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This and the three next chapters form a kind of book in themselves, which contrasts admirably with Jermiah 27-29. In the latter Jeremiah aimed at casting down the delusive hope that the time of trial would soon be over and the captives restored; here he assumes that all are aware of the sad reality, and concentrates himself on the happier topics of comfort and encouragement. Jeremiah 30:1-24; Jeremiah 31:1-40. shine out among all Jeremiah's prophecies; there is a combination of softness and vigour which, even from a purely literary point of view, is most attractive. Strictly speaking, they ought to form but one chapter; they represent (as verse 4 states) the revelation from Jehovah "concerning Israel and concerning Judah." It is, indeed, most touching, this yearning of the inspired prophet for the reunion of the two branches of the nation (comp. Jeremiah 3:1-2). A "union in spirit" was not enough for him; there must be a visible drawing together, to prove to all men that, as God is one, so his people is one. God's love is imperishable, and, his election of Israel cannot be reversed. The very extent of Israel's misery is a pledge that her God will not leave her to herself too long. And how is the restoration of Israel to be conceived? Surely nothing less than a new covenant will satisfy the conditions of the problem—a new covenant written in the heart. Something akin to this encouraging prophecy may be traced here and there in earlier chapters (see Jeremiah 3:14-19; Jeremiah 16:14, Jeremiah 16:15; Jeremiah 23:3-8; but here the prophet is entirely absorbed in that glorious future which could alone save him from utter despondency.
Write thee all the words … in a book. The form of expression leaves it doubtful whether a summary of all Jeremiah's previous discourses is intended, or merely of the promises concerning Israel and Judah which he had just received. There are, no doubt, numerous allusions to preceding chapters, but verse 5 seems rather to favour the latter view. The word rendered "book" will equally suit a short discourse like the present (comp. Jeremiah 51:60) and a large collection of prophecies as in Jeremiah 36:2. Observe, the discourse was to be written down at once, without having been delivered orally; it was to be laid up as a pledge that God would interpose for his people (comp. Isaiah 30:8; Habakkuk 2:2, Habakkuk 2:3).
The great judgment of Israel's deliverance. It is nothing less than the "day of Jehovah" which the prophet sees in spirit—a day which is "great" (Jeremiah 30:7; comp. Joel 2:11; Zephaniah 1:14) and terrible (Jeremiah 30:5, Jeremiah 30:6; comp. Amos 5:18, Amos 5:20; Isaiah 13:6; Joel 2:1, Joel 2:11) for Israel, a day of "trouble" (Jeremiah 30:7), but for his enemies of destruction.
A voice of trembling; rather, a sound of trembling, a sound causing men to tremble; doubtless it is "the sound of the trumpet, the alarm of war" (Jeremiah 4:19). Of fear, and not of peace; rather, there is fear, and no peace. "Peace," as usual, means the harmony of a well ordered, secure, and peaceful community. Literally, it is wholeness; its opposite is "breaking," i.e. outward ruin and inward anguish.
Whether a man doth travail with child. Great, indeed, must be the terror when no adequate figure suggests itself but that of a woman in her pangs (comp. Jeremiah 6:24; Jeremiah 13:21; Jeremiah 22:23; Isaiah 13:8). All faces are turned into paleness. So Joel (Joel 2:6) and Nahum (Nahum 2:10), "All faces withdraw their colour." For "paleness" the Septuagint has "jaundice"—a possible meaning of the Hebrew; comp. χλωρὸς, "pale, bilious looking'' in medical writings, but properly "greenish-yellow," like the Hebrew noun.
That day; i.e. "the day of Jehovah," the day of the great judgment upon the world, of which the fall of Babylon is regarded as the opening scene. It is even the time of Jacob's trouble; rather, and a time of distress shall it be (even) to Jacob.
His yoke. Not that imposed by the enemy (as Isaiah 10:22 and Isaiah 14:25 might suggest), but that suffered by Jacob. This is clear from the last clause of the verse.
David their king; viz. the "righteous Branch" or "Plant" of Jeremiah 23:5.
Jeremiah 30:10, Jeremiah 30:11
Therefore fear thou not, O my servant Jacob, etc. These two verses, omitted in the Septuagint, are among the passages which Hitzig (carrying out an idea of Movers) attributes to the editorial hand of the author (a pious Jew of the Captivity, according to him) of Isaiah 40-66; and it cannot be denied that the tone and phraseolegy of Isaiah 66:10 is more akin to that of Isa 40:1-31 :66, than to those of the greater part of Jeremiah. Graf, in controverting Hitzig's view, points out, however, that the expressions referred to by Hitzig as "Deutero-Isaianic," are also found in other books besides the latter part of Isaiah, and that, on the other hand, "the expressions of verse 11 are all as foreign to Isaiah 40-66, as they are current in Jeremiah." As for the expression, "my servant Jacob." (which. only occurs again in Jeremiah in the duplicate of this passage, Jeremiah 46:27, Jeremiah 46:28, and which is specially characteristic of the second part of Isaiah), it is worth noticing that it is found once in the Book of Ezekiel (Ezekiel 37:25), which, on Hitzig's theory, was written before the so called Second Isaiah. It still remains for the student to consider whether these two verses are not an insertion by some later hand (without attempting to discover whose that hand was). That the prophetic writings have received additions from editors and scribes is a fact which cannot reasonably be gainsaid, supported as it is by the phenomena of the historical books. It would be very natural for a pious Jew in the Captivity, not wholly devoid himself of the spirit of prophecy, to encourage his people, in the Name of the Lord, with this glowing word of promise.
In measure; rather, according to what is just; i.e. not capriciously, to satisfy a feeling of revenge such as the untaught mind is apt to ascribe to God (see on Jeremiah 10:24). And will not, etc.; rather, for I cannot.
Miserable indeed is the condition of Israel! No wonder; for its sins were great. And yet, just because it is so forlorn, Jehovah will interpose for its relief.
For thus saith, etc. If the two preceding verses are a later insertion, we must render, But surely (more strictly, surely, but particles of asseveration easily acquire an adversative force from the context). Bright, indeed, is the prospect for Judah, "but surely" his present condition is very much the reverse; comp. Isaiah 9:1 (Authorized Version," nevertheless"). Thy bruise is incurable, etc. One of Jeremiah's characteristic repetitions (see Jeremiah 10:19; Jeremiah 14:17; Jeremiah 15:18). That thou mayest be bound up. This rendering follows the accents. But the mixture of figures is very incongruous. It is much better to connect the words a little differently and to render, for thy sore thou hast no medicines (nor any) plaster.
All thy lovers; i.e. the peoples confederate with thee (as Jeremiah 22:20).
Therefore; i.e. because of the extremity of thy need. Comp. Isaiah 10:23, Isaiah 10:24, "The Lord Jehovah Sabaoth shall make a consumption Therefore be not afraid of Assyria;" and Isaiah 30:17, Isaiah 30:18, "At the rebuke of five shall ye flee …. And therefore will Jehovah wait, that he may be gracious unto you."
Restore health; rather, apply a bandage. They called thee an Outcast. Jehovah, speaking after the manner of men. cannot bear to hear his enemies, as they pass along, scornfully denominating the holy city an Outcast.
A picture of the regenerate commonwealth of Israel.
Upon her own heap; rather, upon her own mound, the tell or eminence on which an Eastern town was built (comp. Joshua 11:13, where "in their strength" should rather be "on their own mound"). Shall remain; rather, shall be inhabited.
(Comp. this verse with Jeremiah 33:11.) Out of them; i.e. out of city and palace. They shall not be few; rather, not be diminished. They shall not be small; rather, not be lightly regarded.
Their children; rather, his children; i.e. the "children of Israel."
The future rulers of Israel shall be of the native stock, not foreign tyrants. Their nobles; rather, his noble one, a synonym for "his ruler," i.e. the (earthly) king of Israel. It is remarkable that no reference is made here to the Messiah, who, in fact, is not as conspicuous a figure in the prophecies of Jeremiah as in those of Isaiah. And yet even in Isaiah there is one striking prophecy in which the inspired seer uses language not (in the hands of a literalist) reconcilable with the prospect of the personal Messiah. The Messiah appears, as it were, in a lightning flash, and then disappears for a time. The prophecy of Isaiah referred to is Isaiah 32:1, Isaiah 32:2 (comp. Jeremiah 33:17), in which the prospect of a truly God-fearing king, with princes of the same high character, entirely occupies the mind of the writer. "Nothing indicates that the Messiah is intended; king and princes are placed quite on a level, in accordance with the actual state of things under the so called monarchy.'' And I will cause him to draw near. It is doubtful whether Israel or Israel's ruler is referred to. A priestly relation (such as "drawing near" implies, see Numbers 16:5) might be predicated of either, at any rate in the regenerate form of the Israelitish commonwealth; but it is more natural to suppose the ruler to be here indicated, for it is scarcely descriptive enough to say that he shall belong to the chosen people. Who is this that engaged his heart; rather, that pledgeth his heart (or, courage); i.e. that ventureth. The rejection of thee old line of Davidic kings might well raise the thought that the intimate relation between Jehovah and his earthly representative for Israel, promised of old to David (2 Samuel 7:1-29.), could no longer be hoped for. But with this renewed promise the kings of the new Davidic line may venture to "draw near;" otherwise—who is he that ventureth?
This verse is omitted in the Septuagint, and (unless the existence of later insertions is denied altogether) is all but certainly due to a later hand (comp. Jeremiah 7:23). Comp. on Jeremiah 30:10,Jeremiah 30:11.
Jeremiah 30:23, Jeremiah 30:24
These verses occur in a form evidently more original in Jeremiah 23:19, Jeremiah 23:20. In all probability they were first inserted from memory in the margin, and then incorporated into the text at a time subsequent (how long subsequent we cannot say) to Jeremiah.
Scripture-the written Word of God.
Jeremiah was required to write his prophecy in a book. Israel had received the Law first by a voice of thunder, but the voice was followed by the writing on the tables of stone (Exodus 34:1). St. John was commanded to write his vision in a book (Revelation 1:11). Without definite commands of this character, prophets and apostles, historians and evangelists, have committed to writing what they knew and taught. Thus we have a written revelation, a Bible. We may see the great value of this without becoming guilty of bibliolatry, or lowering our spiritual conceptions to slavish subservience to the "letter that killeth."
I. CONSIDER THE VALUE OF SCRIPTURE, AS CONTAINING THE WORD OF GOD IN WRITING.
1. Accuracy. Words may be spoken in haste, under excitement; a book is presumably considered and reconsidered, its words weighed and measured. "Writing makes an exact man" (Bacon).
2. Permanence. The spoken word may soon be forgotten, or it may be recollected imperfectly with unconscious embellishments and deficiencies. The written word can be studied carefully and at leisure.
3. Publicity. The spoken word is heard only by one audience, present in one place, at one time. The written word is capable of being spread over a wider area. If but one copy is written, this can be sent about and frequently reread to various hearers, like the circular letters of the New Testament. But the book can be copied, and thus the area of its influence enlarged. Since the invention of printing, and with the facilities for multiplying and cheapening the production of books, this extensive influence of literature beyond that of speech has been immensely increased.
4. Transmission to the future. The spoken word dies with the breath that utters it; the written word can be treasured for ages, and transmitted to distant generations. The orator is peculiarly a man of his own age; the literary genius belongs to all time. If the Divine Word had been handed down only by tradition we know how terribly it must have been corrupted. We in these later days can enjoy its fresh power because it is crystallized in literature, because prophecy has become Scripture.
II. CONSIDER THE WAY IN WHICH WE SHOULD DEAL WITH SCRIPTURE THAT CONTAINS THE WORD OF GOD. Several duties and wise courses of action are suggested by the fact that the Word of God is written in a book, viz.:
1. Care to preserve the purity of the text. Correct readings and accurate renderings of this are of first importance, since they guard the thoughts of God from perversion.
2. Reverence for the authority of Scripture. If we believe that it embodies the words and ideas of God, we shall feel that, even when it teaches spiritual principles which we cannot as yet see well established, it has a claim to be listened to with the reverence of the ignorant pupil for his wiser master. As far as it brings before us God's thoughts, it must be read and examined and estimated by quite a different standard from that by which we decide questions of purely human literature.
3. Diligence in searching the Scriptures. The Bible is to be used. It is not to be treated as many men treat the classics, "without which no gentleman's library can be complete," but as a text book, a book of daily reference. It must also be inquired into. There are mines of spiritual wealth to dig, things new as well as things old that a well furnished scribe can bring out of it. There is in it "milk for babes, and meat for strong men," and the latter needs to be "read, marked, learned, and inwardly digested," if we would profit by it.
4. Care to extract the spiritual thought from the visible letter. The letter is human, the form of speech is human. It is the spiritual idea that is Divine, and this is the most important thing to us. This is the real and eternal truth, the Word of life and power. We need an inspiration ourselves to help us to peel off the husk of speech, and find the precious kernel of Divine thought beneath.
Jeremiah 30:10, Jeremiah 30:11
I. WHY ISRAEL MIGHT FEAR. For various reasons, viz.:
1. Present trouble. Already some had been led into exile. What was thus experienced seemed to presage future and worse distress. Grief tends to despondency. In disappointment we are ready to think that all things must grow worse and worse.
2. The anticipation of necessary punishment. This is confirmed in the prophetic message—'' for I cannot leave thee altogether unpunished." Guilt is the parent of fear. "Conscience makes cowards of us all."
3. Incurable wretchedness. (Jeremiah 30:12.) Left to themselves, the people were in a hopeless condition.
(1) They could not cure their moral disease; Josiah's abortive reformation was a proof of this.
(2) They could not cure their external distress; it was vain to attempt to break the yoke of great Babylon.
4. Solitude. "All thy lovers have forgotten thee" (Jeremiah 30:14). In the hour of trial boon companions fall away and leave their wretched comrade forlorn and helpless. The soul must face its darkest trouble alone. While society dispels fear, the silence and desertion of loneliness provoke it. It is not surprising, therefore, that with so many concurrent incentives to fear Israel should be overwhelmed with it, nor is it surprising that similar causes should produce a similar effect among us. Yet it is not the less deplorable. Fear is an evil. It is distressing beyond measure. The vague and threatening spectres of horror that haunt the imagination of the soul when it is a slave to fear may be far more painful than the real evils of which they are the magnified shadows.. But fear is injurious as well as painful. It paralyzes effort, dissuades from dangerous tasks of duty, drives to rash and foolish resorts for escape. It is important to see if so sad and injurious a condition can be avoided.
II. WHY ISRAEL SHOULD NOT FEAR. For various reasons, viz.:
1. The security of God's service. Israel was God's servant. It is reasonable to suppose that God will protect and save those whom he honours with his name and calls to his work.
2. The promise of ultimate deliverance. "Lo, I will save thee from afar," etc. Fear may threaten now, but rest and quietude will come in the future. Fear must be overcome by hope, the darkness of the near future triumphed over by the exceeding brightness of the greater future. We shall not fear what the world can do against us when we live in the hope of what eternity will do for us. Looking at ourselves, we see our wounds incurable, and we despair; looking at the good Physician, we see the promise of health, and we hope.
3. The assurance of the presence of God. "For I am with thee." Thus Abraham was not to fear because God was his "Shield, and exceeding great Reward' (Genesis 15:1); and David could say, "Though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for thou art with me; thy rod and thy staff they comfort me" (Psalms 23:4). When hope fails faith may yet be strong. Better than the vision of the future haven far over the waves are the strong hand and sure eye of the pilot with us in the storm. When the hope of heaven fails faith in God may still sustain us.
4. A knowledge of the limitation and good purpose of suffering. This is
(1) given to correct, either as chastisement for sin, or as pruning to make the fruit bearing branch more fruitful; and
(2) given only in just measure, not beyond desert, requirement, or endurance. If we have these reasonable thoughts about our troubles they will not be able to conjure up the terrors of illimitable distress which they naturally inspire when we do not see that they are controlled by purposes of Divine goodness.
I. GOD IS THE GREAT HEALER OF HIS PEOPLE.
1. God is not satisfied to leave his people unhelped in sin and wretchedness. We may grow accustomed to the evil of the world till we pass it unheeded. But it is not so with the Father of us all. He cannot endure the perpetual continuance of the wretchedness we accept (for others) with so little concern.
2. God designs to restore his people. It would seem easier to destroy the old weary world and create a new world, than to redeem and restore that which is so abandoned. But it is the glory of the gospel that it seeks and saves the lost.
3. The restoration of God's people can only be effected through the healing of them. Israel cannot be restored to the Holy Land until the people are healed of their unholiness, and restored to God spiritually. Men are too ready to regard redemption externally as a change of state, a deliverance from distress and ruin, a gift of blessings, heaven, etc. It is all this, but not primarily. In the first and chief place redemption is healing, is not a change of circumstances, but a change in the soul itself. The richest possessions are of little use to the sick man. The sick body needs health, not wealth; and the sick soul needs healing before all external changes of condition.
4. It is a great thing to see the source of this healing in God. No soul can cure itself. No man can heal his fellow. The disease is naturally incurable (Jeremiah 30:12). It is healed only by God and through a miracle. The miracles of Christ are thus visible parables of his great work of redemption. The good Physician saves men's souls by working miracles of spiritual healing upon them.
II. THE GREATNESS OF HIS PEOPLE'S DISTRESS INCLINES GOD TO HEAL THEM. Because Israel is called "an Outcast," God interferes to save him. David prays that God will pardon his iniquity, "for it is great" (Psalms 25:11). We feel that our sin is so great that we dare not ask for forgiveness, our wretchedness so abject that it is useless to seek for deliverance. But we may reverse the argument. The greater the sin the more does it need forgiveness, the deeper the misery the more loudly does it call for help. As claims of merit we have nothing. But when we look for pleas for mercy we find that the very bitterness of distress creates them. As the Judge, God cannot be invoked to help the sinner; as the Healer, he is most ready to come in the deepest need. The reasons for this are apparent.
1. The love of God. Love is moved by need rather than by desert. If God loves his children he will be most ready to help in their sorest distress.
2. The honour of God. The people who were called by the Name of God were also called "outcasts." Here was a reproach on the great Name of their God. For his Name's sake God saves.
3. The special design of redemption. The physician finds his vocation in the healing art. Sickness is a call for the exercise of special functions. The worse the patient is, the more may he expect of the physician's care and attention. "They that are whole need not the physician." He is the helper of the sick. Therefore the very greatness of a man's sin and wretchedness, instead of discouraging his faith, should encourage him to seek Christ. They who are in such circumstances may know that they are the very persons Christ chiefly seeks to help.
Joys of redemption.
The joys of the restoration of Israel are suggestive of the joys of redemption which belong to those who have been healed of their sins and recovered to the favour of God. Let us consider some of the elements of these joys.
I. A RESTORATION TO LOST RIGHTS AND POSSESSIONS. The city is to be built again "upon her own mound." The people not only find the vines they grow in Chaldea fruitful; they are restored to their own land. The prodigal would not have been satisfied if his comrades had helped him to affluence and pleasure again; he must return to the old home. There is something imperfect in the return of prosperity to Job in the fact that though he has greater riches and as many sons and daughters as before his calamities, his dead children are not raised from the grave, and the loss of them cannot be really compensated by the gift of a new family. So is it with earthly losses. The greatest are irretrievable. But the glory of God's ultimate salvation is that it restores old lost blessings as well as gives new blessings, beth comforting memory and satisfying hope.
II. AN ENJOYMENT OF INWARD GLADNESS AND THANKSGIVING. The true life is the inner life. Outward sunshine may find this black as midnight, and leave it so. It is much, therefore, to know that redemption from sin brings real gladness. We might have thought that it would have been haunted with dark memories. But God's deliverance is so complete that it dispels the gloom of a guilty conscience. The Christian should, therefore, be a man of inward joys and thankfulness.
III. AN EXTENSION OF POWER AND GLORY. The exiles were scattered and their wealth and influence lost; the return at first promised little satisfaction to the poor and feeble band of patriots that attempted to rebuild the ruins of the ancient nation. But great promises encouraged the faithful to believe that ultimately their numbers would be multiplied, that they should have glory, and not "be lightly regarded," and should be ruled by men of their own people of noble and royal orders. The Christian Church began, like restored Israel, in a small and humble sphere. But she has grown marvellously, and is destined to grow in numbers, in power, and in glory. Redemption is a work worthy of God; no meagre saving of a few as "by the skin of their teeth," but a work of right royal magnificence, calling multitudes to its blessings, and giving them liberty and honour for their old shame and bondage. The Christian receives more than salvation; he is an heir of glory.
HOMILIES BY A.F. MUIR
Written in a book; or, words held over.
The portion of these prophecies here referred to (probably Jeremiah 30:1-24; Jeremiah 31:1-40.) contains the most tender expressions of the Divine love. It is full of revelations of the deep unalterable affection and gracious purpose of God for his people, even when they were as yet unrepentant. They are regarded in it as sorrowing for their sin, and returning spiritually to him who restored them to their land. Now, many of these statements it would have been inexpedient for the exiles to hear, whilst as yet they showed no sign of contrition. The prophet is therefore bidden to write them in a book, that they may be read at the fitting season. The words of Christ, "I have yet many things to say unto you, but ye cannot bear them now," are strikingly parallel. This command impresses us with—
I. THE FULNESS OF THE DIVINE WORD. It is not one communication but many, and under circumstances of the utmost conceivable variety. Not in one book but many—a library, representing every stage of human history and spiritual progress. No age or exigency of human nature has found God silent. How great is the multitude of his messages! How many words have been spoken and acted that have not been recorded (cf. John 21:25)! The written book is like a vessel let down into the great ocean of the unwritten words and deeds of the Eternal.
II. GOD'S CARE AND ADAPTATION WITH RESPECT TO IT. This prophecy was to be preserved in a book, that no portion of it should be allowed to perish until its fitting time should arrive. The words it contained were all precious, and of pregnant significance in the future of the Church and the world. The adaptation of the prophecy is not less striking. It would not bear public announcement at the time of its communication to the prophet, and it might have imperilled his life; but it occurred then in the natural order of God's thought and purpose; by and by the people would be in a better mood and frame to consider it; therefore it was held over. It is written in a book that it may present a faithful transcript of the Divine thought. The progress of revelation has been slow; but that is not the fault of the Revealer, but the necessity imposed by the conditions of human progress. "In the fulness of the time God sent forth his Son" (Galatians 4:4; cf. 1 Peter 1:20).
III. THE REASONS THERE MAY BE FOR THE DARK DISPENSATIONS OF PROVIDENCE. Who in these stem times could tell the depth of the tenderness of God? It is necessary on such occasions to appeal to the fears of transgressors. The most awful calamities that befall the Church and the individual Christian are inflicted in love; but that love cannot express itself until the requirements of righteousness have been satisfied. The soul that is afflicted ought, therefore, to submit itself to the mighty hand of God, and wait patiently for light. The best wine is kept to the last; the gospel interprets all antecedent revelations.
IV. THE INFINITE RICHES OF REVELATION THAT AWAIT THE SPIRITUAL MATURITY OF THE SAINTS. There are educative, wayfaring truths; and there are truths at which we are to arrive in the end of our growth and pilgrimage. Truth is not only prospective but reflective; not only directive to the feet of the Christian, but revealing the mind and heart of God. How much is held over until these earthly days are ended (cf. 1 Corinthians 13:12)?—M.
The twofold wonder ,of Israel's salvation.
I. THE PUNISHMENT OF ITS ENEMIES.
1. Because of their strength. The enemies of Israel, especially Babylon, were very strong. But they contained within themselves the elements of their own destruction. It is a property of the world, in all its aspects, to appear strong and real and stable. This illusion must be dissipated in order to the free spiritual development of God's children; therefore Christ has said, "Be not afraid; I have overcome the world." How many and how great have been the foes of the Church, and the individual saint! yet has God reduced them to nothingness.
2. Because of the manner of their punishment. Evidently more than one nation is referred to here, and they are dealt with in sovereign authority. "The nations are but as a drop in a bucket."
(1) Their guilt towards Israel determines the measure of their requital. The Church is the centre and pivot of the world's destiny. In it and for its sake the world is judged (cf. Matthew 25:40, Matthew 25:45).
(2) The degrees of punishment will correspond to the guilt. Even in vast concerns and through long time God observes an exact and equitable rule of award.
II. ITS OWN RECOVERY. This was to be not only partial but complete, and was to be a terror to the onlooking nations.
1. Nothing could be more unlikely at the time this was spoken. This was a part of the wonder of God's saving power, and a vindication of his agency.
2. That which men despised and neglected God raised up. He thereby proved the freedom of his grace, and demonstrated the impossibility of salvation by works. The matchless condescension and infinite love of God were proved in this, that Zion deservedly rejected is nevertheless restored. The power was of God. Nothing is so abject as a spiritual organism without the Spirit of God; nothing is so glorious or sufficient when the Spirit of God is present.
3. The historic accomplishment of this was to be outdone by the spiritual. Evidently the reference is through the immediately impending event to the spiritual future of the Messiah. God's goodness has ever some higher possibility sheathed in its first expressions. The imperfect efforts of Nehemiah and his colleagues but shadow forth the achievements of the cross. The new Israel will be incomparably more holy, powerful, and blessed than the old. Daily are the miracles of his saving mercy being performed; "the chief of sinners," the fallen, the outcast, are being welcomed into the company of the redeemed and regenerate.—M.
The multitude of God's mercies.
A rapid and brilliant enumeration of the characteristics of national glory and human happiness and well being. Representative and suggestive, but not exhaustive.
I. SEVERALLY SPECIFIED. Set forth with great distinctness, as one might in a legal document; and yet a complete and comprehensive view of a nation's restoration.
1. Return of the people to their own land. (Jeremiah 30:18.) The representatives of those who had been exiled would be brought back. The shifty and uncertain character of their sojourning ("tents") in a strange land would be exchanged for a settled, civic life. As an outward symbol of this Jerusalem would be rebuilt upon its ruins. "He that made of the city a heap (Isaiah 25:1) can when he pleaseth make of a heap a city again" (Henry). The habits and customs, the public order and life of God's people, are important as being sacred even as their specially religious observances, and are therefore cared for. True religion is not merely to sojourn in the world, but to dwell there, and influence permanently the conditions and usages of human life. Nothing less than the reconstitution of human society is herein sought (cf. John 17:15).
2. Restoration of religious institutions. (Jeremiah 30:18-20.) Of these the chief, centre, and condition of all the rest—the temple, or "palace"—is first referred to. From its conspicuous and characteristic position amongst the public buildings of the city, it is mentioned in connection with its rebuilding. Because of its presence therein the latter is also sacred; and so it is said, "Out of them shall proceed," etc. The great festivals are to be restored. Worship, in its most imposing and joyous forms, will be celebrated; and this supposes for its possibility the presence in Israel of a religious, self-governing community. The spiritual training of the people will be resumed (Jeremiah 30:20). Much attention was always devoted by pious Jews to the upbringing of their children, who are here promised to be "as aforetime," i.e. as Jewish children were wont to be according to the covenant, strictly and piously brought up. In this a fresh security is afforded of the religions and social prosperity of God's people. The Church can never afford to ignore the upbringing of the children. As it is a positive injunction ("Feed my lambs"), so is it a gracious privilege and favour granted to his servants that they should discharge it. The sunniest and most hopeful department of religious effort is that which relates to the young. "How is it your flowers are so grandly developed?" was asked of a gardener. "Chiefly," he replied, "because I take care of my seedlings." The sacred community of Israel will also thereby be increased and established. New, trained members will be supplied for the spiritual offices, and the ordinary membership of the congregation. It is observable that the chief increase of the Church is thus implied to be from within itself. And so it must be today.
3. National prosperity. This appears in the first place as social well being. The family life will be greatly blessed, and the population multiplied. It is a result of moral order, etc; and also a means of securing and extending the influence of righteousness. In the next place is political freedom. Tyranny will be abolished (Jeremiah 30:20); and their ruler shall be one of themselves, representing their aims and aspirations, and not imposed upon them by a foreign conqueror. Lastly, political influence will extend abroad (Jeremiah 30:19).
4. Covenant relations will be renewed. (Jeremiah 30:22.) This is the culminating and all-comprehensive blessing. Whilst the preceding suppose this, they are really but as antecedents to its complete realization. God will then recognize his people, and regard them with complacency. Neither will be ashamed of the other.
II. MUTUALLY RELATED. How essential is it that human life, in its interests and activities, should be regarded as a whole, the secular with the religious, the duty with the right, the responsibility with the privilege! It is a distinct loss when one portion of it is taken apart from the others and concentrates attention upon itself. Here we have a grand ideal for the individual and the community: the life of man, to be complete and healthy in its development, must extend indefinitely outwards and upwards. The deepest reverence for truth, righteousness, and God is consistent with the truest liberty. The blessings and good things of life, to be truly enjoyed, must be received as sacramental; as the outcome and expression of communion between man and God.—M.
The ideal ruler.
The immediate reference is to Zerubbabel and the elders who returned from the Captivity; but there is a larger significance than any merely human personage could exhaust or satisfactorily correspond to. There can be no doubt as to the Messianic character of this promise. But it is precisely the vagueness of the reference, the primary uncertainty as to who it was to be in whom all the hope of Israel was to be realized, that constituted the moral force of the prediction. In Israel was the secular government to be identified with and crowned by the moral and spiritual; but to the very last was it kept in reserve as to whether or not the kingdom thus foretold was to be of this world. Jesus Christ had himself to declare the real essence and nature of his kingdom. He constituted the ideal Ruler of Israel—
I. IN HIS RELATION TO HIS SUBJECTS.
1. He was to be of the same kindred. A stronger guarantee of the Divine favour could not be given. No foreigner was to hold permanent sway over the Israel of God. In one of themselves the holy people would find a legitimate centre for loyal attachment and patriotic devotion. That from their own midst their Prince should spring was proof that their independence, liberty, and national individuality should be preserved. He would therefore represent its honour, and secure for himself the strongest personal attachment. The hopes of the race would be embodied in such a personage, who would vitally perpetuate its glory.
2. He was to be allied to them in their experience and sympathies. As their fellow countryman he will understand their aims and aspirations, By the vicissitudes of their fortune his sympathies will be drawn forth, and he will share the enthusiasm of their future. In Jesus Christ these conditions were fulfilled.
II. IN HIS MEDIATORIAL INFLUENCE. "To draw near" is used in a priestly or mediatorial sense. Israel as a people, or as represented in its ruler, was to have this privilege conferred upon it. A Divine as well as a human qualification is therefore requisite for the perfect governor; he must not only belong to the people but he must please God.
1. The grace of God will rest upon him and work within him. Of Zerubbabel in the first instance, but much more of Christ, is this statement true. He was "full of grace and truth," He is the great Temple builder and Restorer of the kingdom; and he is the Accepted of God: "Thou art my beloved Son; in thee I am well pleased" (Luke 3:22).
2. His own nature will respond to the Divine influence. He is to be one who "engages his heart to approach unto" God. Responsibility drives him to no rash or illegitimate expedients, but to a Divine trust and a desire to please his God. In all this there is evinced the utmost freedom (cf. Matthew 4:1; Matthew 16:22; Luke 12:50; John 12:27; Matthew 27:42).
3. The admiration and delight of God are to be called forth by him. "Who is this" etc.? is no inquiry for the sake of information, but an expression of complacency and satisfaction. This feeling finds frequent expression in the prophets, and is noticed in the Gospels. It is for the subjects of such a King to yield themselves to his rule, and identify themselves with his priestly intercession. It should be their great desire to be in him, "who of God is made unto us wisdom, and righteousness, and sanctification, and redemption" (1Co 2:1-16 :30).—M.
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Exell, Joseph S; Spence-Jones, Henry Donald Maurice. "Commentary on Jeremiah 30". The Pulpit Commentary. https://studylight.org/
the Week of Proper 14 / Ordinary 19