O you children of Benjamin, gather yourselves to flee out of the middle of Jerusalem, and blow the trumpet in Tekoa…
Such was the vision of Jeremiah which he saw concerning the coming wrath upon Judah and Jerusalem. It was the sad sight which the sinners in Jerusalem never, but the seer ever, saw clearly, vividly, heart-brokenly. The vision of Jeremiah for Jerusalem was the forerunner of our Lord's in substance, spirit, and result. Now, with regard to this awful onlook of the prophet which is here related, note -
I. HOW SOLITARY IT WAS. The people of Judah and Jerusalem were in no fear, and for forty years and more this vision was not realized. Other eyes saw nothing to be troubled about, and men generally were at ease in Zion. It was only the purged vision of the prophet that pierced the future and portrayed the dread realities of that fast-coming day. He saw clearly what others saw not at all. And so it is always. But why is this? Why do sinners not see? Take an answer from those senseless exhibitions in which the performers place themselves in positions of frightful peril, so that a moment's unsteadiness of nerve, the slightest slipping of hand or foot, would lead to their immediate inevitable and dreadful death; running all this risk to amuse the gaping, shameless crowds, who stare, stamp, and shout their applause at what never ought to be done. But let these performers provide us a reply to the question we have asked. They will tell you that at first they approached those dangerous places with great fear; how it was long ere they could walk with ease along that slender cord, or stand fearless on that dizzy height. But they got at length so used to these things that now they go through their perilous performances without the slightest fear. And so is it with grievous sinners against God. They have got so used to the threatening of his anger that they think nothing of it after a while, and go on unconcernedly until almost the moment of his vengeance bursts upon them. "Because sentence against an evil work is not executed speedily, therefore," etc. Their heart wishes that there may be naught to fear. The long-suffering and forbearance of God are perverted, by the deceitfulness of sin, to foster that belief, and so they at length persuade themselves that what God's servants see so clearly and warn them of so faithfully has no real existence, and "as it was in the days of Noah, so is it also in the days when the Son Of man cometh." Oh, what need for the prayer, "From all the deceits of the world, the flesh, and the devil, good Lord, deliver us"!
II. How VIVIDLY SEEN. Jeremiah sees the hurried flocking of the Benjamites (see Exposition), the terrified inhabitants of Jerusalem, to some common center in the city, and then their hasting away out of the southern gates towards Tekoa, one of the southernmost cities of the land, and furthest off from the dread invaders, who were speeding from the north. The alarm-trumpet sounding its shrill notes amid the quiet streets of Tekoa; he sees the signal-fires blazing froth the height of Beth-hakkerem, and answered by other like fires, all telling of distress; and then, from hill-summits yet further away, he sees the never-ending train of fierce and victory-flushed soldiers marching ruthlessly on in all the pride and pomp of war, streaming along the great northern roads, the open highway whereby they entered the holy land. He sees the various encampments, the spoliation of the whole district round, the eager haste of the foe to attack the great fortress of Jerusalem, the goal of all their hopes and the prize of their arduous campaign; he sees the varied preparations for war, the building of the engines of attack, the burning of her palaces; in short, the whole dread details of a city doomed to destruction at the hands of a besieging army. Thus vivid was the vision. And such clearness of onlook is given to God's seers that they may thereby more deeply impress and more surely move the minds of those they are sent to. It is well to muse over things unseen and eternal until they become real to us, until our faith becomes the evidence of the things not seen, and gives substance, shape, and body to the things hoped for. Then as those who have tasted and handled and felt the powers of the world to come, we shall speak with unwonted power, and men through us will also see what they have never seen before. But -
III. HOW WELL FOUNDED THIS VISION WAS. For the prophet came to the conviction of the coming wrath upon his country, not on any light grounds, but on such as in all ages may lead to a like conviction.
1. There was the extreme importance of Jerusalem, as an almost impregnable mountain fortress. In the frequent wars between Egypt and Assyria this fortress was the object of much solicitude to either side. And besides her strength there was her wealth and her fame, so that Jerusalem became a coveted possession to one great monarchy after another. Jeremiah (ver. 2) compares her to a beautiful and luxuriant pasturage (cf. Exposition). And as shepherds would covet such pasturage for their flocks, so the enemies of Jerusalem would covet her. So attractive, so desirable was she in their esteem. This fact, then, of the worth of Jerusalem to Assyria was one reason wherefore Jeremiah knew that that lawless and rapacious nation would certainly attack her.
2. The "delight in war which characterized Assyria. Vers. 4, 5 represent the language of their soldiers, their eagerness to be led to the attack, their impatience at every hindrance, their disregard both of the heat of noon or darkness of night. They were a people ever on the look out for plunder and aggrandizement, and seized on the very first pretext that offered for invasion and capture.
3. The prophet's clear perception that God was on the side of Israel's foes. Ver. 6, Thus hath the Lord of hosts said." It was, therefore, his will. It had been borne in upon his mind that God's wrath was ready to be poured out. He had been told so by the Spirit of God; he "spiritually discerned" the dark facts of the future, so that they stood out vivid and clear before the eye of his soul.
4. And his conviction that such was God's will could not but be deepened by the constant presence before him of the atrocious wickedness of the doomed city. Ver. 7, "As a fountain," perpetually, copiously freely, irresistibly, "casts out her waters, so did Jerusalem cast out," etc. The moral corruption of the people made him certain that the holy God of Israel would not suffer it to go on unpunished. And it is ever so. Let a nation, a family, a Church, an individual, give themselves up to wickedness and gross violation of the commands of God, it is certain that sentence of death is on them. Execution may be deferred, but unless there be repentance it will certainly be carried out. There were special features about the vision that was given to Jeremiah, but every believer in God sees in substance the very same. The deep-felt conviction of the godly is the expression of the will of God. What such a one binds on earth is bound in heaven, and whose sins such retain they are retained. It is a terrible fact, then, when any come under the grave moral condemnation of the people of God, for their condemnation is but the echo of those thunders they have heard reverberating around the throne of God.
IV. How MERCIFULLY SENT. Their purpose was obvious. Many years God would yet wait. Thus he gave this call to repentance, and waited long to see if it would be needed. The most loving words of Jesus are those which make our hearts tremble and our spirits quake with fear; those which tell of the everlasting fire and the never-dying worm. For these awful declarations are the expedients of love to drive, to terrify, to force away from the edge of the precipice of ruin those whom no other means will withdraw therefrom. And that this is the intent of these awful representations of God's wrath is seen in ver. 8, where God pathetically pleads with Jerusalem to be "instructed" by his words, "lest his soul depart from" her. Remember, then:
1. It is only the eye, purged by the Spirit of truth, that can see the truth as to ourselves or others. Until thus cleansed, we may be going down to our graves with a lie in our right hand.
2. Praise and bless God for his loving warnings to the wicked. Pray that they may be heeded, and be careful not to disguise or diminish them by prophesyings of peace when there is no peace.
3. Hasten to be yourself and to bring others to be safe within the shelter of the love of God, where no evil can befall and no plague ever come nigh. - C.
Parallel VersesKJV: O ye children of Benjamin, gather yourselves to flee out of the midst of Jerusalem, and blow the trumpet in Tekoa, and set up a sign of fire in Bethhaccerem: for evil appeareth out of the north, and great destruction.
WEB: "Flee for safety, you children of Benjamin, out of the midst of Jerusalem, and blow the trumpet in Tekoa, and raise up a signal on Beth Haccherem; for evil looks forth from the north, and a great destruction.