Pulpit Commentary Homiletics
I. THAT AFFLICTION WALL NOT ALTER THEM. It is not always true that affliction will make the heart better. It serves this blessed end with some - cf. "Before I was afflicted I went," etc. - but not with all. Did not in this case, but though "often reproved," they only "hardened their neck."
II. PRAYERS AND PROFESSION OF RELIGION DO NOT CONTROL THEM. They can go together. Alas! that it should be so; but they will not rule. They are but so many cobwebs, which the heart set to do evil will break through as easily as a man breaks through the gossamer filaments which stretch across the path on which he is walking.
III. PRETEXTS AND PRETENCES ARE ALWAYS READY TO EXCUSE THEM. "Thou speakest falsely," they said to God's prophet. "Baruch... hath set thee on." So, so pitifully, they try to justify themselves.
IV. GOD DOES NOT INTERFERE TO PREVENT THEM. We often wish be would, depriving us of our liberty when it would only do us ill. But his method is to let us go our own ways, and if, as is so wretchedly often the case, they be evil ways, then, when we are filled with the fruit of them, we may come to a better mind, and so more firmly choose the good which we should have chosen at the first. How much happier a man forever that younger son would have been if he had never previously left his father's home for that far country!
V. TERRIBLE JUDGMENTS ARE SURE TO FOLLOW THEM. They did in this case; they always do sooner or later. For the will must bend to God.
VI. GOD'S FAITHFUL SERVANTS WILL NOT BE DISMAYED BY THEM. See how bold as a lion is the prophet of God; how fearlessly he denounces his people's sin. Oh, for fidelity such as that in all the prophets of the Lord! - C.
I. A PROPHET IS ONE WHO HAS TO SPEAK THE WORDS OF JEHOVAH. Not his own words, not the words of other men. This applies to the substance of the message; for it is plain that each prophet has his own style. The chief thing to be remembered is that a prophet never goes forth on his own impulse. Men in their zeal for right may go out to protest against wrong and fight against it, but this does not make them prophets. The prophet's strength and claim and responsibility lie in this, that he can ever preface his announcements by "Thus saith the Lord." And all preachers and teachers will approach the prophet's position just in proportion to the extent in which they can fill their addresses with Divine declarations. The essential elements of prophecy can never be out of place.
II. HE HAS TO SPEAK ALL THE WORDS OF JEHOVAH. The prophet is not to be an eclectic, picking out some of God's words as suitable and others as unsuitable. God's omniscience can alone judge what is suitable. If to him it seems suitable a word should be spoken, then it is suitable. God speaks not to apparent needs, but to real ones. God, always saying something for the present, makes his weightiest words to bear upon the future. The responsibility of the prophet is simply that of being a brave and faithful messenger.
III. HE IS SENT TO SPEAK THESE WORDS. He does not merely take up words of Jehovah which he thinks suitable for the emergency. This is his work to act as a special messenger from Heaven. Others have to expound the Word already spoken, already written; but the prophet hears a voice directly from the excellent glory, "Go and make known my will to men." And in all prophecy there is evidence, to one who will look for it, that the prophet is a sent man.
IV. HE HAS TO SPEAK WORDS TO THOSE ON WHOM GOD HAS A CLAIM. Jehovah is not only the God of Jeremiah, he is the God of all the people. This was an historical fact of which they could not get rid. It was the glory, security, and blessing of the people, if only they could see it. And is not Jehovah also our God? - God coming for a while more closely in contact with one nation, that ultimately he may be in contact with all. If we admit the claim of Jesus, we admit the claim of Jehovah also. He speaks through ancient prophets to us, because the essentials of their message have to do with the permanent life of men.
V. HE SPEAKS TO ALL THE PEOPLE. In this particular instance the request came from all the people, so the message was correspondingly to all. Prophets, of course, had often messages for particular men, but even these messages are so founded upon general principles as to become worthy the attention of all. Prophecy concerns man as man; it meets the young with dawning consciousness, and grasps the old till their latest hour.
VI. THE PROPHET MUST TAKE CARE TO MAKE AN END OF HIS PROPHECY. He does not simply cease speaking; he has to make people feel he has said all he has to say, and that the time has come for them to have their say, or rather for them to enter with promptitude and devotion upon corresponding deeds. They may not hear all they would like to know, and thus it must be made clear they have been told all that it is good for them to know. With God all things are for edifying, not to inform curiosity or comply with every actual desire. - Y.
Jeremiah 46:13), that the accomplishment of the prediction, as of many others, was only contingent. It is very vivid and definite, but that is quite consistent with the intermediate occurrence of circumstances in the spiritual state of the Jewish sojourners that enabled God to cancel it. Just as at this time their disposition may have been alarmingly idolatrous and worldly, so at a later stage it may have changed.
I. WHAT THE PARABLE MAY HAVE SUGGESTED.
1. The contingent certainty of Divine judgment. The action may have represented, not only the sequence of events, but that of principles. If, then, the events did not occur, it would still remain true that, in the kingdom of God. such a dependence of principles is eternal; sin is ever nigh to cursing. So much is this the case, that it may be said to contain the elements of its own punishment, like the stones hidden in the clay.
(1) The stones are hidden in the clay with which, although heterogeneous, they stand in a divinely appointed relation.
(2) The interpretation given by the prophet further strengthened this impression in the minds of the spectators. It was the same power, viz. the Chaldean, which had already scourged Judah, that was to follow the remnant into distant Egypt. The continuity of the judgment with those which preceded it is thus forcibly set forth. Nebuchadnezzar, if or when he came, could not be mistaken for other than a divinely ordained instrument of vengeance. The advantage of such an understanding of the prophecy is obvious - it ceases to have a particular and transitory significance, and becomes at once necessary and universal. We need that lesson graven upon our hearts today: "The soul that sinneth it shall die;" "He that soweth to the flesh," etc.
2. That dependence upon any earthly power is utterly vain. Egypt is dreamt of as a refuge from their woes. Its power, typified by the clay of the kiln or brick field, only overlies the power of God, typified by the Stones. They would be in his hands still, although they knew it not. Through the clay of worldly dependence they must needs fall upon the stones of Divine judgment. Man cannot flee from his Maker. There is no earthly security from the consequences of sin. If the remnant of Judah, pursuing its tendency towards worldly mindedness and idolatry to the bitter end, should persist in putting its trust in the Egyptian power, to whose religion and life it was in such imminent danger of assimilating itself, woe to it! Through Pharaoh even will they be confronted with Nebuchadnezzar yet again. God is the only true Helper and Saviour, and in the practice of holiness and the precepts of true religion is security alone to be found. What assurance company can shield the sinner from the consequences of his misdeeds? And if God be for any man, who can he against him?
II. WHAT THE PARABLE MAY HAVE EFFECTED. It has been conjectured (by Naegelsbach and others) that the symbolic action of Jeremiah and its interpretation so forcibly appealed to the imagination and conscience of the Jews as to change their hearts. That some such consequence as this was intended seems very probable. If it resulted as they suppose, then the judgment was averted which depended upon their misconduct and worldliness. "God repented him of the evil." This is one of the great aims of such teaching - so to affect the heart through the imagination as to subdue its evil tendencies and lead it to the pursuit of righteousness and truth. The crowded Jewish colony of Alexandria may then be taken, not as a refutation of the words of Jeremiah, but as a proof that these words produced their legitimate impression, and brought about a deep and lasting reformation. The lesson of all which is that the relation between sin and its punishment, and the futility of earthly securities and screens from Divine vengeance, cannot be too forcibly represented. God will bless the faithful preaching of his Word, and is infinitely more willing to have mercy than to prove his predictions by allowing men to harden their hearts. - M.
Isaiah 31.). Here, in spite of all warning, they are resolving upon such reliance again. But they were building on sand. The destruction came; the very destruction they thought, by their acting as they had done, they had certainly escaped. Thus do and shall be done by all who are like them. Such are -
I. They that think to establish themselves by wicked ways.
II. Those that rely upon men and not on God.
III. Those that trust to uncertain riches.
IV. Those that think saying "Lord, Lord," whilst living ungodly lives, will save them. - C.