AN ACCOUNT OF THE CALL AND CONSECRATION OF JEREMIAH TO THE PROPHETIC OFFICE, FOLLOWED BY TWO EXPRESSIVE SYMBOLS OF THE MATTERS WHICH HE HAS TO ANNOUNCE.
There are some indications that the original form of the heading has been somewhat modified. Notice
The words of Jeremiah. This introductory formula only occurs here and in Amos 1:1. The editor of Jeremiah and of Amos deserts the usual phrase ("burden" or , "utterance," "vision," "the word of the LORD which came," etc.) in order to give fuller information concerning the origin of the prophetic writers (but see on verse 2). On the name Jeremiah, and on the position occupied by Hilkiah, see Introduction. That were in Anathoth. So Vulgate; Septuagint, however (followed by Payne Smith), makes the relative refer to Jeremiah ( ὅς κατῴκει). But in this case would not the phrase have been "Jeremiah the priest," etc. (comp. Ezekiel 1:1)? Anathoth was one of the priestly cities (Joshua 21:18); it lay on or near the great northern road (Isaiah 10:30), and has been identified by Dr. Robinson (so also by Lieutenant Conder) with 'Anata, situated on a ridge, an hour and a quarter north-northeast from Jerusalem.
Unto the end of the eleventh year, etc. The limit is accurate with regard to Jeremiah 1-39. The later prophecies have a superscription of their own (see Jeremiah 40:1.). In the fifth month (comp. Jeremiah 52:12, Jeremiah 52:27).
The call of Jeremiah.
Unto me. For the change of person, comp. Ezekiel 1:4.
Knew thee; i.e. took notice of thee; virtually equivalent to selected thee (comp. Genesis 39:6; Amos 3:2; Isaiah 58:3; Psalms 144:3). Observe, the predestination of individuals is a familiar idea in the Old Testament (comp. Isaiah 45:4; Isaiah 49:1; Psalms 139:16). It was also familiar to the Assyrians: King Assurba-nipal declares at the opening of his ' Annals ' that the gods "in the body of his mother have made (him) to rule Assyria." Familiar, too, to the great family of religious reformers. For, as Dean Milman has truly observed, "No Pelagian ever has or ever will work a religious revolution. He who is destined for such a work must have a full conviction that God is acting directly, immediately, consciously, and therefore with irresistible power, upon him and through him He who is not predestined, who does not declare, who does not believe himself predestined as the author of a great religions movement, he in whom God is not manifestly, sensibly, avowedly working out his pre-established designs, will never be saint or reformer". Sanctified thee; i.e. set thee apart for holy uses. Ordained; rather, appointed. Unto the nations. Jeremiah's prophecies, in fact, have reference not only to Israel, but to the peoples in relation to Israel (verse 10; Jeremiah 25:15, Jeremiah 25:16; 46-49; Jeremiah 50:1-46; Jeremiah 51:1-64?).
Ah, Lord God! rather, Alas, O Lord Jehovah! It is a cry of alarm and pain, and recurs in Jeremiah 4:10; Jeremiah 14:13; Jeremiah 32:17. I am a child. I am too young to support such an office. The word rendered "child" is used elsewhere of youths nearly grown up (comp. Genesis 34:19; Genesis 41:12; 1 Kings 3:7).
Thou shalt go, etc. Thoughts of self are altogether out of place in one who has received a Divine commission. Jeremiah's duty is simple obedience. In put-suing this path he cannot but be safe (verse 8).
Touched my mouth; literally, caused (his hand) to touch my mouth. Jeremiah had said that he was unskilled in oratory; the Divine answer is that the words which he has to speak are not his own, but those of Jehovah. Two things are obvious:
1. The touching of the lips is not purely metaphorical, as in Psalms 51:15 (comp. Psalms 40:6); it represents a real experience.
2. This experience, however, can only have been a visionary one, analogous to that vouchsafed to Isaiah at the opening of his prophetic ministry. In the grand account given by Isaiah of his inaugural vision (which has evidently influenced the form of the vision of Jeremiah), we read of the same significant act on the part of one of the seraphim. It is the same act, certainly, but it symbolizes, not as here the communication of a prophetic message (comp. Matthew 10:19), but the purification of the lips. Does it not seem as if Isaiah had attained a deeper insight into the spiritual regeneration needed by the prophet than had been granted to Jeremiah? Another point in which Jeremiah's account seems inferior to that of Isaiah is plastic power. Notice how Jeremiah dwells upon the meaning of the words; this is a reflective element which diminishes the poetic power of the narrative. A word may Be added to explain that "visionary" is not here used in opposition to "based on fact." That the two epithets are susceptible of combination is well shown in the vision described by Pere Gratry, in his 'Souvenirs do ma Jeunesse', the reality of which is not in the least impaired in the writer's mind by its thoroughly inward character: "Dens teutes ces seines interieures, je n'imaginais rien … c'etaient de saisissantes et tres-energiques realites auxquelles je ne m'attendais nullement."
I have set thee; literally, I have made thee an overseer, or vicegerent (comp. Genesis 41:34; 9:28, where the Authorized Version renders the cognate noun "officer"). To root out … to plant, viz. by pronouncing that Divine judgment which fulfils itself (comp. Jeremiah 5:14; Numbers 23:25; Isaiah 9:8, Isaiah 9:9; Isaiah 55:11). As there is so much more threatening than promise in Jeremiah's writings, the destructive side of his activity is expressed by four verbs, the constructive only by two.
Two trials or probations of Jeremiah's inner sight (2 Kings 6:17). Two visions are granted him, which he is required to describe. The first expresses the certainty of his prophetic revelation; the second indicates its contents.
A rod of an almond tree. The name here adopted for the almond tree is peculiarly suitable in this connection. It means "wakeful;" the almond, blossoming in January, is the first to "wake" from the sleep of winter.
I will hasten my word; literally, I am wakeful over my word; alluding to the meaning of the Hebrew word for almond.
A seething pot. There is a variety of Hebrew words for "pot." The word hero used suggests a vessel of large size, since pottage for a whole company of prophets could be cooked in such. a pot or caldron (2 Kings 4:38). From Ezekiel 24:11 we may infer that it was of metal. A "seething pot" in ancient Arabic poetry is a figure for war. The same symbol occurs in Ezekiel 24:3-12, but with a different application. The face thereof is toward the north; rather, toward the south; literally, from the face of the north. The "face" of the pet is the side turned to the prophet. We may suppose the contents to be on the point of boiling over.
Out of the north. Previously to the battle of Carchemish, the Babylonians are only mentioned vaguely as a northern people (see Jeremiah 4:6; Jeremiah 6:1, Jeremiah 6:22; Jeremiah 10:22). Strictly speaking, they were an eastern people from the point of view of Palestine; but the caravan-road which the Chaldaean armies had to take entered Palestine at Dan (comp. Jeremiah 4:15; Jeremiah 8:16), and then proceeded southward. (On the question whether a Scythian invasion is referred to, at least conjointly with the Babylonian, see Introduction.) An evil; rather, the evil; viz. the calamity which in deepening gloom forms the burden of the prophet's discourses. Shall break forth; literally, shall open; i.e. let loose by opening. There is, however, some difficulty in explaining the choice of this expression. We might indeed suppose that the caldron had a lid, and that the removal or falling off of this lid is the "opening" referred to by the phrase.
I will call; literally, I am calling; i.e. I am about to call. The kingdoms of the north; alluding possibly to the varied origin of the population of Assyria and Babylonia. But more probably it is simply a suggestive phrase, for the wide extent of the hostile empire referred to (comp. Jeremiah 25:9). They shall set every one his throne, etc. The kings, or. the, generals, representing "all the families, etc; shall set up the high seat of power and judicial authority at the broad space within the gate of the city, which constituted the Oriental forum (comp. Genesis 23:10; Joshua 20:4; Job 29:7; Job 31:21). Thither the besieged would have to come to surrender themselves (2 Kings 24:12) and to hear their fate. A similar prediction is made with regard to Nebuchadnezzar (Jeremiah 43:9, Jeremiah 43:10). It is true the seat of authority is there said to be placed at the entrance of the palace, but this was in fact another place where justice was wont to be administered (Jeremiah 22:2, Jeremiah 22:3). Jerome's view, adopted by Rosenmüller and Nagelsbach, that "to set one's seat" means "to besiege" is against usage, and does not accord with the opening words of Jeremiah 1:16. There is, however, an element of truth in it. The judgment executed ministerially by the northern kings or generals began with the siege of Jerusalem and the other cities, and hence the words with which the prophet continues. And against all the walls, etc. We should have expected something like "and shall set themselves in array against," etc. (comp. Isaiah 22:7 b); see, however, last note.
I will utter my judgments; or, I will hold a court of justice upon them; literally, I will speak judgments with them. The expression is peculiar to Jeremiah (comp. Jeremiah 4:12; Jeremiah 12:1; Jeremiah 39:6; Jeremiah 52:9), and includes both the examination of the accused, and the judicial sentence (see Jeremiah 39:5; Jeremiah 52:9). All their wickedness, etc. Their "wickedness," i.e. their infidelity to Jehovah, showed itself in burning incense to "other gods," and bowing down to their images. "Burned incense" is, however, too narrow a sense. The root-meaning of the verb is to be fragrant, and the causative conjugations will strictly mean only "to make a sweet odor," whether by the offering of incense or by burnt offerings (comp. Jeremiah 11:12; 2 Kings 23:8, where a causative conjugation is used in the same wide sense here postulated; also Psalms 66:15 and Isaiah 1:13, where the word usually rendered "incense" seems rather to mean "a sweet smoke"). The prophet says, "of other gods" (not "of false gods"), out of consideration for the ignorance of his hearers, to whom Baal and Moloch really were as gods; in fact, that expressive word (cf.) which Isaiah uses ten times to express the unreality of the other so-called gods, occurs only once, and then not in quite the same sense (see Jeremiah 14:14) in Jeremiah. But the prophet's own strict monotheism is proved by such passages as Jeremiah 2:27; Jeremiah 8:19; Jeremiah 16:20.
Gird up thy loins, as an Oriental does before making any kind of physical exertion, whether walking (Exodus 12:11; 2 Kings 4:29), running (1 Kings 18:46), or fighting (Job 12:21). Be not dismayed. A want of confidence on Jeremiah's part will issue in his utter discomfiture by his enemies. "Dismay" in Hebrew has a twofold reference, subjective ("dismay") and objective ("ruin," "discomfiture"). Both references can be illustrated from this verse. (Comp. the command and—verse 18—premise to Jeremiah with the command and promise to Ezekiel—3:8, Ezekiel 3:9.)
Brasen walls. The plural is used instead of a collective term for the whole circle of fortifications. In the parallel passage (Jeremiah 15:20) the singular occurs; the same alternation of plural and singular as in 2 Kings 25:10; 1 Kings 3:1. The combination of figures strikingly expresses the invincibility of one whose strength is in his God. The kings of Judah. Why the plural? Most reply, Because Jeremiah would have to do with successive sovereigns. But this meaning would have been just as well conveyed by the singular: "the king of Judah," without any name being added—would moan the king who from time to time happened to be reigning. "Kings of Judah" in Jeremiah seems to have a special meaning, and to include all the members of the royal family, who formed a numerous and powerful class (see on Jeremiah 17:20).
On the external surroundings of the life of Jeremiah.
These words, which constitute the preface to the Book of Jeremiah, are evidently intended to furnish a historical setting for the writings of the prophet. But they also throw light on his character and work. For, though the true life of every man is his inner spiritual life, we cannot estimate the worth of this until we have taken account of the circumstances in which it is placed, the aids and the hindrances it receives from without. Let us consider, therefore, the spiritual significance of the main historical surroundings of the work of Jeremiah.
I. THE OFFICIAL RELATIONSHIP OF JEREMIAH.
1. Jeremiah had the advantage of being the son of a priest. He had probably received a religious education from his childhood. The religion of his fathers must have been familiar to him. Its solemn rites and suggestive symbols were often before his eyes. Possibly, like St. Paul, who was trained in Jewish theology before he became a Christian (Galatians 1:14), he may have found the Law a schoolmaster to bring him to a higher religion. The children of Christian ministers have peculiar privileges in the early knowledge of Scripture, Church life, etc; which they have opportunities of acquiring.
2. Yet this official relationship of Jeremiah's had its disadvantages. It was quite exceptional. Not more than three of the prophets were of sacerdotal origin. For the most part the priestly class regarded the prophetic with jealousy, if not with envy.
3. It is noteworthy that the official relationship of Jeremiah was entirely overshadowed by his prophetic mission. He is known to history not as the priest, but as the prophet. Official religious services are quite secondary to spiritual work.
II. THE CHARACTER OF THE AGE OF JEREMIAH.
1. Jeremiah entered on his mission in the midst of the reformation of Josiah. Yet the prophet's work was entirely disconnected from that of the king. Political religious activity is very different from personal spiritual work. Ecclesiastical reforms will not effect spiritual regeneration. The king's overthrow of the idols does not dispense with the need of the prophet's call to repentance.
2. Jeremiah continued his mission after the failure of Josiah's reformation and during an age of national decay. The character of the age changed, but the prophet remained unchanged. Weak men may be content to echo the popular cries of the day. It is too often the mission of the servant of God to contradict these familiar voices. The true prophet is not the creature of his age, the mouthpiece of the Zeit-geist; he is called to resist this influence.
3. Jeremiah closed his mission amidst scenes of national ruin. It was given him to see the fulfillment of his warnings of doom, but not that of his promises of restoration. Hence he is the prophet of tears. Jesus also wept over Jerusalem, but he brought redemption. We should be thankful that we live in these latter times when we can see the realization of the promises of "the Book of consolation."
III. THE DURATION OF THE MISSION OF JEREMIAH. It lasted for at least forty years; how many more after the overthrow of Jerusalem we do not know.
1. This fact speaks much for the prophetic power of Jeremiah. Many men can only rouse themselves to one supreme effort. True greatness is as much seen in the continuance of powers as in supreme exhibitions of them.
2. This fact is a grand proof of the faithfulness of the prophet. Almost the whole of his work was done "in opposition." We admire the young martyr who summons up a momentary heroic courage to seal his testimony with his blood; but greater honor is due to the aged confessor who has persevered through a lifelong martyrdom, and, though spared to old age, is also "faithful unto death."
3. This fact sheds light on God's ways with man. Jeremiah commenced his stern prophetic denunciations forty years before the destruction of Jerusalem. This suggests to us
I. CONSIDER THE CHARACTERISTICS OF A DIVINE PREDESTINATION.
1. This implies
2. This predestination does not involve fatalism; it is consistent with human freedom of action and personal responsibility. On the one hand we must conclude, from its existence, that there are certain possibilities with which God endows a man, and certain limits with which God has hedged him about. But on the other hand, we must recognize that it depends on the man's own will and effort whether he use those possibilities, and attain to the end enclosed within those limits. He has a Divine vocation, but he may neglect it; he may fail in realizing God's idea of his life. There rests on him the responsibility of accomplishing his destiny.
II. CONSIDER THE GROUNDS FOR BELIEF IN A DIVINE PREDESTINATION.
1. It is revealed in Scripture (e.g. Acts 2:23; Romans 8:29; 1 Peter 1:2).
2. It is involved in the idea of the providence of a supreme God. God foresees all the future; in every act of his all other events and their relation to this must be present to the mind of God. With such knowledge a universal control of events, such as is implied by a providence not interfering from without now and again at critical moments, but immanent in the whole course of the world, must imply a Divine preordination.
3. It is proved to us by experience.
III. CONSIDER THE PURPOSE OF A DIVINE PREDESTINATION.
1. It must often he mysterious. Until we review life as a whole we shall not be able to interpret the meaning of its several parts. We cannot judge of the architect's design by examining the separate stones which lie scattered in the builder's yard. But:
2. It is not arbitrary. The very idea of destiny as determined by a Being of infinite thought implies purpose based on reason. God would not determine events simply to manifest his unfettered rights of sovereignty. Such aimless caprice could only emanate from a senseless despot.
3. It is turned to a good purpose. This must be so, for if God is good his designs must be good. The predestination is
IV. CONSIDER THE PRACTICAL EFFECT OF THE DOCTRINE OF PREDESTINATION. It contains no excuse for indolence and no reason for despair, for God fits all of us for sonic service, the accomplishment of which depends on our own faithfulness.
1. It should lead us to inquire what is God's will, rather than to carve out a career for ourselves.
2. It should make us humble, submissive, obedient, and diligent in service, since there is a Divine idea of our life which God expects us to realize.
3. It should inspire courage in the midst of difficulties. Jeremiah was brave in the thought that he was fulfilling a Divine destiny. Such a thought inspires energy in face of enmity, contempt, isolation, and apparent failure.
I. DIFFIDENCE IS A DIFFICULTY TO BE OVERCOME.
1. Jeremiah shrank from his mission, not through the cowardice that fears danger, nor through the indolence that dislikes effort, nor through the selfishness that declines responsibility, but through the diffidence of youth, sensitiveness, and humility.
2. Now, this diffidence is an evil thing. It may not be sinful in its origin, but perfectly innocent, and even a mark of amiable characteristics. But it is injurious in its effects, and becomes positively guilty if indulged in when God has provided us means for overcoming it. The most gifted are often the most diffident. Hence if they yielded to their reluctance to fulfill their vocation, the greatest and best work of the world would be left undone. There is also a danger lest diffidence should become an excuse for indolence, selfishness, and cowardice. If unrestrained it will lead to these vices. People are often greatly to blame for shrinking from posts of responsibility, although they may even imagine they are earning the honors of modesty and humility.
II. GOD PROVIDES MEANS FOR OVERCOMING DIFFIDENCE. God never calls a man to any work without securing to him the means for performing it. Thus having called Jeremiah to his service, God sends help for overcoming the young man's diffidence.
1. The consciousness of a Divine mission. "Thou shalt go to all that I shall send thee." It is well to feel that we are not doing our own work but God's. If we fail, what does that matter to us so long as we are doing his will? The thought of duty is itself an inspiration. We are not simply to attempt what we imagine to be a good thing; we are called for a purpose, sent on a mission, and the thought that we are about our Father's business should allay the hesitation of natural diffidence. The ambassador is armed with the authority of his master and backed by his master's power. The prophet is sent by God with God's authority. All who are working God's will are similarly supported by God's authority.
2. The realization of the presence of God. "I am with thee." We may be diffident while we look to self; but when we look away to God we see the Source of strength and victory. Indeed, our very diffidence may be a means of securing our true strength by making us seek the help of God. Self-distrust may lead to trust in God. Thus when weak in ourselves we may become strong in him (2 Corinthians 12:10). If we go in God's strength we have no more occasion to fear, since success no longer depends on our ability but on his assistance.
3. The direct inspiration of the Spirit of God. "Behold I have put my words in thy mouth." God is not only present by our side to assist and deliver us, but he is within the soul, infusing light and power. The prophet fears he cannot speak the needed words. The words he is to speak are not his own but God's. He is the messenger, God is the real speaker. If then he can but discern the voice of God within him, and interpret this to the people, all diffidence arising from his own incompetence should vanish. Every work which is done for God can only proceed from God, and when it does thus come from God we need not fear its failure. God can accomplish his own will in us as well as by his immediate actions in the world.
The power of prophecy.
I. THERE IS A POWER IN PROPHECY. Prophecy is not simply a light, a revelation of truth; it is also a voice of authority, a means of active influence, a power. The Divine word in the prophet is like the Divine word in nature-an energizing word. God speaks, and it is done. The New Testament references to prophecy are made in obedience to this thought. The fulfillment of prophecy is there quoted not so much, as in modern evidential literature, as a proof of supernatural foresight, but rather as the effect of a Divine power which has realized the purpose of the ancient Word of God. This or that is said to be done "that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the prophet." God's Word is always a power (Hebrews 4:12). The Bible is not simply a revelation; it is a means of influence. The preacher should see that he is clothed with power. His mission is to influence as well as to teach.
II. THE SOURCES OF THE POWER OF PROPHECY ARE SPIRITUAL. The authority conferred on Jeremiah is not that of the secular arm. He is to exert his influence by no material force. HIS power is different in kind from that of a political government. The claim of the papal authority founded on this verse is unwarranted, since this does not confer the power of the sword but direct spiritual influence. Neither is the power of prophecy in the least allied to magic or sorcery. It is not a miraculous material force.
1. It is the power of truth. Truth is strong; knowledge is power. The prophet sees the deep principles of God's government, and in the discernment of them lies the force of his utterances.
2. It is the rower of right. The prophet takes his stand on the side of justice, purity, goodness. In the end the might must go with the right.
3. It is the power of God. The prophet is nothing in himself; he is God's servant: the authority he wields is God s. So the power of the preacher is not to be sought in reason, in eloquence, nor in official authority, but in the truth of his message, in the righteousness of his cause, and in his fidelity to the will of God.
III. THE RANGE OF THE POWER OF PROPHECY IS WORLDWIDE. Jeremiah was a Jew.
Yet he was "set over the nations and over the kingdoms."
1. God is the King of king and his authority concerns kingdoms as well as individuals. Political questions are amenable to the influence of Divine truth and righteousness.
2. God's truth does not only concern the Church. It is for the world—if the world will obey, for its blessedness; if it will not heed, for a judgment upon it.
IV. THE EFFECTS OF THE POWER OF PROPHECY ARE REVOLUTIONARY. It is no wild and transient influence, but a great stirring energy. Translated into modern language, this means that truth, right, and the will of God are powerful factors in history, disarranging human schemes and bringing higher designs into effect.
1. This power is destructive. Jeremiah is to "root out," etc. Evil is not a mere negation—simple darkness. It must be fought and east out. Christ sent "a sword" (Matthew 10:34). The era of the Reformation was a destructive age. It is the duty of the preacher to protest against evil, to denounce it, to seek its overthrow, and not to shrink for fear of consequent disturbances. Warfare is better than guilty peace.
2. This power is ultimately constructive. Jeremiah is "to build and to plant." The destructive agencies of God are simply intended to clear off obstructions, and make the way for a new and better order. The disintegrating power of criticism should be regarded as only preparatory to the creative influence of living truth. The gospel is chiefly a constructive power, making men new creatures, building up the kingdom of God in our midst, brining about a new heaven and a new earth.
Jeremiah 1:11, Jeremiah 1:12
The almond rod.
The early budding almond rod is symbolical of the wakeful attitude of God at a crisis in human events. God's manner of acting at this period of Jewish history may be regarded as typical of what we may expect again under similar circumstances.
I. THERE ARE OCCASIONS WHEN GOD'S WATCHFULNESS AND ENERGY ARE ESPECIALLY MANIFEST. God never sleeps (Psalms 121:4). While we sleep he keeps watch. Though. we do not mark his presence nor even think of it, he is still looking upon us and never ceasing from his activity. Yet he is said to awake as though from sleep (Psalms 44:23), because to us he appears to be more wakeful at one season than at another.
1. There are times when God watches unseen, and times when he makes his watchfulness manifest to us by his acts; then he is said to awake.
2. God generally acts in quiet ways unnoticed and not directly interfering with us; but now and again his ceaseless activity is more pronounced, and is specially felt by opposing our course; then God seems to have aroused himself. Such times are awful crises of existence. We should be prepared to expect them, and not presume on the present obscurity of the Divine actions. Some day it will be as though God awoke with the voice of a trumpet and the might of a host suddenly revealed.
II. GOD NEVER DELAYS HIS ACTION BEYOND ITS DUE TIME. When it is time for God to "awake," he does "awake." It seems as though he tarried; but he has a reason for waiting.
1. He does not come to deliverance at the moment we expect him
2. He does not come to judgment
III. GOD'S JUDGMENTS SOMETIMES FALL SUDDENLY AND SWIFTLY. We may have but short warning of their approach. The execution of them may be rapid. The storm which has long been brewing may burst quickly. The harvest which has ripened slowly may be gathered in with haste. The impending judgment may not be discerned till it is too late for escape. When the rain began to fall it was too late for man to seek refuge in the ark. When the Jews saw the hosts of Nebuchadnezzar approaching there were no means for saving their country from ruin. It is foolish and wrong to neglect the salvation of God until we discern his judgment looming over us. "Today if ye will hear his voice, harden not your hearts."
Jeremiah 1:13, Jeremiah 1:14
The seething pot.
I. THE VISION OF THE SEETHING POT FORESHADOWS APPROACHING DOOM. God is about to "hold his session" upon Jerusalem and the cities of Judah.
1. They who are most favored by God must expect the severest judgment if they prove unfaithful to him. The Jews were a favored people. Their privileges were great; if they abused these their guilt and consequent punishment must be proportionately great. Therefore, instead of considering the past mercies of God as a ground for expecting to escape the penalties of our offences, we should see in them the measure of his future severities upon us if we sin in face of the special inducements to devotion afforded by those mercies.
2. The revelation of impending judgment is a great motive for faithful preaching. This vision of the seething pot is given to Jeremiah to rouse him to undertake his prophetic duties. A large part of his work consisted in gloomy predictions of coming doom. This was peculiar to the age. There are ages when similar preaching is especially appropriate. But as sin always makes for death the preacher is always called to raise a voice of warning.
II. THE VISION OF THE SEETHING POT ILLUSTRATES THE CHARACTER OF THE APPROACHING DOOM.
1. It is gradually prepared. The vessel is slowly heated to the boiling point. The guilt of sin accumulates and the evil consequences gather in force until they burst upon the victim with the energy of long pent-up wrath.
2. It breaks forth suddenly. Suddenly the vessel boils over. Judgment may be delayed and gradual in the preparation, and yet suddenly surprise us when at length it falls upon us.
3. It is violent and overwhelming, as the seething pot suggests fury, tumult, and, in its boiling over, a rushing forth of its scalding contents.
III. THE VISION OF THE SEETHING POT SUGGESTS THE SOURCE OF THE APPROACHING DOOM. The pot was turned towards the south and heated by fires in the north.
1. Punishment may come from the most unlikely quarter. The Jews had turned to Babylon for friendship, and from Babylon came their ruin. Our most trusted friends may become the instruments of our keenest suffering.
2. Lawless violence may be overruled by providence to work the ends of God's righteous laws. The doom is not to come from within the range of the theocracy and through the influence of those who consciously executed the Divine decree, but from far-off regions, wholly beyond the light of Israel's religion. Thus God makes the wrath of man to praise him. So storms and earthquakes, revolutions and invasions, tumults in nature and tumults in the human world, work ultimate good results in clearing and purifying the air, sweeping away pestilent corruption, and preparing for a new and wholesome order.
3. The more luxurious Southern races have frequently been visited by terrible invasions of hardier races from the North. The Scythians in the East, the Goths in the West, were scourges of God, and wholesome scourges, helping to reform the corrupt and indolent peoples who lived in dread of their invasions. We should see wise and good purposes of providence in these terrible events of general history, as we see them in the special history of Israel.
Encouragements to fidelity.
It was no easy matter for Jeremiah, young, modest, and sensitive, to come boldly forward and threaten the judgment of God against his country. But if God calls a man to any task, he will help him through with it, and Jeremiah receives encouragements proportionate to his duty.
I. THE DUTY. Consider what the duty of faithful service laid upon the prophet included.
1. Energy. He is to gird up his loins, and arise. God is not satisfied with passive submission to his will God cannot be faithfully served by the indolent. All our powers are required for his service, and they must be employed without distraction.
2. Obedience. Jeremiah is to speak just what God commands him. Fidelity is not simply devotion to God, it is devotion according to his will—the devotion of servants, not that of patrons.
3. Thoroughness. The prophet is to speak "all" that God commands him. It is treason for the ambassador to suppress those elements of his commission which are displeasing to himself. The servant of God must not select from the revelation of Divine truth the words which suit his purpose and neglect the rest. He is not to shun to declare "the whole counsel of God"—threats as well as promises, difficult sayings and mysteries as well as plainly acceptable doctrines.
4. Fearlessness. "Be not dismayed." Fear is not only painful; it is injurious by paralyzing effort. Cowardice is sin.
II. THE ENCOURAGEMENTS. It is our duty to be faithful, though fidelity should bring our ruin; but such a result will not follow it. Consider the various inducements Jeremiah receives to a faithful discharge of his difficult task.
1. A revelation of momentous truths. God says, "Thou therefore gird up thy loins," etc. The word "therefore ' carries us back to the visions of the almond rod and the seething pot. The truths revealed in these visions themselves furnish a motive for the prophet to declare them. The seer should become a prophet. Truth is not the private property of the few; it is the rightful heritage of all. It is the duty of him who knows to enlighten the ignorant. More especially is this the case in regard to spiritual truths, practical truths, and truths which concern the highest welfare of mankind.
2. A warning of Divine displeasure. "Be not dismayed at them, lest I make thee indeed dismayed." The fear of God is a safeguard against the fear of man. Cowardice provokes danger. The Christian has no armor provided for his back.
3. An assurance of Divine protection. This is given in a succession of strong images, that it may be felt in all its certainty and importance. For we need not only to know that God will protect us, but to realize this if we are to be brave and strong. Thus Jeremiah is made to feel that, in spite of his youth and sensitiveness, he will be strong as a fortress and firm as brazen walls, none are so independent before men as they who are wholly dependent on God.
4. A promise of victory over opposition. The young prophet is taught to expect opposition.
HOMILIES BY S. CONWAY
On Jeremiah's ministry in general. "It is sufficient," said our Savior, "that the disciple be as his Lord." Now, of all his servants few answered more closely to this description than did the prophet Jeremiah. In a very deep and real sense his life was a type of our Lord's. It is in the spiritual world as in the natural, a close resemblance exists between the separate parts and the entire organism to which they belong. The root, stem, bud, flower, fruit, and seed are each constructed on the same type as the tree itself. However widely diversified they may seem in form or function, their essential nature is the same. Hence every leaf is a miniature of the tree on which it grows; trunk, branches, foliage, are each patterned in it. And likewise every branch is but a reproduction on a smaller scale of the whole tree. (MacMillan) But this is only what we find constantly exemplified in the spiritual world. What miniature lives of Christ are those of men like Joseph, Moses, David, and many more! And amongst such as are illustrious in this respect stands Jeremiah. Like him, the consciousness of the Divine call was with him from childhood (cf. Luke 2:49 and Jeremiah 1:6). He too was persecuted with murderous hate by his own townsmen. As Christ was driven from Nazareth, so was Jeremiah from his native Anathoth (Jeremiah 12:6). His vehement denunciations of the corrupt priests and prophets of his day remind us of the reiterated woes pronounced by our Lord on the "scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites," of his day. Like our Lord, Jeremiah also was the prophet who stood nearest to and told most plainly of the dread catastrophe which overwhelmed Jerusalem and her people. Jeremiah was the prophet of Jerusalem's destruction by the Babylonian Nebuchadnezzar; our Lord of the like destruction by the Roman Titus. Both beheld the glories of the temple, and both told of the swiftly coming days when there should "not be left one stone upon another, which should not be thrown down." The footsteps of him who, beyond all others, was "despised and rejected of men," Jeremiah, in so far as it was possible to him, anticipated. The bitter tears shed by our Savior over impenitent Jerusalem are shadowed forth in the prophet's prolonged and profound lament over his own idolatrous and disobedient countrymen. His well-known words, "Is it nothing to you all ye that pass by?" uttered concerning the sorrows of Jerusalem and her people, have come to be so universally appropriated to our Lord, that the prophet's own deep distress which they tell of, and the occasion of that distress, are alike almost if not entirely forgotten. "His sufferings come nearest of those of the whole army of martyrs to those of the Teacher against whom princes, and priests, and elders, and people were gathered together." To him, as to the great apostle, was it given to know "the fellowship of Christ's sufferings, and to be made conformable unto his death." And we may venture to prolong the parallel, and to apply to Jeremiah the august words which, in their supreme meaning, can belong to but One alone. "Wherefore God also hath highly exalted him, and given him a name which is above every name." In that high recompense Jeremiah, so far as any servant of God may, shares. For the honor in which his name came to be held was very great. As time rolled on he was regarded as the chief representative of the whole prophetic order. By some he was placed at the head of all the prophets. At the time of the Christian era his return was daily expected. He was emphatically thought to be "the Prophet"—'the Prophet like unto Moses,' who should close the whole dispensation." No wonder, then, that one devout student after another has been struck by the closeness of the resemblance here briefly pointed out, and has delighted to trace in the prophet's history foreshadowings of the "Man of Sorrows," who, more than any other, was acquainted with grief.—C.
Introductory statements concerning Jeremiah's parentage and period of his ministry.
I. HIS PARENTAGE. He was the son of Hilkiah, not that Hilkiah who was high priest during the reign of Josiah, but of some similarly named priest. Even amid the terrible corruptions of that period, there appear to have been a few faithful souls who held fast to the fear of the Lord. We have their names, Huldah, Shallum, Baruch, etc. From amidst these Jeremiah sprang. The Lord can call and convert and consecrate to his work whom he will; but his more common way is to come to the habitations of his people, when he would find some whom he destines for special and honored service. The homes of the godly are the hope of the Church. Amidst the children of the believing are to be found those whom God will generally employ to carry on his work. This is one way in which the promise is fulfilled, "Them that honor me I will honor."
II. HIS PROFESSION. He belonged to the priesthood. Terrible are the charges which are brought against the priests and prophets of that day. They had reached the limit of utmost degradation. They are said to "deal falsely," to be "profane;" and their conduct is described as "a wonderful and horrible thing." Yet Jeremiah belonged to this deeply fallen class. How difficult must have been his position! how constant his resistance to the contagion of their example and influence! When from amongst those who are of the same order, who have common interests, common duties, and who are thrown together in so many and close relationships, one stands aloof and turns upon his companions in severe and solemn rebuke as Jeremiah did, such a one needs to be strong as "a defensed city, and an iron pillar, and brazen walls" (verse 18) Jeremiah stands before us as a noble proof that the tide of evil, however strongly it may run, may yet be resisted; none are of necessity borne down by it but, by the same grace which was given to Jeremiah, they may stem the fierce current and defy its power. Ten thousand of the saints of God have done this; why should not we?
III. THE REASON OF ALL MEN COUNTING HIM AS A PROPHET. "The word of the Lord came unto him." He did not say, "I am a prophet;" but all men felt he was. For his words had power; they were mighty to the pulling down of the strong holds of sin. It was not simply that he announced that there should be a "rooting out and pulling down" (cf. verse 10), but the words which he spoke so wrought in men's minds that these results followed. Hence men, conscious of the power of his words, confessed that it was "the word of the Lord" which had come to him. This is the old prophetic word which, whenever spoken, constrains men to confess the presence of God (cf. 1 Corinthians 14:25). And St. Peter (2 Peter 1:19) says concerning it, "We have, surer still, the prophetic word." "More sure," he meant, than even the wondrous voice and vision of "the holy mount," for that was but a transient testimony given once and to the three favored apostles of the Lord alone; but the prophetic word, that which woke up the response in men's hearts, and by which the secrets of each soul were disclosed—that was a more constant, more universal, more powerful, and therefore a more sure testimony than aught beside. And the