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CRITICAL AND EXEGETICAL NOTES.—1. Chronology of the Chapter. Jeremiah 17:1-18 continue the prophecy of chap. 16. A distinct break in the continuity of the book is noticeable at Jeremiah 17:19. [Keil seems alone in suggesting that this section “may very well be joined with the preceding general reflections as to the springs of mischief and of well-being; inasmuch as it shows how the way of safety appointed to the people lies in keeping the decalogue, as exemplified in one of its fundamental precepts.” This is so far true, but is not sufficient to decide the connection with the antecedent prophecy when this section, Jeremiah 17:19-27, stands out so manifestly distinct and complete in itself.] At what date must this section, 19–27, be placed? Plainly, before the guilty relapse under Jehoiakim; for the tone of the message is not condemnatory: It is, as Dr. Payne Smith says, “dissuasive of future neglect” rather than objurgatory’ of past misconduct. Henderson suggests Josiah’s reign, “delivered in connection with and shortly after his reformation.” Hitzig assigns it to the period of Jeconiah, or that immediately following Jehoiakim’s death. But Eichorn, Rosenmüller, Maurer, Naegelsbach, Payne Smith, and Jamieson agree that its deliverance was at the outset of Jehoiakim’s reign, before he began the evil course by which he undid the good effected by Josiah’s reformation. Its similarity to chap. Jeremiah 22:1-5 makes it probable that the two messages were contemporaneous, and this latter was doubtless delivered in Jehoiakim’s reign also. Usher assigns Jeremiah 17:1-18 to B.C. 605; and Jeremiah 17:19-27 to B.C. 600. Hales: B.C. 601 and 599 respectively. (See Chronological Note of chap. 7)
For 2. Contemporary Scriptures; 3. National Affairs; 4. Contemporaneous History, see also Notes on chap. 7.
5. Geographical References.—Jeremiah 17:3. “My mountain (Jerusalem) in the field:” the surrounding country. Jeremiah 17:6. A salt land (see Deuteronomy 29:23; comp. Job 39:6, Psalms 107:34). Salt regions suggest, as a figure, total want of the means of life. Jeremiah 17:19. “Gate of the children of the people:” described further as that “whereby the kings of Judah come in:” most probably the Gate of David, now called the Joppa Gate. Denominated the People’s Gate, as being the principle thoroughfare for the tribes coming from the south, south-west, and north-west. Jeremiah 17:26. “Cities of Judah:” that part of the country bordering on Jerusalem. “Land of Benjamin:” the northern province of Judah, and south of Ephraim. “The plain:” the low country between Joppa and Gaza (Joshua 9:1; Joshua 12:8; Joshua 15:21; Joshua 15:33). The mountains: the hill country of Judea (Joshua 15:48 sq.) “South:” southern district of Judah. “The verse is interesting,” says Dr. Payne Smith, “as specifying the exact limits of the dominions of the Davidic kings, now confined to Judah and Benjamin. These two tribes are divided, according to their physical conformation, into the Shefêlah, or low country, lying between the mountains and the Mediterranean; the mountains, which formed the central region, extending to the wilderness of Judah, on the Dead Sea; and the Negeb, or arid region, which lay to the south of Judah.”
6. Personal Allusions.—Jeremiah 17:5. “Cursed be the man that trusteth in man.” Many commentators find here reference to the perfidious character and tyrannical conduct of Jehoiakim. So also Maurer recognises in Jeremiah 17:9 an allusion to Jehoiakim’s cupidity.
7. Natural History.—Jeremiah 17:6. “Heath in the desert:” עַרְעָר is generally accepted as describing the juniper tree, which (says Henderson) is found in the vicinity of the Arabah, or the Great Valley to the south of the Dead Sea, and doubtless the same “desert” which Jeremiah here calls הָעֲרָבָּה; the image, therefore, being a solitary juniper in an arid desert. Pliny says that the “heath” was one of the plants excluded from religious uses, because it is neither sown nor planted, and has neither fruit nor seed. (See Lit. Crit. below on “Heath”). Jeremiah 17:11. “Partridge sitteth on eggs:” קירֵא; the Arabs apply this name, Korea, to a bustard. It is not true of the partridge that she stole the eggs of other birds and hatched them as her own; but the ancients believed she did. Henderson cites in proof EPIPHAN. Physiol, cap. ix.; ISID. Origg. ii. 7. But Jamieson urges that “it is not needful to make Scripture allude to an exploded notion as if it were true,” and therefore states that the name “Korea,” from a root, to call, alluding to its cry, is now applied to a bustard—heavy birds of slow flight, like the ostrich.
8. Manners and Customs.—Jeremiah 17:1. “Pen of Iron:” (See Note on chap. Jeremiah 8:8, under Manners and Customs. Comp. Job 19:24, Psalms 45:1, Isaiah 8:1.) The iron stylus was used only for writing or carving letters in a hard material. “Point of a diamond:” indicating the very hardest substance on which the graving was wrought. “Upon the horns of your altars:” the names of the gods, to whom sacrifices were devoted, were inscribed on the horns of the altars (comp. Acts 17:23). Jeremiah 17:2. “Altars and groves,” &c. (comp. Note in loc. chap. Jeremiah 2:20). Groves should be Asherahs, in all probability images of Astarte, the goddess of the heavenly hosts, represented under the imagery of a “tree.” Jeremiah 17:3. High places:” on which it was their custom to erect idolatrous altars. Jeremiah 17:21. “Bear no burden on the Sabbath day:” Probabilities are that the country people brought their agricultural produce into Jerusalem with them when they came ostensibly to worship on the Sabbath; and that the residents of Jerusalem “carried forth burdens out of their houses” (Jeremiah 17:22), i.e., took their wares to the city gates, and bartered or exchangea with the villagers for their goods (comp. Nehemiah 13:15-22).
9. Literary Criticisms.—Jeremiah 17:1-4 are omitted by the LXX., and Bleek coincides in their omission; but all the other Greek versions and authorities retain the verses. Jeremiah 17:2. “Groves by the green trees:” instead of “by” read “upon.” The sense seems to require under; but the LXX. have ἐπί. Jeremiah 17:3. “Thy high places for sin:” Text obscure here: Ewald recalls the similar phrase in chap. Jeremiah 15:13, and renders, without price for thy sins. The reading may however be, “I will give thy substance, all thy treasures, and thy high places to the spoil on account of (for) sin throughout (committed throughout) all thy borders.” Jeremiah 17:4. “And thou, even thyself:” וּבְךָ Lit., even with thyself, i.e., with thy bare life; or (Henderson) and through thee, by means of thine own wickedness; or (Jamieson) owing to thyself, by thy own fault; or (Vulgate) and that with thyself, alone. Jeremiah 17:6. “Heath:” עַרְעָר. The word in the same form appears in Psalms 102:17, destitute. Like a destitute man; and Speaker’s Com. insists that the verbs, he shall see (or fear), and shall inhabit, plainly show that a man is here meant, and not a plant. But surely the “heath” is not the nominative of these verbs? Rather the man (Jeremiah 17:5) of whom Jeremiah 17:6 recounts, “He shall be like the heath,” &c. There is in this verse a contrast of the solitary pining juniper tree [see Natural History above] and “the tree planted by the waters” (Jeremiah 17:8). Jeremiah 17:9. “Deceitful:” עָקֹב, from עָקַב, to lie in wait for, trip, act insidiously—the word from which Jacob took his name. “Desperately wicked:” wofully sick (Jeremiah 17:16): אָנֻשׁ, incurable, malignant, desperate. Mentally sick, as in chap. Jeremiah 15:18. Jeremiah 17:11. “Sitteth on eggs and hatcheth them not:” Lit., gathereth young which she hath not brought forth. Jeremiah 17:12. “A glorious high throne,” &c. Most probably this verse should read on continuously with the next, thus: “Thou throne of glory, on High from the beginning; thou place of our sanctuary, thou hope of Israel, the Lord! So Ewald, Graf, Keil, Payne Smith. Jeremiah 17:16. “Not hastened:” i.e., sought to escape. “From being a pastor;” Hitzig and Graf: “from following lovingly after thee.” Umbreit reads: “I have not forced myself forward to follow Thee as a shepherd.” But Speaker’s Com. gives, From being a shepherd (see on. Jeremiah 2:8, ruler) after thee; i.e., as one invested with authority by God to guide and direct the political course of the nation. Naegelsbach thinks Jeremiah means he was literally a pastor, a shepherd lad tending his flock when God called him, and pleads that priests had pasture land (comp. Joshua 21:0 and 1 Chronicles 6:0) intended expressly for the cattle (Numbers 35:4), and Anathoth had its pasture (Joshua 21:18). But Henderson and Wordsworth suggest: I have not hastened away, or backward, from being a shepherd. Jeremiah 17:21. “Take heed to yourselves:” in your souls, i.e., conscientiously. Naegelsbach: “Care with foresight for your souls.” Jeremiah 17:25. “This city shall remain for ever:” be inhabited; not mere continuance, but populousness.
HOMILETIC OUTLINES ON SECTIONS OF CHAPTER 17
Judah’s guilt flagrantly manifest.
Spiritual corruption traced to its root-causes.
Safety and vindication sought in God.
Exhortation to hallow the Sabbath.
Section 1–4.—JUDAH’S GUILT FLAGRANTLY MANIFEST
The denial of having sinned against Jehovah (Jeremiah 16:10) must mean that the fact of idolatry is by them denied. Against such a bold and shameless assertion, the prophet rises here with visibly increasing indignation. He says that—
I. Judah’s sin is forcibly certified, and, as it were, recorded in the archives.
1. In their own consciences; in which the memory of their idolatrous abominations is fixed like an ineffaceable brand. And—
2. Externally, on the horns of the altars, where the blood of the slaughtered children adheres as an equally ineffaceable memorial (Jeremiah 17:1).
II. Judah’s sin is inerradicably remembered. While the two testimonies (in their own consciences and on the horns of the altars) were deep and inextinguishable to them, the actors present at their idolatrous barbarities, it was also true that—
1. Their children would never lose the impression of that horrible cult which had snatched so many from their midst. The horror of the sight of those frightful holocausts would remain unforgetable.
2. So deep was this impression, that the mere sight of green trees and high hills was sufficient to refresh the revolting memory continually (Jeremiah 17:2).
III. Judah’s sin therefore would be severely punished. On the basis of the facts thus certified, the prophet—
1. Repeats the announcement of the Divine punishments. These will consist in (a) plunder of substance; (b) desolation of the land, according to the analogy of the year of release; and (c) deportation into an unknown land (Jeremiah 17:3-4).
2. Bewails the desolations which Judah must endure. A cry of grief escapes the prophet’s lips as he describes the ravages with which Judah’s crimes will be punished. “Oh my mountain in the field!” His patriotic soul bemoans the catastrophe which sin invokes. (Comp. Naegelsbach in Lange.)
The people had asked (Jeremiah 16:10), What is our iniquity, and what is our sin? Here we have a reply to their challenge.
I. The indictment is fully proved. Both the fact and the fault. Their sin is too plain to be denied, and too bad to be excused.
1. They cannot plead not guilty, for their sins are upon record in the book of God’s omniscience and their own conscience; nay, they are obvious to the eye and observation of the world (Jeremiah 17:1-2).
(a.) They are written before God, and in most legible and indelible characters, and sealed among His treasures, never to be forgotten (Deuteronomy 32:34).
(b.) What is so written will never be worn out by time. “With a pen of iron,” &c. “Graven in the rock for ever.” Sin is never forgotten till it is forgiven. It is “graven on the heart,” and though covered for a time, cannot be rubbed out, and will be produced in evidence when the books shall be opened. If they will not own the conviction of their consciences, then the horns of their altars will witness against them. And their own “children” shall be witness against them: “they remember the altars and the groves” to which their parents took them when they were little (Jeremiah 17:2).
2. They cannot plead that they repent, or are come to a better mind. For as their guilt is undeniable, so their inclination to sin is invincible and incurable. In this sense many understand Jeremiah 17:1-2.
(a.) Their sin is deeply engraven in their hearts. It is inwrought into their very natures; and is as dear to them as that is of which we say, It is engraven on our hearts!
(b.) They had pledged themselves to their idols; bound themselves as “with cords to the horns of their altars;” and given up their names to their idols.
(c.) They remember their idolatries with affection. For Jeremiah 17:3 may be rendered thus: As they remember their children, so remember they their altars and their groves—they are fond of them, and loth to part with them, as men with their children.
II. The judgment is affirmed and the sentence ratified. Inasmuch as they were thus wedded to their sins and will not part with them—
1. They shall be made to part with their treasures (Jeremiah 17:3). Both the stores of the city and the products of the country will be seized by the Chaldeans. Justly are men stripped of that with which they have served their idols, and made the food and fuel of their lusts. What we make for a sin (Jeremiah 17:3), God will make for a spoil.
2. They shall be made to part with their inheritance (Jeremiah 17:4).
(a.) God owns it was their “heritage,” and that He gave it them. It was an aggravation of their folly in throwing themselves out of the possession of it.
(b.) Their discontinuance in occupancy of the land should give it rest. The word here used, discontinue, is the word used in the appointment (Exodus 23:11) that the laud should rest one year in seven. They did not observe that law, and now God would compel them to let it rest. But it should be no rest to them, for “they should serve their enemies in a land they knew not.”
Observe (i.) Sin works a discontinuance of our comforts; deprives us of the enjoyment of that which God has given us.
Observe (ii.) A discontinuance of the possession is not a defeasance of the right. It is intimated that upon their repentance they should recover possession again.—M. Henry.
Section 5–11.—SPIRITUAL CORRUPTION TRACED TO ITS ROOT-CAUSES
All this outward perfidy and prostitution are but manifestations of inward and spiritual apostasy. The whole affections and dispositions of the soul have gone astray from God, and therefore their moral conduct has become degraded, and their religious behaviour disloyal. This section delineates three radical defects, and to each is attached its corresponding and appropriate judgment.
I. A perverse disposition.
1. Its action. It rests not in Jehovah, but regards flesh as its better confidence, seeking in man the spring and supply of good (Jeremiah 17:5).
2. Its judgment. The forlorn and deserted picture of Jeremiah 17:6 supplies an idea of the consequences of deserting God. This desolate result is further emphasised by the contrast presented in Jeremiah 17:7-8.
II. Perfidiousness of heart. Total faithlessness, and illimitable trickery.
1. The depths of its deceptiveness human thought fails to reckon (Jeremiah 17:9).
2. God’s reckoning and punishment will rest upon His complete knowledge of the heart’s wickedness (Jeremiah 17:10).
III. Impetuous avarice.—Jeremiah 17:11.
1. It cruelly, acquires that for which it restlessly craves. Seizes as its own the treasures of others.
2. It forcibly relinquishes the spoil it has violently seized. Brief years are threatened, and a fool’s end.
Section 12–18.—SAFETY AND VINDICATION SOUGHT IN GOD
Here the prophet turns from the corruption of his people, saddened and sickened at heart, to meditate on his God and his personal safety in Him. This was the realisation of the Psalmist’s prayer: “When my heart is overwhelmed, lead me to the Rock that is higher than I.” Then there arise before his contemplation—
I. Majestic guarantees for the godly soul.—Jeremiah 17:12-13. He apostrophises God. [See Lit. Crit. on verse.]
1. He celebrates the power and glory of God. “Thou Throne,” symbol of royal power and supreme sway. “Throne of Glory,” language expressive of highest majesty, surpassing all powers, most glorious in royalty, dominion, and dignity.
2. The eternal excellency of God. “On high from the beginning.” Exalted on high, since loftiest glory is His; yet also highest in excellency; for who in grace and glory can be compared to God? And “from the beginning”—“or ever Thou hadst formed the earth and the world,” or from the outset of Israel’s national existence, God has been supreme; supreme in personal majesty, supreme as Israel’s Lord.
3. The devout soul’s hiding-place. “Thou place of our sanctuary”—for security, rest, reverence, and bliss.
4. Israel’s covenanted Hope. “O Jehovah!” name of God in which He is pledged to His people. “The Hope of Israel;” never having failed them through all their past history. Their enduring Hope, notwithstanding all they have done to alienate Thee. Their sole Hope, for, losing Thee, what have they left? Their future Hope; for after mournful desertion of Thee, they will return to the Lord as their “everlasting strength.”
5. The living spring of refreshing. “Fountain of living waters.” (See Notes on chaps. Jeremiah 2:13, Jeremiah 9:1.)
Thereupon Jeremiah utters his assertion, that forsaking Him will eventuate in shame while they live, and contemptuous oblivion as the end!
II. Fearless appropriation of Divine graciousness.—Jeremiah 17:14-18. Jeremiah lays his claim to all that he knows God to be. Treasures of grace are valueless s far as we are concerned, unless they become ours. The prophet appeals to God for—
1. Present tranquillity and safety (Jeremiah 17:14). This appeal for healing suggests the troubled and aggrieved state of his spirit (Psalms 6:3; Psalms 30:3). For salvation; that his life was encompassed with perils—from scorners and unbelievers, who rejected his word and his claim to prophetic mission. He bases his appeal on what God was to him—“my praise:” he had boasted in God, and had occasion to rejoice in God; and more, Jehovah had delighted him with favours, and distinguished him with honours as His servant.
2. Official vindication. He was ridiculed (Jeremiah 17:15). He had been faithful (Jeremiah 17:16). God was his witness—“Thou knowest;” and that guaranteed that God would make others know the verity of the words he had spoken in God’s name.
3. Future refuge. A “day of evil” was coming; full of “terror” to evil-doers (Jeremiah 17:17). But in that evil time God would discriminate between the persecutors and the persecuted, confounding them but sheltering the prophet; and God would fulfil His predictions in their complete destruction. Refutation of his foes, refuge for himself.
“Double destruction;” i.e., sharing in the national ruin which was impending and suffering for their sin in persecuting and deriding God’s messenger.
Section 19–27.—EXHORTATIONS TO HALLOW THE SABBATH
A sermon which the prophet received from the Lord, and was ordered to deliver in the most solemn and public manner—proclaimed in all the places of concourse, “the gates.” First at the court-gate, whereby “the kings of Judah” enter: let them be told their duty first, and particularly this duty. Then also in all the gates of Jerusalem, as being a matter of great and general concern.
I. How the Sabbath is to be sanctified, and what is the law concerning it.
1. They must rest from their worldly employ. “Bear no burdens” into the city, nor carry any out of their houses.
2. They must apply themselves to the proper business of the day. “Hallow ye the Sabbath-day,” &c. (Jeremiah 17:22). Consecrate it to the service of God.
3. They must herein be very circumspect. “Take heed to yourselves” (Jeremiah 17:20). Where God is jealous, we must be cautious.
4. They must observe the statute made and provided. This was no new imposition, but what “I commanded your fathers.”
II. How the Sabbath had been profaned—Jeremiah 17:23. Their fathers’ disobedience in this respect is mentioned to show—
1. That there needed a reformation in Sabbath conduct.
2. That God had a just controversy with them, for the long transgression of this law.
3. And because they disregarded this law with the intent to evade all instruction on other commands. Where Sabbaths are neglected, all religion sensibly goes to decay.
III. With what blessings God would reward Sabbath sanctification. Though their fathers had been guilty of its desecration, yet if (Jeremiah 17:24) they would make conscience of Sabbath sanctification—
1. The court shall flourish (Jeremiah 17:25). The honour of the government is the joy of the kingdom; and the support of religion would contribute greatly to both.
2. The city shall flourish (Jeremiah 17:25). “This city shall remain for ever.” Whatever supports religion tends to establish the civil interests of a land.
3. The country shall flourish (Jeremiah 17:26). The cities of Judah and the land of Benjamin shall be replenished with inhabitants, abounding in plenty and living in peace, which shall appear in the multitude and value of their offerings to God. By this the flourishing of a country may be judged of: What does it for the honour of God?
4. The church shall flourish (Jeremiah 17:24). “Meat offerings,” &c. Everything shall go in the right channel.
V. With what judgments God would punish Sabbath profanation.—Jeremiah 17:27.
1. The enemy would besiege their city, “kindle a fire in the gates.” And justly shall those gates be fired that are not used to shut out sin, and to keep the people in to an attendance on their duty.
2. The fire should destroy their palaces—where the princes and nobles dwell; who did not use their power and interest, as they ought to have done, to keep up the honour of God’s Sabbaths.
3. The fire shall not be quenched, until it has laid the whole city in ruins. Fulfilled by the army of the Chaldeans (chap. Jeremiah 52:13). The profanation of the Sabbath is a sin for which God has often contended with a people by fire.—Comp. M. Henry.
HOMILIES AND COMMENTS ON VERSES OF CHAPTER 17
Jeremiah 17:1. Theme: SINS HOLD ON THE INMOST MAN. “It is graven upon the table of their heart.”
i. Sin indelibly impresses itself upon sinners. Its mark is deep. Its influence is not superficial or evanescent, but ineffaceable and perpetual.
ii. Sin had become inwrought into their affections. Worked into the very texture of the heart.
iii. Hid in the deepest secrecy of their being. The heart is a profound hiding-place. It is the citadel and secret chamber of the entire man.
iv. It cannot be ignored in their own consciousness. Every movement—affection and action—of the heart would make the presence therein of sin evident. It would testify its presence by the force of feeling.
v. Cannot be erased by their own efforts. If sin was ever to be removed, “a new heart” must be given. And only God can “create in us a clean heart.”
See Addenda: INDELIBLE RECORDS OF SIN.
Theme: THE DEEP-SEATED CHARACTER OF SIN. The hardness of Judah’s heart is repeated in the stubbornness of barbarian, Roman, Greek, Scythian; seen indeed in ourselves.
I. Answer the question, What is sin? Always hearing about it, from preacher; and reading about it, in every Scripture page. What is it?
Pharisee says: “It is eating with un-washen hands,” &c. But to break some of the commandments, especially the ecclesiastical commandments, of men, may be virtuous, and indicate enlightenment!
Sin is the repudiation of our obligations to God. “Against Thee have I sinned.”
II. How is the fixedness of sin proved?
1. It is in the very heart of man. Deep ingrained.
2. They sinned in their very religion. “On the horns of their altars.” Converted men frequently prefer the form of religion most gratifying to their tastes, ears, and sight. Or they stain the horns of God’s altars by their own righteousness, by carelessness, by vain thoughts, by hypocrisy,—as Demas and Judas.
III. What is the cause of this? How did sin get such a firm footing in humanity? The answer is—
1. We must never forget the Fall. We are none of us as God made us. “We are born in sin,” &c.
2. Our habits of sin. Well may sin be deeply engraven in the man who has continued in his iniquity for twenty, forty, perhaps seventy years. “Can the Ethiopian change,” &c. Use is second nature.
3. Sin is a most clinging and defiling thing. One license renders us easily enslaved.
4. The prince of the powers of darkness allies himself with sin. He will never let the tinder lie idle for want of sparks.
IV. What is the cure for all this? Can sin, thus ingrained, ever be got out? It must be got out if we are ever to enter heaven. Only done by supernatural processes.
1. Christ Jesus does take away these deeply-inscribed lines of sin from human nature. It is part of the covenant of grace and part of His Gospel that Jesus can give to us hearts free from tendency to sin.
2. And since the guiltiness of sin is as permanent as sin itself, Jesus Christ is able to take our guilt away. “The blood of Jesus Christ, His Son, cleanseth us from all sin.” And the vilest sinner may be “made partakers of the Divine nature, having escaped the corruption which is in the world through lust.”—Spurgeon: “Metropolitan Pulpit,” No. 812.
Jeremiah 17:2. Theme: OUR CHILDREN’S RECOLLECTION OF OUR SIN. “Whilst their children remember their altars,” &c.
Probably we here have—
i. An allusion to their sacrifice of children to Molech.
ii. The horrors of such blood-stained rites would be for ever engraven upon the memory of any who were present to witness them.
I. Our evil deeds vividly impress our children.
II. Fixed upon their memory, our children may keep alive recollections we fain would obliterate.
III. Parental sins will reappear in our children’s lives. The horrid ghosts of our old iniquities resuscitated!
IV. Remembrancers of old iniquities crowd around our life. We may shun suggestive scenes that bring up dark memories, but our “children remember the groves,” &c., and will point them out to us. We cannot clear the world of these accusers.
V. Children may thus become witnesses against us.
1. By their inability to forget what we would gladly consign to oblivion;
2. By their reproduction of our evil habits, continuing the wicked ways they learned from us; and
3. Before God in the last day of account, when we, and our children with us, stand in the judgment.
Jeremiah 17:3-4. See note in Geog. References; also Lit. Crit. on these verses; also Homilies and Comments on chap. Jeremiah 15:13-14.
Comments—“My mountain in the field:” Jerusalem or Zion; called “the Rock of the plain” in chap. Jeremiah 21:13, and “Mountain of Jehovah,” Micah 4:2.
“Being the place which Jehovah had chosen as the residence of His visible glory, He claims it as His; just as He frequently calls it ‘My holy mountain’ (Isaiah 11:9; Isaiah 56:7).”—Henderson.
Jeremiah 17:5. Theme: THE ACCURSED TRUST.
The Jews, in looking now to the Assyrians and then to the Egyptians, thought to gain sufficient defence against God Himself. This false confidence was a hindrance to their relying on the favour of God, and kept them from repentance.
I. Men are variously deceived while trusting in men.
1. They begin with themselves. Every one is inflated with vain confidence, either in his own prudence, dexterity, or power. There is no one, even the most wretched, who does not trust in himself before he trusts in others; no one so contemptible but that he swells with some secret pride.
2. They take aids to themselves from every quarter. This is the out-working of what they deem their own prudence. Yet their goings round are useless; and not only so, but they turn out to their own destruction.
II. God derides the folly of such delusive trust in men.
1. He declares that they who so trust are “cursed.” This curse of God ought to strike us with terror; for we hence learn that God is highly displeased with all those who seek their own salvation in the world and in creatures.
2. He charges such with estrangement of heart from Himself. When confidence is reposed in flesh, God is deprived of His own honour. These two things cannot be connected—confidence in flesh, and reliance on God. When water is blended with fire, both perish. To attempt to unite trust in man with trust in God is like mixing heaven and earth together. It is to confound the order of nature, when men imagine that they have two objects of trust, and ascribe half of their salvation to God and half to themselves or to other men.
3. All are apostates and deserters from God who fix their hope on men. True in the present life; twofold a madness in respect of eternal things.—Arranged from Calvin.
Jeremiah 17:5. “There is great occasion for this cursed dependence on flesh, when one, from the hope of good personal protection, gives up the work of the Lord to the powers of the earth. It is true the Church is to have foster-parents who are kings, but, nevertheless, neither kings nor princes are its tutelar deities, much less lords and commanders of the Church; but One is our Master, One our Judge, One our King—the Crucified.”—Zinzendorf.
Jeremiah 17:5-8. Theme: THE DUTY OF TRUSTING IN GOD.
Every created being derives its existence and support from God. Yet man is prone to depend on the creature rather than on Him. Though constantly disappointed, he still leans on an arm of flesh. But such conduct is justly reprobated.
I. The characters that are contrasted.
(a.) Every man by nature trusts in man, makes flesh his arm, and in his heart departs from the Lord. We need not go to heathens or infidels to find persons of this description. We need only search the records of our own conscience. In temporal things we never think of looking above the creature. If they be prosperous, we trust in uncertain riches, and take the glory to ourselves. If adverse, we lean to our own understanding and exertions, or rely for succour on our friends. In spiritual things we seek to establish a righteousness of our own. We expect to repent and serve God by our own strength.
(b.) The true Christian “trusts in the Lord, and makes the Lord his hope.” He trusts in the Lord Jesus Christ as the God of providence. He commits his affairs to Him, expecting His promised aid. He trusts also in Jesus as the God of grace. He renounces all hope in his own goodness or resolutions. These marks afford a sure line of distinction between the nominal and real Christian. Nor is this difference between them of trifling import.
II. Their respective conditions. Men’s eternal state will be fixed with perfect equity. The conditions of the characters before us are strongly contrasted:—
1. Simply: “blessed,” &c.; “cursed,” &c. What can be more important than these declarations? They are not the dictates of enthusiasm, but the voice of God. “Thus saith the Lord.” God has given His Son to be our Saviour; but while some confide in Him, others, by not trusting in Him, reject Him. How reasonable then is it that a curse should attach to these and a blessing to those! Such a difference in their conditions seems the necessary result of their own conduct. Let every one inquire which of these conditions he has reason to expect.
2. Figuratively: “heath in desert,”—“tree planted by the waters.” To mark the contrast more clearly, it is further observed that both the blessing and the curse shall be—
(a.) Abundant. The unbeliever “shall be like the heath in the desert.” He shall be left in a state of extreme barrenness and wretchedness; and this, too, amidst all his boasted fulness (Job 20:22). The believer “shall be as a tree planted by the waters,” &c. He shall be made flourishing and happy by rich supplies of grace (Philippians 4:9).
(b.) Unmixed. The unbeliever “shall not see when good cometh.” He receives none of the heavenly dew that falls around him. The believer “shall not see when heat cometh, but his leaf shall be green, nor shall he be careful in the year of drought.” He may experience heat and drought, i.e., he shall, however, not be injured, but benefited by them (Hebrews 12:11).
(c.) Eternal. The unbeliever “shall inhabit the parched places in the wilderness, in a salt laud, and not inhabited.” He shall be an outcast from God in the regions of misery. The believer “shall not cease from yielding fruit.” His present enjoyments are the pledge and earnest of eternal happiness.
Infer (1.) How glorious a person must Christ be! If He were a mere creature, it would be ruinous in the extreme to trust in Him. (2.) How are we all concerned to trust in Christ. God regards, not merely our outward conduct, but the frame of our hearts. On this our present and everlasting happiness depends.—Simeon.
See also NOTICEABLE TOPICS.
Jeremiah 17:5-6. Theme: THE HEATH IN THE DESERT. “Thus saith the Lord, Cursed be the man that trusteth in man, and maketh flesh his arm, and whose heart departeth from the Lord. For he shall be like the heath in the desert, and shall not see when good cometh; but shall inhabit the parched places in the wilderness, in a salt land and not inhabited.”
The Jews had withdrawn dependence from God, and trusted to themselves and Egypt. They were delivered to the Babylonians. To this the text refers primarily. But it may apply to all.
Two definitions of a heath. A shrub growing in barren places, and a sandy barren plain of Arabia seldom rained upon. These plains and the shrubs they produce do not “see when good cometh.” The trees of Canaan by the rivers are refreshed by nightly dews. God’s vineyard is as a watered garden, and yields the rose of Sharon and the lily of the valley, but the wastes of Arabia, doomed to barrenness, never “see when good cometh.”
I. Let us learn against whom this curse is denounced, and trace resemblances between them and the heath, &c. They are those who disclaim dependence on God—idolators, infidels, and the profane.
1. Those who do not realise their dependence on God for all true happiness, but think it lies in worldly gain. They make no daily petition to God for it. The prayerless, stupid, and worldly inherit the curse in the text.
2. Those who trust in man and make flesh their arm, and neglect to fix all dependence on Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. They do not feel they are hopeless and helpless, or they would cast themselves upon Christ as the only hope of sinners; they are therefore under the curse against those who trust in man.
3. There is yet another class under this curse. Some are in the Church; some are not. Punctual perhaps on ordinances, they depend upon a form of godliness without the power, and, excepting a little animal sympathy, remain cold as ever. They are a numerous class even in the Church of Christ. “Five were wise, and five were foolish.”
II. How do these resemble the heath in the desert?—the prayerless, stupid, and worldly.
1. In barrenness and deformity. God gave them powers to bear fruit, but He comes year after year and finds nothing, and worse—a crop of misshapen shrubs. After so many benefits, they refuse to serve Him.
2. They are like the heath in being desolate, forsaken, and unblest. No voice of joy or song is heard on the heath, while those who wait on God are refreshed like Eden. Those who are like the heath in barrenness and deformity shall resemble it in desolation and woe.
3. While the holy land is refreshed with dew from heaven, the desert remains parched as before. This feature of resemblance exists at this time. Showers of grace fall on some, but the barren sands know not “when good cometh.”
4. Showers falling on desert heath only promote the growth of deformed shrubs; and the influence of heaven falling on this class calls forth a more fatal resistance of the Holy Spirit.
5. The heath cannot be made fruitful, and all God’s visitations fall unregarded upon many.
6. It is plain that, while many obey the Gospel call, others remain desolate and uncheered by any heavenly influence.
7. Some of the awakened may say, “I cannot change my own heart; I do the best I can”—Do you? even for a day? Drop these excuses, and cry, “God be merciful to me a sinner.”
8. Others resemble the heath in deformity and barrenness. They resort to sacraments, but yield no fruit, and so will they remain till death.
(a.) I address those who cast off fear and restrain prayer. Waste not out, I pray you, your life, seeking independent happiness. Return and seek happiness in God alone, and become rich for eternity.
(b.) I warn you who are awakened. Trust not in ministers or Christians. Only Christ can give the mighty blessing. Let Calvary’s Voice draw you to Him.
(c.) I speak to those who think they love God better than father, mother, or life, yet are chained to earth—these are the most discouraging of all men. It is easy to alarm the humble, but a task to destroy false hopes.
(d.) Let the dear loved children of God receive the precious promises succeeding the text: “Blessed is the man that trusteth in the Lord, and whose hope the Lord is.”—Edward Griffin, D.D.
Jeremiah 17:7. Theme: MAKING GOD OUR TRUST.
Man, sensible of his weakness, requires for his happiness some object without himself in which he can trust. In what do men trust? God alone furnishes an object adequate to the requirements of our trust. All lesser objects are frail, variable, uncertain.
I. The soul’s right and only trust.
1. We owe it to the supremacy of the divine nature.
2. Entire resignation to God’s wisdom and will.
3. Entire withdrawal of our trust from all inferior things.
4. Sincere acceptance of Christ as our Saviour.
5. Sincere effort to live a holy and pious life.
II. The blessedness with which godly trust is crowned. This will be seen in the following contrast of believer and unbeliever.
1. The objects of the unbeliever’s trust are uncertain and insignificant; the believer’s, certain and glorious.
2. The one inadequate and perishing, the other all-sufficient and abiding (1 Peter 1:4).
3. The one bears a burdened conscience and a character ill at ease, the other enjoys peace and rest (Matthew 11:28-30).
4. The one regards God as his foe, and resembles the inferior objects of his trust; the other regards God as his friend, enjoys His protection and fellowship, and resembles Him.
1. Not to be deluded by inferior things.
2. Seek this blessing by submission to God’s will in a crucified Saviour.—E. Jerman.
“Blessed are those teachers, who have betaken themselves to His protection, who once promised His Church that even the gates of hell should not prevail against it. Who has ever been put to shame who trusted in Him?”—Zinzendorf.
Jeremiah 17:8. Theme: VERDURE IN THE MIDST OF DESOLATION. “He shall not see when heat cometh.”
Nothing in nature more admirable than the strange and unlikely circumstances in which we often see plants and trees retaining their sap and verdure, and manifesting the most luxuriant fruitfulness. By a wonderful instinct of their nature, they adapt themselves each to their appointed place, and thus continue to live and flourish abundantly where another would perish in an hour. No natural influence more fatal to vegetable life than extreme drought; yet, even that in some favoured instances may prove innocuous. Some plants and trees “do not see when heat cometh, but their leaf is green,” &c.
This beautiful fact the prophet transfers from the natural world to the spiritual by way of illustration and analogy. There, too, often verdure appears in midst of desolation—life in midst of death. True happiness and true holiness depend, not on outward advantages, but on inward state.
Let us consider further this interesting and instructive phenomenon.
I. The fact itself. Meets us everywhere in the natural world. So also in the kingdom of grace. Spiritual health depends not alone or mainly on our circumstances, but on the temper and state of our souls. In the cottage, the palace; in want, in affluence; in retirement, on busy Exchange; in youth, in age; in health, in disease and sickness, God’s Enochs have “walked with God.” Every situation not equally favourable to soul’s life, but none utterly unfavourable; e.g., Enoch, Noah, Abraham, Joseph, Caleb, Samuel, Elijah, Jeremiah, Daniel, Esther, and others; are witnesses to this truth. Look, then, within for source of weakness, decay, low spiritual state.
II. The explanation. The man “trusteth in the Lord, and his hope the Lord is.”
1. He lives in constant believing communion with God.
2. He improves what advantages he possesses. They may be few, but he aspires after and improves them. If Jesus is “passing by,” he, like Zaccheus, will be on the sycamore-tree.
3. He retains the good he receives. Careful to retain the fruits of opportunities after they are gone. Those who make rich are not only they who get much, but who keep what they get.
4. He sedulously improves and turns to account the grace he has. The surest way alike to confirm and to strengthen any holy principle is to carry it into action. Talents are increased by trading. The idle Christian is a feeble, drooping, pining Christian.
Such is the secret of a holy, happy walk with God, in any times and in the worst times. Get truly planted by the waters of salvation, and your roots stretched out by the rivers of God.—Rev. Islay Burns, Dundee: “Family Treasury,” 1859.
“The Musorites changed the word FEAR into ‘shall not see when the heat cometh,’ in order to make it correspond with Jeremiah 17:6. But the change is not merely unauthorised, but meaningless. God’s people see the heat when it comes; they feel trouble as much as other people, but they do not fear it, because they know—
“i. That it is for their good, and
“ii. That God will give them strength to bear it.”—Dr. Payne Smith.
“The servants of God are planted, as it were, in a moist soil, irrigated continually by streams of water. The prophet intimates that God’s children are not exempt from adversities: the ‘heat cometh,’ and they feel the heat of the sun, being, like trees, exposed to it; but moisture is supplied, and the juice diffuses itself through all the branches. Though they feel great heats as well as the unbelieving, for this is common to both, God’s children shall yet be kept safe: there is a remedy for them—their root has moisture. The word rendered ‘see’ דאג, dag, means to fear and to be careful; also to grieve, and so some render it here, It will not grieve; but the better meaning is, It shall not be afraid of heat.”—Calvin.
Jeremiah 17:9. Theme: THE FALSITY AND FOULNESS OF MAN’S HEART.
The Bible reveals what man would have failed to discern, that the heart is the root of character, the seat of the moral quality attaching to the thoughts and actions of men. This truth, plainly taught in Scripture, accords with reason, and finds irrefutable proof in man’s career. There are three aspects of the heart here suggested:—
I. Surpassing deceptiveness. “Deceitful above all things.”
1. Its cruel delusions. It often prompts a man to evil, promising joy and reward, then leaves him befooled by his desires; allures him to follow passion, then leaves him to the tortures of conscience; assures him of courage in difficult hours, then, at the crisis, leaves him trembling in fear, &c. It flatters its dupes; is a false syren.
2. Its religious frauds. Fosters hypocrisy in the superficial, urges men to assume a religious profession, and walk as if God were being reverently served; and then, in secret, craves and impels towards hidden vice and subtle indulgences. Flatters a man into a belief in his own goodness when life is pleasant and easy; and then, in death, mocks and chides him for his sin.
3. Its supreme falsity. “Above all things.” Above the desert mirage?—Yes. Above gold?—Yes. Above pleasure?—Yes. Above fickle beauty?—Yes. For the heart is the cause of all deceits; it supplies the fantasy in us which makes the illusion possible.
II. Malignant guiltiness. “Desperately wicked.”
1. Its action in the region of common life. To what detestable iniquities would it impel men! Judge of this by considering the filthy, atrocious, idolatrous customs and social habits which prevailed in Oriental scenes. Where the passions are left unrestrained by civilisation and religion, what a foul life is man’s! Nearer home: what revolting, sensual, brutal careers men live amongst us where neither fear of God nor regard of man rule! What are the furious schemes of the assassin, the usurper, the traducer, the felon, the adulterer, but illustrations of the heart’s unbridled lusts! “Out of the heart proceed evil thoughts, murders,” &c.
2. Its action in the sphere of religion.
We expect of the heart that it responds to love; but how does it respond to “the great love wherewith God hath loved us”? How does it keep outside its closed doors Him who long has knocked there in vain, yet “who first loved us”? And after having avowedly, in discipleship of Christ, given Him our heart, how does “an evil heart of unbelief” lead us to “depart from the living God,” and urge us by fervent cravings to fall back into sin!
III. Profound inscrutableness. “Who can know it?” Having used the strongest language to describe it, yet words fail to tell its depths of iniquity.
Looking on the loathsome sights of vice, squalor, villany, and woe around us, and asking, “Whence came these?” Christ replies, “Out of the heart.” The heart’s wilfulness “brought death into the world, and all our woe.” It still can prompt brutal cruelty to requite tender love; it still stirs the lascivious to decoy innocence into ruin worse than death, &c.
“Who can know” his own heart? We cry, “Is thy servant a dog that he should do this thing?” yet we do it, and worse far.
“Who can know” the hearts of others?
Is there a bound which the heart’s impulses will not pass? Is there a thought, at whose horribleness the mind staggers, and of which we exclaim, “Surely, it could never be that a man is capable of it!” Yet greater enormities are being wrought: cold-blooded, sinister, vengeful, devilish! “Who can know it?”
If this be so between man and man, oh, how shall we fathom the depths of man’s great criminality to God—slaying His Son; to Jesus—“crucifying Him afresh and putting Him to open shame;” to the Holy Spirit—“grieving the Holy Spirit of God”!
(a.) Do you think this description exaggerated? But this is the deceitfulness of your heart, flattering you that you cannot be so bad, or are not so bad as others.
(b.) Should not this urge you to self-abasement before the Cross? Boasting no more your self-righteousness, and hastening to the Fountain opened for sin and uncleanness, crying, “Create in me a clean heart,” &c.
See Addenda on Jeremiah 17:9-10. FALSITY OF HEART, and SEARCHING THE HEART.
Theme: THE HEART’S DECEITFULNESS TOWARDS ITSELF.
There is great deceit in the dealings of men in the world, in their counsels and contrivances, in their private and public affairs, in their words and actings; the world is full of deceit and fraud. But all this is nothing as compared with the deceit in a man’s heart towards himself (for that is the meaning of the expression here), and not towards others.
This deceitfulness of the heart, whereby it is exceedingly advantaged in its harbourings of sin, lies chiefly in two things: that—
I. It abounds in contradictions, so that it is not to be dealt with on any constant rule.
The frame of the heart is ready to contradict itself every moment. None know what to expect of it. Facile now, then obstinate; open, then reserved; gentle, then revengeful.
This ensues from the disorder wrought upon our faculties by sin. God created all in perfect harmony. The mind’s subjection to God was the spring of the orderly and harmonious motion of the soul. This being disturbed by sin, the rest of the faculties move cross and contrary one to another; the will chooseth not what the mind discovers good, the affections delight not in what the will chooseth, &c.
II. Its deceit lies in its full promisings upon the first appearance of things.
Sometimes the affections are wrought upon, and the whole heart appears in a fair frame, and all promises well: suddenly all is reversed. Who can mention the treacheries which lie in the heart of man? Uncertain in what it doth; false in what it promises.
1. Never let us think our work, in contending against indwelling sin, is ended. The place of its habitation is unsearchable. There are still new stratagems and wiles to be dealt withal. Many conquerors have been ruined by their carelessness after a victory. David was so. Many decline into sin in old age: they gave over the task of mortifying sin before their work was at an end.
2. The fact that the heart is inconstant calls for perpetual watchfulness. An open enemy, that deals by violence only, always gives some respite; but against adversaries that deal by treachery nothing but perpetual watchfulness will give security. The heart bath a thousand deceits, and if we are the least off in our watch we are sure to be surprised (Proverbs 28:6).
3. Commit the whole matter therefore to Him who searcheth the heart. Here lies our safety. There is no deceit in our hearts but He can disappoint it. David takes this course (Psalms 139:8-10; Psalms 139:23).—Dr. John Owen.
Theme: THE DECEITFULNESS OF THE HEART. “The heart is deceitful above all things” (Jeremiah 17:9).
I. Men impose on themselves respecting their own character. The heart practises deception in regard to its natural tendency and disposition.
1. Men do not attribute to themselves the character given of the human heart in the Bible. The Christian does.
2. Is it not possible that your heart deceives you? If the Bible be true, there is no such native excellence of character as you suppose that you possess. Multitudes who once had the same view of themselves have been convinced of their error.
3. Nothing easier than self-deception.
II. Men deceive themselves in regard to their real attachments.
III. The heart is deceitful in regard to its power of resisting temptation.
IV. In its promises of reformation and amendment.
1. There is a danger of losing the soul.
2. You have a heart which is not to be trusted.
3. Wake from all delusions to the reality of your condition.—Albert Barnes.
Theme: DECEITFULNESS OF MAN’S HEART.
Nothing so mean as deceit. The text calls attention to the deceitfulness of our hearts.
I. A difficult subject to deal with, because—
1. The examination is made by the guilty party into his own character.
2. Nothing more humiliating and painful to man’s pride.
II. No deception like that of the heart. The garden—the cornfield—the mercantile speculation—the youth—may promise well and deceive, but the heart is deceitful above all.
1. It is the fountain of deceit.
2. Deceives its owner and best friends often.
3. Its deceit is in a very large measure voluntary.
4. Its deceitfulness is insidious in its growth.
5. Will be terrible in its consequences. Its possessor is travelling in a dangerous path, but fancies all well. His character is being fixed in evil. The future must be terrible in the circumstances of its misery, and its disappointment and despair.
III. The examples of Scripture bear this out. Old prophet, 1 Kings 13:11-18; Gehazi, 2 Kings 5:22-27; Hazael, 2 Kings 8:7-15; Ananias and Sapphira, Acts 5:5-10.
IV. The heart deceives its possessor continually. With regard to—
1. Its motives. 2. Its inclinations. 3. Its safety amidst temptations. 4. Its power of reformation.
1. To distrust and watch it. 2. To trust in Christ and His word.—E. Jerman.
Theme: THE HEART’S DECEPTIVENESS AND WICKEDNESS.
This truth is not difficult to illustrate and prove. It requires no penetrating genius to bring it up from the depths. As illustrative of—
I. The heart’s deceptiveness, we point—
i. To the mistakes into which it falls relative to religion. Scripture declares it “the one thing needful”; the heart deems it not needful at all, or only of secondary consequence. Or, if it heeds religion, it mistakes its forms for the reality of Christianity.
ii. Further apparent in its pursuit of pleasure. The Source of true happiness is God; but the heart supposes that pleasure must be found in things seen and temporal. “A deceived heart has turned them aside.”
iii. Still further seen in the fact, that God has not left it to be its own guide. A Law has been given for its conduct, and a Gospel for its faith, while “line upon line,” &c., has been added to guide its commonest actions. The ant wants no guide, for its instincts are safe and sufficient. But the heart’s tendencies are wholly untrustworthy.
iv. Further proved by the declaration of the Lord, that the heart must be renewed. The mariner when voyaging never thinks of changing his compass, knowing that the one he has is faithful and true. But man’s heart is so wrong that a new heart is demanded.
But the heart is not the only deceitful thing in the world: other things are deceitful, though NOT EQUALLY SO. “The heart is deceitful above all things.”
It surpasses all other things in two particulars—
1. In its extent.
2. In its fatality.
Other things may deceive a few men; this deceives every man. Other things may so deceive as to ruin man’s temporal interests; this ruins man’s eternal interests.
II. The proof of the heart’s wickedness is equally easy:
i. It is at enmity with God—the best and most gracious of beings.
ii. Utterly opposed to the holy law of God: ignores its claims, &c.
iii. Sternly rejects the Gospel; flings aside God’s greatest Gift, and costliest Sacrifice.
iv. Wilfully disregards the warnings and threatenings of God.
v. Notwithstanding all the culture the heart receives from education, preaching, and literature, it brings forth nothing but the briers and thorns of unrighteousness.
vi. Its desperate wickedness is further seen in the fearful punishment with which its wickedness will be visited. The “undying worm,” the “unquenchable fire.” Only greatest criminals are punished with direst punishments.
1. As this truth rests upon Divine testimony, to deny it is to make God a liar, and prove the heart’s self-deceivings.
2. How different is the new heart from the old! “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.”—Rev. D. Pledge.
Theme: THE HEART INSCRUTABLE. “Who can know it?”
It is extremely difficult for sinners to know their hearts.
I. What is implied in their knowing their own hearts?
It implies: 1. A knowledge of their selfishness. 2. Of their desperate incurable wickedness. 3. Of their extreme deceitfulness.
II. Why is it so extremely difficult for them to know their own hearts?
Because: 1. They are unwilling to know them. 2. Because of the deceitfulness of sin. They love or hate, as they appear friendly or unfriendly to their cherished feelings,—(a) God, (b) Christ, (c) good men, (d) the world, (e) their own hearts, (f) the means of grace, (g) their convictions, (h) heaven.
1. The only way to know the heart is to inquire whether it loves God or not.
2. Saints can more easily ascertain their true characters than sinners can.
3. All changes of life are trials of the heart.—Emmons.
See also NOTICEABLE TOPICS on the HUMAN HEART.
Jeremiah 17:10. Theme: GOD’S RULE OF JUDGMENT. “I the Lord search the heart, I try the reins, even to give every man according to his ways, and according to the fruit of his doings.”
None but God can explore the depths of iniquity in the human heart. As He will judge the world at the last day, He must have access to the inmost recesses of the soul, and be able to bring forth to judgment all its hidden abominations.
Accordingly God is employed noticing and recording everything, that He may then reward “every man according to his ways.” We here see—
I. The preparation God is making for the future judgment. God is not an unconcerned spectator of what is done upon earth.
1. He continually marks the ways of men.
(a.) All their actions He observes, according to the principles from which they proceed, and the ends for which they are done.
(b.) Our words, also, and our very thoughts (Psalms 11:4, Proverbs 16:2).
Hezekiah evinced the mixture of motives and principles which lay behind actions (2 Chronicles 32:31); and these need to be analysed and distinguished. God “tries the reins,” as a philosopher assays gold.
2. He records everything in the book of His remembrance. The thoughts as well as the words of men (Malachi 3:16). All will be educed in the judgment (Job 14:17). Nothing escapes His attention; certainly not any “good thing” eludes His sight (1 Kings 14:13).
II. The rule by which the judgment shall be determined.
1. The sentence will be according to every man’s works (Galatians 6:7-8; 2 Corinthians 9:6).
2. Rightly understood, this strongly declares the equity of God’s future judgments. Everything that can affect the quality of an action will be taken into account.
i. What an awful prospect is here opened to the ungodly!
ii. What an encouragement is here afforded to the righteous!
Moses looked to “the recompense of reward.” Paul anticipated “the far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory.”—Chas. Simeon.
Theme: GOD’S INTEREST IN MAN.
I. Respects “Fruit” in men’s lives.
II. Deals with men “according to Fruit.”
III. Where Fruit is to be found—(in the heart).
IV. The Search for Fruit.—J. Farren.
See Addenda: SEARCHING THE HEART.
Jeremiah 17:11. “As the partridge hath gathered eggs which it laid not.” Epiphanius says: “The partridge is not satisfied with the fruit of her own womb, but steals the eggs of other birds and carries them to her nest” (Phisiol. 9).
“This notion might easily be taken for the great number of eggs which the partridge lays. Another interpretation is given by Hippolytus, who says that ‘the partridge calls to it the young belonging to other broods, and gathers them under its wings, but when they hear the cry of the true parent they leave the false one.’ The general sense is that the covetous man is as sure finally to reap only disappointment as the partridge which piles up eggs not of her own laying, and is unable to hatch them.”—Dr. Payne Smith.
“As Jehoiakim is described by Jeremiah as a covetous tyrant (chap. Jeremiah 22:17), and as he died at the age of thirty-six, he is supposed by some to be referred to in these words.”—Ibid.
Jeremiah 17:11. Theme: WEALTH UNJUSTLY ACQUIRED. Violence and fraud had been reigning in Jerusalem.
I. Unlawful means used to acquire wealth may win success.
1. Opportunities to acquire money tempt to oppression and fraud.
2. A temporary prosperity is realised in the possession of ill-gotten gains.
3. The rich toil to gather wealth, and then sit brooding over it, like the partridge; but it never gives comfort or satisfaction. They are always anxious and uneasy; for their sinful projects may miscarry.
4. Treasures acquired by wrong methods leave an unquiet conscience. The rich man may say, I am innocent (Hosea 12:8), but that only mocks his conscience.
II. Wealth when acquired cannot long be retained. “He shall leave them in the midst of his days.”
1. God shall cut him off by some surprising stroke (Luke 12:19-20).
2. Gathered riches cannot be taken into eternity: “He shall leave them.”
3. His impoverished death shows him to be a miserable “fool.” He was “not rich towards God,” only had “ill-gotten gains,” and had to “leave” all in death; went into eternity “poor indeed”—“poor and miserable, and blind and naked.”
III. Parting with his wealth in death is a great vexation to a worldly man.
1. It naturally frets him to leave to another, who may squander all, the treasures he has wasted his life in accumulating.
2. It justly appals him to go into God’s presence with nothing but the memory of unjustly-accumulated gains. “He shall be a fool:” the laughing-stock of death.
Jeremiah 17:12-13. See HOMILETIC OUTLINES ON SECTIONS.
Theme: THE CHURCH OF THE LORD.
i. What it is in itself. Peace of sanctuary; throne of divine glory; house of Him who is Israel’s Hope.
ii. What it will be. It will ever remain firm (Matthew 16:18).
iii. What they find who forsake it. Shame, oblivion, unsatisfied thirsts.—Naegelsbach.
Jeremiah 17:14. Theme: A CRY FOR HEALING AND SAVING GRACE. “Heal me, O Lord, and I shall be healed,” &c.
One great proof of the experience of converting grace is the disposition to vindicate God and condemn ourselves. “That Thou might be justified,” &c. Here Jeremiah justifies divine dispensations.
I. That sin is the disease of the soul, and is so felt. All its symptoms are dreaded by the Christian. The worldling does not fear nor dread them. He is like a man in consumption, whose case is seen and dreaded by all but himself. But the Christian dreads the evil as well as punishment of sin. He knows the plague of his own heart. All the symptoms are dangerous. Sin like a venomous disease.
There is the loss of rest—“no peace.”
There is the depravation of taste—he feedeth on ashes. Want of appetite.
There is the loss of sight—but the Christian prays, “Open Thou mine eyes.”
There is the loss of hearing—the wicked is like a deaf adder. But the Christian says, “The hearing ear and seeing eye, the Lord hath made both.”
II. That Christ is the only physician, the Good Physician. Other physicians are prodigal of the patient’s blood, and sparing of their own; but Christ shed His own blood to save our souls. “When justice calls for sinners’ blood, the Saviour shows His own.”
Never was the disease known yet that mocked His skill. The blind, the dumb, the maimed, the deaf, the very dead—owned His power; and, behold, the Lord’s arm is not shortened. There are seasons in which nothing short of this conviction of the infinite ability of Christ to pardon and to save can bring peace to the mind.
i. Consider the infinite efficacy of Christ’s atonement, as showing God’s readiness as well as ability to pardon. What pledge of God’s delight in mercy could He give like this, “He spared not his own Son”?
ii. Consider, has not God inculcated unlimited forgiveness on us? (Matthew 18:21; Luke 17:4.) If God requires forgiveness of us without bounds, will not He extend forgiveness without bounds?
iii. Consider the direct statements of Scripture: “I, even I, am He that blotteth out,” &c.; “All sins in depth of sea.”
iv. From great instances of mercy.
III. That prayer is our only refuge.
It is the appointed means. It has never failed. Your desire for the benefit of purity and pardon is a proof it shall be extended. He will fulfil desire.
IV. That praise should be our truest delight. “Thou art my praise.” Our praises should be renewed, for past mercies, with prayers for new ones.—Samuel Thodey, A. D. 1841.
Theme: PRAYER FOR SALVATION BASED UPON PRAISE. “Heal me, O Lord, and I shall be healed,” &c.
I. The blessings sought.
1. Health. What temporal blessing greater. The health of the soul is the highest form of health.
2. Salvation. (Explain the term.)
II. How they are sought. By prayer.
1. Confession of need.
2. Seeking in right way; of right source.
3. Sincerity of prayer, shown in use of right means to preserve health and obtain salvation.
III. The ground of the prayer for these blessings. “Thou art my praise.”
What does this mean but that he who rightly offers this prayer is living in the service of God, seeking to please Him, rejoicing in His favour, acknowledging His mercy?—“The Hive,” vol. viii., 1875.
Theme: THE PENITENT’S PRAYER. The words express—
I. An earnest desire for salvation.
II. He applies to Almighty God for it.
III. Through the medium of prayer.
IV. With confidence that He will be heard.—Dr. A. Thomson, of Edinburgh, from Lange.
Jeremiah 17:14-15. Theme: A PREACHER’S CRY FOR HELP. He is tempted on account of the truth.
i. The temptation (Jeremiah 17:13).
ii. The demonstration of innocence (Jeremiah 17:16).
iii. The cry for help.
(a.) Negative (Jeremiah 17:17-18).
(b.) Positive (Jeremiah 17:19).—Naegelsbach.
Jeremiah 17:14. “Thou art my praise.” “When a teacher confines himself to the praise of the Cross, and lets all other matters of praise go which might adorn a theologian of these times, and adheres immovably to this: ‘I am determined not to know anything among you save Jesus Christ and Him crucified’—amid all the shame of His Cross, He is victorious over the rest.”—Zinzendorf.
Jeremiah 17:15. “Where is the word of the Lord? let it come, now!” “This taunt shows that this prophecy was written before any signal fulfilment of Jeremiah’s words had taken place, and prior therefore to the capture of Jerusalem at the close of Jehoiakim’s life.”—Dr. Payne Smith.
Jeremiah 17:16. “From being a pastor.” See Lit. Crit. on this verse.
“Desired the woful day:” i.e., the day on which Jerusalem was to be destroyed and the temple burnt. Though these calamities would verify Jeremiah’s word and vindicate him against scorners, yet his patriotic soul recoiled from the nearing desolation of his country and ruin of his people.
Jeremiah 17:16. “That which I have preached was right before Thee.” “It is not difficult to know in these times what is right before the Lord. There is His Word: he who adheres to this strictly, knows in this that he is right. In all this it is the teacher’s chief maxim, not to make use of the application without need, but to make the truth so plain in his discourses that the hearers must necessarily make the application to themselves. ‘Thus saying, Thou reproachest us also,’ said the lawyer (Luke 11:45). Others went away convicted in their consciences.”—Zinzendorf.
Jeremiah 17:17. Theme: THE SOUL’S HOPE IN A TIME OF TERROR. “Be not a terror unto me. Thou art my hope in the day of evil.”
Jeremiah had forewarned. It was a painful duty. He now looks forward to the “woful day” with deep anxiety for his people. And as one who sees the storm pending, and looks around for hiding-place, he draws near and appeals to God, sure that amid the terrors of the “day of evil” He would preserve his soul.
Our case is sadly accordant with that of Judah.
1. The heartless rebellion of Judah did not exceed the iniquity of many of us who have trifled with grace.
2. The judgments pronounced were not heavier than those standing against the impenitent sinner who despises the great salvation.
3. The mission of the preacher is still to rush in among men “whose hearts have departed from the Lord,” and protest, warn, and call to repentance.
4. And the consolations of the righteous are as true as with the prophet; for he knows God is his “Hope” in the day of evil.
I. A day comes when God will be a terror. God would take from Judah all this world’s “heritage” they prized, and all the spiritual benefits they failed to profit by.
“Days of evil”—
(a.) Come suddenly. Sweep down on us like unexpected storms.
(b.) Find us desolate. “While we say, Peace, peace, sudden destruction cometh upon us.” When our “desolation cometh like a whirlwind,” it is then too late to be seeking a sure refuge.
In these “days of evil,” which come on the soul of the guilty, we must include—
1. The day of the sinner’s conviction and anguish. When God arrests the soul and confronts him with his guilt. Oh, what agony! “Woe is me, I am undone!” God is a “terror” to him. “Whither can I go from Thy presence?” “Depart from me, for I am a sinful man, O Lord!”
2. The day when death calls the guilty soul from earth. Comes “as a thief in the night.” How terrible is the death of the wicked! How the soul shudders to be hurrying before God unreconciled, unsaved!
3. The day when the spirits of men will be arraigned for judgment. We shall meet God! No exaggeration of facts in the description of men “calling on mountains and rocks to hide” them. God will be a “terror” to the guilty. “It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God.”
II. In the day of terror God may be found our Hope. God is not necessarily a terror to the soul in the day of calamity. The righteous prophet knew He would be his “Hope.”
1. This is the known character of God. He is called “the Hope of Israel” (Jeremiah 17:13). See also Jeremiah 14:8. It is on this well understood character of God that the exhortation is given, “Let Israel hope in the Lord, for with the Lord is forgiveness: and He shall redeem Israel from all her iniquities.” God is not willingly a “terror” to any soul. Listen to His Name declared amid Sinai. Read Gospel statement, “God so loved the world.” Watch His ways in providence: “His tender mercies over all His works.” When He becomes a “terror,” it is through a dire necessity.
2. He will become the Hope of every soul who seeks Him. Calls: “Turn ye to the Stronghold, ye prisoners of hope;” bids us “lay hold on the hope set before us.” “We have a strong consolation who have fled for refuge,” &c. Every soul may find the same.
Observe here the way by which God is made a “terror” (Jeremiah 17:13); and the way by which He will become as our “Hope” (Jeremiah 17:14).
3. The confident reliance and expectation of the believer.
(a.) How unwavering the repose. “Thou art my hope.” David, “I will fear no evil.”
(b.) How personal this appropriation! “Thou art my hope.” (Comp. Jeremiah 17:18.)
(c.) How single is the soul’s trust. “Thou art.” God only: God Himself (Psalms 91:1-2).
i. Unless this Hope is ours before terror comes, He will not be so in the day of evil.
ii. As the day of evil is uncertain and may be near, we should promptly seek the Lord (Jeremiah 17:7). If “without Christ,” “no hope in the world.”
See Addenda: THE SOUL’S HOPE.
Theme: DIVINE WRATH AN OBJECT OF FEAR.
Every believer can adopt the former of these expressions, but not the latter. Why so? Words spoken in an evil time—a time of corruption, calamity, ruin. Jeremiah himself was in great danger. How appropriate then.
Notice—I. The petition. II. The expression of confidence.
I. The petition. “Be not a terror unto me.”
1. God’s majesty is in itself an object of fear and dread (Hebrews 12:21, Isaiah 6:5, Habakkuk 3:16, Hosea 3:5).
2. Divine chastisements are to be feared (Jeremiah 10:24, Psalms 6:1, Job 9:34).
3. God’s wrath is still more dreadful.
4. The prophet prays for support and comfort in the time of trial.
II. The expression of confidence. “Thou art my Hope in the day of evil.”
1. The grace exercised is hope. Though troubled, he is not destroyed. (2 Corinthians 4:8, &c.; Romans 8:24).
(1.) God is the object of His people’s hope (Psalms 71:5; Psalms 78:5).
(2.) God is the end of their hope. They need no more (Psalms 16:11; Psalms 17:15).
2. Observe the time when this grace is exercised: “Day of evil.”
(1.) Sin and sorrow make every day an evil day, still let us hope (Psalms 62:8; Psalms 71:14).
(2.) Yet there are peculiar days of evil: National calamity; reverses in business; disappointments; affliction; old age (Psalms 73:26, 2 Timothy 1:12).
1. That hopes and fears are blended together in the experience of the godly (Psalms 147:11).
2. If God is sometimes a terror to His own people, how much more to the wicked? (Deuteronomy 28:65-67).
From “Short Discourses,” by B. Beddome.
Jeremiah 17:19 to end, on SABBATH CONSECRATION, see HOMILIES ON SECTIONS.
Jeremiah 17:21. Theme: SABBATH REST. “Take heed to yourselves, and bear no burden on the Sabbath-day.”
The Sabbath argument is easy to the devout. Like exhorting a hungry man to take refreshment, or a mother to love her child, or the slave to enjoy freedom.
“Welcome, sweet day of rest,” etc.
The early Christians called it the Day of Light, and the Queen of Days. The ancient Church had it in great veneration. It was a badge of their religion, for when asked, “Keepest thou the Sabbath?” the answer was, “I am a Christian, and dare not omit the celebration of the Lord’s day.”
I. Motives for the observance of the Sabbath. There should be rest of body, with a view to the sanctity of the soul; and such a withdrawal from all worldly and sinful pursuits as may conduce to our spiritual advancement. We urge this—
1. From the Divine command. Twice given by God himself in Eden, twice inserted in the Decalogue, and twice engraved on stone by God and given to Moses.
2. From the nature and reason of the case. Intended to give opportunity of rest from toil; to be a commemoration of the wisdom, power, and goodness of God in the creation of the universe; to furnish encouragement to acquire holiness and obtain salvation. The day is needful for rest and devotion.
3. From the blessings necessary to form a truly religious character. Absorbed by the business and vanities of this world, the recollections of the other world would be blotted out but for the return of the Sabbath. In the absence of our usual occupations, and in seasons of leisure, conscience regains her empire, and the mind is turned inwardly upon itself, and the voice of God is heard.
4. From the consequences of disobedience to the claims of the day. Further from God; hardened in worldliness; left godless, and led Christless, to sink into ever increasing alienation from all that is holy, and hopeful, and heavenly.
II. Some of the burdens which should be laid aside.
1. The burden of needless toil (Exodus 31:15). Surely the anointing of Christ was commendable work, yet Mary Magdalene waited till the Sabbath was past (Luke 23:56). God forbade manna to be gathered on the Sabbath.
2. The burden of wilful sin. Abstain from amusements, convivial parties, needless journeys, unprofitable conversations, &c.
3. The burden of anxious care. “Cast thy burden on the Lord.” Do it by faith and prayer. Think—who cared for Noah in deluge, for Moses in bulrushes, for Daniel with lions, for Paul in storm?
4. The burden of desponding apprehensions for the future. Commit thy way unto the Lord and trust in Him. Oh, rest in the Lord, &c.—Samuel Thodey, A. D. 1845.
See Addenda: SABBATH REST
Theme: THE SABBATH AND THE LORD’S DAY.
I. What they have in common. The weekly holyday is in both cases—
1. A monument of the loving care of our God.
(a.) For our body; (b.) for our soul.
2. A right of God, which forms a holy obligation towards—
(a.) God, (b.) ourselves, (c.) our neighbour.
II. The differences which distinguish them.
1. The day of Jehovah is founded on the creation of the perishable world; the day of the Lord is founded on the resurrection of Christ, as of a new, eternal world.
2. The observance of the day of Jehovah was only legal; i.e. (a) imposed by external compulsion, (b) by requirements to be fulfilled with outward ceremonies: the observance of the day of the Lord is to be more and more an evangelical one; i.e. (a) a free, (b) a spiritually free one, satisfying the right as well as the obligation of personality.—Naegelsbach.
See also NOTICEABLE TOPICS: On the Sabbath.
NOTICEABLE TOPICS IN CHAPTER 17
Topic: THE BLESSED AND THE CURSED. (Jeremiah 17:5-8)
Great is the distinction between the godly and the ungodly (Psalms 1:6; Psalms 7:11; Psalms 11:5) in their characters, in their practice, in their experience, in their end. This distinction will appear in the day of judgment (Matthew 25:34-41).
I. The characters here contrasted. Specially descriptive of the situation of Judah at the time. Threatened with invasion, they trusted in Egypt as a rival with Babylon; or in their own strength—artificial fortifications (Psalms 48:12-13); or in their individual accomplishments, as wise, rich, and powerful (Jeremiah 9:23).
This may apply to us as a nation. We form alliances, raise armies and navies; but woe to us if we trust in them so that our heart departeth from the Lord! (Psalms 20:6-8.)
1. The character of the wicked is stated (Jeremiah 17:5).
(a.) The root of all ungodliness is perversion of heart from God. The sinner will not have the Lord to reign over him. “The carnal mind is enmity against God.”
(b.) The wicked trust in human means for success and prosperity, and even for the salvation of their souls. They rely on wisdom and skill; on riches (Proverbs 18:11), in their fortitude and heroism, to the pleasurable diversions invented; to their actions as meritorious for salvation.
Such procedure indicates: (1.) Ignorance—of God, law, themselves as depraved; (2.) Contempt—of Providence, and Christ’s redemption; (3.) Presumption.
2. The character of the righteous is stated (Jeremiah 17:7).
(a.) The righteous trust in the Lord from a conviction that vain is the help of man. They have a knowledge of the human heart that it is “deceitful above all things,” &c. Self-confidence is, therefore, also abandoned.
(b.) They trust in the God of salvation alone. They can say of Christ, “He loved me, and gave Himself for me.”
(c.) They trust Him when they cannot trace Him; know that He will do all things well; and God is their hope in all their troubles, difficulties, fears—in prospect of death and eternity.
II. The conduct determining the blessing, i.e., whether we trust in man or in the name of the Lord.
1. As we trust the wisdom of men, or the revealed will of God, we are under the curse or the blessing. Some avowedly reject revelation, others admit only what accords with their own reason: the Christian takes the Scriptures.
2. As to righteousness, the determining question is whether we trust the righteousness of man, or the righteousness which is of God.
3. Though we trust in the Saviour Himself, yet if we consider Him only as a man, we incur the denunciation of the text. If Christ be only a man, to trust in Him is to trust in an arm of flesh. If His Divinity be denied, there is no ground for trust. (Comp. 1 Timothy 1:12, 1 John 1:9.)
III. The consequences of the conduct of these contrasted characters.
1. As to those who trust in man. “He shall be like the heath in the desert” (Jeremiah 17:6).
(a.) Barrenness. He must remain destitute of God’s. fertilising and refreshing grace—unholy, fruitless, worthless.
(b.) Wretchedness. “Heath in desert;” “inhabit parched places.”
(c.) Loss of all good. “Not see when good cometh.” It comes in a preached Gospel, in offers of salvation, in affliction, in the testimony of conscience, in the Spirit’s influence, but they see it not! “Good” comes upon the Church in the dew of heaven: “Great grace is upon them all;” upon believers even in their trials, and even when Christ comes to judgment; but the godless see it not, share it not.
2. As to the righteous. The result of trusting in the Lord is permanent fruitfulness (Jeremiah 17:8). (Comp. Psalms 1:3; Psalms 92:13-15). Indicates—
(a.) Enjoyment. “A tree planted by the waters,” drawing in pleasure and refreshment.
(b.) Growth, or prosperity—progress. The Christian flourishes, “grows in grace.”
(c.) Security. “He shall not see (not fear) when heat cometh,” &c. “He is kept by the power of God unto salvation,” &c.
(d.) Permanent beauty and fruitfulness. “Her leaf shall be green, neither cease yielding fruit.” Is there anything more beautiful than a Christian’s life—a Christian’s deeds—a Christian’s death—a Christian’s entrance into heaven?—Altered from “Helps for the Pulpit.”
Topic: DECEITFULNESS OF THE HUMAN HEART. (Jeremiah 17:9.)
Many have been the laboured panegyrics indulged, in the endeavour to establish on a firm footing the dignity of human nature. One eminent preacher has not scrupled to affirm—first, that men in general (if not every individual) are very wise; secondly, that men in general are very virtuous; and thirdly, they are very happy.
A charitable person once discovered that there was no sinner in the world but the devil. “For,” was the argument, “he forces men to act as they do, therefore they are not accountable. The blame lights on Satan.”
But whatever baptized or unbaptized infidels may say concerning the innocence of mankind, He that made man, and best knows what He has made, gives a very different account of him. He informs us “that the heart of man”—of every man born into this world—“is desperately wicked,” and that it is “deceitful above all things,” so that we may well ask, “Who can know it?”
I. The wickedness of man’s heart. It is “desperately wicked.” In considering this—
1. We have no need to refer to any particular sins. When Satan had once transferred his own self-will and pride into the parents of mankind, together with a new species of sin, love of the world, the loving the creature more than the Creator, all manner of wickedness soon rushed in. The earth soon became a field of blood. Injustice in ten thousand forms—hatred, envy, malice, blood-thirstiness, falsehood—rode triumphant, till the Creator, looking down from heaven, would be no more entreated for an incorrigible race, but swept them off the face of the earth.
2. God having created us gratuitously of His own mere mercy (for we could merit nothing of Him before we had a being), has laid us under obligation to yield Him our obedience.
3. From the devil, the spirit of independence, self-will, and pride, productive of all ungodliness and unrighteousness, quickly infused themselves into the hearts of our first parents in Paradise, and, through them, their posterity, alienating us from God, making way for idolatry, atheism, &c.
4. Melancholy truth, that all mankind now “have corrupted their ways before the Lord,” unless when the Spirit of God has made the difference.
5. But if this be the case, how is it that every one is not conscious of it? For this plain reason—because the heart is not only “desperately wicked,” but “deceitful above all things.”
II. The deceitfulness of man’s heart.
1. It is “deceitful above all things,”—that is, in the highest degree, above all that we can conceive. So deceitful that the generality of men are continually deceiving both themselves and others. Imagining themselves to be abundantly better than they are.
2. And if men thus deceive themselves, is it any wonder that they deceive others also, and that we seldom find “an Israelite indeed in whom there is no guile”?
3. This is one of the sorts of desperate wickedness, which cleaves to the nature of every man, proceeding from those fruitful roots—self-will, pride, and independence of God.
4. Hence there is in the heart of every child of man an inexhaustible fund of ungodliness and unrighteousness, deeply and strongly rooted in the soul, that nothing less than Almighty grace will cure.
5. There are exceptions as to the wickedness of man’s heart. “He that is born of God keepeth himself, and the wicked one toucheth him not.” His heart is purified by faith. His wickedness is departed from him. “Old things are passed away, all things (in him) are become new.”
1. “He that trusteth in his own heart is a fool.” For who that is wise would trust one whom he knows to be desperately wicked?
2. That when thou seest a man “wise in his own conceit, there is more hope of a fool than of him.” For at what distance from wisdom must that man be who never suspected his want of it?
3. Wisdom of the caution, “Let him that thinketh he standeth take heed lest he fall.” How firmly soever he may stand, he has still a deceitful heart. In how many instances has he been deceived already?
4. Is it not wisdom for him that is now standing, continually to cry to God, “Search me, O Lord, and prove me: Let me not think of myself more highly than I ought to think; but let me always think soberly, according as Thou hast given me the measure of faith”?—John Wesley.
Topic: THE CHRISTIAN SABBATH. “Hallow ye the Sabbath day” (Jeremiah 17:22).
The awful desecration of the Lord’s day which everywhere presents itself to our view, in scenes of pleasure, business, and dissipation, is at once a foul blot upon our national character, and a source of humiliation and sorrow to the sincere Christian.
The Sabbath is an institution both of divine origin and permanent obligation.
I. The Sabbath, as a day appropriated to rest and religious duties, is an original institution, coeval with the existence of man. (See Genesis 1:31; Genesis 2:1-3.) Thus the Sabbath dates its origin from the completion of creation, and was designed to commemorate that great event. This was the day God sanctified, setting it apart from all the rest It is an original institution, as ancient as the law of love itself, and, like that law, is intended to remain in force until mortality is swallowed up of life, until the earthly Sabbath gives place to the perpetual and uninterrupted rest of the heavenly world. It is a remarkable fact, that in almost all nations men have divided time into septenary periods, or periods of seven days. Josephus says (Against Apion, book ii.) that “there is not a city of the Grecians, nor any of the Barbarians, nor any nation whatsoever, whither our custom of resting on the seventh day hath not come.”
II. That the Sabbath, when re-enacted from Sinai, was not enjoined as a temporary institution, but as a moral duty. The law of the Sabbath holds its place among the moral precepts. (See Exodus 20:8-11.) Engraven by the finger of God on the tables of stone, and deposited in the ark of the covenant—all indicative of its permanent character and obligation. As a moral precept, it is an original and universal duty, belonging to Gentile as well as Jew, to the Christian dispensation as well as the Levitical economy. Not a Jewish ceremony, but a moral duty, and as such cannot be set aside. Christ came not to destroy the law, but to fulfil and honour it. Command repeated many times, is enjoined in text, “Hallow ye the Sabbath day.”
III. The Saviour has expressly taught that “the Sabbath was made FOR MAN;” and not for man in any particular nation or age, but without limitation for man; and, therefore, it is of universal and perpetual obligation. “And He said unto them, The Sabbath was made for man, and not man for the Sabbath” (Mark 2:27). “For man,” as a duty incumbent upon him; “for man,” as a privilege conferred upon him. Sabbath was made for all men without distinction. The Levitical law was designed to be temporary in its duration. In its extent it was confined to the Hebrew nation, and in its duration was limited to the Jewish dispensation. But the Sabbath was not made merely for the Hebrew nation, but for man, without distinction or restriction. And now the Levitical economy is abolished, it continues a moral law binding upon the conscience of the Christian in all parts of the world.
IV. Does the Christian ask what are the obligations of the Sabbath upon him?
(a.) Let your mind be established with a thorough conviction of the Divine authority and obligation of the Sabbath, and let your sense of duty be based on this conviction.
(b.) Let your example correspond with your profession. We profess to be God’s people; let us show it by our works. Our duty to God requires our observance of the Sabbath as a part of our obedience.
(c.) In addition to our example, our influence must be employed to promote the sanctity of the Sabbath. It is the Lord’s day. As Eusebius remarks, “Before our Lord’s death, it was always called the first day; but now it was called the Lord’s day.” To us it is, therefore, the Sabbath of the Lord our God, and it is our duty to keep it holy.—William Cooke, D.D.
ADDENDA TO CHAPTER 17 ILLUSTRATIONS AND SUGGESTIVE EXTRACTS
Jeremiah 17:1. INDELIBLE RECORDS OF SIN. “The great stone book of Nature reveals many records of the past. In the red sandstone there are found, in some places, marks which are clearly the impressions of showers of rain, and these so perfect that it can even be detected in which direction the shower inclined, and from what quarter it proceeded; and this, ages ago. Even so sin leaves its track behind it, and God keeps a faithful record of all our sins.”—Biblical Treasury.
“If you cut a gash in a man’s head, you may heal it; but you can never rub out, nor wash out, nor cut out the scar. It may witness against you in his corpse; still it may be covered by the coffin or hidden in the grave; but then it is not till decomposition shall take place that it shall entirely disappear. But if you smite a soul, the scar remains; no coffin or grave shall hide it; no revolution, not even the upturning of the physical universe, shall obliterate it; no fire, not even the eternal fires of hell, shall burn it out.”—Dr. Thomson.
Like as Queen Mary, when she died, told those about her that the loss of Calais had so impressed her, that its image would be found indelibly engraven on her heart.
Jeremiah 17:9. FALSITY AND FOULNESS OF THE HEART. “I am more afraid of my own heart than of the Pope and all his cardinals. I have within me the great pope—self.”—Luther.
“All our actions take
Their hues from the complexion of the heart,
As landscapes their variety of light”
“A soil which breeds
Or sweetest flowers or vilest weeds;
Flowers lovely as the morning’s light,
Weeds deadly as the aconite;
Just as his heart is trained to bear
The poisonous weed or flow’ret fair.”
“As soon as we are born and receive the care of our parents, we engage in all kinds of depravity; so much, that we seem to suck in error with our nurse’s milk.”—Cicero.
The student should specially consult “Secular Annotations on Scripture Texts,” by Francis Jacox, second series, p. 122. Or, “The Heart Inscrutably Deceitful.”
Jeremiah 17:10. SEARCHING THE HEART
“Who made the heart, ‘tis He alone
Decidedly can try us;
He knows each chord—its various tone,
Each spring—its various bias;
Then at the balance let’s be mute,
We never can adjust it;
What’s done we partly may compute,
But know not what’s resisted.”
Jeremiah 17:17. THE SOUL’S HOPE. “Our hope is not hung upon such an untwisted thread as ‘I imagine so,’ or, ‘It is likely;’ but the cable, the strong rope of our fastened anchor, is the oath and promise of Him who is eternal verity; our salvation is fastened, with God’s own hand and Christ’s own strength, to the strong stake of God’s unchangeable nature.”—Rutherford.
“Be not a terror to me.” Let me have fair weather overhead, however foul soever it be under foot.”—Trapp.
“Hope is the last thing that dies in man.”
“Though at times my spirit fails me,
And the bitter teardrops fall;
Though my lot is hard and lonely,
Yet I hope—I hope through all.”
“With eyes turned upward, whence her help descends,
Hope waits expecting till the tempest ends.”
Jeremiah 17:21. SABBATH REST. “Had not Jeremiah expressly said, ‘Bear no burden on the Sabbath day?” Yes; but why? Because the Sabbath was an ordinance of mercy intended to protect the underlings and the oppressed from a life of incessant toil; because it was essential to save the serfs and labourers of the nation from the over measure of labour which would have been exacted of them in a nation afflicted with the besetting sin of greed; because the setting apart of one day in seven for sacred rest was of infinite value to the spiritual life of all.”—Farrar.
Captain Scoresby remarks, in his “Voyage to Greenland,” on the good effects of Sabbath-keeping on the health and spirits of his men; “That if others who did not so sedulously keep it gained some benefits (as in fishing), we always gained extra advantage over them in course of the week. Independently of the Divine blessing, I found the restraint on the natural inclinations of the men for pursuing the fishery at all opportunities acted as an extra stimulus on their exertions when next sent after the whales. But our success, who refrained, was so much greater than those who indulged fishing, that there was not a man in the ship who did not consider it the effect of a Divine blessing.”
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Exell, Joseph S. "Commentary on Jeremiah 17". Preacher's Complete Homiletical Commentary. https://studylight.org/
the Week of Proper 14 / Ordinary 19