Righteous art thou, O LORD, when I plead with thee: yet let me talk with thee of thy judgments: Wherefore doth the way of the wicked prosper? wherefore are all they happy that deal very treacherously?
The difficulty implied by this proverb appears—
I. In this, that man is less a match for Satan now than when Satan proved himself more than a match for man. Beaten in Eden, where else can man look for success? Overcome in our innocence, what hope remains for us in this warfare now? Beneath a heaven that has empty thrones and in a world full of ruins, how may poor fallen creatures help to conquer an enemy who has won victories in the fields both of heaven and earth, and overcome the innocence both of angels and of men? We have been reduced to slavery—and did bondsmen ever win where freemen lost? But that we go to battle in the name of Jesus, backed by the Lord God of Hosts, we had had no answer to the question of the text.
II. If we were overcome by sin ere it had grown into strength, we are now less able to resist it. The difficulty of resisting our bad passions and corrupt nature, grows with man's growth, and strengthens with his strength. The farther we go down the slopes of evil, it is the more difficult to return. Nor could we ever hope that, having been overcome of sin when it was weak, we should overcome it when it is strong, but that faith, undaunted by difficulties can say, "What art thou, O great mountain? before Zerubbabel thou shalt become a plain!"
III. Consider how these difficulties are to be overcome. Take two cases—those of Peter and Abraham—where they, who had been overcome by the lesser overcame the greater trial; and though wearied by the footmen, nobly contended with horses. It was God that made them strong; and what they did, they did through the power of His might. He strengthened them with all might by His Spirit in the inner man, and though these actors have left the stage for lesser men to fill, the might, the power, the promises remain—God remains behind. "One man shall chase a thousand." "He that is feeble among them shall be as David; and the house of David shall be as God."
T. Guthrie, Family Treasury, May 1861, p. 257.
Jeremiah 12:5The river Jordan was an eminent and appropriate type of death, as being the barrier which parted the wilderness of Israel's sojourn from the promised land of their assured inheritance.
I. The reasonableness of the question in the text will be made manifest by pointing out certain circumstances which make death more appalling than any other calamity. (1) Death must be met alone. We are so constituted that in seasons of danger, difficulty, and alarm nothing is a more comfortable stay for the mind than a resort to the connections with which Providence has surrounded us—to the old familiar faces of our kinsmen or our friends. But in death every possibility of resort to human sympathy will be cut off from us; our spirits must encounter the last enemy alone. (2) There is a failure of every former confidence in the hour of death. Every plank of refuge shall be broken up, every mooring which held thee to the shore of life shall be loosened, and there shalt thou be launched alone upon the billows to meet the tempest of the wrath of God. (3) Another circumstance of terror attaching to death is that it ushers us into a new and strange world. The heart of man is constantly turning the energies of its attachments around the house of its pilgrimage. A future sphere of existence will be an untried sphere. Well may flesh and blood shrink from the prospect of being effectually unhinged from all that is usual and accustomed, divested of every material and earthly association. (4) Our great enemy, as in all our trials so in this especially, will be at hand to improve it to our ruin.
II. To every sincere believer in Christ the horror with which circumstances invest death is entirely dispelled. (1) The Christian is not left in the pitiful plight of the worldling and sinner, to encounter death alone. His Redeemer is in spirit with him, Christ's rod and Christ's staff they comfort him. (2) If all earthly stays and confidences be broken up, the Christian has an anchor of the soul sure and steadfast; it is the word and the work of Christ. (3) The Christian's soul has, during life, contracted an acquaintance with the new sphere into which the swelling of Jordan bears him away. Death ushers him into no strange scene, and introduces him to no strange company. (4) The great enemy shall be defeated in his last assault upon the Christian. God shall prepare a table before His people in the presence of their enemies.
E. M. Goulburn, Sermons in the Parish Church of Holywell, p. 51.
References: Jeremiah 12:5.—Spurgeon, Sermons, vol. xi., No. 635; G. Brooks, Outlines of Sermons, p. 293; G. Dawson, Sermons on Daily Life and Duty, p. 313; B. J. Snell, Christian World Pulpit, vol. xiv., p. 312; J. Pulsford, Old Testament Outlines, p. 246. Jeremiah 13:1-11.—Spurgeon, Sermons, vol. xxix., No. 1706. Jeremiah 13:13.—Outline Sermons to Children, p. 107. Jeremiah 13:14.—Parker, Christian Commonwealth, Sept. 16th, 1886. Jeremiah 13:15.—Outline Sermons to Children, p. 109; R. Newton, Bible Warnings, p. 239.. Jeremiah 13:15-17.—Spurgeon, Sermons, vol. xxix., No. 1748; V. Hay Aitken, Mission Sermons, vol. i., p. 23. Jeremiah 13:16.—W. T. Bull, Christian World Pulpit, vol. x., p. 97; J. Budgen, Parochial Sermons, vol. ii., p. 302. Jeremiah 13:20.—A. Davies, Christian World Pulpit, vol. iii., p. 324; Plain Sermons by Contributors to "Tracts for the Times," vol. i., p. 3. Jeremiah 13:22-25.—W. Hubbard, Christian World Pulpit, vol. xvi., p. 285.
Thou hast planted them, yea, they have taken root: they grow, yea, they bring forth fruit: thou art near in their mouth, and far from their reins.
But thou, O LORD, knowest me: thou hast seen me, and tried mine heart toward thee: pull them out like sheep for the slaughter, and prepare them for the day of slaughter.
How long shall the land mourn, and the herbs of every field wither, for the wickedness of them that dwell therein? the beasts are consumed, and the birds; because they said, He shall not see our last end.
If thou hast run with the footmen, and they have wearied thee, then how canst thou contend with horses? and if in the land of peace, wherein thou trustedst, they wearied thee, then how wilt thou do in the swelling of Jordan?
For even thy brethren, and the house of thy father, even they have dealt treacherously with thee; yea, they have called a multitude after thee: believe them not, though they speak fair words unto thee.
I have forsaken mine house, I have left mine heritage; I have given the dearly beloved of my soul into the hand of her enemies.
Mine heritage is unto me as a lion in the forest; it crieth out against me: therefore have I hated it.
Mine heritage is unto me as a speckled bird, the birds round about are against her; come ye, assemble all the beasts of the field, come to devour.
Many pastors have destroyed my vineyard, they have trodden my portion under foot, they have made my pleasant portion a desolate wilderness.
They have made it desolate, and being desolate it mourneth unto me; the whole land is made desolate, because no man layeth it to heart.
The spoilers are come upon all high places through the wilderness: for the sword of the LORD shall devour from the one end of the land even to the other end of the land: no flesh shall have peace.
They have sown wheat, but shall reap thorns: they have put themselves to pain, but shall not profit: and they shall be ashamed of your revenues because of the fierce anger of the LORD.
Thus saith the LORD against all mine evil neighbours, that touch the inheritance which I have caused my people Israel to inherit; Behold, I will pluck them out of their land, and pluck out the house of Judah from among them.
And it shall come to pass, after that I have plucked them out I will return, and have compassion on them, and will bring them again, every man to his heritage, and every man to his land.
And it shall come to pass, if they will diligently learn the ways of my people, to swear by my name, The LORD liveth; as they taught my people to swear by Baal; then shall they be built in the midst of my people.
But if they will not obey, I will utterly pluck up and destroy that nation, saith the LORD.