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CRITICAL AND EXEGETICAL NOTES.—Chronology of the chapter, Contemporary Scriptures, Historic Facts, Contemporary History as in chap. 3. 1. Geographical References. Jeremiah 4:5. “Defenced cities.” Some existed in Canaan before Israelites took possession (Numbers 13:28). Solomon erected others:—Tadmor, Gezer, Hazor, Bethlehem, Megiddo, &c. (1 Kings 9:15-19). But Jerusalem, fortified by David (2 Samuel 5:7; 2 Samuel 5:9-10), was the chief stronghold of the nation (Jeremiah 4:6). When Titus, later in history, besieged Jerusalem, he viewed with amazement, and expressed his admiration of, its impregnable strength (see Josephus Wars, Book vi: ch. 9 § 1). Jeremiah 4:11. “High places in the wilderness: ranges of bare hills by which the sandy deserts to the east of Palestine are intersected (Hend.). Jeremiah 4:15. “Dan and Mount Ephraim.” Dan, the most northern landmark of Palestine, the border town, at the foot of Mount Lebanon, near source of Jordan. Its original name, Laish (cf. Joshua 18:7; Joshua 19:47); captured by a detachment of the tribe of Dan, who went thither to colonise, because the limited area assigned to the tribe was too strait for them: these gave the name Dan to the town. Mount Ephraim, a range of high lands, rounded limestone hills, broken up by intersecting luxuriant valleys, running through the territory allotted to the tribe of Ephraim: the name specially denoted the mountainous district ranging from Ebal and Gerizim southward to Bethel, in length about twenty miles. Thus Dan was the northern frontier of Palestine: Mount Ephraim, the northern boundary of Judea. Their connection here denotes that scarcely would news that the enemy had appeared at Dan (where the northern invaders would first show themselves) be published, ere the foe would, in rapid march, have penetrated to the very centre of the Holy Land, and scaled the frontier of Judea. Jeremiah 4:29. “Climb up upon the rocks.” The fastnesses of mountainous rocks proved secure asylums from hostile invaders; where also, unable to resist them in the open field, the Israelites made unconquerable resistance (Judges 6:2; Judges 20:47, 1 Samuel 13:6; 1 Samuel 14:4 sq., Isaiah 2:19; Isaiah 33:16).
2. Natural History. Jeremiah 4:3. “Fallow-ground:” land left untitled, not touched by plough or sown with seed, for the Sabbatical year; hence hard, needing to be “broken up,” and overgrown with thorns, which must be cleansed away. Jeremiah 4:11. “Dry wind:” the E. wind which was dry or withering (Ezekiel 19:12), or the Simoom, frequently mentioned in Old Testament, which blew from the Arabian desert, blasting vegetation and human life; “not to fan and cleanse” the grain, but ravage and destroy. Jeremiah 4:13. “Clouds and whirlwind:” the Simoom raises “clouds” of sand and dust, which whirl up and cover the sky: these are the “chariots,” and the hurricanes the “swift horses” suggested by the simile. “Horses:” the Chaldean cavalry, which were exceeding Swift. “Eagles:” Xenophon tells us that the Assyrian armies (ergo, the Chaldean) bore the eagle with wings outspread as a military ensign upon their banners (cf. Habakkuk 1:8; Isaiah 8:8; Jeremiah 48:40; Hosea 8:1). So also the Persians, and the Romans after them. In Leviticus 11:13, the eagle is ranked among the unclean birds.
3. Manners and Customs. Jeremiah 4:6. “Set up the standard:” to rally the inhabitants of the country around to the defenced cities for refuge from invaders. Not a military standard (דֶּגֶל) but a signal (נֵס) a flag, some well-understood beacon to warn or summon the people. Jeremiah 4:13. “Chariots:” formed a marked feature of Nebuchadnezzar’s army (Ezekiel 23:24; Ezekiel 26:7). Their invention has been attributed to Ericthonius of Athens, B.C. 1486; but Scripture shows that Egyptians used them earlier than that (Exodus 14:7; cf. 2 Kings 18:24). Solomon imported them from Egypt (1 Kings 10:28-29). Jeremiah 4:16. “Give out their voice against,” &c.: the war-shout raised by armies when about to give battle. Instance in Judges 7:20. This was the custom with Hebrews, who also sometimes sang a war song (2 Chronicles 20:21) immediately before the attack. Greek armies did the same. Jeremiah 4:17. “Keepers of a field.” Watch was kept over pasturing flocks (Luke 2:8) and over cultivated fields and plantations: these “keepers” constructed, for shelter from sun by day and security by night, booths (Job 27:18); probably then, as now, a simple framework covered with branches of trees, and raised on four poles. These fields were surrounded by keepers placed at given distances, one of whom raised the cry on danger appearing, which the others in turn took up, till echoing voices sounded around the whole scene. With these booths are compared the tents of besiegers, and their cry over danger, with the war-shout of the foe. Jeremiah 4:20. “Tents:” the ordinary habitations of Israelites (2 Samuel 18:17): not only did the nomads like the Rechabites live in them, but the mass of the population engaged in pastoral pursuits (Speaker’s Com.). Jeremiah 4:30. “Crimson,” a rich shade of scarlet, a deeper dye: “ornaments of gold,” rings in nose and ears, anklets, embroidered girdles, &c. “Rentest thy face with painting:” “face” should be “eyes.” Among Eastern females then, and now, the custom prevailed of using a metallic ore, reduced to an impalpable powder, stibium, cohol, antimony, mixed into a paste with oil or vinegar, for darkening the eyes. A smooth cylindrical piece of silver, ivory, or wood, shaped like a quill, about two inches long, was dipped into the stibium, and drawn horizontally through between the closed eyelids. This increased the lustre of the eyes, imparted a jetty blackness to the edges of the lids, showing off the whiteness of the eyes to great advantage. Frequent use injured the eyes, making them look as if “rent.” The eyebrows and outer angles of the eyes were by this “painting” artificially extended across the face, and the eyes apparently enlarged. Large dark eyes are regarded as essential to Oriental beauty.
“There with a tiring pin their eyebrows dye,
Till the full arch gives lustre to the eye
That, trembling, darts lascivious glauces.”
—JUVENAL’S SATIRE II. 137–40.
Xenophon describes it as a custom among the Medes in the time of the elder Cyrus: so great the antiquity and prevalence of this device of vanity. The earliest record of this custom is in 2 Kings 9:30, Jezebel.
4. Literary Criticisms. Jeremiah 4:1. “Not remove:” Hend. Noyes and De Wette, “not be a fugitive,” Lange, “then waver not.” But Keil, Ewald, Hitzig, and Speaker’s Com. regard the words as a second condition, “and strayest, or wanderest not:” i.e., “if thou put away abominations, and wanderest not, and swearest by Jehovah, then shall the nations,” &c. It requires abandonment of idols, the end of wanderings, the oath of fidelity. Jeremiah 4:5. “Cry, gather together:” rather, make full, meaning “cry with full voice,” aloud. Jeremiah 4:6. “Retire, stay not.” Hend. “flee for refuge, stand not still” Speaker’s Com. “gather your goods together, linger not:” the same verb in Exodus 9:19 used for removing property to a safe place. Keil, “save yourselves by flight.” Sharpe, “flee in haste, stay not.” “I will bring.” I am bringing. Jeremiah 4:12. “A full wind:” i.e., a stronger wind than that which comes to winnow: “shall come unto me:” rather for me, as my instrument, to effect my purpose. Jeremiah 4:14. “Vain thoughts;” i.e., idolatrous, iniquitous thoughts. אָוֶן = sin of idolatry: cf. Hosea 4:15; Hosea 5:8, and the Heb. of Amos 5:5, where Beth-el (the house of Jehovah) is called Beth-aven (the house of idolatry). Jeremiah 4:15. “Publish affliction:” the same word as in Jeremiah 4:14. אָוֶן here meaning calamity: this use of the same word links together iniquity and calamity. Jeremiah 4:19. “At my very heart:” translated as if the Hebrew words were idiomatic: but literally, “at the walls of my heart.” Jeremiah 4:23. “Without form and void:” the same phrase as in Genesis 1:2. תֹּהוּ וָבֹהוּ; the primeval chaos reproduced. Jeremiah 4:24. “Hills moved lightly:” rather, vehement motion. הִתְקֵלְקָלוּ, the violent agitations of mountains during earthquake. Jeremiah 4:29. “The whole city:” should read, either the whole land (Targum and Lxx), or every city (Keil, Speaker’s Com., &c). Jeremiah 4:30. “And when thou art spoiled,” &c. Omit italics in A.V. “And thou spoiled,” i.e., “And thou, O spoiled one:” viz. Jerusalem: addressed as a woman who decks herself in her best attire to attract lovers; although the masculine form שָׁדוּד is used: but Keil suggests, “it is to be regarded as adverbial, and so is without inflection;” Hend. suggests that עָם, people, denoting the inhabitants, is to be understood. Jeremiah 4:31. “My soul is wearied because of murderers:” Keil, “sinketh powerless beneath murderers.” Speaker’s Com., “sinks exhausted before them.” Noyes, “I am dying of murderers.”
HOMILIES AND OUTLINES ON SECTIONS OF CHAPTER 4
Return to God would recover favours for Israel, and avert doom from Judah.
Judah refusing to return, her doom is graphically portrayed.
Jeremiah beholds the beautiful land utterly devastated.
Abandoned to judgment, yet not consigned to destruction.
Jeremiah 4:1-4. RETURN TO GOD RECOVERS FAVOURS, AND AVERTS DOOM
Jehovah requires of the sinful more than return to good habits, or to religious observances: they must obey the call “Return to ME!” Man must come back to God Himself. It is possible: God desires it: and the Way we know.
I. Securing God’s acceptance must precede possession of God’s inheritance. “If thou wilt return [to thy inheritance in Canaan], O Israel, return unto Me, saith the Lord.” Enemies cannot occupy God’s cherished possession. It is a gift of grace, dependent on man’s loyalty and love. Sin forfeits all right to it; surrenders even the occupancy (as Israel). 1. Reconciliation is the pathway to privileges. 2. Repentance is the door to reconciliation. 3. God’s favour is the qualification for Canaan.
II. Surrounding nations won to God by the event of Israel’s conversion. This is portrayed in Scripture as—1. A great prophetic fact. Israel’s return will inaugurate the millennial glory, the ingathering of the nations to Christ. The world cannot become the Lord’s until this event is realised. “All nations shall be blessed in Him:” when He “the God of Israel doth wondrous things” (cf. Psalms 72:17-19; Romans 11:12-15). 2. A grand perennial principle. The same truth is constantly working itself out in present experience: society is awakened to seek Christ in seasons of revival of the Church; circles of acquaintance are impressed religiously by the conversion of one of their company; homes are won to Jesus by the return of a single member to the Lord. If true that “one sinner destroyeth much good;” equally true that one conversion effects wide and salutary results.
III. Gathering fury against sin may be arrested by true Repentance (Jeremiah 4:3-4). Clearly it is affirmed that—1. Divine anger accumulates as human sin grows. Thus prolonged guilt and excessive guilt “heaps up wrath against the day of wrath.” Man feeds the fire, and heats its fury, by every act of sin. 2. Divine anger may be appeased by sincere human contrition. “God is angry with the wicked,” but only as long as they persist in wickedness. That ended, anger ceases. It is not anger with the man apart from this evil quality; it is the man plus his sin who entails the displeasure. Sorrow in man’s heart at once quenches the fire of God’s displeasure. Horrifying as had been Judah’s criminality, contrition would avert its just retribution. Hence, the sinner’s escape is conditional upon himself. Will he deplore and desert his sin? God may desire to save; may provide salvation; but nothing avails until sorrow awakes in the soul of man. The yearning father forbears to embrace his boy until he “comes to himself” and returns.
IV. Impenitence will eventually be punished with woful destruction. There are three aspects of God’s anger denoted: 1. It is fiery; “like fire,” held in restraint now, but to “come forth,” and burn with “fury” (Hebrews 12:29). 2. It is unquenchable: i.e., when once God lets it loose; it “will burn that none can quench it” (Matthew 3:12). 3. It is merited; “because of the evil of your doings.” This will create in the sufferer’s heart “the worm that dieth not,” and occasion the “wailing and guashing of teeth.” Comp. Ezekiel 33:17-20.
Jeremiah 4:5-18. JUDAH IMPENITENT: HER DOOM PORTRAYED
Lange points out “Three Emblems” under which the coming disasters are here represented: First Emblem, the Lion (Jeremiah 4:5-10): Second Emblem, the Tempest (Jeremiah 4:11-13): Third Emblem, the Keepers (Jeremiah 4:14-18). Modern German criticism has attempted to fix this prophecy on a Scythian, not Chaldean, invasion; which is affirmed, but wholly without historic proof, to have occurred in the 7th or 8th year of Josiah. It is the outcome of a rationalistic dislike of the supernatural element in prophecy: hence these critics first fix on an imaginary event, and then proceed to show that the prophet’s words are mere “disguised descriptions of historical events” already past, or menaces of events clearly within the sight of a sagacious observer. [See Eichhorn, Ewald, Hitzig, Dahler, &c.] There is no historical evidence of a Scythian invasion of Judea. Heroditus (i. 103–105) records that the Scythians invaded Media, and dominated for 28 years over Asia: that they came to Syrian Palestine, on their way against Egypt, and that Psammeticus, king of Egypt, induced their withdrawal by giving them presents; and that they committed no violence beyond plundering the temple of Ascalon. There is abundant proof against even this having occurred in Josiah’s reign. All the description is minutely suggestive of the Chaldean invasion; this was the Divinely-employed agent of Judah’s overthrow. Her doom
i. Solemnly forewarned (Jeremiah 4:5-6) throughout the whole land; loudly and clearly; measures of defence counselled; haste and precautions advised.
ii. Appallingly real (Jeremiah 4:7-8; Jeremiah 4:13; Jeremiah 4:15-16), whence (“the north;”) savage (Jeremiah 4:7); swift (13); approaching (15); for war (16 “give out their voice”).
iii. Paralysing all resources of help and counsel (Jeremiah 4:9-10); surpassing all expectation; rendering powerless all opposition; refuting all false promises.
iv. Effecting God’s purposes (Jeremiah 4:11-12). It would be in effect God’s “sentence;” righteous therefore and irrevocable.
v. Bitterly retributive (Jeremiah 4:17-18), the fruit of her severing herself from God’s favour and protection; the penalty of her sin; bitter as death.
vi. Salvation yet possible (Jeremiah 4:14). “Out of the heart are the issues of life.” A cleansed heart would ensure salvation.
Jeremiah 4:19-26. A MOURNFUL VISION: THE HOLY LAND UTTERLY DEVASTATED
The insensate nation foresaw no calamity, feared no foe. Vivid as all was to the prophet’s perception they dreamed on heedlessly; sleeping amid iniquity while sudden destruction sped towards them. He saw the sword, they mocked at his warnings. So Noah in his generation: so every prophet: so our Divine Lord: so the preacher of God to-day. His eye is open to nearing woe: but the people mock, despise and reject, repudiate warning, and betake themselves, besotted and blinded, to iniquity.
I. The Seer’s anguish constrains him to speak (Jeremiah 4:19). This throws light on
i. The Seer’s sufferings. He feels what he foresees: his whole nature is wrong with grief at the vision which none but himself can perceive. The finer the man’s nature, the keener his anguish. The clearer his penetrations, the more intense his sufferings. The nobler his patriotism, the heavier lies the burden of his nation’s woe upon his heart. The higher his piety, the more bitter his grief over all.
ii. The Seer’s mission. Inwardly constrained, he speaks out of a full and an agonising heart: “I cannot hold my peace.” Divinely enlightened, he sees what is hid from the people, and “cannot but speak the things he has seen and heard.” Loving his people, he would fain shield them from the woe he forecasts, and “snatch them as brands out of the burning.”
II. The miseries of the perishing become the prophet’s own (Jeremiah 4:20-21). “My tents spoiled!” &c. This suggests the true attitude of God’s messenger.
1. Identification of interests (Romans 11:1): himself bound up with them: suffering what they suffer. This is the real shepherding of the flock.
2. Intense sympathy of soul. He hears and sees all as if he were involved. There is no proud distinguishing and justifying of himself. He and his people are one. [Addenda Jeremiah 4:19. Prophet’s distress.]
III. Rejection of God’s messenger, the act of madness (Jeremiah 4:22). No uncommon incident. Every age rejects and ignores its benefactors, teachers, and saviours. The more evidently these bear the seal and dignity of God’s messengers, the more “the world hates them.” “If it hated Me,” says Jesus, “it will you.”
1. Suicidal folly: “My people is foolish, they have not known Me:” they frivolously ignored this man whom God had sent to speak to them.
2. Besotted blindness: “they are sottish children,” &c. Their intelligence, discernment, and religious education, all were darkened by sin (2 Corinthians 4:3-4).
3. Spiritual perversity: “wise to do evil,” not naturally witless; “but to do good they have no knowledge,” their religious nature brutalised.
IV. The horrifying vision of gathering calamity described (Jeremiah 4:23-26). 1. Appalling disorder and gloom (Jeremiah 4:23); i.e., the withdrawal of all peace and privilege in which God has established Judah. 2. Terrifying overthrow (Jeremiah 4:24); i.e., the casting down utterly and hopelessly of every natural stronghold in which Judah had been wont to trust, and thought to flee. 3. All life perished (Jeremiah 4:25); i.e., none should escape; calamity would fall on every one. 4. Sacrilege and ruin (Jeremiah 4:26); nothing, however beautiful, cultured or revered, spared: lovely gardens, noble and wealthy cities, all gone. Nothing left of all human trusts and treasures: if, therefore, “without God,” total loss (see Revelation 6:12-17).
Jeremiah 4:27-31. ABANDONED TO JUDGMENT, YET NOT CONSIGNED TO DESTRUCTION
There is a reserve of mercy in all God’s strokes; He softens the severity, keeps open the door of hope, makes a “way of escape.” Stars shine, though obscured, through the stormiest night: and a promise may be heard even amid God’s heaviest denunciations (Genesis 3:14-15).
I. Merciless forces are under the Divine restraint (Jeremiah 4:27). Though the land should be desolated, yet “I will not make a full end.” The overthrow of Judah by the Chaldeans was God’s work: and the limitation of the Chaldean policy of extermination was equally of the Lord.
1. Their reckless implacability. Look at the Chaldean army, it promised little restraint: it menaced with heedless, merciless destruction. Nebuchadnezzar seems to have organised into a consolidated army wild hordes of freebooters, mere relics of those nations Assyria had overthrown and absorbed. These he gathered together, and with them swept the lands (2 Kings 24:1-2, cf. Habakkuk 1:5-12). Little consideration or mercy from them!
2. There it use even for them in God’s Providence. They are His scourge of rebellious Judah. So Habakkuk avers (Jeremiah 1:12); these very Chaldeans God “ordained them for judgment,” &c. He maketh the wrath of man to praise Him.
3. There is a limit to their power and fury. “Yet will I not make a full end” (Comp. Jeremiah 3:14). The ten tribes are lost, without national existence; greater nations than Judah disappear for ever—Nineveh, Babylon (Jeremiah 51:64), the Assyrians, Greeks, Romans. But the Jews are not annihilated. “Hitherto shalt thou come and no further,” &c. God is mightier than mightiest forces; merciful even when using merciless agencies; while “the end of the Lord is very pitiful” (James 5:11).
II. Divine plans lie behind all great events. The rise and fall of empires, the downfall and enthronement of kings; all are according to the mind of Him who is King of kings, and doeth according to His will among the inhabitants of the earth. Here is shown that God regulates—1. Even disasters: such as to make heaven and earth mourn (Jeremiah 4:28). 2. Even victories of the wicked: He permits these to triumph over the people whom God had once chosen; as Chaldeans over Judah “the house of David.” 3. Even the punishment of God’s people: sore afflictions, humiliations, and disasters which overtake us (Jeremiah 4:29). 4. Even the ruin of sinners: God allows it; purposes it; and “will not repent:” so Judah was ruined!
III. Rebellion reduced to ultimate defeat and despair (Jeremiah 4:30-31). Slow indeed to yield to God, yet yield it shall.
1. Even in her overthrow Judah sought other helpers, not God (Jeremiah 4:30). She sought by skilful and foolish appliances to win favour, to gain lovers, and so do without God, and avoid submission and repentance. Sinners will hold out against God to the last. Yes, even in the hour of affliction, of disaster and death, the “rebellious” will refuse to seek the Lord, or cry to the Crucified One to save.
2. She realised at length her absolute and completed misery (Jeremiah 4:31). “The daughter of Zion bewaileth herself,” &c. Observe: her grief and anguish is not for her sin, but for “herself”—“woe is me now!” for her misery; and also her helpless, hopeless ruin: “my soul wearied because of murderers.” Such are the issues of rebellion: such the shame and woe to which the guilty are abandoned. God has reserved to Judah a last hope (Jeremiah 4:27); just so, He calls to us “after so long a time.” Heed Jeremiah 4:14. [Addenda Jeremiah 4:31. Woe-stricken.]
HOMILIES AND COMMENTS ON VERSES OF CHAPTER 4
Jeremiah 4:1. Theme: GOD GAINED OR HEAVEN LOST. “If thou wouldst return [to thine inheritance, thou must first] return unto Me.”
I. The alien outcast may return to God. By conversion; renewal of heart; prayer for pardon and acceptance; humble faith.
II. The far-off banished one may find God. None too distant from Him to pray, to be heard, to be assured of acceptance, to be restored to the long lost love and peace and bliss. Israel in a strange country, removed from her land and altars and temple, could nevertheless seek Him in spirit.
III. The returning soul shall be brought home. When God is found, the soul back again in His love, heaven is sure to follow. God kept Canaan for Israel, keeps it still empty awaiting her return. Seek Him, not heaven; He will give that. Our sole concern is to find the Father. “It is His good pleasure to give us the kingdom.” “Jesus said, I am the way, &c.: no man cometh unto the Father but by Me.”
Theme: SIN BANISHED, OR THE SOUL BANISHED. “If put away abominations, thou shalt not remove;” i.e. (as some render it), no longer be a wanderer, an outcast in a far-off land. (Addenda Jeremiah 4:1. Banished recalled.)
I. Sin cannot dwell where God is. And God dwelt amid Israel when she was “holiness” (Jeremiah 2:3). Becoming guilty she was banished; remaining guilty she must keep afar from God. Our guilt separates us necessarily from Him (Isaiah 59:2). See instances of conscious unworthiness (Isaiah 6:5; Luke 5:8).
II. Sinners cannot possess God’s heritage (cf. 1 Corinthians 6:9, sq. Revelation 21:27). Retaining sin in the heart ensures exclusion: for it creates unfitness, and would incur the frown of God and the horror of the holy ones—thus depriving heaven of all heavenliness to the condemned soul. Any defilement, even hidden, would destroy in the soul the sense of fitness for God’s glorious heritage, and make his existence self-condemned; this would desolate heaven of joy. Only “the pure in heart can see God.”
III. Sin may be separated from the soul. “Put away abomination” (cf. Isaiah 1:18; Zechariah 3:4; Zechariah 13:1-2; Matthew 1:21; 1 Corinthians 6:11). Other methods have been tried: but “who can bring a clean thing out of an unclean?” Jesus only. (Addenda Jeremiah 4:1. Sin banished, or no heaven.)
IV. Sinners may then have a right to the Divine presence.
1. A right to enter through the gates (comp. Revelation 22:14), where the proper reading is, “Blessed are they that have washed their robes, that, they may have right,” &c.
2. Fitness to abide in God’s sight (Revelation 14:4-5).
3. Assured of endless rest therein. “To go no more out.” “Thou shalt not remove.” “And so shall they be for ever with the Lord.”
NOTE. If the words “thou shalt not remove” be rendered as with Henderson, “not be a fugitive,” (comp. Genesis 4:12-14). i. The horrors of banishment; ii. The conditions on which that state may be reversed. “Put away,” &c.
Or if rendered, “then waver not” (Lange & Wordsworth) i.e., be steadfast in thy repentance, or be prompt and firm and thorough in thy conversion. i. Sin cannot be put away partially: it is dishonest, revolting to God. ii. Only resolute and entire repentance will avail before God. He will accept us only then.
Observe how God views idols: “abominations.” He would have everything which interposes between the soul and Himself “put out of His sight.” His love of man is such that He cannot consent to divided allegiance. His loathing of sin is so intense that He cannot allow it to remain under His eye.
Comments: Jeremiah 4:2. Concerning SWEARING BY OATH. “And thou shalt swear, the Lord liveth,” &c.
The A.V. makes this verse unintelligible. The phrase, The Lord liveth, is the regular form of the Jewish oath, and means, not the thing sworn to, but the thing sworn by—By the life of Jehovah. But every nation swears by the highest object of its worship (Deuteronomy 10:20, &c.), and the prophecy that Egyptians should swear to Jehovah (Isaiah 19:18), implied their conversion to the true faith. Here, similarly, the oath is a confession of faith in Jehovah, as the true God. (Speaker’s Com.)
To swear by Jehovah, means to bind one’s self by a solemn profession to adhere to His worship and service (comp. Deuteronomy 6:13; Deuteronomy 10:20; Isaiah 19:18; Amos 8:14). And the profession should be not alone, or merely that of the lips, but accompanied with uprightness of heart and strictest rectitude of conduct.—Henderson.
Thou shalt swear, not by thine idols (Amos 8:14; Zephaniah 1:5), but by the Lord; not with vain oaths, but for such causes, and with such conditions, as constitute a righteous oath (Wordsworth). A good oath has always these three concomitants—truth, judgment, and justice. If these are wanting, an oath becomes a perjury (Jerome). [Addenda Jeremiah 4:2. Thou shalt swear.]
That we may not take God’s name in vain, we must swear in:
1. “Truth:” commanded Leviticus 19:12 : we must not swear falsely to perjure ourselves, in assertion, either in cognito, when we know, or in dubio, when we know not, nor in promission, when either we resolve not to perform, or do not perform.
2. “Justice;” which requires that we only swear in honestis et possibilibus, in things honest and possible; for that which is dishonest is not just, and an impossible matter is not at all to be sworn to. A thing impossible or dishonest is so, either from the very beginning, or cometh to be so afterwards. Thus Herod’s oath was unlawful both in the making and the keeping of it; for in keeping it he added two other sins to that of rash swearing: manslaughter and foolish superstition. “When an evil thing is promised, cut the thread:” as David did (1 Samuel 25:22; 1 Samuel 25:32).
3. “Judgment:” which requireth three things of us. (α.) That we take an oath reverently, not rashly, Ecclesiastes 5:2. (β.) To take it as a holy thing, and therefore not make it common. (γ.) We must account it a matter spiritual, and not say, juravi lingua, mentem injuratam gero, I swore with my tongue, my mind and intention were not sworn; for God will take that sense which the words carry. God so understands an oath as he who propounds it.—Bishop Andrewes.
Swearing by Jehovah involves the acknowledgment of His deity. For no one would swear by Him who was not convinced that He is the witness of truth and the avenger of falsehood. But to swear by others robs God of His glory and gives it to idols (Isaiah 42:8).—Lange.
Theme: ISRAEL’S RETURN SHALL ALLURE THE GENTILES TO THE LORD. If Israel repents, it will become the means of making the Gentiles partakers of the patriarchal promise (Genesis 22:18). Two great truths taught: i. That the Gentiles were to be members of the Church of the Messiah; ii. That Israel’s peculiar office was to be God’s mediator in this great work.—Speaker’s Com.
i. If the heathen “bless themselves” in Jehovah, they are become partakers of the salvation which comes from Him. ii. If this blessing comes to them in consequence of Israel’s conversion, then Israel is the channel of their salvation. Israel’s apostasy has delayed this: Israel’s conversion is necessary to the completion of the Divine plan of universal redemption.—Comp. Keil.
When the long-deluded and spiritually-oppressed heathen come to “know the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom He has sent,” they will indeed “bless themselves,” for Christianity blesses its possessor; but they will “glory in Him,” for it is a worthy fact for glorying that not vain idols are our gods, but that Jehovah is ours,—ours to trust, and claim, and love: that Jesus has redeemed, loved, and acknowledged us as His!
M. Henry says, If the scattered Israelites will thus return to God,—i. They shall be blessed themselves, for so ver. i. may read—brought back out of captivity to their own land (Deuteronomy 4:29; Deuteronomy 30:2), or, shall return to Me as their rest even while in exile. ii. They shall be blessings to others; for their return shall be a means of others turning to Him who never knew Him; Israel would influence the nations, among whom scattered, to “bless themselves in Him,” i.e., shall find their blessedness in Him, shall join themselves to Him, and “shall glory” in the blessed change they have made.
Jeremiah 4:3. Theme: SOUL AGRICULTURE. “Break up your fallow ground, and sow not among thorns.”
Frequent Scripture use of imagery of tillage as illustrative of soul-training. Agriculture, perhaps the oldest, most necessary, and best understood of all the arts: also, most suggestive of the moral culture of the human soul.
Three things essential to successful agriculture:
I. Proper attention to the SOIL. Analogy between the material soil and the human soul in two respects: there is—
1. Variety of condition. Christ speaks of the “wayside” soil, “stony places,” “thorny ground,” and “good ground.” Their counterpart in men.
2. Capability of improvement. Farmer changes the character of the soil, bad into good: pulverises stones, mollifies the hard clay, burns weeds, &c. So hardened heart must be broken, thorny cleansed. Unless hearts thus prepared for truth, precious grain is wasted on them. But can men alter soil of their hearts? Yes: Commanded in text, “Break up,” &c.
II. Proper attention to the SEED. In its selection and its growth. Soil might be good, yet if seed bad, harvest bad.
1. Care in selection of true spiritual seed. It is the Gospel: (a.) perfect in itself; (b.) fitted to grow in all climates; (c.) but it does not sow itself; (d.) it is the support of life.
2. Attention must be also paid to its growth. Carefully the farmer watches, specially the first stages; uproots weeds, scares off fowls of heaven. (Compare Matthew 13:25; Hosea 8:7.)
III. Proper attention to the SEASON. There “is a time to sow;” a season when the earth has its fecund power, and a time when it departs. And there are seasons for spiritual culture: 1. Youth. 2. The season of moral seriousness, when the heart has been softened. Many try when faculties are shattered, in old age, on dying beds. The time comes when the heart cannot grow Christianity.
Con.: Earnest in work of soul-tillage. Why? (a.) The field is in a deplorable condition (Proverbs 24:31). (b.) No work will prove so remunerative, (c) There is no time to lose: “Go, work to-day in my vineyard.”—Condensed from “Homilist.”
“To the men of Judah;” the word is sing., to each man. Every one is called to personal contrition. Repentance, reformation, religion, is imperative with each man singly: every one must prepare his heart and come back himself to God.
“Break up fallow.” The seeds of contrition must not be sown yet. Preparation is essential; it must engage anxious and watchful concern: not be done offhand; let it be attempted with utmost painstaking and seriousness. There must not be left one foul and thorny sin in the heart; it must be cleaused thoroughly. Only then will the repentance be real and permanent, and accepted by God.
Jeremiah 4:4. Theme: THE FIRE OF GOD’S WRATH. “Lest my fury come forth like fire, and burn,” &c.
Sin ignites the unquenchable fire. Impenitence invites it.
I. God’s fury is a terrible and a consuming reality. Not a shadowy menace, not a mere figure of speech, not an extravagance of fancy, but an appalling fact. The necessary counterpart and consequence of insulted and incensed love. It is a “fire;” it is a “burning” fire; it is a “furious” fire. It must be a fearful thing to encounter and endure!
II. God’s fury is restrained that men may avert and escape it. “Lest my fury come forth.” 1. God Himself is slow to let loose the terrors of His anger against sin. 2. Man has it in his own power to prevent its direful ravages. 3. Solemn forewarnings and appeals are Divinely sent that the wicked may escape. Compare text and Nineveh’s conduct (Jonah 3:5-10).
III. God’s fury will eventually overtake the defiant transgressors. Disobey God’s call to repent, abuse the opportunity of escape, and “the fury will come forth like fire.” 1. Historic occurrences show this to be true (Genesis 19:24-25; Leviticus 10:2; Numbers 16:31-35). 2. Prophetic warnings point to the same issues of sin (Matthew 11:21-24; Matthew 25:41; Hebrews 10:26-27).
IV. God’s fury once kindled can never more be quenched. Fire is the symbol of destruction. The declaration that “none can quench it,” implies hope gone for ever,—ameliorations and escape utterly lost,—irretrievably past. From that burning there will be no Saviour to snatch us as brands. Nothing can assuage its terrors,—none can quench its flames. Christ’s redeeming work avails now, not then.
V. God’s fury is the inevitable consequence of man’s iniquity. “God is love;” and “loves the world” (1 John 4:16). The Divine displeasure is created by man. God’s fury is the necessary indignation caused by sin. And it must fall on the resolute sinner; for his sin has reversed the love, and left only this just anger. Alienated love means incurred wrath. Not that God wills it so (2 Peter 3:9); it is the issue of an inevitable law,—God’s love estranged by guilt (for He cannot love where guilt is cherished), leaves nothing but the indignation against sin in the Divine heart towards the relentless sinner.
When, therefore, at the last, the sinner meets God, he calls forth, not love—he has estranged that—but the wrath he has kindled: “because of the evil of his doings.” “Flee from the wrath to come.” (Addenda, Jeremiah 4:4, “Unquenchable fire.”)
Jeremiah 4:5-8. ALARM SOUNDED: FLEE TO THE STRONGHOLDS. (Addenda, Jeremiah 4:7, “The lion.”)
i. The enemy advances (Jeremiah 4:7). The lion is rousing himself; already he has left his lair. He is a “destroyer.” He comes to “desolate” and to “devour” (1 Peter 5:8).
ii. Strongholds are accessible (Jeremiah 4:5). Leave the open country. Do not expose yourselves to the spiritual foe. Fortify yourselves in Divine securities. Mount the watch-tower; “strengthen the things that remain;” pray always; have faith in God; “resist the devil.”
iii. Zion the refuge from danger (Jeremiah 4:6). It was the strongest and best fortified of all the cities. Fugitives from the world, from sin, from pursuing foes, may hide themselves in Zion. The Church is a place of defence, of security, of peace: for God guards the walls, and the King reigns within. (Addenda, Jeremiah 4:6, “Zion a refuge.”)
iv. The summons to safety (Jeremiah 4:5-6). This the preacher’s work. “And let him that heareth say, Come!” Everywhere perils menace the souls of men. 1. The importunity of the call (Jeremiah 4:5). 2. The inclusiveness of the summons,—none excluded. All may hear and hide themselves from evil. 3. The way of safety clearly pointed out. “Set up standard towards Zion;” visible, unmistakable, direct. 4. Urgent haste. “Retire, stay not.” “Now is the day of salvation.” “Escape for thy life; tarry not in all the plain, flee to the mountains, lest thou be consumed.”
v. Bitter wailing over ruin (Jeremiah 4:8). Their fortresses are useless if God be not propitiated. In vain to hide from peril if God be ignored. 1. Defences are delusions unless Christ is our Saviour. 2. Salvation is impossible unless Divine anger is averted by repentance. 3. Woful the overthrow of the spoiler. 4. We may “turn back the Lord’s anger” by fleeing to Christ (Isaiah 12:0).
Jeremiah 4:9. i. Ruin surpasses all anticipation. The terror of the event paralyses all with amaze and dismay. Is there no forewarning in this? Will the future overthrow of transgressors be less appalling?
ii. Helpers are found helpless in the day of calamity. The rulers and leaders to whom the people looked prove their impotency when their aid is most needed, and their perplexity when their devices and resources should have been most ready. “Cursed is the man that trusteth in man,” &c.
iii. Religious advisers whom God does not warrant and ordain are seen to be mockers and delusions in the judgment,—“priests and prophets.” The people despised the true prophet, God’s messenger, and preferred their own idolatrous priests and temporising teachers. They “believed a lie,” and “the storm shall sweep away the refuges of lies.” Alas! this is still done (2 Timothy 4:3-4); and the dire result is ever the same (2 Thessalonians 2:10-12).
Jeremiah 4:10. Theme: GOD REPROACHED AS THE AUTHOR OF MAN’S DELUSIONS. “Ah, Lord God! surely Thou hast greatly deceived this people, saying, Ye shall have peace; whereas the sword reacheth unto the soul.”
Frequently in Scripture the immediate cause and occasions of events are overlooked, and occurrences are unhesitatingly traced to the Divine First Cause. This is only in keeping with bold Oriental modes of expression. Thus God is said to have hardened Pharaoh’s heart (Exodus 4:21; Exodus 7:3; Exodus 7:13; Exodus 9:12); yet it is as emphatically recorded that Pharaoh himself hardened his own heart (Exodus 8:15; Exodus 8:32; Exodus 9:34). So concerning Christ’s crucifixion (cf. Romans 8:32; Acts 2:23), and equally concerning the delusions of Antichrist (cf. Jeremiah 4:11 with Jeremiah 4:12 of 2 Thessalonians 2:0; their own hostile minds predisposed them to entertain delusions).
Inquire: By whom had God said, “Ye shall have peace?” Henderson suggests, by the false prophets who had prophesied, “Peace, peace, when there was no peace.” Supporting this view, Keil appeals to the striking passages, chap. Jeremiah 14:13, Jeremiah 23:17, and explains that God not only permitted these lying spirits to appear and work, but ordained and brought them forth for the hardening of the people’s hearts; as in Ahab’s case, that he might perish for his ungodliness (1 Kings 22:20-23). Most commentators prefer this view.
Dr. Payne Smith (Speaker’s Commentary) prefers to refer the words of peace to real prophecies of future blessedness promised to the Jews, and suggests that Jeremiah was perplexed with the twofold (and seemingly contradictory) aspects of prophecy, at times bright with promises of glory and power, at others dark with threatenings of national humiliation; and could not now reconcile the doom he now pronounced with his own previous prophecy, or with the predictions of his inspired predecessors. Prophets did not understand their own messages (1 Peter 1:10-11).
Lange remarks, this is only the opinion of the prophet (that God had deceived the people), who here interrupts the discourse revealed to him by the expression of his own subjective view.
Theme: WARNING AGAINST FALSE PEACE.
It is—(i.) A lie, for men say there is peace when the sword reaches even to the soul. (ii.) A misfortune, for it will disappoint the heart of those who cherish it.—Naeg. in Lange.
Theme: SORROW AND SURPRISE AT THE OUTBREAK OF WAR.
These words express deep disappointment at the frustration of a nation’s hopes of peace, and at the mysteriousness of the Divine purposes. God cannot lie nor deceive, but His purposes go forward with a vastness of design and comprehension as to surpass the grasp of human calculation, thus deceiving those who had prejudged them. We find our wisdom to have been a phantom, our prophetic discernment a delusion.
I. Sadly, but truly, these words point out the real nature of war.
“The sword reacheth,” &c. So it is wherever the consequences of war are felt. 1. It sweeps away the young and promising, cuts down the nation’s bravest sons. 2. It discourages enterprise, and increases penury and want. 3. It blunts the moral feelings, deadens the conscience, and does violence to the gentlest and noblest inspirations of Christianity. 4. It depopulates and desolates the scenes over which it sweeps; as Nineveh, Babylon, Carthage.
II. How should we as Christians and patriots meet a time of war?
1. Implore God’s blessings on our armies and our fleets, that they may be instruments in His hands for His ends. 2. Let prayer be accompanied by deep humiliation before God; for our sins, and the sins of our age, bring war. 3. Active and special benevolence should awake; for the calamities of the time will call for special succour. 4. Let us be found waiting God’s will, not depressed by reverses, nor unduly elated by victory; but humbling ourselves under His mighty hand, that He may exalt us in due time.—Part of Quebec Sermon, by Henry Alford, B.D., A.D. 1854.
i. The delusive prophecy. Guilesome voices speak flattery to sinners.
ii. The agonising discovery. “Sword pierceth,” &c. Experience at length disperses delusions.
iii. The reproach against God. Unfounded; for He has clearly menaced evil with punishment. (Comp. Jeremiah 4:18.)
Jeremiah 4:11-13. Theme: THE BLAST OF THE ALMIGHTY.
Winds, God created (Amos 4:13), holds in His fist (Proverbs 30:4), rideth upon them (Psalms 104:3), lets loose (Jeremiah 10:13), Christ can quell (Matthew 8:26; Matthew 14:32). (Addenda, Jeremiah 4:11, “Blast of the Almighty.”)
I. Winds can fulfil Divine behests. “Stormy winds fulfilling His word” (Psalms 148:8).
1. They travel where He directs. “Towards the daughter of My people” (Jeremiah 4:11).
2. They awake to serve God’s designs. “Shall come unto, i.e., for Me” (Jeremiah 4:12).
3. They carry out His sentence upon man. “Now, I will give sentence,” &c. (Jeremiah 4:12). Winds are God’s judicial agents.
II. Winds are typical of human agencies.
The simoom was a figure of the mighty Babylonian conqueror. The “clouds” (Jeremiah 4:13), were His armies; the “whirlwind” His cavalry; suggesting that the Chaldean forces would be numerous (as clouds), invincible (as whirlwind), swift to overtake and seize the prey (as eagles).
Winds typify human agencies, in that they are:—
1. Variable; some “to fan and cleanse,” others work “woe and spoil.”
2. Wilful, yet controlled; “blowing where it listeth,” as men obey their own impulses; as Nebuchadnezzar did in rising against Judea; yet obeying a Higher law and will.
3. Powerful, yet easily restrained by God. Mighty was this “full wind,” yet Nebuchadnezzar (like Pilate) “could have no power at all, except it were given him from above.” (Comp. 2 Kings 19:7; 2 Kings 19:35.)
Stand in awe of Him whom “even the winds obey” Rejoice that “all power” is intrusted to Jesus, over nature, over men. Safe from harm, even amid mightiest agencies, are those He keeps. He is a refuge from wind, and all hostile powers. Not befriended by Him, “woe unto us” (Jeremiah 4:13).
Jeremiah 4:14. Theme: PURITY NECESSARY TO SALVATION.
“Wash heart,” &c. Apply primarily to Jews, but equally to mankind universally.
I. The natural depravity of the human heart. “Wash thine heart from wickedness,” suggests the total corruption of human nature.
1. This doctrine requires definition. Depravity of the heart includes—(a.) The entire absence of the Divine image. (b.) A natural aversion to God and godliness, (c.) A universal propensity or disposition to evil.
2. This doctrine demands evidence. Cannot be denied without violation of conscience, contempt of reason, rejection of Scripture, (a.) It is divinely revealed. (b.) Practically exemplified. (c.) Deeply lamented.
II. The spiritual purity which the Lord requires. “O Jerusalem, wash thine heart from wickedness; how long vain thoughts,” &c.? Implies—
I. The possibility of obtaining purity of heart. This appears—(a.) From the design of redemption (Hebrews 9:13-14). (b.) The ability of the Saviour (John 1:16; 1 Corinthians 1:30). (c.) The promises of Scripture (Ezekiel 36:26-27; 1 Peter 1:3-4). (d.) The experience of believers (Romans 6:22; 1 John 1:7).
2. The important duty of seeking purity of heart. This exhortation simply inculcates an immediate and diligent use of the means of grace necessary to salvation (Ezekiel 18:31). (a.) We must repent of our sins (Isaiah 55:7; Acts 3:19). (b.) Believe in Jesus Christ (Acts 26:18; Hebrews 12:24). (c.) Give ourselves unto prayer (Psalms 51:10; 1 Thessalonians 5:23). (d.) Seek the Lord without delay. For “how long,” saith God, “shall thy vain,” wicked, unbelieving, impenitent “thoughts lodge within thee?” (Isaiah 55:6; 2 Corinthians 6:2).
III. The absolute necessity of personal holiness. “That thou mayest be saved.” “If I wash thee not, thou hast no part with Me:” purity and salvation go together.
1. Personal holiness is a necessary property of religion. Not consist of—(a.) Ceremonial observances (Galatians 6:15). (b.) But dwells in the heart, sanctifying every power (1 Corinthians 6:19-20; 1 Peter 1:15-16). (c.) Without internal piety and purity, profession of religion is empty parade and profitless (Romans 14:7).
2. Personal holiness is a necessary meetness for heaven. (a.) Reason assures us that there must be agreement between the faculty of enjoyment and the object enjoyed. God is holy; we must be to enjoy His presence. (b.) Scripture assures us that “without holiness no man can see the Lord” (Matthew 5:8; 1 Corinthians 4:9-10).
These reflections should, (i.) excite deep humility and self-abasement in us as fallen sinners; (ii.) promote an earnest application to Jesus, whose “blood cleanseth from all sin.”—From “Sketclies of Four Hundred Sermons.”
Theme: CHARACTERISTICS AND CORRECTIVES OF VAIN THOUGHTS.
Vanity of thoughts may prevail in persons who would be appalled at one great substantial sin. Yet a month, year, a life of vain thoughts! in a being preparing for an eternity of seriousness and thought! it is truly an awful account! yet with many, this stands for little in comparison with some one or two very wrong external actions.
Observe: What a mighty amount of thinking there is in human spirits that does not come under the censure of the text. “Vain,” implies something trifling, insignificant, empty. 1. It does not include wicked thoughts; impious, malignant, evil schemings, &c., these are not trivial; yet how much of this order of thinking! A man’s thoughts are within his own jurisdiction, and may be concealed; he need not be exposed to censure and shame for them; unless, therefore, he govern himself in the fear of God, they will, in their mere animal play, run to vanity, if not worse. 2. If the thoughts are left unrestrained to commit folly, they will commit an immensity of it. The thinking power is never tired or exhausted in this frivolity. Never stagnant pool was more prolific of flies, nor the swarm about it more wild and worthless.
I. Characteristics of vain thoughts.
i. Those thoughts are “vain” from which we do not and cannot reap any good. Survey thoughts—excluding the noxious—and ask, Have they given me anything worth having; made me wiser; cleared away any previous ignorance; rectified any judgment; fixed or forwarded any purpose; or while ten thousand ideas have passed through my mind, might I as well have had none? These passing visitants have occupied his faculties and consumed his time; gone away and paid him nothing!
ii. Thoughts are “vain” which cannot associate in any agreement with useful and valuable ones. If serious and useful thoughts be admitted into a mind filled with frivolities, they are resisted and resented as intruders.
iii. Thoughts are “vain” which have to be kept out in order for the mind to attend to any serious or good purpose. Experienced this necessity and its difficulty. Like a man sitting down to study in a room filled with a moving, talking crowd. This mental mob has forced its way in, baffled and mocked you!
iv. Thoughts are “vain” which dwell largely and habitually on trifling things. Sad propensity to allow mind to waste itself on trifles; on personal display, fashion and routine, amusements, bubbling incidents on the stream of society. Would that some stern, alarming voice might break in upon such thoughts with, “What is all this to thee? hast thou nothing else to think of before thou die and appear before God?”
v. Thoughts are “vain” which trifle with important ones. Great things may be thought of idly as mere matters of curiosity and speculation, or to throw them into ludicrous and fanciful forms.
vi. Thoughts are “vain” which are fickle, not remaining with any continuance on a subject. In this ungoverned state, anything can divert thoughts: without regulated connection, no rational links, no leading to any ultimate object. Nothing is avoided, repelled, or selected.
vii. Thoughts are “vain” when the mind has some specially favourite trifle, some cherished idolised toy. Trifling in all but its power to fascinate and fasten itself upon a human soul! What shall we call this enslavement of the whole mind to some essentially worthless object of attention, but the magnetism of Satan!
viii. Thoughts are “vain” which continually return to things justly claiming a measure of attention when the thinking of them can be of no advantage. The mind wanders uselessly over the same enumeration, comparison, calculation; when nothing can be more useless.
ix. Thoughts are “vain” when the mind dwells on fancies of how things might be or might have been, when the reality of how they are is before us.
x. Thoughts are “vain” which men indulge concerning notions and schemings of worldly felicity.
Need of a corrective discipline; that we be earnest to have so pernicious an evil rectified, that our thinking and immortal spirits, which should be temples of the Most High, may not be the degraded recesses of every vanity with which the Spirit cannot dwell.
II. Correctives of vain thoughts. Evidently they—1. Waste the activity of the thinking principle; 2. They put us out of the relation we are placed in to the highest objects and interests—to God, Christ, eternity. 3. They unfit us for matters of practical duty, making life’s true work irksome.
Observe: The evil habits of vain thinking is utterly unsuited to the condition of an immortal spirit on earth, and fatally at variance with its high destiny. It might suit a creature whose utmost scope is to amuse away a few years on earth, and then sink in the dust wholly and for ever!
Conscious that this vanity of thought is a besetting evil, we should earnestly desire any corrective remedy. But this vice of the mind is but a symptom of general degeneracy, and cannot be remedied without the grand sources of our thoughts—the passions and affections—be in a rectified state. There are no expedients which can avail independently of resolute exertion,—no dexterous device can cure this habitual propensity,—no wand of enchantment can wave off the infesting swarm. But, as parts of a persevering discipline—
i. Have specified subjects of serious interest to turn to when thought reverts to these vanities: recollections of a perilous situation, a dying scene, providential interpositions. These memory will furnish. Conscience offers subjects; what a man regards as his greatest sin, &c.
ii. Make a sudden charge of guilt on your mind when vain thoughts prevail. Enforce the thought “God sees.” This will act as a lightning flash which arrests levity.
iii. Have recourse to the direct act of devotion. How will they appear when we confess and deplore them before God?
iv. Interrupt and stop them by the question, What is just now my most pressing duty? Judgment and conscience will then speak and chide for neglecting it.
v. Have recourse to some practical occupation, matter of business, or a visit to some house of mourning.
vi. Constrain our habitual thinking to go along with the thoughts of those who have thought the best, by reading the most valuable books. How lamentable the light reading of the age! Study the Bible.
vii. Think to a certain purpose,—towards a purposed end. What a number of things we need to aim at by a course of thought!
viii. Reflect on how many things we have to do with which “vain thoughts” interfere; and also, what would have been the result of good thoughts instead of so many vain?
ix. Discipline of the thoughts greatly depends on the company a man keeps (Proverbs 13:20). Society can be found or avoided in which every vanity of the soul may be indulged or confirmed.
x. If the complaint be urged that this discipline involves much that is hard and difficult, we answer, It is just as hard as to do justice to a rational and immortal spirit placed here a little while by God for its improvement, and then to go where God appoints. Hard, yet so indispensable. How welcome, then, the promises of the Spirit’s help,—the invitations to pray! We shall eagerly act on them if we care for our spiritual progress through this world, and our appointment and employments in the world to come.—Lectures by John Foster, A.D. 1822. (Addenda, Jeremiah 4:14, “Vain thoughts.”)
Jeremiah 4:15. “A voice declareth from Dan,” &c. It is high time to set about personal cleansing, and for abandoning delusive thoughts, for already the calamity is announced,—it swiftly approaches,—it scales the heights which shelter Judah. (See Geographical References.) “The messenger comes from each successive place towards which the foe approaches.”—Hitzig. (Addenda, Jeremiah 4:15, “Dan.”)
Jeremiah 4:16. The words should probably read thus: “Proclaim ye to the heathen, Behold!” (Saint Jerome points out that the heathen are hereby summoned to witness the chastisement of Jerusalem.) Thus they would learn that the God of the Jews had ordained the overthrow of His people; that it was not the triumph of impious and idolatrous forces against God and His people, but that He had consigned Judah to spoliation on account of her treachery and neglect of Him. This would prove a solemn warning to the nations around (Jeremiah 4:17), giving clearly the explanation why God permitted Judah’s foes to triumph.
Jeremiah 4:18. The address reverts to Jerusalem: against her Jeremiah had to publish (Jeremiah 4:16) that watchers, besiegers, were advancing; it throws on Jerusalem the whole blame of the calamities. Here consider:
I. That sinners have the power of awakening terrible forces of judgment. “Thy way and doings have procured these things;” brought mighty armies,—devastating powers! Truly sin is a dreadful and prodigious factor in human history.
II. That sinners inevitably entail retributive miseries. “Unto thee.” Sin awakes mighty forces—it can do that; but sinners bring those forces of misery against themselves, and they cannot evade them. The eagles will sweep down on the carcass they scent. (Addenda, Jeremiah 4:18, “Bitter at last.”)
III. That the penalties of sin are unutterably distressing. “It is bitter” (comp. Jeremiah 2:19). “The wages of sin is death.” The miseries of the siege and captivity were but faint foreshadowings of the woes consequent on rejecting Christ and losing heaven.
IV. That the wound and woe of sin reach to the very heart. Neither is superficial nor evanescent, but the rottenness and also the wretchedness goes to the very core (Jeremiah 4:10).
Jeremiah 4:19-21. Theme: A SEER’S ANGUISH OVER THE SINNER’S DOOM.
Henderson and Dr. Payne Smith, opposing all other commentators, regard these words as the outcry of the anguishstricken nation. And truly the lost soul may utter such an exclamation of terror and grief in the hour of his judgment. Yet the words are more naturally the lament of the prophet.
I. The occasion of these impassioned outcries.
1. His grief was patriotic; distressed over the national calamities which were coming upon his people and his land.
2. His grief was personal, for he felt individually the shame and woe which the people’s disloyalty to their God and their faith were entailing. By identification of interest he felt himself inculpated by their idolatries and vice; and by intensity of sympathy he felt the throes of anguish and ruin which ensued.
3. His grief was pious; the religious disasters looming over Zion filled him with amaze and sorrow. Temple defamed and razed; Judah reduced to captivity, land laid waste, sanctities of his nation profaned; and more, Jehovah contemned by the victorious heathen, who would scorn the God of the land they subdued, and of the people they oppressed.
II. The lessons of the prophet’s distress. Moses’s distress over sinning Israel as he descended Sinai, the Psalmist’s deeply troubled state over transgressors (Psalms 119:136; Psalms 119:158), our Lord’s pitying tears at the sight of doomed Jerusalem, Paul’s “great heaviness and continual sorrow of heart” for his kinsmen (Romans 9:2-3), and Jeremiah’s pathos of lamentation, encourage and summon us to godly sorrow over the guilty and the perishing.
1. There is enough of wrong around us to evoke saddest emotions.
2. Philanthropy and compassion for humanity should move us to deepest sorrow.
3. Fellowship with Christ will make us deplore the devastations of sin.
4. The keener our sense of right and our love of God, the more intense will be our repugnance towards, and our distress over, scenes of iniquity.
5. Memory of our own redemption will awake in us bitter regrets that others remain sunken in wrong and the woes of wrong.
6. Perception of the foul agency which triumphs in human overthrow will deepen our revulsion and horror. It was the king of Babylon in Judah’s case—imperious, blasphemous, implacable; it is the “adversary the devil” in our case now.
Hence: 1. The shamefulness of indifference towards others in peril. 2. The inarticulate call to our commiseration which comes from souls despoiled. 3. The urgency of faithful warning and friendly help, though it cost us suffering and sacrifices, as with Jeremiah 4:0. The grandeur of Christ’s mission; His love and redemption. 5. The inspiration which lies in the fact that there is hope of our doing good even to those who hate us while we seek their welfare.
They who feel for the woes of others, and seek to redress them, cannot fail to fulfil a ministry of amelioration, and shall not miss the reward of loving service and patient suffering (Matthew 5:12).
Jeremiah 4:22. Theme: JUDAH’S DIVINELYSENT TEACHER IGNORED.
I. Teachers are valueless unless men will be listeners. But “my people are foolish.” Indifference to the teachings of Jeremiah was suicidal, wilful, shameful. So is the disregard of the world.
II. Man’s heedless attitude frustrates God’s messengers. They would arouse men to their peril and point them to escape and redemption, but they put life and salvation from them.
III. The insensate spiritual condition of transgressors. (a.) Blinded—“not known me,” whom God in mercy sent. “Have no understanding” of their peril, value of Divine messages, urgency of seeking salvation. (b.) Debased—mentally, “foolish;” morally, “sottish;” foolish heart darkened (Romans 1:21-22). (c.) Perverted—their spiritual nature distorted, thrown into calamitous confusion and contrariety; wise in evil, witless respecting good.
Hence easily deluded, wilfully ignorant, lamentably degenerate. (Comp. John 3:21.)
Jeremiah 4:23-26. A SOLEMNLY-SUGGESTIVE VISION.
The prophet sees bursting over Judah a visitation which convulses the whole world. In the vivid poetic language of this picture, the mind is led back to what earth was before creation, and led forward to what earth will become at the judgment. It suggests that sin gathers into the present the dreary desolations of the past and the terrible devastations of the future.
I. Chaos reproduced. (Comp. Jeremiah 4:23 with Genesis 1:2.) Thus—1. Sin defaces scenes of beauty (comp. Genesis 1:31); alas! all again in chaos. 2. Sin despoils the Spirit’s work; He brooded over and beautified earth (Genesis 1:2). 3. Sin enwraps the world in gloom—shuts out light, God, hope, and happiness.
II. Judgment depicted. (Comp. Jeremiah 4:24-26 with Revelation 6:12-17.)
Jeremiah glances again into the awful future, and—1. He beholds the material world in wild convulsion (Jeremiah 4:24, comp. Revelation 6:14). 2. Scenes of the living changed into sepulchral solitude (Jeremiah 4:25, comp. Ezekiel 38:20). 3. The works and memorials of man swept away: plantations and cities (Jeremiah 4:26, comp. 2 Peter 3:10). 4. God’s presence awakens a panic of terror (Jeremiah 4:26, “at the presence,” lit. from the face of Jehovah, from the face of the heat of His nostril; comp. Revelation 20:11; Revelation 6:16-17).
It is as if the final judgment of the world had already arrived. Infer—1. Retribution must not necessarily be deferred till the distant judgment-day. 2. In a sinner’s downfall, the horrors of the final judgment are all realised. 3. If God be not propitiated, His presence will terrify us whenever it appears—in temporal calamities, hour of death, or day of retribution. 4. Flee now to God; not then from God. (Addenda, Jeremiah 4:26, “Broken down at the presence of God.”) Lowth remarks: “These particular judgments are an earnest of the general judgment.”
Jeremiah 4:27-29. Lest it should be thought the prophet has spoken only under strong poetic feeling, an extravagant imagination, there comes the emphatic, “Thus hath the Lord said.” It is not fancy, but solemn fact.
I. God’s irrevocable purpose (Jeremiah 4:28). “I have spoken; not turn back.” The day of redemption past,—probation terminated,—escape impossible,—repentance no avail.
II. God’s avenging decision limited by His mercy (Jeremiah 4:27). “Yet not make full end.” This always attested of Judah: the sword should not wholly destroy. (Comp. Leviticus 26:44; Amos 9:8.)
III. Earth clad in woful mourning (Jeremiah 4:28). The heavens shrouded in sombre clouds in sympathy with earth’s misery. (Comp. Revelation 6:12; Revelation 1:7.)
IV. Hiding-places sought: strongholds abandoned in despair. Their refuges prove insufficient, insecure, as will all human strongholds. When these defenced “cities” fail, the recesses of forests and mountains will be sought. Implies: (a.) Great terror of the foe. (b.) Deliverance will then be craved, redemption sought too late. (c.) No evading the judgment; flight will not ensure escape.
V. Melancholy desertion of happy scenes (Jeremiah 4:29). “Every city forsaken,” &c. Homes gone for ever. Scenes of plenty and pleasure abandoned perforce. Families driven from earth’s fond scenes into exile. So at the judgment—but worse.
Jeremiah 4:30. SPOILED YET ADORNED. Jerusalem simulates the beauty which has been “spoiled” in the vain hope of attracting to her side the succour of Egypt against Chaldea. (Addenda, Jeremiah 4:30. “Finery, Flattery.”)
i. Vain devices for covering misery. “Clothest with crimson,” “deckest with ornaments of gold,” paintest thine eyes. Real wealth never feels the necessity of gaudy parade. True beauty never resorts to artificial decorations. Implies conscious deformity and penury.
ii. Adversity transforms flatterers into foes. “Lovers seek thy life.” This shows the character, the worth, the treachery of ungodly confidences. Turn from God to them in prosperity, they will turn from or turn upon their dupes in their evil day.
iii. Forlorn attempts to regain love win loathing. “Despise thee.” Their “love” was only for self-aggrandisement; it was sordid and selfish; now nothing can accrue to them from Jerusalem she is contemned. Yes; and her despicable efforts hypocritically to hide her miserable plight create nausea and revulsion. Even the ungodly hate deceit, loathe decorated deformity.
Jeremiah 4:31. The LXX., Syriac, Vulgate, &c., take the participle as passive, and render, My soul faints because of the slain. Better as in A. V.; or, My soul is overpowered before murderers.
“Spreadeth her hands.” A pleading gesture, expressing a prayer for protection: as she falls before assassins she beseeches help.
“Woe is me now!” Her full and irremediable wretchedness is at last realised by her; she cries out terrified by her perils and pains. Yet not to God. Therefore none befriends her. (Addenda to chap. 4 Jeremiah 4:31, “Woe-stricken.”)
NOTICEABLE TOPICS IN CHAPTER 4
Jeremiah 4:2. Topic: AN ANCIENT HOMILY “ON SWEARING.” Text: “Thou shalt swear, The Lord liveth,” &c.
I. The command. Did Christ countermand this? (Matthew 5:34). The Son forbid in the Gospel what the Father bids in the law? Jerome says, “Oaths were permitted the Jews of policy, because they heard heathen swear by their gods.” But the explanation which accords both commands is: God bids thee swear, so thy oath be truthful and needful; Christ forbids swearing which is truthless and needless. Christ came not to destroy the law; He but forbids the gloss of the Pharisees, who taught oaths were not perjury though false, so that they swore not by God’s self directly. Yet, also, Christ would have His followers’ tongues so true as they shall not need to swear. Holy men’s words are oaths. The abuse of swearing God abominates, man abhors. But not everything that is abused by wicked men must therefore not be used by sober men. Schismatics are they who have refused oaths; Essenes among Jews, Anabaptists among Christians. Bullinger saith, “He is not worthy the name of Christian who refuseth to swear by the name of Christ.” For, what do I when I swear, but call on God to be either witness to my truth or avenger of my falsehood? I therein confess the Lord to be my God,—I acknowledge His truth, justice, and omniscience.
Precedents from Scripture:—Moses swore (Joshua 14:5). David often—to Saul, to Jonathan. Abraham, Isaac, Jacob did—patriarchs before the law; and Paul, after the law and under the Gospel, swore. Christ used His “Amen, amen;” and God “swore by His own self.” What He bid, He did.
Oaths, public, as between princes and before magistrates, and private, as between man and man, are lawful, so the swearer take them with religious heart and in cause important. He takes God’s name in vain that swears when he needs not, and “God will not hold him guiltless.”
II. The form. God bade us “swear;” now He tells us how: “The Lord liveth!” It is, then, impiety to swear by creatures; grand sacrilege to swear by anything but God. The name of a strange god was not to be heard in the mouth of God’s people (Exodus 23:13). Saith the old man in Aristophanes, “He but jests that swears by Jupiter.” To swear by anything but God lessens the religion of an oath. When the Jews swore by Baal, and the Gentiles by Jupiter, they thought them gods, for they prayed and sacrificed to them; yet Baal was but a beast, Jupiter but a man. God prevents all evasion by the name He here gives, “the Lord;” not any god the swearer would substitute,—as Papists swear by angels, called in Scripture, “Elohim,” and superstition worships them as gods. Many forms are used by men of Scripture variable from this form, but in all the meaning is, “The Lord liveth.”
III. Three particulars. “In truth.” Perjury is impious,—makes that which is the sign, ensign, and seal of truth, the cloak of falsehood. It was death with the Egyptians; St. Augustine would have it so with Christians too. “God will destroy,” saith David, “all that speak lies.” What will He do to them that swear lies? The Pope, Christ’s vicar, panders perjury! Swear promissorily fealty to thy sovereign, the Pope will assoil thee; forswear assertorily anything to the magistrate, the Pope will pardon thee. Faith is not to be kept with heretics. Equivocation is even commended. How dare thou dally with God before whom thou swearest? He is not mocked! An oath is a hedge to fence thy faith: break it not; thou betrayest thy truth: leap not over it; there is a pit behind it, without bottom,—it is hell.
“In judgment.” Swear not upon guess only,—oaths must not be adventured Some swear where no cause is, no gain is, no gainsayer is, but only of bad use. Augustine saith, “The world hath many evil customs, but this of swearing is bad above all that is bad.” It makes God’s holy name vile, and engenders perjury. Philo saith, “Oaths are no tenise balls to toss upon the tongue.”
“In righteousness.” To any act against right or religion bind not thyself, let not any bind thee. Oaths must not cross either piety towards God or charity towards men. Such an oath was Herod’s: much better had he broken his oath than slain a prophet. Bind not two sins together. It is sin to make it, not to break it. Saint Jerome saith of unlawful oaths, “It is condemnation if thou break them; it is damnation if thou keep them.”—Condensed from Sermons by Rev. Richard Clerke, D.D., one of the translators of the English Bible, preacher in Canterbury Cathedral. Dated A.D. 1637.
Jeremiah 4:3. Topic: UNFIT SOIL PREPARED FOR THE BLESSING. Text: “Break up your fallow ground.”
A call to vigorous preparation for spiritual blessing. Many are conscious of earnest longing for salvation, more grace, spiritual renewal and revival; but “the desire of the slothful killeth him, for his hands refuse to labour.” A delusion to rest with desire.
I. Hardening forces have been acting on the soil. “Break up:” hard, therefore. “Your fallow ground;” seriously inquire to what this applies in you.
1. What is the fallow ground within man? 1. The heedless mind. 2. The callous heart. 3. The seared conscience. 4. The irreverent soul. 5. The formal Church: first love dead, flame extinct, sanctuary a garnished sepulchre. (Addenda, Jeremiah 4:3. “Fallow ground.”)
2. How has your ground become fallow? 1. By neglect: becomes hard itself; need do nothing. 2. Action of time: years find you harder. 3. The cold of indifference. 4. Rains and sun cake the soil; the Saviour’s action, the Spirit’s influence make the unyielding soul more alien.
II. Sowers can only work on lands which are prepared. They are forced into inactivity by the ground being fallow.
1. The sowers are Christ, the Spirit, the preacher, the worker for human salvation. They can only sow the Gospel where they find the soil clean and ready. This is the husbandman’s command (Luke 10:10-12). Your stolid unconcern is an effectual obstacle.
2. All spiritual agencies are thwarted by unpreparedness. Seed may be the best, but useless on hard soil. Sun may shine, but not germinate. Rains fall, only to wash the seed off. Best Christian appliances, services, sermons, &c., no avail.
3. Therefore, where there is no readiness, the sacred blessings are withheld. “Christ did no mighty works because of unbelief.”
III. Sowing time is the season for gathering in the living seed. Do nothing to anticipate the auspicious hour of grace, and it will come and find you unfit to receive the Gospel, the salvation God would willingly give. Make ready for the Lord.
1. There is a special time of grace. 2. The season quickly passes by. 3. It may come to us in vain. It was now with Jerusalem; she was not ready to benefit by it. Later on, when Jesus “wept over the city,” she “knew not the day of her visitation.” We may awake to righteousness too late; the sowing-time past, the “convenient season” gone.
IV. The plough must be driven through the sterile soil. Sowers are waiting, seed is ready, season is here and passing (text). 1. Put the plough through your indifference; rouse yourself into attention. 2. Through your indecision; “How long halt ye?” 3. Through your inaction; bestir yourself; read, pray, repent, reform. 4. Through your habits of sin; weep for them, desert them; listen to chidings of conscience; open heart to the Saviour who knocks. “Seek ye the Lord while He may be found, call upon Him while near,” &c.
All this will not make you spiritually renewed. Ploughing does not ensure the harvest, yet it is preparation for it. It is your part; and God requires that part of you. “He hath commanded all men everywhere to repent;” “Break up,” &c. It will not be done for you; it must be done by you. “Prove me now herewith, and see if I will not open the windows of heaven,” &c.
Jeremiah 4:14. Topic: THE VANITY OF THOUGHTS. (Ancient Homily.) Text: “How long shall thy vain thoughts lodge within thee?”
Heart compared to house, to entertain and lodge guests; into which, before conversion, all the light, wanton thoughts that post up and down in the world have open access—lodgeth them; while they, like unruly gallants, revel day and night, and defile those rooms they lodge in. “How long?” whilst I, with my Spirit, and Son, and train of graces, stand and knock, and cannot find admittance? Those vain guests must be turned out or doors without warning; “the time past must suffice.” Kept out they cannot always be; yet if they enter, “lodge” they must not. “Let not the sun go down on your wrath,” or a worse guest may enter; “neither give place to the devil.” Bad thoughts may pass as strangers through a believer’s heart, making a thoroughfare of it, but not a lodging-place.
I. What is meant by thoughts.
i. The internal acts of the mind; reasonings, resolutions, consultations, desires, cares, &c. 1. The thinking, meditating, musing power in man, which enables him to conceive, apprehend, fancy. 2. Thoughts which the mind frames within itself (Proverbs 6:14; James 1:15; Isaiah 59:4-7). These differ from thoughts injected and cast in, which are children of another’s begetting, and which do not become ours unless we “lodge” them. 3. Thoughts which the mind in and by itself begets and entertains.
ii. Let us see what vanity is. 1. Unprofitableness (Ecclesiastes 1:2-3). 2. Lightness (Psalms 62:9). 3. Folly (Proverbs 12:11). 4. Inconstancy (Psalms 144:4; Psalms 146:4). 5. Wicked and sinful (2 Chronicles 13:7; Proverbs 24:9). Such qualities are linked to the word vanity. Vain thoughts are sins. 1. The law judgeth them (Hebrews 4:12; 1 Corinthians 14:25), and Christ rebukes them (Matthew 9:4). 2. They are capable of pardon, and unless pardoned we cannot be saved (Acts 8:22). 3. They are to be repented of (Isaiah 55:7; 2 Corinthians 10:4-5). 4. They defile a man (Matthew 15:15-17). 5. They are abominable to the Lord (Proverbs 15:26). 6. They hinder and spoil all the good we should do (Isaiah 29:16). Our thoughts are the first motioners of all the evil in us.
II. The particulars wherein this vanity of the thinking, meditating power of man consists.
i. In regard to thinking what is good. 1. A want of ability to raise and extract holy and useful considerations and thoughts from the occurrences and occasions which surround us. (Comp. Psalms 107:43 with Psalms 92:4-6.) 2. A loathness to entertain holy thoughts. (Comp. Psalms 119:59 with Romans 1:28.) 3. The mind will not long be intent on good thoughts. 4. If the mind doth think of good things, it doth so unseasonably; intrudes on prayer and interrupts it (Proverbs 16:3).
ii. The readiness of the mind to think on evil and vain things. 1. This vanity shows itself in foolishness (Mark 7:22), which proves itself in the unsettledness and independence of our thoughts. 2. On the other hand, if any strong lust or passion be up, our thoughts are too fixed and intent. 3. A restless curiosity concerning things not affecting us (1 Timothy 6:4; 1 Timothy 6:20; 1 Timothy 4:7; Proverbs 15:14). 4. Taking thought to fulfil the lusts of our flesh (Romans 13:14). 5. Representing, or acting over, sins in our imagination (Jude 1:8).
Having discovered the vanity of your thoughts and estate thereby—1. Be humbled for them (Isaiah 55:7). 2. Let us make conscience of them for ever (Proverbs 4:23), dreading the revelations of the judgment (1 Corinthians 4:5). After the judgment men’s thoughts will prove their greatest executioners.
III. Remedies against vain thoughts. (Addenda, Jeremiah 4:2, “Thou shalt swear,”&c.)
1. Get the heart furnished and enriched with a good stock of sanctified and heavenly knowledge in spiritual truths (Matthew 13:35; Proverbs 6:22; Deuteronomy 6:6-7).
2. Endeavour to preserve and keep up lively, holy, and spiritual affections in the heart (Malachi 3:16; Psalms 119:97).
3. Of all apprehensions else, get the heart possessed with deep and powerful apprehensions of God’s holiness, majesty, omniscience, and omnipresence (Psalms 139:1-12).
4. In the morning when thou awakest, as did David (Psalms 119:18), prevent the vain thoughts the heart naturally engenders by filling it with thoughts of God.
5. Have a watchful eye upon thy heart all day; though vain thoughts crowd in, let them know that they pass not unseen. Vagrant thoughts will not make their rendezvous where strict watch is kept. Complain of them; whip them if they will pass in.
6. Please not thy fancy too much with vanities and curious flights (Job 31:1; Proverbs 4:25).
7. Be diligent in thy calling (2 Thessalonians 3:11; 1 Timothy 5:13); only encumber not the mind too much (Luke 10:41).
8. In thy calling and all thy ways commit thy goings to the Lord (Proverbs 16:3). A few thoughts of faith would keep us from many thoughts of cares and fears. When such waves toss and turmoil the heart, thoughts of faith bring calm and rest.—Condensation of a Homily by Rev. Thomas Goodwin, B.D. Dated A.D. 1638.
Jeremiah 4:19. Topic: THE PROPHET’S LAMENTATIONS OVER HIS PEOPLE’S DOOM. (Ancient Homily.)
Jeremiah travails with the miseries and calamities of his people, and bemoans them, to draw his people to the same affections and dispositions with himself.
I. The complaint or lamentation itself. We have three particulars—i. The parts affected. Signify the soul and inward man. Gregory Myssen regards them as “the intellectual and discursive faculty of the soul.” Because of: 1. The secrecy of it, the mind and soul being inward and hidden. 2. Because the mind receives and digests the thoughts. 3. The mind is the mother of thoughts, conceiving and generating them. ii. The grief of those parts. “Heart is pained,” &c., both as to the kind (“pained”) and the effect of the grief (“heart maketh noise in me”). From which infer: 1. God need not go far for the punishment of wicked men; He can do it from within themselves; punish a man with his own affections and thoughts. 2. What good cause we have to regulate and control our affections, avoid passion and excess of emotion, take care to be pacific, and enjoy a sabbatic tranquillity in our spirits. iii. The passage or vent. “I cannot hold my peace.” Passion will make way, and force itself forth. It did here in: 1. The speech of discovery; for he cannot help revealing these workings of his own spirit. God’s ministers find a necessity in themselves to discover their thoughts to their people (Jeremiah 20:9; Job 33:18-20). Moreover, love constrains him hereunto (Acts 20:20), that his weeping and mourning might be a forerunner of theirs: also the consideration of his calling, as watchman and guide, urged him to give warnings of sin and judgment. 2. The speech of lamentation: he must bewail and utter complaint, his anguish was so great (as Job 7:11).
II. The ground or occasion of his lamentation. “Because,” &c. i. The tidings or report itself. “Sound of trumpet, alarm of war.” This not literally in a military case. 1. The trumpet of Providence. 2. The trumpet of the Word (Isaiah 58:1). 3. The trumpet of vision, or extraordinary prophetical revelation, ii. The conveyance of it to the prophet. “Thou hast heard, O my soul.” 1. The soul through the corporeal organ of hearing. 2. The soul immediately, as being that which had communion with God. 3. The soul emphatically; that is heard indeed which is heard by the soul. Hence (a.) God’s excellency: He speaks. (b.) Man’s duty: he hears. iii. The improvement or use he makes of it. 1. His meditations aroused his affections. (a.) This is the aim of a revelation. (b.) We should endeavour to bring revelations for others to our own spiritual advancement and profit. 2. What these affections were which the tidings aroused. (a.) Anger at his people’s obstinacy. (b.) Fear of the coming judgment. (c.) Grief at his people’s state and doom. Yet there was no such thing yet as war among them, nevertheless the certainty of it pained him. To shut up all: 1. We see how prophets and ministers should be affected in themselves by the threatenings and denunciations of judgment. 2. We learn how all should be affected by Divine warnings. If so dreadful in apprehension, what will it be in the infliction? 3. Let us endeavour to meet God by speedy and unfeigned repentance (Amos 4:12).—Abstract of Sermon by Rev. Thomas Horton, D.D. Dated A.D. 1679.
ADDENDA TO CHAPTER 4 ILLUSTRATIONS AND SUGGESTIVE EXTRACTS
Jeremiah 4:1. Sin banished, or no heaven. “The first physic to recover our souls is not cordials, but corrosives; not an immediate stepping into heaven by a present assurance, but mourning, lamentation, and a bitter bewailing of our former transgressions. With Mary Magdalene, we must wash Christ’s feet with our tears of sorrow before we may anoint His head with the ‘oil of gladness.’ ”—Browning.
A poor man told Rowland Hill that the way to heaven comprised three steps: “Out of self, unto Christ, into heaven.”
When Ben’s master died, they told him he had gone to heaven. Ben shook his head. “I ’fraid massa no gone there.” “But why, Ben?” “’Cos when massa go North, or go journey to the Springs, he talk about it long time, and get ready. I never hear him talk about going to heaven, never see him get ready to go there.”
“I know the way to heaven,” said a little girl to her brother. “Do tell me,” the boy answered. “Well, just commence going up, and keep on going up all the time, and you’ll get there. But, Johnny, you must not turn back.”
The banished recalled:—
“Driven from their home, their pathway lost,
’Mid clouds that came upon the world’s fair morn,
By gloom and shadows cross’d,
Wandered a race forlorn.
“There sat One o’er heaven’s highest hall,
Who, in strange charity, to exile went
These exiles to recall
To that, His heavenly tent.
“He gave Himself, their staff and stay,
To feeble knees, strength to the sinking soul;
He was Himself the Way,
He was Himself the Goal.”
—FROM THE LATIN.
Jeremiah 4:2. “Thou shalt swear,” &c. “Every time, whenever thou shalt find thyself to have let slip an oath, punish thyself for it by missing the next meal.”—Chrysostom.
“It is great sin to swear unto a sin,
But greater sin to keep a sinful oath.
Who can be bound by any solemn vow
To do a murderous deed, to rob a man,
To reave the orphan of his patrimony,
To wring the widow from her custom’d right;
And have no other reason for this wrong,
But that he was bound by solemn oath?”
—SHAKESPEARE, 2 Henry VI. Jeremiah 4:1.
Jeremiah 4:3. “Fallow ground.” Illustrates: 1. Culture of the Church (1 Corinthians 3:9). 2. Of the heart. The longer we leave the heart uncultivated the harder to break up. If we do the tilling, God will rain righteousness (Hosea 10:12). Break it up with thought, soften it with repentance, plant it with truth.—Topics for Teachers.
“Have you ever read the ‘Ancient Mariner?’ I dare say you thought it one of the strangest imaginations ever put together, especially that part where the old mariner represents the corpses of all the dead men rising up to man the ship,—dead men pulling the ropes, dead men steering, dead men spreading sails. But I have lived to see that time: have seen it done. I have gone into churches and have seen a dead man in the pulpit, a dead man as a deacon, a dead man holding the plate, and dead men sitting to hear.”—Spurgeon.
Jeremiah 4:4. Unquenchable fire. A finger of lightning will write on the sky, “For ever!” and the thunder-peal echo among the crags of death, “For ever!” O those fire-bells will never stop ringing, because the conflagration will never be done! (2 Thessalonians 1:9.) It is not I, but God says it.
Sir Francis Newport, in his last moments, caught a glimpse of the eternal world; he looked into it before he entered it. The last words he uttered were, “Oh, the insufferable pangs of hell!” The lost soul will cry, “I cannot stand this; is there no way out?” And the echo will answer, “No way out for ever!”—De Witt Talmage.
Jeremiah 4:6. Zion a refuge. “I wish they were within the enclosure where the boar out of the wood could not waste them nor the wild beast of the field devour them.”—H. Ward Beecher.
Jeremiah 4:7. “The lion. Nebuchadnezzar, king of Babylon, whose monarchy is represented by a lion (Daniel 7:4). He is called “the destroyer of the Gentiles,” or rather “nations;” Judea and all the neighbouring countries being given up into his hands by God’s decree (Jeremiah 25:9; Jeremiah 27:6).—W. Lowth.
Jeremiah 4:11. Blast of the Almighty. Thevenot mentions the death of 20,000 men who perished in one night by one of those burning winds. Sir J. Chardin describes this wind as making a great hissing noise; that it appears red and fiery, and kills those it strikes by stifling them. Maillet mentions its being felt in the desert between Egypt and Mecca, in part of which Israel wandered forty years.
A party of travellers in the desert were overtaken by the fierce simoom. Like blinding snow driven by the winds of March came the hot sand. Before the simoom had reached its height, they came suddenly upon a rude building of stone, well protected with roof and doors, which the hand of charity had erected there for shelter. With joy they rushed into it, closed the doors, and were safe. (Comp. Isaiah 26:20-21.)
Jeremiah 4:14. “Vain thoughts.” “If the flow of a day’s mind-and-heart experiences were written, it would be a volume, and one’s life a Bodleian Library; but the ‘book of remembrance’ is yonder, and the life is daguerreotyped on the sensitive pages of the future.”—Beecher.
“In hotter climates, the locusts swarm so thickly in the air as sometimes to hide from the traveller the light of the sun, and cast a cold, dark shadow on his pathway. So it is in the world of mind: swarms of vain thoughts are ever floating over some minds, intercepting the beams of truth from falling on the heart, and thus keeping that heart barren of all virtue and goodness.”—Rev. R. Roberts.
“’Tis not in things o’er thought to domineer:
Guard well thy thought; our thoughts are heard in heaven.”
Jeremiah 4:15. Dan. “In consequence of a large portion of the canton of Dan continuing in the possession of the Philistines, it was found too small for its population, and 600 Danites, with their families, emigrated to the northern extremity of Palestine, attacked Laish, a Zidonian city near Lebanon, took possession of it, and changed its name to Dan. This place is notorious in sacred history as the spot where Jeroboam established his golden calves (1 Kings 12:29), and as the place which Nebuchadnezzar first seized on his invasion of Canaan.”—Paxton’s “Sacred Geography.”
Jeremiah 4:18. “Bitter at heart.” On the walls of one of the Egyptian temples is said to be the inscription, “The impious shall commit iniquity without recompense, but not without remorse.”
“Through many a clime ’tis mine to go,
With many a retrospection curst;
And all my solace is to know,
Whate’er betides, I’ve known the worst.
What is that worst? Nay! do not ask;
In pity from the search forbear.
Smile on: nor venture to unmask
Man’s heart, and view the hell’s that there.”
“ ’Tis very true, my grief lies all within;
And these external manners of lament
Are merely shadows of the unseen grief
That swells with silence in the tortured soul:
There lies the substance.”
Jeremiah 4:19. Prophet’s distress. “God’s ministers must have their hearts fired, not with passion, but with love. The thunderbolt may crash, but the sun melts. It is better to love as a pastor than speak as an angel.”—Watson, A.D. 1649.
Jeremiah 4:26. “Broken down at the presence of the Lord.” “Oh, that you might all be stirred by a dread of the Almighty! I announce to you the judgment to come; it shall break upon the earth, that day of wonder and of terror, when from the sea, and the mountain, and the desert shall swarm the buried families of the human kind, and the dead shall stand before their God: no shelter for the proud, no mask for the hypocrite, no standing-place for the presumptuous.”—Melvill.
Jeremiah 4:30. Finery: Flattery.
“Ah! when the means are gone that buy this praise,
The breath is gone whereof this praise is made.
Feast-won, fast-lost; one cloud of winter showers,
These flies are couch’d.”—SHAKESPEARE.
“All that glitters is not gold;
Gilded tombs do worms unfold.”—Idem.
Jeremiah 4:31. Woe-stricken. “The world affords not a sadder sight than a poor Christless soul shivering upon the brink of eternity. To see the poor soul that now begins to wake out of its long dream, at its entrance into the world of realities, shrinking back into the body and crying, O I cannot, I dare not die!”—Flavel.
“Come home, wandering, tired, grieved soul! Love where thy love shall not be lost. Love Him that will not reject thee, nor deceive thee, nor requite thee with injuries as the world doth. God will receive thee when the world doth cast thee off, if thou cast off the world for Him!”—Baxter.
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Exell, Joseph S. "Commentary on Jeremiah 4". Preacher's Complete Homiletical Commentary. https://studylight.org/
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