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CRITICAL AND EXEGETICAL NOTES.—1. Chronology. Most probably in thirteenth Josiah, quickly after his call. Dr. Dahler (Stratsbourg) would interpose chapters 4, 5, 6; deferring this chapter till after them. But Hitzig sees in chap. 2 and 3 (where they think this discourse ends) all the characteristics of an inaugural prophetic deliverance; for “in its finished completeness it gives the impression of a first uttered outpouring of the heart, in which are set forth, without restraint, Jehovah’s list of grievances against Israel.” We may safely regard this as Jeremiah’s earliest public utterance; its place must be within the thirteenth and eighteenth years of Josiah.
2. Cotemporary Scriptures, as in chap. 1.
3. Historic Facts. Josiah engaged in his religious reformation of Judah. Auspicious advent of this discourse: for it was calculated to (a.) Animate the king and nation in rectifying desecrations and apostasy; and (b.) arrest the policy of the Egyptian party in Jerusalem who were urging alliance with that power (Jeremiah 2:18).
4. Cotemporary History. Egypt rising into dominance under Psammeticus. In Jerusalem this event was hailed with satisfaction, as a counterpoise to Assyrian tyranny. Nineveh’s downfall was approaching. This growth of Egyptian, and decay of Assyrian, power led statesmen in Judea to covet the friendship of Egypt (Jeremiah 2:16; Jeremiah 2:18; Jeremiah 2:36). In consequence of Jeremiah’s protest, it seems probable that Josiah’s course became changed; he turned from hope in Egypt, and then rose in fatal resistance. See Critical Notes, chap. 1, Personal allusions, 6. “Josiah.” The exact juncture of this chapter therefore seems to be when the king and counsellors of state were contemplating a protective alliance with Egypt.
5. Geographical References. Jeremiah 2:2; Jeremiah 2:6. “Wilderness,” “land of deserts and pits,” &c. “A more frightful desert it had hardly been our lot to behold. The mountains beyond presented a most hideous aspect; precipices and naked conical peaks of chalky and gravelly formation, rising one upon another, without a sign of life or vegetation.”—Dr. Robinson. “The whole country is made up of arid and barren plains, intersected by rocky mountains, amid the precipices of which are depths and caverns of the most horrid gloom.”—Henderson. Jeremiah 2:7. “A plentiful country;” lit. a Carmel land; a beautiful garden like Carmel (comp. Isaiah 33:9; Isaiah 35:2). The name used metaphorically, and as an adjective, also in Isaiah 10:18; Isaiah 16:10; Isaiah 37:24.Jeremiah 2:10; Jeremiah 2:10. “Isles of Chittim:” originally the name of the inhabitants of Cyprus; Phoenician colonists, who founded Citium on S.E. coast. Greeks called them Kittaei. The Seventy render Kittim by κητιοι, Ketii or Cetii. They extended commerce to all the islands and maritime coasts of the Mediterranean; to all which inclusively the name “Isles of Chittim” became applied. These Chittæans are here made to represent the peoples on the West. “Kedar” (son of Ishmael, Genesis 25:13). The Kedarenes were a pastoral people inhabiting the Arabian desert; but the name became extended to the Bedouins generally, who occupied the regions east of Palestine.—Henderson. Kedar thus represents the East. Jeremiah 2:16. “Noph,” called by Greeks Memphis, a few miles south of Cairo; the capital of Egypt in the time of the patriarchs, Pharaoh, and the Exodus. Situate just at that point of the Delta where the Nile separates into streams. As the residence of the court of the Pharaohs, it was the scene of Joseph’s varying fortunes: chief seat of Egyptian literature and idolatrous worship: temple of Apis there, the most splendid erection in Egypt: the pyramids stood close by—the sepulchres of the kings. “Tahapanes,” in Greek Τάφνη, Daphne, the first Egyptian town on crossing the border from Palestine, about sixteen miles south of the flourishing seaport Pelusium, and on the margin of the Lake Mensals, thus enjoying facilities of traffic with the Mediterranean and the Red Sea. One of the palaces of the Pharaohs stood there (Jeremiah 43:9). Being one of the most influential cities of Egypt, it and the capital stood for the country and the government itself. Jeremiah 2:18. “Sihor,” a Hebrew word = “the black,” meaning the Nile, whose appearance is turbid when loaded with alluvial matter, and whose deposit is black soil. “The river” (of Assyria) means the Euphrates. Jeremiah 2:23. “Thy way in the valley:” a definite locality is designated; the vale of Hinnom. This runs along the south side of Mount Zion, and was infamous for the celebration of the horrid rites of Moloch (chap. Jeremiah 7:31, Jeremiah 32:35).
6. Natural History. Jeremiah 2:15. “The young lions roared upon him,” &c. Never roars but when in sight of prey or when striking it down. Roar = signal of attack and consequent destruction (Isaiah 31:4; Amos 3:4). Entire regions are sometimes depopulated by his fury (Jeremiah 4:7). These are mystical lions; but the valour of a conquering tyrant and the rage of a savage lion work like effects. Jeremiah 2:21. “A noble vine, a degenerate plant.” Noble, properly reddish; a Sorek vine, producing red wine (Proverbs 23:31); a symbol of perpetual blessedness and bounty (Genesis 49:11). But Israel had become degenerate branches; not “plant,” but sprouts or suckers; evil outgrowths of a good stock, like Deuteronomy 32:32. The noble vine of Palestine (Numbers 13:23) yields clusters weighing ten or twelve pounds, and the grapes are like plums. Jeremiah 2:22. “Nitre, soap.” Nitre is the natron of Egypt, a mineral alkali found in the Nile valley after the water has evaporated. Soap, or potash, Borith, is a vegetable alkali obtained from the ashes of plants. These were the most powerful detergents known (Speaker’s Com.). Jeremiah 2:23. “Swift dromedary.” בִכְרָה, a young female, which has never yet had a foal. “Dromedary” is famed for amazing speed. Arabs affirm it will get over as much ground in one day as will take one of their best horses ten days. Hence used to carry despatches in haste (Esther 8:10). Jeremiah 2:24. “Wild ass, snuffeth up the wind.” The Onager, of the mule kind (Henderson): “accustomed to the desert,” = wild, reckless, ungoverned, obedient to nothing but desire: “snuffeth up the wind,” i.e., scenteth the male. Extremely swift, of slender form and animated gait. Mr. Morier, alluding to its peculiar cry with its nose (Jeremiah 14:6; Jeremiah 2:24), says, “In crossing the desert we gave chase to two wild asses, which had so much the speed of our horses, that when they had got to some distance they stood still and looked behind at us, snorting loudly with their noses in the air” (Journey through Persia, quoted by Dr. Paxton)
7. Manners and Customs. Jeremiah 2:3. “First-fruits of His increase;” God’s consecrated portion of the harvest (Exodus 23:19). Jeremiah 2:13. “Hewed cisterns.” Tanks for rainwater, common in East in cities and along roads; wells are scarce. These cisterns become dilapidated, cracked; and in consequence the rain which falls, or water poured into them, sinks into the earth and becomes lost. “The Hebrews give the name living water to that which welled from a fountain, and flowed along, as if possessing the property of life.”—Henderson. Jeremiah 2:20. “Upon every high hill,” &c. Spots chosen for idolatries and the worship of nature (Deuteronomy 12:2; 1 Kings 14:23; Ezekiel 6:13). Jeremiah 2:32. “Ornaments and attire.” Oriental females wear profusion of decorations, rings, jewels, bracelets, &c. (cf. Isaiah 61:10): “attire” here means girdle, sash, worn across the breasts (Revelation 1:13), often beautifully embroidered; an object of great pride to the wearer. Jeremiah 2:37. “Hands upon thine head;” the natural attitude of mourning (2 Samuel 13:19). “With hands clasped upon the head, Israel would retrace her steps, disgraced and discarded.”—Speaker’s Com.
8. Literary Criticisms. Jeremiah 2:2. “Go, cry in ears of Jerusalem;” a form of address implying his absence from the city. When he dwelt there the address assumed an altered form (chap. Jeremiah 17:19, Jeremiah 35:13). “I remember thee,” = of thee, to thy credit, for thy sake. “זָכִר with ל means to remember to one’s account that it may stand him in good stead afterwards. Cf. Nehemiah 13:22; Nehemiah 13:31; Psalms 98:3.”—Keil. “Kindness of thy youth;” either Mine to thee, or thine to Me: God’s generous regard and lavish privileges for Israel, or Israel’s ardour and devotion to the Lord. The latter is preferable. Jeremiah 2:3. “Was holiness.” Lange renders it “a Sanctuary.” Keil favours this: “Israel was so shielded by Him, as His sanctuary, that whoever touched it must pay the penalty” (Psalms 114:2). But Bishop Hall, Henderson, and Speaker’s Com. = an offering consecrated; Sharps, “holy unto the Lord” (cf. Exodus 19:6, with Leviticus 20:24, Deuteronomy 7:6). Jeremiah 2:4. “Families of the house of Israel;” not Judah only, but all Israel inclusively, though ten tribes were dispersed; not merely the few members of those tribes still in Jerusalem, but an ideal audience, the whole nation. Jeremiah 2:12. “Be horribly afraid, be ye very desolate;” lit., shudder and be withered away (Lange). An evident paronomasia—שֹׁמֹּוּ שָׁמַיִס. Impassioned personification: “Be horrified; be exceedingly aghast” at the monstrous spectacle. חָרֵב, to be parched up, deprived of vital force; devastated. “Places devastated have such an unsightly look.”—Maurer. “They have forsaken me,” lit., ME have they forsaken; force in the initial pronoun, raising into prominence Him whom they have thus wronged. Jeremiah 2:16. “Broken the crown of thy head,” = will feed down the crown (Henderson); depasture the crown (Lange); feed upon thy crown (Keil). רָעָה, to eat up by grazing (Micah 5:5). Gesenius, “They devour the crown of the head.” “The hair of the head being held in high estimation by the Hebrews, baldness was regarded as ignominious and humbling” (cf. chap, Jeremiah 47:5, Jeremiah 48:37). This fulfilled both in the sense of depopulating the land and draining the resources of the nation by taxation. “Shave thee bald,” points to extreme devastation and misery (cf. Jeremiah 44:12). Jeremiah 2:17. “Hast thou not procured this!” &c., i.e., Hath not thy forsaking Jehovah procured this to thyself! “Led thee by the way;” query, in what way! A distant historic way, in Arabian wilderness? (So Speaker’s Com. and Keil.) But this would affirm that their fathers’ sin in the desert originated the criminality which would eventuate in Judah’s ruin. But Kimchi, Hitzig, Henderson = the right way, the way of holiness; not through the wilderness merely, but the course of moral training under the Mosaic dispensation. Jeremiah 2:18. “To drink the waters,” i.e., to draw from these sources, Egypt or Assyria, power and reinvigoration. Jeremiah 2:20. “I have broken:” many authorities reject the Masoretic punctuation, which makes the verb first person, and read “Thou hast broken.” If the A.V. stands, it = God’s emancipation of Israel from Egyptian bondage. If “thou hast broken” be substituted, it = Israel’s rebellion against God’s rule. “Thou wanderest,” &c.; stretchest thyself. “Under every leafy tree thou layest thyself down as a harlot” (Speaker’s Com.), indicating her ready prostration before objects of idolatrous worship. Jeremiah 2:22. “Thine iniquity is marked;” is a stain, is ingrained; i.e., a filthy blot which no acids, or devices, or remedies can purge. Jeremiah 2:23. “Traversing her ways,” = rambling in her courses; “running in all directions in quest of a male.”—Henderson. Jeremiah 2:24. “Snuffeth up the wind at her pleasure;” a symptom of excited passions (Lange). “In her occasion,” &c., = as for her heat, who can repel it? (Henderson). Keil, “That in her lust panteth for air; her heat, who can restrain it?” “All that seek her,” &c.: she will not hide from them, herself too ready to be found. “In her month;” at the pairing season. Jeremiah 2:25. “Withhold thy foot,” &c. Cease this wearing and feverish rushing after idols; for only wounded feet and a dry thirst will ensue. “No longer undertake fruitless journeys to places of idolatrous worship, which wore out their shoes, injured their feet, and entailed extreme thirst.”—Henderson. “God, the true Husband, exhorts Israel not to run barefoot, and with parched throat, like a shameless adulteress, after strangers.”—Speaker’s Com. Jeremiah 2:29. “Wherefore will ye plead.” = Why do ye, or to what purpose will ye, contend against Me? Their propensity to complain against God (see Exodus 17:2-3; Exodus 17:7; chap. Jeremiah 5:19, Jeremiah 13:22, Jeremiah 16:10). Jeremiah 2:30. “They received,” i.e., they accepted no correction. Jeremiah 2:31. “We are lords.” רוּד, = to ramble about in an unbridled manner; they had thrown off the reins, and wandered at will after idolatrous gratification (Hosea 11:12). Jeremiah 2:33. “Taught the wicked ones thy ways;” either taught idolatrous nations new idolatries, or taught thy ways wickedness, i.e., trained thyself to habits of atrocity. Jeremiah 2:34. “Not found it by secret search.” Henderson, = “by deep search, i.e., atrocities have not been perpetrated in subterraneous caverns, as too horrible to bear the light of day, but openly in the valley of Hinnom, within the sacred precincts of the Temple, and about Jerusalem.” “But upon all these,” = upon all thy skirts. Speaker’s Com. gives a wholly new interpretation, = thou didst not find them (the poor innocents) breaking into thy house, i.e., they had committed no crime justifying violence. “By secret search,” = digging, i.e., digging through the walls of a house for the purpose of breaking into it. (Lange renders the words, in the place of burglary.) “But upon all these,” = because of all this, i.e., thou killedst the poor innocents, not for any crime, but because of this thy lust for idolatry. Jeremiah 2:37. “Go forth from him,” from thence; “not prosper in them,” have no success with them. Hastening to Egypt in hope of succour and strength, at a time when Nineveh is tottering before the armies of Cyaxares and Nabopolassar, thou shalt return repelled and forlorn.
HOMILETIC TREATMENT OF SECTIONS OF CHAPTER 2
Beautiful retrospect—reciprocation of love.
Lamentable changes—violated faith.
Facts for amazement—reckless apostasies.
Looming disasters—outward results of impiety.
Baseness of idolatry—reflex degradations of impiety.
Affecting expostulations—incorrigible impenitence.
Jeremiah 2:1-3. PIETY A RECIPROCATION OF LOVE
By Israel’s “youth” is meant the period spent in Egypt and of the exodus thence (Hosea 11:1; Hosea 2:15). From the exodus till Sinai’s covenant constitutes the season of plighted affection and betrothal (Exodus 19:4-8). The bridal relationship was consummated there, and God was a Husband unto Israel from that hour (cf. Keil and Hend.). God emphatically calls Himself “the husband of her youth” (Joel 1:8), so tender, full of fond memories, sacred and intimate, was the union.
Query, whether here is meant Israel’s love to God, or God’s to Israel? Chrysostom originated the latter explanation; many still contend for it.—Graff., Rosenm., Venema, &c. But the accumulated decisions of interpreters favour the former. “The kindness (or grace) of thy youth,” and “thy going after Me in the wilderness,” can refer only to the bride. Yet who can think of the bride’s love without instantly reverting to the higher, grander, vaster love of the Bridegroom? (See Literary Criticisms above, Jeremiah 2:2.)
I. Love’s origin and alliance. In the case of
i. Jehovah’s love for Israel, it led to (1.) Perception of excellencies: “the grace of thy youth;” for although there was little to admire in Israel when in Egyptian bondage, or when released—a wild horde in the desert—God saw graces, appreciated “kindness;” for love is quick to perceive and admire. (2.) Covenant of attachment: “espousals;” the Lord drew Israel into plighted alliance; He must claim her all for Himself as His beloved. (3.) Leading her forth into a new world and a new life: “after Me in the wilderness;” a different but better scene than Egyptian degradation; life spent in the society of her Bridegroom; “all things become new.”
ii. Israel’s love for the Lord was (1.) Ardent: it was her “first love;” glowing, joyous, full of graces and kindness (cf. Exodus 35:20-29). (2.) Single: she asked no paramour then, sought no “other lord,”—God was all-sufficient. “They saw no man save Jesus only!” (3.) Unhesitating: she ready to go anywhere “after” Him; even into “wilderness.” His will was her law, her bliss. “Lord, I am ready to go with Thee, both into prison and to death” (Luke 22:33). “Let us go also that we may die with Him” (John 11:16). Such is the attitude of “first love.” (See Addenda to chap. 2, “Love of thine espousals.”)
II. Love’s outgrowth and manifestation.
i. God’s love was (1.) Redeeming: from Egypt, from enemies, from perils, from wilderness. (2.) Disciplinary: educating her and preparing her for higher position, nobler advantages, larger enjoyments and privileges. (3.) Enduring: through forty years in desert. (4.) Unwearied: never alienated or exhausted by all Israel’s forgetfulness and failings.
ii. Israel’s love was (1.) Human, therefore variable and perishable. (2.) Yet trustful, surrendering herself and her future to God. (3.) Responsive, going after Him, carrying out His precepts, though with many defects and even occasional disobedience. (4.) Grateful; for a religious regard and reverence characterised Israel’s early career. Alas! she was sometimes also querulous.
III. Love’s honours and blessedness.
Its object must be beautified and enriched; love ever acts thus.
i. The Divine affection for Israel took delight in lavishing beauty and dignity upon its object. (1.) It robed Israel with sanctity (“Israel” was holiness); invested her with national distinction and privileges. (2.) It constituted Israel God’s abode. (See Literary Criticisms, chap. 2 Jeremiah 2:3). (3.) It secured to Israel Divine overshadowing (“All that devour, … evil shall come upon them”).
ii. Israel’s affectionate allegiance found expression. (1.) Her “first-fruits” were yielded to God: this was the gift of her most prized possessions; it avowed that God was first in her thoughts, and first to receive the acknowledgment of her grateful love. (2.) Her history witnessed for God, made Jehovah known to surrounding nations; His character, mighty acts, supreme deity. (3.) Her worship was a sweet savour to the Lord: the Tabernacle services, the altar sacrifices, the gifts and offerings of the people, all were precious to Him—an oblation of love (Psalms 76:1-2).
Truly a beautiful retrospect. Piety flowing forth in love for God, in faith that worketh by love, in zealous attachment and lavish offerings and loyal devotion. God “remembers” it with delight. It is the garden of Eden, luxuriant and lovely, before sin’s devastation blighted the fair scene. Alas! that on the sacred blessedness and beauty of “first love” could come so withering a blight!
Jeremiah 2:4-8. LAMENTABLE CHANGES—VIOLATED FAITH
(See Addenda, chap. 2 Jeremiah 2:6 : “Neither said they, Where is the Lord?”)
The “love of youth” might be referred either to Jehovah or Israel; for early affection was reciprocal. But there can be no double reference of this dark fact—vows broken, love false, loyalty abandoned. God is incapable of inconstancy (James 1:17). It is only in man to deteriorate, to forget (what God “remembers,” Jeremiah 2:2) the “first love” (Revelation 2:4-5).
There should be a reason for all our courses of conduct; we could ordinarily justify our proceedings, in commerce, politics, &c. It should be so in spiritual as in temporal affairs. God here reviews Israel’s career, sets sins in array, calls her to justify her conduct, summons her to account. Foreshadows this: “Every one must give account to God.”
i. A startling contrast (Jeremiah 2:5) between God’s fidelity and their in-fidelity. ii. An unanswerable challenge. Their conduct was without reason. iii. An appalling charge. Asked not after God (Jeremiah 2:6; Jeremiah 2:8), despoiled God’s heritage (Jeremiah 2:7), violated duty and knowledge (Jeremiah 2:8). The guilt of backsliding stands out in vivid portrayal here. (Addenda, Jeremiah 2:10-11, “Idolatry.”) Thus is shown:
I. That apostasy from God is wholly unjustifiable.
The question of its guiltiness remains in abeyance till the appalling injustice of it is proved (Jeremiah 2:5). “What iniquity,” &c. The word עָוֶל, âvel, stands opposed to צֶדֶק, tsedek, righteousness; and means perversity, wrongfulness; the contrary of good faith and truthful deed—injustice therefore: Ergo, their action was unjustifiable.
1. Could they adduce any provocations to apostasy? Had Jehovah failed to do what they might expect of Him? Had He done aught they could complain of? In any way had He been unkind, unfaithful, unjust? If so, they might justify their having “removed far from Him” (Jeremiah 2:5). Let men charge God with wrong done to them individually if they can, and so prove their neglect and hostility reasonable and right. Against all complaints shall be set the grand facts of God’s love, verity, and abounding grace.
2. Had they derived any advantages from apostasy? “Walked after vanity” (Jeremiah 2:5); “after things that do not profit” (Jeremiah 2:8). To lose the good and, pursue an evil is a double loss, a twofold calamity. Losing God is a frightful loss; but losing Him means the surrender of all and failure of everything. A man hanging over a chasm lets go his only hold—a piece of projecting rock, to grasp shadows thrown across the perpendicular sides of the chasm: he clutches at vanity, and falls headlong to ruin. See Mark 8:36-37. Interrogate men as to the substantial “gains of godliness.” The world will yield us at last nought but a grave; but “when heart and flesh fail, God will be the strength of my heart, and my portion for ever.”
II. That apostasy is felt by God to be a gross injustice.
It is unreasonable in itself, and equally undeserved by God. It is impossible to miss the fact that God felt their conduct. He does not regard it impassively; it occasions grief and calls forth sadness. Man’s conduct affects God.
1. Heartless ingratitude for favours (Jeremiah 2:6). Did not heed them; felt no sense of obligation for them; acted as if none had ever been shown them. Flagrant, insensate, graceless ingratitude, (a.) They owed to God all their deliverances: from Egypt (Micah 6:4); oppression of Pharaohs (Exodus 3:7); from pathless and inhospitable deserts; “land of pits,” full of rents and fissures, and deep, waterless valleys, parched and unfruitful, of deadly terrors and dangers; of “shadow of death” (so Sheol is named, Job 10:21), utterly solitary, offering neither path nor abode for travellers. Instead of this heartless insensibility, we should say with David, “Bless the Lord,” &c. (Psalms 103:1-4). (b.) They had received from God all their blessings (Jeremiah 2:7). They were nothing, had nothing, never gained anything by themselves or for themselves. “What hast thou which thou hast not received?” We are indebted to God for “all things richly to enjoy;” and for redemption, sanctification, and heavenly hope. “How much owest thou unto my Lord?”
2. Base abuse of favours. Never asked after the Giver (Jeremiah 2:6; Jeremiah 2:8): prostituted their possessions to vile idolatrous uses (Jeremiah 2:7), and handed God’s “inheritance” over to traitorous rival deities (Jeremiah 2:7). Frightful desecration. Comp. Romans 6:1; Hebrews 6:7-8; Hebrews 10:26-29.
3. Glaring dishonour to God, who had put His glory in their charge. Selected to show forth the praises of the Lord amid the nations, to be “holiness unto Him;” they had “defiled” and “made an abomination” (Jeremiah 2:7) of sacred things. Can this be less than a gross injustice? Is not all sin a flagrant insult to God, a virulent outrage on the very purpose of our existence, a return of hate for wondrous love?
III. That apostasy is an offence of greatest criminality.
There may be an unconscious decline from religion, unintentioned. This bad, yet not defiant and designed. But
1. Consider who they were who were guilty of it (Jeremiah 2:8). “Priests:” Chrysostom remarks, “See, the evil springs from the head.” Had they done their duty, the apostasy had never become national. Their sin was heedlessness of their work. “They said not, Where is the Lord?” “They that handle the law,” = exponents of the Scriptures: the preachers of those days ignored God—“knew Him not.” “The pastors,” i.e., shepherds, temporal rulers, civil magistrates (Targum renders it kings), these disobeyed and disregarded Jehovah’s will. “The prophets, who should have listened to no voice, nor conveyed any message save Jehovah’s, consulted Baal, chose an alien deity and a false inspiration (cf. Luke 12:45-48). What is our case? Can we shelter ourselves by the plea of ignorance?
2. Also their apostasy was deliberate and determined. Positive act: “defiled,” &c. (Jeremiah 2:7). Negative act: “Neither said; knew not” (Jeremiah 2:8).
3. And equally insensate and insolent. Turned persistently and flauntingly from God, and “walked after vanity.” The Hebrew idiom, “things that do not profit” (Jeremiah 2:8), means things baleful and pernicious (Speaker’s Com.). Heed 1 Samuel 12:20-21. Hitzig points out a climax in the guilt: the ministers of Temple worship took no heed of God; the teachers of the law passed deliberately by the truths they knew; the civil powers actively disobeyed the law; the prophets deserted God entirely for a lying spirit. It is an evil and a bitter thing to sin against the Lord. What a fall from what Israel was! Begin to sin, and where will it end?
Jeremiah 2:9-13. FACTS FOR AMAZEMENT—RECKLESS DESERTION OF THE FOUNT OF LIFE
The fidelity of Jehovah had been presented in contrast with Israel’s inconstancy (Jeremiah 2:5); now the fidelity of the heathen is adduced, for they never “change their gods” (Jeremiah 2:11), although they are “no gods.” How astounding, therefore, is Israel’s guilt!
Though they might “consider diligently” (Jeremiah 2:10), they would find no parallel. Yet they might justly desert gods who “do not profit” (Jeremiah 2:11); whereas, God’s “people” had abandoned that which was “their glory,” without hesitation or remorse.
כָּבוֹד, glorý, is the glory in which the invisible God manifested His majesty in the world and amidst His people. God had shown His glory to the Israelites in glorious deeds of His omnipotence and grace, like those mentioned in Jeremiah 2:5-6. The Baals, on the other hand, are nothings, phantoms without a being, that bring no help or profit to their worshippers.”—Keil.
“Though the worship of the one true God is a nation’s greatest glory, yet it is irksome because it puts a constraint on human passions doubly. For, first, it requires obedience to a law revealed from above; and, secondly, it endeavours to raise men to something higher than the mere level of human nature. Hence a true religion awakens an antagonism in man’s heart, as naturally as a false religion pleases and soothes it.”—Speaker’s Com
“Be astonished, O ye heavens.” “The greatness of the crime can be estimated by none so well as the over-arching heavens, which can behold and compare all that takes place.”—Lange.
“These strongest terms in the language show how intensely amazed all the holy in heaven are at the monstrous folly of human sinning. That when men might have the infinite God for their friend, they choose to have Him their enemy; might have Him their exhaustless portion of unmeasured and eternal good, they spurn Him away, and set themselves to the fruitless task of making some ruinous substitute: this is beyond measure amazing! Verily, sin is the mockery of human reason!”—Cowles.
“The heathen are guilty of but one sin, idolatry: the covenant people commit two, in that they abandon the true God to serve idols.”—Speaker’s Com. “The sin is twofold: (1.) They do not obey the Lord; (2.) They will labour tooth and nail, if only they may not obey Him.”—Zinzendorf.
“Forsake the fountain,” &c. “His people, who have the true religion, have the fountain: they can (1.) obtain water without difficulty; (2.) as much as they want. But they substitute means which are (1.) difficult; (2.) new; (3.) insufficient; (4.) deceptive; (5.) rejected on trial. Hence come the works of supererogation, the many ceremonies, ecclesiastical regulations, which are unquestionably twice as difficult as to follow the Saviour; and they have no promise for this life or the life to come.”—Zinzendorf.
“What can quench the thirst of the soul? (1.) It cannot be quenched by drawing from the broken cisterns of earthly good. [Though the hewn cisterns please us better; and the cistern-water of this world is more to our taste than the living water, the living God and His Word.—Hochstetter.] (2.) It can be quenched only by drawing from the fountain of life, from which the soul originally sprang, even from God.”—Naegelsb.
“The dead gods have no life and can dispense no life; just as wells with rents or fissures hold no water [and can yield none]. But living water, i.e., that originates and nourishes life, is a significant figure for God, with whom is the fountain of life, i.e., from whose Spirit all life comes. If man forsakes the living God, he passes, in spite of himself, into the service of dead, unreal gods. For, created by God and for God, he cannot live without God.”—Keil. Hence the labour to substitute the loss.
Jeremiah 2:14-19. LOOMING DISASTERS—THE EXTERNAL RESULT OF IMPIETY
Not only is it God’s ordinance, but an inevitable and spontaneous law, that evil deeds work evil issues. To trifle with fire ensures burning; to desert friends involves desertion in turn; to wound Christ inflicts wounds on conscience; to turn from Him as those who “know Him not” (Jeremiah 2:8), will issue in the doom “I know you not, depart!” (Luke 13:27).
I. God’s free son in unnatural slavery through sin (Jeremiah 2:4). The answer to the inquiries in an emphatic negation. Israel is Jehovah’s first-born (Exodus 4:22); how is it he has become a spoil? Fallen into the hands of oppressors.
1. Not born to slavery, as a serf of the soil or a child of enslaved parents. Liberty, spiritual freedom from tyranny, the birthright of man. We are none of as born to thraldom to any spiritual adversary. If become slaves, because “sold our birthright,”
2. Not allowed to perish in bondage. Ensnared in Egypt, the foe had them in his power, and bitterly oppressed them. Even as the “devil led us captive at his will” after we had yielded to his rule. But God redeemed Israel; us also.
3. Yet enslaved again by the spoiler, through wilful desertion of God, and “the last state worse than the first” (Matthew 12:25).
II. Furious adversaries lurking for Israel (Jeremiah 2:15-16). Quick to rush down upon the prey who strays from safety. “Night and day, beasts of prey, lurking, are devouring.” (See Critical Notes, chap. 2; Natural History, Jeremiah 2:15.)
1. Envious of God’s heritage (Jeremiah 2:15); for it is a heritage to be coveted (Jeremiah 2:7). “These two nations shall be mine,” &c. (Ezekiel 35:10).
2. Thirsting for destruction. “Your adversary walketh about seeking whom he may devour” (1 Peter 5:8).
3. Implacable in their fury (Jeremiah 2:15-16). (See Natural History on Jeremiah 2:15, and Literary Criticisms on Jeremiah 2:16.) The devil “hath great wrath” (Revelation 12:12).
III. When God is lost false remedies are sought (Jeremiah 2:18). The previous verse shows why and how God was lost by Israel.
1. Startling; that Israel, once redeemed by God from Egypt, should be deserting God for Egypt! (2 Peter 2:19-22).
2. Admonitory; for Israel was not confident of Egypt’s sufficiency; the night-bag of doubt was on her heart; so she provided an alternative should Egypt fail—Assyria. Not satisfied or sure. Wicked have no assurance, no peace.
3. Israel’s substitutes for God. These rivers (Jeremiah 2:18) were to compensate the loss of “the fountain of living waters” Israel had forsaken. The Nile was the life-giving artery of Egypt; to drink the waters of Sihor therefore meant to procure for herself the resources of life which Egypt possessed. So with Assyria. For what do men forsake God? (Jeremiah 2:11).
IV. Sinners are the occasion of their own overthrow (Jeremiah 2:17-19). The confederacies they entered into were the agencies of their desolation (Proverbs 1:31; Isaiah 3:9).
1. They invite the enemy by abandoning God. He was their defence; awed and restrained their foes. But like lions they crouch (Jeremiah 2:15), ready to spring upon the prey which wandered exposed and unprotected. Sinners court destruction, tempt the tempter.
2. They evoke God’s judgments. Though Divine punishments slumber—for God does not desire the death of a sinner, and is slow to anger—they awake at impious provocation (Romans 1:18; Ephesians 5:6).
3. They necessitate the penalties of apostasy. God has menaced all disobedience and defiance with dire penalties. “Now consider this,” &c. (Psalms 50:22).
Application (Jeremiah 2:19): “Know therefore and see,” i.e., at last comprehend, “that it is an evil thing and bitter,” &c. Evil now and bitter hereafter. For “at last it biteth like a serpent and stingeth like an adder” (Proverbs 8:36). A gospel counterpoise (see Romans 5:20-21).
Jeremiah 2:20-29. REFLEX DEGRADATIONS OF IDOLATRY
Disasters come upon the impious from without, but the whole inward, personal, spiritual debasement which idolatry effected in the apostate was the greater calamity. Prostitution of the soul before idols, a more awful disaster than any external degradation. “O Israel! thou hast destroyed thyself;” the God-given nature, a wreck! Sin works a twofold doom—debasement and destruction. (For explanation of words and similes, see Critical Notes on chap. 2 above.)
“The sinful corruptions of humanity—(i.) Are not original (Jeremiah 2:21); (ii.) But very deep (Jeremiah 2:22); (iii.) They cannot be denied away (Jeremiah 2:23-24), nor removed by external means” (Jeremiah 2:22; Jeremiah 2:25).—Naegelsb. in Lange.
“How ruinous a course it is to trust in a creature! (i.) On account of his weakness he disgracefully leaves us in the hour of our need (Jeremiah 2:26-27). (ii.) We thus insult God and lose His help (Jeremiah 2:28).”—Idem.
I. From immemorial antiquity Israel had broken the yoke of the Divine law laid upon her, and torn asunder the bands of decency and order which God’s commands and ordinances put on her (Jeremiah 2:20). “Bands” are not the cords of love with which God drew Israel (Hosea 11:4), but the commands of God designed to keep her within the bounds of purity and from riot in idolatry. These broken (Jeremiah 31:18; Hosea 4:16).
II. In this shameless prostitution to false gods Israel shows her utter corruption (Jeremiah 2:21); in her very nature as much as in her conduct.
III. From the defilement of her sins, not even the most powerful means of purifying could cleanse her (Jeremiah 2:22). (See Isaiah 1:18; Psalms 51:4; Psalms 51:9.)
IV. Her degradation is the more deep in that she denies her base condition (Jeremiah 2:23). Though openly practising idolatry, she is blinded in self-righteousness. Her conduct is like irrational animals, yielding to sexual cravings. With unbridled desire she abandons herself to idolatrous lust (Jeremiah 2:24).
V. The summons to self-restraint defiantly resisted. Advice is fruitless, for I love the aliens (Jeremiah 2:25).
VI. Disgrace and desertion in the evil hour will eventually follow Israel’s sin (Jeremiah 2:26-28). Shame and confusion will ensue from the frustration of her hopes in false gods. And then to the living God whom she has long deserted she will make appeals in vain.
VII. God will send transgressors, who seek Him in their panic, back to the gods for whom they rejected Him (Jeremiah 2:28-29). Israel had gods enough (Jeremiah 2:28); ought therefore to be satisfied and secure! Trouble will test Israel’s hopes, and the worth of her idols. God will not accept any pleading (Jeremiah 2:29), or regard “contention” from those who ignored and deserted Him in their “day of salvation.”—Arranged from Keil.
Jeremiah 2:30-37. AFFECTING EXPOSTULATIONS—INCORRIGIBLE IMPENITENCE
When man quarrels with God, the fault is always on the side of man (Psalms 51:6). For
1. God chastises us, but we do not obey (Jeremiah 2:30).
2. He bestows on us vast blessings, yet we do not adhere to Him (Jeremiah 2:31).
3. He makes us partakers of the highest glory, yet we reject it with disdain (Jeremiah 2:32).—Naegsb.
An unjust imputation repelled by Jehovah (Jeremiah 2:31). To an ingenuous mind God never appears so irresistible as when He addresses His creatures in the language of tender expostulation. Christians treat God as a wilderness—
1. When they are reluctant to serve Him.
2. When they seek their happiness in the world [away from God]. The ground of complaint is in them, not in Him.—Payson.
Who is it thus vindicates His own character? Jehovah Himself. Answer the challenge given and the charge brought against you.
I. His appeal in answer to charges brought against Him.
[For Jeremiah 2:29 shows Israel chiding (not pleading) with God.]
1. Was He to the Jews a wilderness or a land of darkness? Rescued them from wilderness (Jeremiah 2:6). Himself met their every want, and gave them full and peaceful possession of the promised land (Deuteronomy 32:10-14; Nehemiah 9:21-25).
2. Has He in His conduct to us deserved any such humiliating imputation? We passing through wilderness: lacked ye anything? “No good thing withhold.” Given Son, Spirit; shown kindness and care. Charges against His liberality altogether false (Isaiah 5:3-4).
II. God is vindicated; but hear His charge against you. He complains, and justly, of—
1. The flagrancy of man’s rebellion. Israel, = “We are lords,” &c. (Jeremiah 2:31). You also affected independence. Satan’s temptation. “Ye shall be as gods” (Genesis 3:5). Independence is the very essence of the Fall (Revelation 3:17). Shown ourselves proud, daring, impious, self-sufficient rebels.
2. The contemptuousness of man’s neglect “Forgotten Him” (Jeremiah 2:32) after all His mercies. We have forgotten—(a.) Our obligations to Him. (b.) Our dependence on Him. (c.) The great account we have to give Him. By our engrossing attention to trifles (Jeremiah 2:32) we “provoke God to jealousy.”
(α.) Refrain from vindicating yourselves (Jeremiah 2:35); Hosea 5:5; Isaiah 28:5. Ponder the assertion (Proverbs 28:13).
(β.) Humble yourselves for your guilt. Then be encouraged, for God’s goodness was Israel’s hope (Deuteronomy 7:7-8), and His love and mercy avail you (Isaiah 1:18).—Rev. C. Simeon, M.A.
HOMILIES AND OUTLINES ON SELECTED VERSES OF CHAPTER 2
Jeremiah 2:2. Theme: AN UNFORGOTTEN PAST. Text: “I remember thee.”
As we advance in life—
1. We may, as Israel did, leave the best things we once possessed in the rear. We may acquire more outward substance; Israel did (Jeremiah 2:7); may amass more, yet we may lose our early sweetness of character, ardour of piety, sanctity of conscience. And
2. We commonly do lose all recollection of those better days. We allow them to die from thought; perhaps helplessly so: it may be we prefer it should. There is a pang in memories of days when we were better, though we had less.
I. The unfading memory of God. “I remember.”
Not only as a necessity that a mind which is infinite should be incapable of forgetting, but as a voluntary and intentioned act.
1. Our habits are forgetful. The past glides from us, will it or not. Much of the good which the past held, and of the good we did, fades from recollection; and alas! much of the evil becomes lost to memory. Each wave of time rolling in upon the shore obliterates the former wave. What obliterations occur in life! What erasures from memory!
2. Yet no part of our life is lost. Gone from us, and from our recalling, but not from God. Nothing we have been or done fades from the mind of Jehovah. All things lie in His imperishable thoughts. “God is not unrighteous to forget” either the good or evil which the past contains; else how could He judge our years, and recompense our life?
3. He remembers our life in its religious aspects. For that is the only cognisance God takes of our existence. Though He cares for us and ministers to us temporally, as to Israel (Jeremiah 2:6-7), He regards our life in its spiritual bearings, estimates its religious qualities, looks for the moral and sacred elements, not the mere material accidents of human existence. We may think much of our affairs; God, of our condition; we, of our circumstances and experiences; God, of the state the soul is in, and the aspects of our life religiously. What does God think of our past?
II. The memory of God lingers fondly over what is good in our life.
There are persons with keen recollections of unkindly and condemnatory incidents; their memories are storehouses of corruptions. Morally, they have bad memories. The morbid remember all that is evil of themselves; the malignant, all that is evil of others.
1. The Divine memory is benignant (Jeremiah 2:2). “I remember thee,” is literally to thy account. God keeps the good of our life in thought:
a. For its own sake. He loves everything good. Too precious, and alas! too scarce, to be allowed to slip from thought.
b. For our sake. He loves us for the good; it makes us dearer to Him; it is His seal upon us, “His image and superscription” (1 Timothy 5:23).
2. The good of our life may all lie in the past. It did with Israel. The time of “youth” was the best time. Alas! “her goodness was as the morning cloud and the early dew, which goeth away.” Had God limited His attention to the present state of the nation, what a changed order of things! (Jeremiah 2:11-13). Oh, sad that so full a blossoming should issue in such barrenness and dearth. “Our youth” is too often the purest and brightest era of our life. Let the mature compare themselves now with themselves then. Nothing sordid, grasping, subtle, withered, defiled; but manhood and womanhood, how deteriorated and devastated! Let the aged review the promise of youth.
“Heaven lies about us in our infancy!
Shades of the prison-house begin to close
Upon the growing boy;
But he beholds the light, and whence it flows;
He sees it in his joy:
The youth, who daily farther from the east
Must travel, still is Nature’s priest,
And by the vision splendid
Is on his way attended:
At length the man perceives it die away,
And fade into the light of common day.”
If, therefore, God is to remember sincere goodness, He must look to our early years. How generous and gracious He who seeks not our sins, but our few poor, short-lived virtues!
III. The memory of God lingers over the good of our life for our advantage.
1. Not that a past religious life can exonerate present sinfulness. It did not Israel: nor can it deliver any soul from the consequences of degeneracy (Ezekiel 33:12, &c).
2. Yet it allures the Divine tenderness and grace (Mark 10:20-21).
3. And God does not lightly esteem the fact of our former relationship of love with Himself. He loves still, though we may have declined. He yearns over the child though a prodigal, and would fain reinstate him in His grace. God is specially pathetic and pleading with those who have formerly been His. He cannot reconcile Himself to their alienation and loss.
4. If any return to their first love, He will remember to their account all the zeal and attachment they formerly showed.
How encouraging this to spiritual delinquents! “Come, and let us return to the Lord,” &c. (Hosea 6:1-4).
Jeremiah 2:2-3. “Every important historical appearance has its paradise or golden age, as now with Israel (Jeremiah 2:2-3). It is thus with humanity in general, with the Christian Church (Acts 2:41 to Acts 4:37), with the Reformation, so also with individual Churches (Galatians 4:14) and with individual Christians. This period of first nuptial love does not, however, usually continue long (Revelation 2:4).
I. The joyous period of first love.
1. In experience extremely precious.
2. In duration relatively brief.
3. In effect a source of everlasting blessing.
II. The nuptial state of Christ’s Church in its stages.
1. The first stage, love.
2. The second stage, alienation. (Addenda to chap. Jeremiah 2:2.)
3. The third stage, return.
III. The covenant of Christ with His Church.
1. Its ground, election.
2. Its condition, faith.
3. Its promise, the Church an indestructible sanctuary.—Naeg. in Lange.
Jeremiah 2:1-13. Theme: The evil nature of that sin which is committed after our conversion to God.
Four things observable which aggravate the offence:
I. Committed in violation of solemn vows and covenant engagements.
Conversion is a marriage, wherein Christ resigns Himself, with all He is and has, to us; and we resign ourselves, with all we are and have, to Christ. “Thy vows, O God, are upon me.”
The love we then bore to Him = the lose of our espousals: At that time we took Christ’s cause for our cause, His people for ours, His will for our law, His glory for our end, and Himself for our portion. Did we love Him too well then? If prince espouse poor outcast, give himself and all he has to her, only requiring her heart in return, shall she refuse him that, grow first dissatisfied, and go after other lovers? “O my soul! thou hast said unto the Lord, Thou art my Lord.”
II. Departures from God have been without any provocation whatever on His part (Jeremiah 2:5).
This question ought to open every spring of sensibility and self-abhorrence.
1. Was He wanting in forbearance when we were in rebellion?
2. Did He act unfeelingly when we were ruined, in that He gave His own Son to die for us?
3. Has He been a hard Master since we entered His service? Himself ever a wilderness to us, or obedience a barren path?
4. Has He been a churlish Father to us? Ever refuse us free access, or give us a stone?
5. When we have returned to Him with our whole heart, has He not always been ready to receive us, and bury all in forgetfulness? (Daniel 9:7).
III. Sins after conversion show peculiar and horrible ingratitude (Jeremiah 2:6-8). God has not done the self-same thing for us as for Israel; but
1. He has given, not Egypt or Ethiopia for our ransom, but His own blood.
2. Has redeemed us, not from Egyptian thraldom, but “from the power of darkness, and translated us into the kingdom of His dear Son.”
3. We never supported by miracles in lonesome deserts of Arabia, but “having obtained help of God, we continue.”
4. Did not possess Canaan, but “God bath provided some better things for us,”
Our blessings abundantly transcend theirs, and lay us under far greater obligations. To have slighted and dishonoured a God of such love as this is indeed the greater sin.
IV. Such departures from God are expressive of the most extreme and singular folly (Jeremiah 2:9-13).
We should so judge of a people who removed their tents from an overflowing fountain and settled in a parched desert, there to trust to hewed eisterns.
1. It is an exchange, and a foolish one; of liberty for drudgery, peace for remorse, joyfulness for anguish, abundance for penury and misery.
2. It is singular folly (Jeremiah 2:10-11). Israel, the only people in the world having a God worth cleaving to, must be the only people desiring a change. The people of the only true God alone prove untrue!
This not more extreme and singular than our folly when we shun God and fly for happiness to sensual and carnal gratification.—Andrew Fuller.
Jeremiah 2:5. Theme: HEAVEN’S APPEAL TO THE SINNER.
I. The sinner is Divinely described.
“They are gone far from Me, and have walked after vanity.”
1. Sin is departure from God. Alienation of sympathy and soul.
2. Sin is a progress of vanity. “An idol is nothing in the world” (1 Corinthians 8:4). Everything about a sinner’s life is vain. Sin is going from the real to the unreal.
(1.) The pleasures he seeks are unsatisfactory; all empty, and outside him.
(2.) The honours he aspires to are unreal; neither enrich nor ennoble the soul.
II. The sinner is Divinely challenged.
“What iniquity found in Me?”
1. Implies that if iniquity were found in God, there would be some justification for apostasy on the sinner’s part.
2. That the discovery of such iniquity it an absolute impossibility. There are three revelations of God, and each shows Him of absolute perfection.
(1.) Nature. Reflected in the universe, God is perfect.
(2.) Biography of Christ. Perfect grace, perfect truth.
(3.) The moral soul. They declare God is perfect. All men feel bound to love Him; indicates innate belief in His perfection.
No being in the universe can find iniquity in God. Could hell find it, its agony would be mitigated, if not removed.—Homilist.
Jeremiah 2:8. Since priests, pastors, and prophets, who have been regularly inducted into office, may be deceivers, it is necessary to try the spirits according to the criterion given in 1 John 4:1, sq.—Lange.
Jeremiah 2:9. Their ancestors, themselves, and their descendants, constitute a unity—(1.) In moral guilt. (2.) In persistent backsliding. Ergo, (3). In consequent penalty.
Jeremiah 2:11. “Changed their glory.” (See Addenda to chap. Jeremiah 2:11.) “Gods no gods.”
1. Israel had no glory, dignity, or renown of her own (Deuteronomy 7:7).
2. She had derived from Jehovah all the glory she ever possessed (Deuteronomy 4:32-38).
3. God Himself was Israel’s crown of glory and beauty (Psalms 106:20; Romans 1:23).
4. The Shekinah, shining upon and filling with splendour the sanctuary, was the glorious symbol of God’s presence with Israel (1 Kings 8:11; cf. Romans 9:4).
5. Idolatry endeavoured to materialise that ethereal symbol of God: golden calf (Exodus 32:2-5), glittering, brilliant!
6. The substitution of profitless idols for Jehovah surrendered all Israel’s glory, and left her baser than when God found her (Deuteronomy 28:15-29).
Jeremiah 2:12-13. Theme: TWO ASTOUNDING EVILS. (See Literary Criticisms, Jeremiah 2:12.)
To forsake God does not mean departure from His presence nor escape from His rule, but moral alienation of soul.
I. The force of human freedom.
Mightiest rivers cannot break from their source, nor greatest planets from their centre, but man can from centre and fountain of his being.
1. This freedom is a matter of personal consciousness. This is the invincible and ultimate argument re human responsibility; men feel they are uncoerced and free.
2. This freedom invests human existence with transcendent importance. Makes them members of the great moral empire of the universe.
II. The enormity of human wickedness.
1. What ingratitude. 2. What injustice. 3. What impiety.
III. The egregiousness of human folly:
1. In withdrawing from the satisfying to toil for the unsatisfying.
2. In withdrawing from the abundant to toil for the scanty. Well may the heavens be “amazed and horrified” at the freedom, iniquity, and folly which they witness every age and every day, developed in the history of our race.—Homilist.
Jeremiah 2:14. Eichhorn thinks the prophet here proposes to Judah, as yet spared, the case of Israel (the captive ten tribes), as a warning of what they might expect if they confided in Egypt: “Was Israel of meaner birth than Judah? Nay; yet if Israel fell before Assyria, could Judah hope a better fate from Egypt?” But the two parts of the nation are not separated in the prophet’s thought and address (cf. Jeremiah 2:13; Jeremiah 2:18; Jeremiah 2:36).
It is an inquiry: How comes it that the nation which is not a slave by birth, being “Jehovah’s son, His firstborn” (Exodus 4:22), is to suffer the miseries of slavery?
Speaker’s Com., however, renders it: If Israel is a slave, he is home-born, and hence held in respect (Genesis 14:14), may expect kindness as well as protection. Cannot Jehovah guard His own household? How happens it that a member of so powerful a family is spoiled? Next verse gives the reason: Israel is a runaway slave, deserted the family to which he belonged; hence his trouble and misery. By leaving his master’s house he has exposed himself to the beasts of prey in the wilderness (Jeremiah 2:15).
Theme: ISRAEL’S SLAVERY AN EMBLEM OF THE UNIVERSAL HUMAN SLAVERY OF SIN.
1. In both it is not original. 2. Is self-incurred. 3. Is severely punished. 4. The punishment is the means of salvation (since it shows sin is ruinous, and godliness is life and peace).—Naegelsbach.
Jeremiah 2:16. “If God wishes to chastise His people, He usually employs the ungodly for this purpose (Deuteronomy 28:49-50); and it often happens that injury and destruction come upon the ungodly from those from whom they have promised themselves the greatest help.”—Starke. (See Literary Criticisms, Jeremiah 2:16.)
Jeremiah 2:17. Theme: RECKLESS DESERTION OF THE RIGHT WAY.
Suggests a retrospect. Look well over your life and mark your career; the points at which you forsook God. Suggests also a calamity. How are your present misery and terror to be accounted for? Examples: Youth with wasted constitution. Merchant suddenly bankrupt. “Brought it all on himself.” Man is too ready to blame others, emphatically God, for his misfortunes. Text finds the cause of our personal, social, and spiritual disasters nearer home.
I. There is a gracious way wherein Jehovah leads.
Through Arabian desert went with Israel. But a way of life is meant.
1. This may not approve itself to the unregenerate.
2. Yet it is a path of pleasantness and holy joy to the godly.
3. Along it the footsteps of God, the presence of Emmanuel, are realised and enjoyed.
4. Attended by the Lord Himself he pilgrim traverses this living way, which leads away from bondage into blessed privilege and eternal rest. (See Addenda to chap. Jeremiah 2:17.)
How blessed, and safe, and favoured that life which has Jesus ever with it all the way; the life which is ordered so as to please Him, and never lead Him to depart; a loyal career of piety and love!
II. Man betrays a fatal refractoriness, and deserts the gracious way. Youth, though trained in “wisdom’s ways,” forsakes them for sin. Even religious persons turn aside from the Lord and wander. Hence:
1. The criminality of those who desert God. “The Lord thy God.”
2. The circumstances under which refractoriness asserts itself. “When He led thee.” Not when God seemed distant or angry.
3. The course which this refractoriness pursued. “Thou bast forsaken the Lord.” Not fell back in the way because it was difficult to follow; but an entire and wilful leaving the path for another.
III. Sinners accomplish their own overthrow by their wilful impiety.
“Thou hast procured this for thyself.” (See Literary Criticisms, Jeremiah 2:17.)
1. The way led from evil to good (Jeremiah 2:6-7).
2. Outside the way perils and foes lurked for “prey” (Jeremiah 2:15).
3. Leaving the way forfeited God’s guidance and protection.
4. The end of transgression is doom (Matthew 7:13).
Ruin is entailed, not sent; doom is the natural issue of evil; the guilty perish as the inevitable outcome of wrong. They had, therefore, to “bear their own iniquity,” and to blame themselves for their woes (Ezekiel 33:11).
Jeremiah 2:19. Theme: SIN ITS OWN PUNISHMENT.
I. In the dealings of God with good men.
1. Neglect secret devotion, and God will refuse His blessing on other means of grace.
2. Indulge secret sin, and God will bring that sin into open light and condemnation.
3. Idolise created good, God will take from us our idol, or make it a plague to us.
4. Act with faithlessness to others, God will permit us to suffer from the treachery of others; as Jacob’s subtlety with Esau came back in Laban’s treatment of him.
5. Undutifulness to parents punished by the defiance of our own children.
6. Indifference as to home piety returned upon us in the irreligion of those in the home. Eli’s sons.
II. In the dealings of God with wicked men.
1. Those who resent religious persuasions and strive to stifle conviction are deprived of godly parents and friends, and left to a fatal peace.
2. Those who repel the Gospel because of its humiliating truths are allowed to “believe a lie and be damned, because they have pleasure in unrighteousness.”
3. In death and judgment, the punishment of the sinner will reflect his sin. He who had said to Christ, “Depart, I desire not the knowledge of Thy ways,” will hear his own word again, “DEPART!”
The essence of misery in that world will consist in recollection. Then will “our wickedness reprove us.”
Application: How dreadful a thing sin is in all its operations! He who indulges in it kindles a fire that will burn himself. “Be sure your sin will find you out.”
There is no radical cure but contrition and the Cross.—A. Fuller.
i. The nature of sin: forsaking the Lord as our God.
ii. The cause of sin: because His fear is not in us.
iii. The malignity of sin: it is an evil and bitter thing.
iv. The fatal consequences of sin: forsaking the Lord = without God.
v. The use and application of all this: repent of thy sin.—M. Henry.
Jeremiah 2:20. I. The sacred yoke of God. (See Addenda to chap. Jeremiah 2:20, “Yoke.”)
1. The Lord’s yoke is easy (Matthew 11:29); yet
2. It seems intolerable to our flesh; nevertheless
3. Heartrending sacrifices and sufferings are the substitutes we procure for ourselves in its stead. Children given to Moloch, and infliction of self-torture (1 Kings 18:28).This, rather than renounce carnal freedom and bow to the chastisement of the Spirit.
II. sacred yoke refusd. The endeavour to cast that yoke off:
1. An ancient one. The angels’ revolt; man’s fall; Israel’s apostasy.
2. A ruinous one. For (a.) It deprives us of true freedom; and (b.) It renders us the servants of powers hostile to God and destructive to ourselves.—Arranged from LANGE.
Jeremiah 2:22. Theme: FUTILE SELF-CLEANSING. (See Critical Notes, Natural History, Jeremiah 2:22; and Addenda to chap. Jeremiah 2:22, “Iniquity is marked.”)
I. Sinners make vigorous efforts at external cleansing.
1. Driven thereto by remorse or apprehension.
2. Under a powerful impulse towards improvement; or
3. As a compromise with conscience; balancing inward evil by outward good.
II. Approved and promising means may be adopted. As here:
1. Rationalism prescribes its “nitre” of culture and respectability.
2. Sacerdotalism recommends its “soap” of confession, penance, gifts to the Church, vows of chastity, &c.
3. Self-righteousness urges more “washing,” tithes and phylacteries, and prayers; that “the outside of the cup and the platter” may be clean; “for the Pharisees wash oft.”
III. All this without any true appreciation of holiness. For that would denote loathing of sin and of self, which God accepts, and is the beginning of redemption.
1. Israel was not resolved on purifying herself. There was much ado about reformation, cleansing Temple, because Josiah was resolute; but she still loved sin (Jeremiah 2:25).
2. The outward effort is impotent when without heart. There may be ostentatious vigour, but it is the inward longing and purpose which give effect to action. “The Lord looketh not on outward appearance, but searcheth the heart.”
3. Cleansing without holiness is self-deception and abhorrent. It is the devil’s piety, a whited wall, a delusion to man, and detestable to God (Luke 16:15).
IV. Therefore the guilt remains deep and immovable.
1. For the sin itself is not superficial, but inherent.
2. Superficial cleansing does not touch the seat of evil. “For out of the heart proceeds evil,” &c.
3. Till sin is loathed it cannot be removed. It is incarcerated within us, protected against remedies.
4. It thus lies under God’s eye an indelible stain.
Let the “soul abhor itself, and repent in dust and ashes;” and lo! there stands ready a Saviour, “the propitiation for our sins,” “mighty to save;” who, if the sinner will but cry to Him, “Lord, save, I perish!” will answer, “Thy sins, which are many, are all forgiven thee!” “Though your sins be as scarlet,” &c. (Isaiah 1:18).
Jeremiah 2:23. Theme: WHAT HAST THOU DONE? Text: “See thy way in the valley; know what thou hast done.”
God undertakes to expostulate with His people. He finds them priding themselves on, and surrounding themselves with, an edifice of self-righteousness, a refuge of lies.
How does God confute this self-righteousness? By simply pointing to bare fact. The prophet takes Israel up to the summit of the hill, and points down to the valley of Jehoshaphat, to the sight of all those idolatrous emblems and monuments scattered profusely there. God lays hold of Israel, as it were, and says, “How canst thou say, I am not polluted? See thy way,” &c. Those stones cry out against thee, those smouldering fires down there, through which your children passed, are indications of the guilt which has brought darkness and judgment down upon the nation.
I challenge you to take a general view of your past life. “See thy way; know what thou hast done.”
1. Look at your life in the light of God’s Divine purpose. God sent you into the world with a noble destiny; to reflect His glory and scatter heavenly blessings. He gave thee a body to be a temple of the Holy Ghost: what hast thou done? Desecrated that sacred shrine. Gave thee an intelligence to know Him; but He has not been in thy thoughts: a heart to glow with Divine love; but it only glows under the blighting breath of sin.
2. In the light of your social position, and the circumstances by which you have been surrounded. God has given some position, wealth, business: what done with it? God asks it, but you return Nabal’s answer (1 Samuel 25:11).
3. In the light of the responsibilities of the domestic relationship. God has made you a member of a family. Parents, negligent of souls of your children, concerned more for their social prospects, is prayer ever heard among your children? What hast thou done? Trained thy children for hell.
4. In the light of your relationship to the best and tenderest of fathers. What done to your Father in heaven? Prodigal son. That is how God’s mercy is treated; waste Divinely-given substance in selfishness and sin. What hast thou done? Turned thy back on thy Father’s love, spurned His offers of mercy, and deafened thine ear against His call.
5. In the light of the tender dealings of the Holy Spirit of God. You can remember in childhood and youth how that Spirit strove with you. In those early days there was, at times, a strange overshadowing, a Voice that seemed to say, “Come!” It was the Holy Spirit who longed to win you. What hast thou done to that Holy Spirit of God? “Ye do always resist the Holy Ghost.”
6. In the light of your relationships with Him, who, because He loved you, was content to hang as your substitute upon the cross of shame. I plead for Him. I hold Him up crucified before you. What hast thou done to that blood of His? Infatuated Jews cried, “His blood be on us and our children!” and it fell as showers of judgment. “Is it nothing to you, all ye that pass by?” Have you taken home to your heart the message, “The blood of Jesus Christ cleanseth from all sin;” and looked up with eyes of gratitude to your Saviour’s face, and said, “O my Saviour! Thy blood was shed for me, for me, for me?”—Aitken.
Jeremiah 2:24. Theme: SELF-VINDICATING SINNERS REPROVED.
Circumstances under which we sin aggravates the guilt. Mercies received by us; resolutions they have prompted; degree of our degeneration; all are marked by God. But one evil transcends all others, a self-justifying spirit; this is pre-eminently offensive to the Divine Majesty.
I. The self-vindicating ways of sinners.
It might be supposed that, when men’s iniquities are so visible, they would fall under the accusation and humble themselves before God. Instead, they justify themselves against the charge: some
1. In a way of direct denial; as Cain (Genesis 4:9, and text).
2. In a way of vain excuse; as Saul (1 Samuel 15:13-15).
3. In a way of hypocritical palliation; as Adam and Eve (Genesis 3:11-13).
II. God substantiates His charge against His offending people.
However we may justify ourselves, God will set before us the things that we have done (Psalms 50:21):
1. By an appeal to fact. “See thy way in the valley; know what thou hast done.” Not discovered by “secret search” (Jeremiah 2:34); it is done without concealment. So, look at your whole lives, one continued scene of rebellion against God. All your very religion a shadow, full of shameful unreality and slips. What palliations can exonerate?
2. By a most apt comparison. (See Critical Notes, Natural History, Literary Criticisms, above; also Addenda, Jeremiah 2:23.) Dromedary and wild ass, when seeking their mate, are so bent upon attainment of their desire, that efforts to catch them are vain; no one will weary himself with so fruitless a labour. But when their time of pregnancy has advanced they fall comparatively an easy prey to the pursuer. So to little purpose that you are followed with invitations and entreaties: you “will not hear voice of charmer, charm he never so wisely.”
Application: There is a time when we may hope to prevail over sinners. “In her month” (Jeremiah 2:24). Happy if you have become “weary and heavy laden” with your sins, and will be led back to God. “Only acknowledge thine iniquity” (Jeremiah 3:13). Come burdened to Jesus, and He will “give you rest” (1 John 1:8-9).—Simeon.
Jeremiah 2:25. Comments.
Schmidt interprets the words “Withhold thy foot,” &c., as being led barefoot away into captivity, the penalty of apostasy. Hitzig thinks the reference is to penances performed barefoot to idols, and the thirst the result of vociferous invocations. Eichhorn regards it as referring to idolatrous acts, viewed as those of a lewd person, who both exposes herself and cries out for paramours. Umbriet, = God entreats Israel as His bride to refrain from rushing like an adultress, barefoot, and with parched throat, after strangers.
The natural meaning: Abstain from incontinence (idolatry); do not so shamelessly pursue lovers, nor thirst after sexual intercourse. (See Literary Criticisms on Jeremiah 2:28.)
“There is no hope,” &c. “The plea of despair is not half honest; it is taken up as an apology for rushing madly and headlong into sin.”—Cowles.
Jeremiah 2:26. If “kings and princes” are authorised to determine a nation’s religion, and “priests and prophets” to lord it over individual conscience and judgment, why, then, this people was not to blame. Piety, if left to their imperious care, would soon fall into a lamentable plight. Let each man be his own “king” and “priest” religiously; “be fully persuaded in his own mind,” and act as he knows God requires.—(See Addenda to chap. 2.Jeremiah 2:26; Jeremiah 2:26, “Kings and priests.”)
Jeremiah 2:27. “Trouble” is a fine self-revealer, and a faithful witness for God Pleasure and prosperity act on men as opiates, lull and befool them; but affliction and trouble are quick restoratives; they bring men to their senses. (See Addenda to chap. 2.Jeremiah 2:27; Jeremiah 2:27, “Trouble”)
Jeremiah 2:28. Jeremiah 2:1. Shame is the only gain of impiety; it eventually covers us with confusion.
2. Subterfuges for God will be an encumbrance and a torture to us when we find out our stupidity and their uselessness.
3. We shall want a helper to “arise and save” in the evil times which are coming. May our hope not make us ashamed!
4. Necessity teaches men to pray; but it is a desperate thing to be calling upon “vanities” in the day of our dismay.
5. God may send back pleaders to their cherished delusions. Then will they know themselves as “having no hope, and without God in the world.”
Jeremiah 2:30. “In vain have I smitten you.” God deals two different strokes, one for grace, another for justice; to save, or to afflict; to convert, or to make sinners know their crime.
The smiting was by God’s prophets, whose words are the “rod of His mouth,” and fall with different effects on men, according as they “hear or forbear,” proving a “savour of life” to some, and “of death” to others.
This smiting by the prophets with “the sword of the Spirit” was answered by their smiting the prophets with the material sword of slaughtering revenge (1 Kings 18:13; Nehemiah 9:26; Matthew 23:37). (See Literary Criticisms, Jeremiah 2:30.)
1. To accept chastisement, sent by word or deed, is a sign of wisdom (Proverbs 8:10; cf. Hebrews 12:9).
2. To profit by it requires that we enter into the Divine purpose and respond (Hebrews 12:5; Hebrews 12:10). (See Addenda to chap. 2 Jeremiah 2:30, “Correction.”)
Jeremiah 2:31. “Where God bestows most benefits, there He receives the least gratitude.”—Förster. God is “a desert” to none. This is true—1. In reference to all men (comp. Matthew 5:45). (a.) He regards their bodily wants. (b.) He provides for and seeks their spiritual good. 2. He was always a fruitful land to Israel. (a.) When He blessed them and punished the heathen. (b.) When He blessed the heathen and punished them. (c.) Even when He allowed the Church of Christ to pass from the Jews to the heathen.—From Homilies on Jeremiah, by Jerome, quoted in Lange.
What an attitude of graceless defiance and antagonism this for man to assume! 1. We refuse the Divine control completely. “We are lords,” i.e., ramble unrestrained. 2. We are determined never to return to the Lord. “We will come no more unto Thee.” It is an idle boast. (1.) None can escape God’s control (cf. Acts 17:28; Hebrews 9:27). (2.) Every soul must come back to God (Romans 14:10-12). Who then shall stand before Him? (See Literary Criticisms, Jeremiah 2:31.)
Jeremiah 2:32. (See Critical Notes, Manners and Customs, Jeremiah 2:32.)
1. The world’s trifles are esteemed more than God’s graces.
2. Adornment of the person engrosses more time and thought than enriching the soul.
3. God receives worse treatment from frivolous worldlings than their paltry trinkets. They preserve and prize them; but “God is not in all their thoughts.”
Jeremiah 2:33. Fine irony. How good thou makest thy way! = amendest (cf. chap. Jeremiah 7:3; Jeremiah 7:5), in order to gain love. To succeed in wickedness, to live immorally, necessitates no little study, self-accommodation, and effort. Evil costs more pains than godliness, and requites with penalties.
Jeremiah 2:35. “Obstinate impenitence. (1.) It is blind to its own guilt. (2.) Blasphemes God by accusing Him of unjust anger. (3.) Will not escape just punishment.”—Naeg. in Lange.
i. Self-justification. ii. Delusive hope. iii. Divine testing. iv. Certain refutation.
Jeremiah 2:36-37. Fear, defeat, failure.
I. Fearful lest her confidences should fail, the soul anxiously multiplies human reliances; “gaddest about so much to change her way;” to make sure of Egypt when Assyria seems declining.
II. Dishonoured by this desertion of Him for other “confidences,” God will defeat her human hopes. “The Lord hath rejected thy confidences” (despised them); “thou shalt not prosper in them.”
III. All contrivances to prevent herself being left desolate issue in overwhelming failure and shame. “Thou shalt go forth from him” (from thence), “thine hands upon thine head.” (See Critical Notes, Manners and Customs, Jeremiah 2:37.)
NOTICEABLE TOPICS IN CHAPTER 2
Topic: EARLY PIETY THE BEAUTY OF YOUTH. Text: “I remember the kindness of thy youth” (Jeremiah 2:2).
Introduction. The sacred grace of bygone days made Israel lovely in God’s remembrance. The religious earnestness of the young ruler secured for him this—“Jesus looking upon him, loved him.” Young lives consecrated to the Lord are sure of Heaven’s approval and blessing. (See Addenda, chap. 2.Jeremiah 2:2; Jeremiah 2:2, “Piety the beauty of youth.”)
I. A picture of a beautiful youth.
A portrait hangs on your wall; you say, “A lovely face!” But something more beautiful and valuable than “good looks.” What? The character, virtues, life. God would not estimate by looks, appearance. He wants “the ornament of a meek and quiet spirit.” See what Scripture says about appearance as compared with the inward spiritual qualities (1 Peter 3:4). Israel’s youth had not been vitiated by sin; it was given up to God in its freshness and beauty. Shall yours be? God says of it that it was—1. Full of kindness (to Him). 2. Secretly loving and clinging. “Espousals: went after me.” Jesus asks each, “Lovest thou me?” “Follow me.”
II. An eye that fondly gazes on it.
What loving eyes, of mother, father, look often on that portrait on the wall! “I remember thee.” God could not draw His gaze off from that picture of Israel’s early piety. Oh, how God lingers with eyes of tender regard over each youthful life, specially over those who are early His! “I love them that love Me, and those who seek Me early shall find Me.” 1. God had Himself formed and graced this youth with beauty. He was a Father to Israel, and all her loveliness was derived from Him. So all our goodness is His gracious work. 2. God cherished Israel as being peculiarly precious (Deuteronomy 7:6-8). Oh, what hopes a father entertains about his child; what love he lavishes!
III. A special desire to preserve it.
Nothing, no one, must be allowed to injure that much-prized portrait. So God laid penalties against all who should touch or damage Israel (Jeremiah 2:3). For—1. There was no equal in the world. All the world was idolatrous, but “Israel was holiness.” Think what it must be for an only child to be lost. God does not want to lose you, i.e., your youth, your piety. He asks that your religion be preserved. It is an incomparably precious jewel. Your character is the best thing about you; that gone, you are nothing to God. 2. It could not be replaced. Youth once gone never can be recalled. Youthful piety cannot be recalled once lost. You may return to God later in life, but the best part of you would then be wanting. A flower with its leaves falling off is not so beautiful as the opening bud.
IV. A dreadful peril threatening it.
Precious things always seem most in danger. A portrait not valued would never get damaged; but that one precious thing, why, everything seems to threaten it. There are dreadful perils menacing a godly youth. 1. Offensive enemies (Jeremiah 2:3, “offend”) 2. Numerous enemies (“all that devour”). 3. Destructive enemies (“devour”). Remember him who “seeketh whom he may devour” (1 Corinthians 1:23; cf. Matthew 18:6-7). Think how Israel was spoiled (Jeremiah 2:14). We need the preserving care of Jesus. He can keep us in safety, and guard our souls from the spoiler (1 Timothy 1:12).
Topic: DISTRUST OF GOD ISSUING IN DESERTION. Text: “My people have for saken Me, and hewed out cisterns” (Jeremiah 2:13).
“Faith and unfaith can ne’er be equal powers;
Unfaith in aught is want of faith in all.”
Let distrust begin, it will widen into alienation. It may be small at outset, a “little pitted speck” in the ripe fruit of our faith, a mere doubt of God’s promises; but the leak has sprung, the fire has started, the poison has entered the blood. The “speck” spread, “rotted inward,” and “slowly mouldered all.” This is the principle of the text, the growth of unfaith, the ultimate issues of distrust of God.
Not applicable to those who have never loved and trusted God; but to “My people,” who had experienced enough to ensure their fearless love. We have known fuller demonstration of Divine sufficiency and grace in Jesus in our personal redemption and adoption. In us “perfect love should cast out fear.” Yet doubt has been cherished, and has issued in desertion.
I. A fact for amazement: God was theirs, yet they deserted Him. “Be astonished, saith the Lord.” It is a cry of amazement from God. “O ye heavens!” peopled with myriads of holy ones, did ye ever know such a wrong done to your faithful and gracious King? Silence your songs; “be horribly afraid;” for what may not ensue, now that “My people” can act thus?
1. There is overflowing plenitude in God. “Fountain;” spontaneously, from indwelling resources, giving forth streams: “living water;” unceasing, never stagnant, always fresh and refreshing: “living waters;” many streams, diverse and multiplied, suiting every taste, slaking every thirst.
2. It is God’s purpose that we should find our all in Him. (a.) Human thirst is God’s work in us. (b.) Thirsts are implanted within us to lead us to God for supply. (c.) We may therefore be satisfied fully, and can be satisfied alone in Him. Did our faith never falter, “we might ask what we will and it should be done.” Sad that we have let “unfaith” come in; and, in our want of faith, have sought to provide substitutes should God fail!
II. An effort of compensation: Having forsaken God, they constructed for themselves laboured contrivances. Withdrawal of faith from God does not better us, but beggars us; not set us at rest, but drives us to wearying toils. Having lost our good in God, we wander piteously, crying, “Who will show us any good?” See how this works:
1. I become perplexed. God bids, “If lack wisdom, ask of God.” Instead of going to Fountain, “committing my way and trusting in Him,” I seek counsellors; but they do not agree, and perplex me the more. “They hold no water.”
2. I am in grief; heart aches for consolation. I might “lean on Jesus’ bosom;” but hard thoughts drive me to avoid Him. I seek human words of comfort, and they fall on my ear—vapid, succourless. “Miserable comforters are ye all!” “They hold no water.”
3. The Church droops; numbers minish, agencies fail. We must get a more earnest pastor, more effective preacher, make our services more attractive! So popular preacher comes, sensational services are arranged, week-night entertainments planned. But can these bring the “Breath of the Lord”? “They hold no water;” and the spiritual life of the Church is parched and perishing still.
4. When persons lose vital godliness, they often grow valiant sectarians and doctrinal bigots—their tenets are their “cisterns;” or they substitute punctilious observances for spontaneous piety.
(a.) Man has the power to construct promising appliances. (b.) He makes toilsome efforts to satisfy his soul in dearth; but thus saith the Lord, “Wherefore labour for that which satisfieth not? Hearken diligently unto Me.” A voice from the Gospel age speaks, “If any man thirst, come unto Me and drink!”
III. A desolating failure: Man’s toilsome devices prove of no avail. “Broken;” for God is not careful to preserve them (Jeremiah 2:37). Better “broken” than that we should be sustained by delusions.
1. Men have left God for pleasure. Issue: “The worm, the canker, and the grief are mine alone.”
2. For success. Issue: “All vanity and vexation of spirit.”
3. Turned from Jesus to culture. Issue: “O wretched man that I am,” &c.
4. From Bible to rationalism. Issue: “Leap in the dark.”
Content yourselves with God. We are not to be creators but recipients. Shut door of your hearts on “unfaith.” Keep near Fountain. “Ho, every one that thirsteth, come ye to the waters!”
Topic: GOD NO BARREN WILDERNESS. Text: “Have I been a wilderness unto Israel, a land of darkness?” (Jeremiah 2:31).
In the text there are three general parts considerable: a demand, an expostulation, and an invitation.
I. A demand. “Have I been a wilderness,” &c.
i. It hath the force of a remonstrance or protestation, i.e., I have not been so. Not a “wilderness,” which is an expression of unprofitableness; not “a land of darkness,” which = uncomfortableness. Theme: That God’s people do not serve Him in vain and for no profit; neither are they losers by their servings of Him. This is evident from daily experience and observation; and it is founded upon God’s royalty, nobleness, and magnificence. Men are wrongly opinionated respecting God, and the reasons are:
1. Because God is pleased sometimes to suspend and delay the expressions of His goodness to them.
2. Because God does not always reward them in that way and kind as they desire and expect from Him.
ii. It hath the force of a remembrance or seasonable intimation, i.e., I have been the contrary, I have in reality been a paradise. It is an ironical inquiry suggesting the very reverse, intimating God’s great goodness and overflowing bounty. Theme: That God takes care of His Church, and provides all things necessary—means of illumination and instruction, means of fructification and increase. His providence works wonderfully for it, keeping it from enemies, preserving it from dangers and destruction.
The more God does for any people, the more He expects from them. Their thankfulness is to be answerable to His mercies, and their obedience to their thankfulness.
iii. It hath the force of a reproach or implicit exprobration, i.e., Israel hath rather been a wilderness to Me! And so it represents to us the unfruitfulness of God’s people. Three things aggravate this unfruitfulness:
(1.) The mercies which they enjoy. (2.) The means (of improvement; advantages) they partake of. (3.) The expectations which are upon them; for God had occasion to expect fruitful returns. It is a sad thing to be under the upbraidings of the Almighty, for there is certain to be occasion for it when He reproaches.
iv. It hath the force of an appeal or provocation to them, i.e., let Israel speak what they know of Me. God here submits Himself to the judgment of their consciences. He challenges them to say the worst of Him. This is grounded upon His own innocency. Thus He justifies all His dispensations with His people; for if they consider, they must acknowledge that His ways are equal and theirs unequal (Ezekiel 28:26). In His goodness to His whole Church in general, and to our own persons in particular, God has approved Himself to our consciences by manifold expressions.
II. An expostulation. “Wherefore say My people, We are lords, we will come no more unto Thee?”
i. The charge; it is twofold:
1. Their assertion; “we are lords,” whereby they hold forth their own greatness, self-sufficiency, and independence. When men will be their own masters, and do what they will without control, God suffers them to be so, and gives them up to liberty. But this is the greatest misery in this world; for with our nature corrupted by sin we need One better than ourselves to guide and restrain us.
2. Their resolution; “we will come no more,” &c., which is a twofold sin—(a.) The denial of their address. This refusal to come showed disrespect, want of due affection for God; for when men come not at God, it is a sign they do not love Him nor regard Him as they should: ingratitude; for they had received so many kindnesses from God, that His mercies should have provoked attendance upon Him: stubbornness; resisted even God’s call and persuasion. Ahasuerus took ill Vashti’s refusal to come when commanded. Yet God has invited us often by the ministry, Providence, and Spirit. (b.) The discontinuance of address, “no more come,” which denotes their self-sufficiency and their apostasy. “We are lords,” and can shift for ourselves.
ii. The censure, “wherefore?” which signifies that
1. It was without reason; they had no cause at all for it; God had given them neither occasion or provocation.
2. It was against reason. Consider their relation—“My people.” What an unnatural thing for them to refuse to come near God! And their indebtedness; kindness is a strong engagement; love constrains response; yet here it was all restrained and reversed.
III. An invitation. “O ye generation, see ye the word of the Lord!”
By “generation” he meant the people of the time. There is a reflection in the phrase upon the sinfulness and wretchedness of the age, as if to say, Into what a time and age are we fallen! Here then consider:
Unto what this generation is invited. “To see the Word of the Lord,” i.e., mind it and attend to it. They had heard the Word often, but it had done no good; now called to “see” it.
The weightiness and seriousness of it in its twofold bearing—1. As it respects God’s own justification, “Have I been a wilderness?” and 2. As it respects Israel’s condemnation, “Wherefore say My people,” &c.
What improvement have we in this generation made of our favours? Have we shown faithfulness and fruitfulness? God has been no “wilderness” to us: have we to Him? No “darkness,” for the light of truth and the Gospel shines around us: have we “walked in the light”? Have we waxed proud and self-confident, saying, “We are lords”? &c. Certainly the abominations which in these days abound speak loudly against us. If so, it is most unreasonable. And God calls us to repentance and amendment of life.—T. Horton, D.D., London, A.D. 1678.
ADDENDA TO CHAPTER 2 ILLUSTRATIONS AND SUGGESTIVE EXTRACTS
Jeremiah 2:2. “Love of thine espousals:” its Divine origin:—
“Yes, love indeed is light from heaven,
A spark of that immortal fire
With angels shared, by Alla given.
To lift from earth our low desire.
Devotion wafts the mind above,
But heaven itself descends in love;
A feeling from the Godhead caught,
To wean from self each sordid thought;
A ray of Him who formed the whole,
A glory circling round the soul.”
“A mighty pain to love it is,
And ’tis a pain that pain to miss;
But of all pains, the greatest pain
It is to love, and love in vain.”
“I remember thy youth.” “The retrospect on youth is too often like looking back on what was a fair and promising country, but is now desolated by an overwhelming torrent. Or it is like visiting the grave of a friend whom we have injured, and are precluded by his death from the possibility of making him an atonement”—J. Foster.
Piety the beauty of youth.
“What is beauty? Not the show
Of shapely form and features. No!
These are but flowers
That have their dated hours
To breathe their momentary sweets, then go.
’Tis the stainless soul within
That outshines the fairest skin.”
—SIR A. HUNT.
“Naturalists inform us that Oriental pearls are generated of the morning dew. That field is full of the richest corn which is cleansed of its noxious weeds in the spring. Jesus was carried in triumph upon a colt, the foal of an ass.”—Secker.
Jeremiah 2:6. “Neither said they, Where is the Lord that brought us from Egypt.” Ingratitude. “Philip, King of Macedonia, caused a soldier of his, that had offered unkindness to one that had kindly entertained him, to be branded in the forehead with these two words: Hospes ingratus. Unthankfulness is a monster in nature, a solecism in manners, a parodox in divinity, a parching wind to dry up the fountain of further favour.”—Trapp. The Dead Sea drinks in the Jordan, and is never the sweeter; and the ocean all rivers, and is never the fresher; thus, we take all God’s mercies with insensibility.
Jeremiah 2:10-11. “Nation changed their gods.” Idolatry. “We perceive, as much from the words of the prophet as from the history, that this idolatry has now become deep and radical. The state of mind latent in them is … the utter incapacity for acknowledging a God not appealing to the senses, which Jeremiah discovers in his contemporaries. He boldly sets up the faith of the heathen as a lesson to the Israelites.”—“Kings and Prophets;” Maurice.
“A long course of sin was needed so to deaden and blind the heart of man as to make idolatry possible. Age after age gave in its contribution, … so that, besides the original sin of each man, there was a sinful tradition of mankind.… Every generation bequeathed to the next a further measure of declension from God.”—Dr Manning.
Jeremiah 2:11. “Gods which are yet no gods.” At Buhapurum, a child about eight years old, educated in Christian faith, was ridiculed on that account by some heathen persons older than himself. “Show us your God,” said they. “I cannot do that,” answered the child, “but I can soon show you yours.” Taking a stone, and daubing it with some resemblance to a human face, he placed it upon the ground, and pushing it towards them with his foot, “There,” he said, “is such a god as you worship.”—“Dictionary of Illustrations;” Dickenson.
Jeremiah 2:17. “He led thee by the way.” The blessed pilgrimage. “Faith is the rod with which he cleaves Red Seas of difficulty; and God’s Word is a pillar of guiding light amid the rocks of a sandy wilderness; and Sabbaths are wells of water; and Ordinances are beautiful and shady palm-trees; and Prayer brings down manna every morning; and the sight of the Cross heals the bite of fiery serpents; and Hope is a spy going beforehand to bring back the clusters of Eshcol; and God’s presence is, at the last, as the ark in the midst of the river; and the pilgrim passes dry-shod into ‘the land that floweth with milk and honey.’ ”—J. Stoughton.
Jeremiah 2:19. “Thine own wickedness shall correct thee and reprove thee.” Sin its own punishment. “Look for the man who has practised a vice so long that he curses it and clings to it; that he pursues it because he feels a great law of his nature driving him on towards it, but, reaching it, knows it will gnaw his heart and tear his vitals, and make him roll himself in the dust with anguish.”—Sidney Smith.
When Nicephorus Phocas had built a strong wall about his palace for his own security in the night-time, he heard a voice crying to him, “O Emperor! though thou build thy walls as high as the clouds, yet, if sin be within, it will overthrow all!”
Jeremiah 2:20. “Yoke.” The yoke was laid upon the neck of the beast, and fastened with thongs to it and to the ploughbeam. It thus symbolised slavery or severe rule (as Egyptian), while breaking it suggested welcome deliverance. Breaking the yoke equally represents the rejection of authority, as in this verse, and chap. Jeremiah 5:5.
Jeremiah 2:22. “Thine iniquity is marked.” Let a blot lie a while on a pure sheet of white satin paper; try to remove it. Erasure may ultimately rid the sheet of that “one dark spot,” but the paper is injured, the satin gloss is gone, and if you try to write on the place again, the lines smear. Sin effects permanent injury, cannot be removed by most careful efforts; the “mark” remains when all is done. Holiness is not mere cleanness; it has no mark of injury. It is pure light; the concentration of all the prismatic colours into unity.
Jeremiah 2:23. “Swift dromedary.” “The camels of the Bible are of two kinds, the difference being the result simply of breeding and training. The first kind, used as a beast of burden, will carry from 500 to 1000 pounds twenty-four miles a day. The second, used to convey intelligence, will travel upwards of 100 miles in twenty-four hours; this kind is called the dromedary.”—“Topics for Teachers;” Gray.
Jeremiah 2:26. “Kings and priests.” No human authorities to dictate our religion. One of the ancient fathers replied to a clamorous disputant who shouted “Hear me, hear me,” “I will neither hear thee, nor do thou hear me, but let us both hear Christ.”—Dictionary of Illustrations.
Jeremiah 2:27. “In the time of their trouble,” &c. The armies of Media and Lydia were in violent conflict on the 30th September, B.C. 610 (while Josiah was occupied in reforming Judah), when suddenly, to them, occurred an eclipse of the sun, known as Thales’ eclipse. It overwhelmed both armies with such terror that they gave up the contest, and peace was negotiated and settled in the camp. Happy if the eclipse of trouble, suddenly coming upon us when we are at war against God, should lead us to cease a life of antagonism, and sue for peace.
Jeremiah 2:30. “In vain have I smitten your children, … correction.” Mr. Cecil observed in the Botanical Gardens a pomegranate-tree cut almost through near the root, and asked the gardener for the reason. He explained that the tree used to shoot so strong as to bear only leaves; but now that it was nearly cut through, it began to bear fruit well. Alas! that affliction on man should be profitless, when nature accepts it and turns it to account.
“The good are better made by ill,
As odours crushed are sweeter still.”
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Exell, Joseph S. "Commentary on Jeremiah 2". Preacher's Complete Homiletical Commentary. https://studylight.org/
the Second Week of Advent