and will punish the adversaries of His people.
1. They environ her: “evil neighbours.”
2. They molest her: “touch the inheritance”—her truths, her sacred joys.
3. They invade her holy scenes: intrude upon sacred soil; her sanctuary, to spoil its services; the privacy of prayer, to mar the soul’s fellowship, &c.
4. Yet the Divine Friend of His people observes our foes; is “against” them, and therefore on our part; and will requite the evil done to them that are His.
II. God has purposes of grace for His suffering people.
1. Even though their own wickedness explains their being in the hand of foes.
2. Yet He will not abandon them to their “evil neighbours;” for our foes are not to be allowed the enjoyment of their successes. God has no favour towards His people’s enemies; they shall be dispossessed of “the inheritance which I have caused My people to inherit.” Though the guilty take our peace from us, they shall not enjoy it: “no peace to the wicked.” Though they deprive us of our hopes, they shall not inherit them: “having no hope.”
3. God will reclaim His people to Himself. “I will pluck out the house of Judah from among them.” He did this from the hands of Judah’s enemies, restoring her to her heritage again; and “He will pluck out our feet from the net,” deliver our souls from the spoiler, and save His Church from the sophistries of her foes (Jeremiah 12:15).
III. God designs that even His people’s enemies shall be converted unto Him. It would eventuate in the good of Judah’s “evil neighbours” for her to be temporarily scattered into their lands, and for those neighbours to occupy Judah’s heritage.
1. It brought them into contact with Divine realities; gave them knowledge of the religion of Judah. Those who entered her land could “walk about Zion,” and learn something of the worship of Jehovah and the sacred oracles; whereas those people among whom Judah was dispersed could “diligently learn the ways of My people, to swear by My name” (Jeremiah 12:16). It offered them opportunity.
2. The results proved a blessing to the heathen. Many were converted to the Lord. So our Lord’s crucifixion, His prayer for His enemies, availed to the conquest of some who saw and heard. The dispersion of the Early Church by Saul led to the conversion of many elsewhere. Foes are being won to-day even while assailing truth and ill-using Christ’s followers.
3. Converted enemies would then become united with God’s people: “Be built in the midst of My people” (Jeremiah 12:16); a place given to them within her borders, and a share in her spiritual privileges: Gentiles gathered into Israel; sinners and even enemies drawn into Christ’s Church. “He who persecuted the Church in times past now preacheth the faith which once he destroyed” (Galatians 1:23). (Addenda on verse.)
Jeremiah 12:15. Theme: PROGRESSIVE ACTS OF REDEMPTION.
The complete work of Divine grace is not effected in one act; it distributes itself into distinct parts, sometimes into distant periods. As in the instance of these Jews and their neighbours, so in the experience of the sinner, God’s redeeming work is accomplished by progressive stages.
I. Rescue. “I have plucked them out.” Divine deliverance—from wrong scenes, alien countries; or “from the horrible pit and miry clay;” or “plucked as a brand from the burning;” or “delivered from the bondage of corruption;” or “translated from the power of darkness into the kingdom of God’s dear Son.” In any aspect of the experience, it is the initial incident in the process of redemption—rescue.
II. Reconciliation. “I will return, and have compassion on them.” The coming back of the alienated God to the rescued soul. Not in judgment, nor to mark iniquity, nor to chide, but to cover over the whole evil past with the fulness of Divine “compassion.” Blotting out transgression, drawing the rescued one near to the personal love of God in experience of renewed favour. “O Lord, I will praise Thee; though Thou wast angry with me, Thine anger is turned away, and Thou comfortest me.” “God was in Christ, reconciling the world unto Himself, not imputing their trespasses unto them.”
III. Restitution. “I will bring them again, every man to his heritage, and every man to his land.” What sin had forfeited grace will restore. All which we have lost by alienation from God—peace, purity, happiness, holiness, heaven, is restored by redemption. 1. Individual restitution: “every man;” for God overlooks none, not even “the least of all saints.” 2. Complete restitution: “to his heritage,” the blessings to which he was born; the comforts and joys and privileges which would always have remained man’s but for his self-impoverishing sinfulness: “Father, give me the portion of goods that falleth to me.” Also, “to his land,” the home and destiny for which his heart craves. And “our conversation is in heaven.” “Every one of them shall appear in Zion before God.”
Jeremiah 12:16. Theme: ALIENS UNITED IN THE CHURCH.
And these were mutually antagonistic. 1. Politically: “Judah,” and “evil neighbours;” a historic antipathy estranged them, a national enmity separated them. 2. Religiously: each repudiated the other’s religion, and derided their object or objects of worship. They were determined, avowed, and implacable foes.
Is there any meeting-place of union, any common centre of reconciliation for such? Yes, in Christ; in the Church of Emmanuel. “Other sheep I have, which are not of this fold; them also will I bring, that there may be one fold and one Shepherd.”
I. The standard of qualification. All must “learn the ways” of God’s people, and “swear by Jehovah’s name.”
1. Renewal of life. “Cast off the works of darkness, and put on the armour of light.” To “learn the ways” of God’s people implies antipathy removed, the mind and heart allured to assent to a “newness of life,” and so full a reformation of conduct as to become assimilated to God’s people—(a.) In practical godliness; (b.) in homage and service of the Lord. For “the ways” of God’s people are these—holy living and godly service.
2. Allegiance to the Lord. “Swear by My name, the Lord liveth” (comp. notes on chap. Jeremiah 4:2). This means (a) renunciation of other gods; (b) loyal attachment to Jehovah; (c) open profession of religion.
II. The process of preparation. “Learn.”
1. By observation. Seeing what Judah did. Men watch the righteous, and feel the force of example. The Christian life is as a “light shining in darkness;” men “see their good works,” are influenced by the piety of their walk; and antagonism dies as they observe their “ways.”
2. By imitation. From the example of the Jews among these “neighbours” there would be going out the continual call, “Come with us, we will do you good; for the Lord hath spoken good concerning His people.” Also, persuasive words of teaching and entreaty could be spoken to those who were without, inviting them to join with God’s people. And thus they would “learn the ways,” and adopt them. Even as these heathen had beforetime “taught Judah to swear by Baal,” and thus allured them from Jehovah.
Qualification is progressive: it is the issue of learning. The alien becomes transformed by a gradual process into a “fellow-citizen of the saints and of the household of God.”
III. The realisation of union. “They shall be built in the midst of My people.” The stranger and the citizen established in Zion. The foe of Christ united to His followers in the Church. “One in Christ Jesus.” “Gathered together in one.”
1. Alienations and distinctions are annihilated there. A sacred sympathy and a common heritage in God’s grace obliterate all antipathies. Nationality is lost in realisation of a heavenly citizenship: “there is neither Jew nor Greek, circumcised nor uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, bond or free, but all are one in Christ Jesus.”
2. A common Divine relationship unites all together. “Built in the midst of My people,”—i.e., identified with and included among “My people.” “All ye are brethren.” “One family, we dwell in Him.” The Church of Christ is on earth the meeting-place of all, irrespective of nationality or social gradation, who belong to the brotherhood and household of faith.
Jeremiah 12:17. Theme: THE ISSUE OF PERSISTENT ALIENATION.
God opened the door of reconciliation to them: His people would have taught them their “ways;” they might have become partakers of all Judah’s privileges, and found a place within Zion. But repudiating all, nothing remained but complete overthrow and destruction. No place among God’s people means outcast, abandoned, destroyed.
I. A defiant will. Not powerless to “obey,” but determination “not” to obey: deliberate resistance of Judah’s persuasions, and rejection of Divine opportunity. Refused to “learn” or “obey.”
II. An alarming penalty. The issue of such defiance is made clear: no equivocation. “I have set before you life and death.”
III. A terrible punishment. “I will utterly pluck up and destroy.” “Punished with everlasting destruction from the presence of the Lord, and from the glory of His power.”
ADDENDA TO CHAPTER 12: ILLUSTRATIONS AND SUGGESTIVE EXTRACTS
Jeremiah 12:1. Talking with God. Never shall we be lonely, never have to complain of want of companionship, if we acquire this blessed habit of talking with God. There was an old Scotchman sitting by his humble fire, and a visitor asked him if he was not lonesome sitting there all day, and he said, “Nae, nae; I just sit here clacking wi’ Jesus.” When we remember that “clacking” is with the Scotch the word for friendly talking, it will be seen there was no irreverence in the old man’s words, but something to be envied and admired.—Power.
Many, with the best intentions, propounded that God is too great to attend to our little things; and all kindred theories have one point at least in common, viz., the idea that close converse could not be held with God, that He could not be spoken to at all times by plain folk, in a plain way, about things.—Idem.
There is such a thing as talking with God. It is said, in that venerable old record, that “in the cool of the day God walked in the garden, and called to Adam.” I know one thing, that that same habit has continued to this day, for I have in the cool of the day, on the hillside, a hundred times talked with Him too. God is accustomed to come down; He makes Himself, by the power of the Holy Ghost, a guest. There is such a thing as communion with Christ, as one speaketh to a friend face to face.—Beecher.
“When one that holds communion with the skies
Has filled his urn where those pure waters rise,
And once more mingles with us meaner things,
’Tis e’en as if an angel shook his wings:
Immortal fragrance fills the circuit wide,
That tells us whence his treasures are supplied.”—COWPER.
God’s judgments. The heavier the cannon, with the more difficulty are they drawn; but when arrived, they recompense the slowness of their march by the fierceness of their battery. The longer the stone is in falling, the more it will bruise and grind to powder. There is a great treasure of wrath laid up by the abuse of patience.—Charnock.
Thy judgments, saith the prophet, are sometimes secret, always just; this I am well assured of, though I thus argue. Yet let me talk with thee of thy judgments; let me take the humble boldness so to do, that I may be further cleared and instructed by Thee. Wherefore doth the way of the wicked prosper, whilst better men suffer, as now the wicked Anathothites do, whilst I go in danger of my life by them? This question hath exercised the wits and molested the minds of many wise men, both within and without the Church. (See Job 21:7-13; Psalms 37:1; Psalms 73:1-12; Habakkuk 1:4-5.) Plato, Cicero, Seneca, Epictetus, Claudian against Ruffin, &c.—Trapp.
Prosperity of the wicked. Satan with ease puts fallacies upon us by his golden baits, and then he leads us and leaves us in a fool’s paradise. The world hath by the glistering of her pomp and preferment slain millions; as the serpent Scytale, which, when she cannot overtake the fleeting passengers, doth with her beautiful colours astonish and amaze them, so that they have no power to pass away till she have stung them to death. Adversity hath slain her thousands, but prosperity her ten thousand.—Brooks.
It is the bright day that brings out the adder.… Too much sail is dangerous.… A coat too richly embroidered only encumbers the wearer.… Too much sunshine weakens the eyes.
Jeremiah 12:3. GOD’S KNOWLEDGE OF THE HEART. There is a recent application of electricity by which, under the influence of its powerful light, the body can be so illuminated as that the workings beneath the skin can be seen. Lift up the hand and it will appear almost translucent, the bones and veins clearly appearing. It is so in some sort with God’s introspection of the human heart. His eye, which shines brighter than the sun, searches us and discovers us altogether.—Pilkington.
Jeremiah 12:4. “HE SHALL NOT SEE OUR LAST END.” God shall not, and so they deny His providence and prescience; or the prophet shall not, though now he thunder out our punishment with so great vehemence.—Trapp.
Mercury could not kill Argus till he had cast him into a sleep, and with an enchanted rod closed his eyes; and the devil cannot hurt any man till he has lulled him asleep in security.—Playter.
Jeremiah 12:5. “WHAT WILT THOU DO?” We should quit ourselves like men, and not be perturbed by little rivulets; for if these sweep us away, what shall we do when Jordan is swollen to the brim, and we have to pass through that? When one of the martyrs, whose name is the somewhat singular one of Pommely [Trapp gives it as William Cobberly,] was confined previous to his burning, his wife was also taken up upon the charge of heresy. The good woman had resolved to die with her husband, and she appeared, as far as most people could judge, to be very firm in her faith. But the jailor’s wife, though she had no religion, took a merciful view of the case as far as she could do so, and thought, “I am afraid this woman will never stand the test, she will never brave death with her husband; she has neither faith nor strength to endure such a trial;” and therefore, one day calling her out of the cell, she said to her, “Lass, run to the garden and fetch me the key that lies there.” The poor woman ran willingly enough; she took the key up and it burned her fingers, for the jailor’s wife had made it red hot; she came back crying with pain. “Ah, woman,” said she, “if you cannot bear a little burn in your hand, how will you bear to be burnt in your whole body?” and this brought her to recant the faith she had professed. I apply the story thus: If we cannot bear the trifling pangs which come upon us in our ordinary circumstances, which are but as it were the burning of our hands, what shall we do when every pulse beats pain, and every throb is an agony, and the whole tenement begins to crumble about the spirit that is so soon to be disturbed?—C. H. Spurgeon, comp. Trapp on verse.
“I have no hope in what I have been or done,” said Dr. Doddridge on his dying bed, “yet I am full of confidence; and this is my confidence: there is hope set before me. I have fled, I still fly, for refuge to that hope. In Him I trust, in Him I have strong consolation, and shall assuredly be accepted in this Beloved of my soul.”
Jeremiah 12:14. Converted enemies. It is recorded of a Chinese emperor, that, on being apprised of his enemies having raised an insurrection in one of the distant provinces, he said to the officers, “Come, follow me, and we will quickly destroy them.” He marched forward, and the rebels submitted at his approach. All now thought that he would take the most signal revenge, but were surprised to see the captives treated with mildness and humanity. “How!” cried the first minister, “is this the manner in which you carry out your threat? Your royal word was given that your enemies should be destroyed, and behold you have pardoned them all, and even caressed some of them.” “I promised,” replied the emperor, with a generous air, “to destroy my enemies. I have fulfilled my word; for see, they are enemies no longer. I have made friends of them.”
Jeremiah 12:15. “Every man to his heritage.” To the Church; for in every nation he that feareth God and worketh righteousness shall be accepted of Him, shall have a child’s part, even the reward of inheritance.—Trapp.
Jeremiah 12:16. Union in the Church. When mankind depart from God, they lose the bond of unity and peace. They are divided then into parties, which contend with and exterminate each other; but when these have again united themselves with the Lord, the unity of the members is restored. Therefore, there is liberty, equality, fraternity only in the Lord.—Naegelsbach.
Jeremiah 12:17. The issue of defiance.
“Alas! we were warned, but we recked not the warning,
Till our warriors grew weak in the day of despair,
And cur glory was fled as the light of the morning,
That gleams for a moment, and melts into air.”
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Exell, Joseph S. "Commentary on Jeremiah 12". Preacher's Complete Homiletical Commentary. https://studylight.org/
the Second Week of Advent