Jeremiah 4
Expositor's Dictionary of Texts
If thou wilt return, O Israel, saith the LORD, return unto me: and if thou wilt put away thine abominations out of my sight, then shalt thou not remove.
Plural, Yet Singular

Jeremiah 4:2

I want to speak about the plural that runs itself up into the singular. 'Truth, judgment, righteousness.' We cannot get rid of the three; when we sometimes think we are farthest from it we are closest upon it. It is a mystery that is to be reckoned with. Indifference, worldliness, folly, may avoid all these subjects, and thus run a downward and self-extinguishing course. There remains the idea of the three. We cannot, let us say again and again to ourselves, get away from that idea; it is in us, it is part of us, it is the mystery of our own being. We deny the three-one, but denial is no argument. We have to account for the triune.

I. You will find instances of this three-one in many places. For example, in the very words of the text 'Truth, judgment, righteousness.' These are not three things differing from one another in quality and opposing one another in policy and in aim; the three are one, and that one is the first—'truth'. How then do the others apply themselves? Adjectivally as qualifying the great and inclusive word truth. Truth—yes, truth that stands in judgment, truth that stands in righteousness, truth that runs out in these threefold expressions and yet returns upon itself and stands forth as it were a diamond or a star.

II. In Daniel 3:7 'all the people, the nations, and the languages fell down '. Can languages fall down? Is there not something here highly rhetorical and figurative? Certainly; that is the very subject. The reading, therefore, would be, All the people—yes, even nations and languages—fell down before the image. The great noun is 'the people'; 'nations and languages' are little aspects of the great substantive, 'the people'. So we do not read, 'All the people and the nations and the languages' as if they were three different things; the great central thought is the people, the incidentals are the nations and the languages, and yet quite essential to the completeness of the figure. How easy it would be to run off on either of these nouns, 'nations,' and 'languages,' and deliver a useless ethnic discourse upon these motto words. These words must be put in their right place, and that place is subsidiary and collateral; the great outstanding noun is 'the people '.

III. Take another instance with which we are very familiar, so familiar indeed that many of us know nothing about it. Matthew 6:13, 'Thine is the kingdom and the power and the glory,'—as if they were three different things. When will we remember that there is a leading noun, and the two other nouns shade away and subside into rhetorical assistances and phases of the thought? The subject is one; the writer is not talking about three different attributes; he is talking about one thing, but he needs the rhetorical three members in order to fill out the expression of his thought. Here also we cannot get rid of the three-one.

IV. Take a wonderful instance from the lips of Christ Himself; you will find that instance in the fourteenth chapter of John and the sixth and contextual verses. 'I am the way, the truth, and the life'. Three things? No, one thing. Jesus Christ is talking about the way and about nothing else. How then does He describe it? 'I am the way, the true way'—you see how 'truth' drops into 'true,' the noun into the adjective—'and the living way'. But it is way, way, and only way that forms the subject of the Master's thought. Always get into the one thing that makes the other things possible. Do not waste your very souls on the details. Your first business is to get hold of the central truth, the one thing meant, and then to get hold of what is illustrative, external, and auxiliary.

V. You have the same thing in your own personal constitution. The Apostle describes us as 'body, soul, and spirit'. Three things? Certainly not. One thing? Yes, one thing. What is that one thing? Man; and man is a trinity, and a tri-unity, a three-one and a one-three; and as he studies himself in these aspects there will come upon him great religious moods, visions, and dreamings, and he will find that grass and flesh and air and many things have been made specially for the growth and culture of the body. Then he will ask himself, Is there anything in higher fields growing for the soul? And the answer will be a gracious Yes whispered from the secret places of eternity. There is a spirit, there is a revelation, there is a holy doctrine, there is an altar, and as he watches the fields and the rivers and the seas for the food which he needs for the body, so he will search these greater waters and greater spaces for the nurture of the soul. But is there nothing for the spirit, which seems to be, according to our poor crude thinking, a kind of higher quality, a more spiritualized and etherealized soul, even the spirit? God is a Spirit. God is not what we call a soul, a psyche; God is a pneuma, a spirit, a Spirit of the soul. The soul is but a kind of clothing for the spirit, but body, soul, spirit belong to one another, and constitute what but an ineffable unity?

—Joseph Parker, City Temple Pulpit, vol. Iv. p. 214.

References.—IV. 3.—C. Perren, Revival Sermons in Outline, p. 284. G. W. Herbert, Notes of Sermons, p. 50. J. Parker, Studies in Texts, vol. i. p. 180. IV. 10.—Henry Alford, Quebec Chapel Sermons, vol. i. p. 267. IV. 14.—H. Harris, Short Sermons, p. 170. Spurgeon, Sermons, vol. xxvi. No. 1573. IV. 19.—J. Marshall Lang, Christian World Pulpit, vol. liii. 1898, p. 356. IV. 20.—Spurgeon, Sermons, vol. vii. No. 349; vol. xxiii. No. 1363. IV. 30.—Ibid vol. xxiii. No. 1363.

A Man

And thou shalt swear, The LORD liveth, in truth, in judgment, and in righteousness; and the nations shall bless themselves in him, and in him shall they glory.
For thus saith the LORD to the men of Judah and Jerusalem, Break up your fallow ground, and sow not among thorns.
Circumcise yourselves to the LORD, and take away the foreskins of your heart, ye men of Judah and inhabitants of Jerusalem: lest my fury come forth like fire, and burn that none can quench it, because of the evil of your doings.
Declare ye in Judah, and publish in Jerusalem; and say, Blow ye the trumpet in the land: cry, gather together, and say, Assemble yourselves, and let us go into the defenced cities.
Set up the standard toward Zion: retire, stay not: for I will bring evil from the north, and a great destruction.
The lion is come up from his thicket, and the destroyer of the Gentiles is on his way; he is gone forth from his place to make thy land desolate; and thy cities shall be laid waste, without an inhabitant.
For this gird you with sackcloth, lament and howl: for the fierce anger of the LORD is not turned back from us.
And it shall come to pass at that day, saith the LORD, that the heart of the king shall perish, and the heart of the princes; and the priests shall be astonished, and the prophets shall wonder.
Then said I, Ah, Lord GOD! surely thou hast greatly deceived this people and Jerusalem, saying, Ye shall have peace; whereas the sword reacheth unto the soul.
At that time shall it be said to this people and to Jerusalem, A dry wind of the high places in the wilderness toward the daughter of my people, not to fan, nor to cleanse,
Even a full wind from those places shall come unto me: now also will I give sentence against them.
Behold, he shall come up as clouds, and his chariots shall be as a whirlwind: his horses are swifter than eagles. Woe unto us! for we are spoiled.
O Jerusalem, wash thine heart from wickedness, that thou mayest be saved. How long shall thy vain thoughts lodge within thee?
For a voice declareth from Dan, and publisheth affliction from mount Ephraim.
Make ye mention to the nations; behold, publish against Jerusalem, that watchers come from a far country, and give out their voice against the cities of Judah.
As keepers of a field, are they against her round about; because she hath been rebellious against me, saith the LORD.
Thy way and thy doings have procured these things unto thee; this is thy wickedness, because it is bitter, because it reacheth unto thine heart.
My bowels, my bowels! I am pained at my very heart; my heart maketh a noise in me; I cannot hold my peace, because thou hast heard, O my soul, the sound of the trumpet, the alarm of war.
Destruction upon destruction is cried; for the whole land is spoiled: suddenly are my tents spoiled, and my curtains in a moment.
How long shall I see the standard, and hear the sound of the trumpet?
For my people is foolish, they have not known me; they are sottish children, and they have none understanding: they are wise to do evil, but to do good they have no knowledge.
I beheld the earth, and, lo, it was without form, and void; and the heavens, and they had no light.
I beheld the mountains, and, lo, they trembled, and all the hills moved lightly.
I beheld, and, lo, there was no man, and all the birds of the heavens were fled.
I beheld, and, lo, the fruitful place was a wilderness, and all the cities thereof were broken down at the presence of the LORD, and by his fierce anger.
For thus hath the LORD said, The whole land shall be desolate; yet will I not make a full end.
For this shall the earth mourn, and the heavens above be black: because I have spoken it, I have purposed it, and will not repent, neither will I turn back from it.
The whole city shall flee for the noise of the horsemen and bowmen; they shall go into thickets, and climb up upon the rocks: every city shall be forsaken, and not a man dwell therein.
And when thou art spoiled, what wilt thou do? Though thou clothest thyself with crimson, though thou deckest thee with ornaments of gold, though thou rentest thy face with painting, in vain shalt thou make thyself fair; thy lovers will despise thee, they will seek thy life.
For I have heard a voice as of a woman in travail, and the anguish as of her that bringeth forth her first child, the voice of the daughter of Zion, that bewaileth herself, that spreadeth her hands, saying, Woe is me now! for my soul is wearied because of murderers.
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