Notes on Jeremiah

1916 23 Very few Christians occupy themselves with prophecy in general, or with the prophetic books in particular. They look upon the "study of prophecy as speculative and unprofitable, but the apostle tells us that "every scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable" (2 Tim. 3:16). Prophetic study would, no doubt, prove to be unprofitable if entered on without seeing and keeping in view the grand object and purpose of God the glory of Christ. And this is not confined to prophecy, but runs through every part of the Bible. The glory of Christ in the church, in Israel, and in the world, is the object and end of all the divine way. All sorts of efforts and schemes are in vogue to bring about union and a better state of things in the professing church, but the true unity and glory of the church of God will not be seen until Christ is manifested then shall we be manifested with Him in glory, and the desire and purpose of His love will have been fulfilled (Eph. 5:25-27; Col. 3:4).

Many, indeed, are interested "in the recovery of the Holy Land, and the return of the Jews to their own inheritance, but the purpose of God with regard to His beloved Israel will not have been fulfilled until they have looked on Him whom they pierced, and have mourned for Him as for an only son (Zech. 12:9-14; Zech. 13:1-2).

Many, too, are looking for a lasting peace at the conclusion of the wicked and cruel war now raging but there can be no such peace for the world so long as the "Prince of peace" is absent — until He comes who is "King of kings and Lord of lords," "whose right it is" (Ezek. 21:27) to bear universal sway.

But we have no intention nor desire, in this paper, to occupy ourselves with prophecy, but with some of the moral principles which we find in the Book of Jeremiah. This Book of the prophet is very rich in and full of moral principles — principles which, while they apply primarily to Judah, are nevertheless full of instruction and blessing for us.

Jeremiah 1 to 24 is full of the pleadings, the gracious pleadings, of Jehovah with His rebellious, backsliding, guilty, but beloved people (cf. Jer. 2:9-35; Jer. 4:14; Jer. 7:1-4, 19-22). Jeremiah 14 and 15 go together and the teaching of these two chapters is specially important and instructive for ourselves today. The moral state and condition of Judah at the time of the prophecy were alike deplorable. All classes were involved in the guilt of having forgotten and forsaken Jehovah — kings and subjects high and low — rich and poor — pastors and people prophets and priests — all were alike fallen and guilty (see Jer. 5:1-5, 13, 30, 31; Jer. 6:13; Jer. 8:9; Jer. 10:21; Jer. 12:10; Jer. 22:10-30; Jer.  23:1, 9-11, 15, 21, 22; Jer. 26:8-11).

The time of the prophecy was in the reign of Josiah and his sons. There was a great revival in Judah's day; but, alas, like many another revival, there was much that was superficial and unreal (Jer. 3:10). Josiah himself was a pious man. He did that which was right in the sight of Jehovah, and walked in the ways of his father David. The house of Jehovah had fallen to decay, and in place of the worship of Jehovah idolatry was rampant throughout the land. But Josiah had the house of God repaired, and its services restored. In the process the neglected and forgotten book of the law was found, which was taken by Hilkiah and read to the king, who, on hearing it, rent his clothes and wept before the Lord, and set about to obey and act upon it (2 Kings 22, 23). Josiah thoroughly cleansed the house, and removed the vessels and every trace of idolatry, as well as the guilty idolaters themselves, and then restored the worship of Jehovah. They kept such a passover as had not been kept since the days of the judges, we are told. But his sons were wicked men, and walked not in his steps, but did that which was evil in the sight of the Lord.

Jeremiah 14. The first thing we notice here is blessing withheld. There was a "dearth"; the sources of life and refreshment were dried up "there were no reviving, refreshing, fructifying showers from heaven; all was desolate and barren. It is a sad case when God has to withhold blessing from His people. He loves His saints and delights to bless them. "Bring all the tithes into the store-house, that there may be meat in mine house, and prove me now herewith, saith Jehovah of hosts, if I will not open you the windows of heaven, and pour you out a blessing, that there shall not be room enough to receive it "(Malachi 3:10) — such is His desire to bless. But here, how different (Jer. 14:1-6)! Is there not a cause? What says Jer. 14:7? "Our iniquities testify, against us … our backslidings are many; we have sinned against thee."

Have not we in our day had to mourn the lack of spiritual power and blessing? Do we enquire Is there not a cause? Have not we failed and sinned? In old times, men of faith, men of God who felt deeply the condition of God's guilty people, and bore it on their hearts before Him, were wont to say, "our iniquities," "we have sinned." Now it is rather "they have sinned; they have gone wrong." Verses 8 and 9 are very beautiful as showing that where there is simple faith and self judgment, the soul may ever cling to and look to the Lord. "O the hope of Israel, the saviour thereof in the time of trouble, why shouldest thou be as a stranger in the land, and as a wayfaring man that turneth aside to tarry for a night? Why shouldest thou be as a man astonied, as a mighty man that cannot save? Yet thou, O Jehovah, art in the midst of us, and we are called by thy name; leave us not."

But the Lord must vindicate His name; evil must be judged (Jer. 14:10-16). We know how much evil has been brought about, not only by false prophets, or false brethren, but by the true servants of the Lord. "And there was a strife between the herdmen of Abram's cattle and the herdmen of Lot's cattle" (Gen. 13:7) with what result we all know. How often strife, conflict and division have been brought about through the disagreement of leaders "

Again, we have in the verses that follow (Jer. 14:17-21), the cry of faith, and love, and see the tears of a broken heart.

How many, when trouble and weakness have come in, have turned aside from the path of faith, into unscriptural associations, or even gone back into the world, thinking to find an easier path and blessing! But are there any among the vanities of the Gentiles that can cause rain? or can the heavens give showers? Surely not. "Art not thou he, O Jehovah our God? therefore we will wait upon thee: for thou hast made all these things." Oh, the folly and the loss of departing from the Lord! (Jer. 2:13; Heb. 3:12-13).

Jeremiah 15 pursues the subject of the government of God and the judgment of evil, but declares the way is open for any to forsake their evil ways and return to Himself. At the same time Jeremiah is presented as a striking type of the godly remnant and the position and moral features of such. These are striking and important principles and full of instruction for us.

The government of God is as real as the grace of God. In the exercise of government "He can by no means clear the guilty," nor recognise or accept that which has failed. But grace may find a way of escape and bring in salvation — praise His name! How deep the fall, how grievous the sin, when He has to say: "Though Moses and Samuel stood before me, yet my mind could not be toward this people: cast them out of my sight, let them go forth." There have always been faithful and devoted men, who have felt deeply the condition of God's people in a day of ruin, and who have borne them on their heart in prayer and intercession, before God; but none are more conspicuous than these. But such was the guilt and perversity of Judah at this time that He says to Jeremiah: "Pray not for this people for their good" (Jer. 16:11), and here He declares He could not hear on their behalf even Moses or Samuel (Jer. 15:1-9). How solemn is this!

But does the maintenance of government in the judgment of evil alter or diminish the love of God for His own? In no wise. It is the God of love — the Spirit of Christ working in the heart of the prophet that leads him to enter so fully into the truth and to exhibit (ver. 5) those feelings which we see in perfection in the Lord Jesus Himself. "And when He was come near, He beheld the city and wept over it, saying, If thou hadst known, even thou, at least in this thy day, the things which belong to thy peace! but now they are hid from thine eyes" (Luke 19:41-42).

The following verses develop the position and moral features of the remnant. Jeremiah there represents and exhibits the moral features of that remnant. There has always been a remnant, those who, in the darkest days of sin and ruin on the part of God's people have "feared the LORD and thought upon His name." God has never "left himself without a witness." The first thing we find in this connection is what has been always true, conflict and persecution (verse 10). From Cain and Abel downwards they that are after the flesh have persecuted those that are after the Spirit. Is any persecution so fierce, persistent and cruel, as religious persecution? But thee Lord accepts this remnant and they are separated unto Him, and assured of His protection and blessing. Grace and strength are vouchsafed that they may be able to disarm and resist the evil. God is on the side of those who honour and serve Him and He counts them His special treasure (Mal. 3:16-18). There is at the same time identification, not with the evil, not in fellowship and walk with the sinning, but with those who feel rightly before God, who feel the effects of failure and ruin, in weakness and trial if not in persecution, and, perhaps, death. But they know their refuge and resource "O LORD, thou knowest "(verse 15) "

There is more than one kind of separation. There is the Pharisaical kind which says, "Stand by thyself, come not near to me; for I am holier than thou (Isaiah 65:5). There are those who separate themselves, natural men, having not the Spirit (Jude 19). The word of God is the source of true separation to God (verse 16). When the word of God is found and fed upon, it produces not only separation with the outward consequences, but the heart is imbued with the Spirit of Christ who felt deeply in His Spirit the sad condition of a fallen people before God, as Jeremiah here, in his measure. The principles of the closing verses (19-21) are very definite and instructive.
1. However far the professing people may wander from God and His word, the way is always open for return to Himself. How encouraging!
2. To find restoration, and ability to stand before Him.
3. In spiritual intelligence and discrimination (Heb. 5:14). If we consider the church in its first estate and think of it now, how sad is the contrast! how universal the ruin! what errors and superstitions abound! But there are saints precious to God, and good as well as evil everywhere, and we should know how to separate the precious from the vile.
4. One cannot help fearing that this and other portions have been used in a party spirit and for party ends. But if we are quite sure of our ground, if we are not actuated by a party spirit, if we have the word for our warrant and guide, and the glory of God as our obj ect, we are not at liberty to return to what we have left as evil and contrary to His word, but welcome any who desire to cease to do evil, and discern all that is good everywhere.
5. "And I will make thee unto this people a brasen wall." Here we have divine security and strength to judge and resist the evil and the enemy.
6. God is everywhere and sovereign in wisdom, love and power, and can bless His own wherever they may be found. But there is a special promise of manifestation and blessing to those who walk in faith and obedience (John 14:21-23), and His presence vouchsafed to such as are gathered to His Name.
7. To save and bring in final deliverance from sin and sorrow and all the power of the enemy; for the church when He comes (1 Thess. 4:15-18), for the Jewish remnant when He appears.

When the armies of Nebuchadnezzar conquered Jerusalem and carried Judah captive to Babylon, Nebuchadnezzar's captain of the guard left a remnant of the poor in the land, and chapters 39. — 44. tell us what happened to that remnant.

We are apt to make mistakes in applying scriptures, but in meditating on these chapters one cannot help thinking of the history of our own time.

In Jeremiah 39 the enemy comes in like a flood, the rebels flee, but are overtaken by death, bondage and blindness (Jer. 39:1-9) awful picture of the result of disobedience (Jer. 18:14-23) I Special favour is shown to Jeremiah; God knows how to deliver His faithful servants in the worst of times (Jer. 39:11-14). Jeremiah is given perfect liberty to go where he pleases (Jer. 40:1-5) "but, gracious and faithful man that he was, he chooses to remain with the poor few who were in the right place (Jer. 40:6). For, notwithstanding all that had happened, this feeble remnant were in their right place in Jehovah's land. Many were attracted and sought, and joined themselves to the remnant and got much blessing (Jer. 40:7-12).

But alas, how soon evil developed in this remnant! If they had "feared the Lord and thought upon His name"; if they had submitted to the rule of Nebuchadnezzar, who was the rod in Jehovah's hand for the punishment of Judah for her sins; if they had remembered that they were part of the guilty nation and that all were involved in the common ruin all might have been well. The promise to Jeremiah in Jeremiah 15:11-14 applied to them and they were assured of divine protection and blessing again and again (Jer. 39:10; Jer. 42:7-12). But false ones got among them. In Jer. 41 the flesh is rampant; conflict and confusion reign supreme; many fall; some are brought into bondage to the power of evil; others, actuated by the fear of man, seek refuge in Egypt, that world from which they had been delivered by the sovereign favour and mighty power of God. "In the fear of the Lord is strong confidence, but the fear of man bringeth a snare."

How possible it is to be in a right position without answering to that position, to be in the way of separation without being really separate to God!

Jeremiah 42, 43. How futile are all the gracious promises, the loving appeals and the solemn warnings against a wrong course when self-will

is at work! There was a professed desire to know the mind of the Lord, but no real faith in God, no respect for His word. When His mind was made known to them they flatly refused to obey, and were determined to go into Egypt (Jer. 43:1-17), but judgment overtook them there.

Jeremiah 44. Bent on going into Egypt (the world), into Egypt they went, and it is there in this chapter we find them. Those who choose the world will be involved in its judgment (Jer. 43:9-13).

If all this shows what man is in self-will and rebellion, it shows also what God is in patient grace and goodness (Jer. 44:4; 2 Peter 3:9). Grace follows them even into Egypt, and still pleads with them; but nothing humbles them or brings them to repentance (Jer. 44:5-10). But there is a limit to patience, and judgment follows from which there is no escape (Jer. 44:11-14). If people think that by going into the world they will escape trouble, they make a great mistake. We get tired of strife and divisions and weakness, but going into the world does not mend matters. We see here the sad effect of going into the world; it left them without heart or conscience. It would be hard to find a bolder, more impudent and wicked defiance of God and His word. They, moreover, impudently assert that it is better and more profitable to serve idols than to serve the Lord! (Jer. 44:  15-19). But all such will find out to their cost, that the Lord does not forget and will be as good as His word in judgment as in blessing (Jer. 44:20-27). But here there is a remnant, though here as elsewhere, when the remnant fails it does not relieve from individual faithfulness. All who were carried away by the leaders do not form part of the class who dwelt in the land of Egypt; six or seven times these are addressed as dwellers in Egypt; for such there is no escape (Jer. 44:14). But there were faithful ones some specially named; Ebed-melech (Jer. 39:15-18) what did he do? He helped to rescue the testimony from the mire (Jer. 38:7-12); another, Baruch (Jer. 45); what did he do? He helped to preserve the testimony of God (Jer. 36:4, 32). If a cup of cold water given to a disciple in faith and love, cannot lose its reward, how could these faithful ones be forgotten, who, in a dark and evil day, had, in helping the servant of the Lord, been the means of rescuing and preserving the word and testimony of Jehovah?

But alas, for those who make their home and seek their portion in a world which is under judgment, forgetting God, and who fall with the world and its prince (Jer. 44:29-30)! C.J.D.