Then all the captains of the forces, and Johanan the son of Kareah, and Jezaniah the son of Hoshaiah…
This section may teach us much on this very serious matter.
I. WHAT IT IS TO DISSEMBLE IN PRAYER. It is:
1. To pray in a deliberately continued unregeneracy of heart. The hearts of not a few of those Jews who now sought Jeremiah's prayers were deliberately held in a condition of disobedience. They had never really repented. How many such pray, but their prayer is a dissembling!
2. When allowing ourselves in forbidden paths. The Jews had no business on that border land. It was a yielding to temptation to go there. So when we come from sin to the throne of grace, and go thence to sin again, this is, etc.
3. When we are not setting ourselves to mortify our evil affections. The Jews here showed no real, sincere intention to give up their own will and to obey God's. They would not have been on that border land had such been the case. And so where there is no real striving against sin, this is, etc.
4. When whilst we pray we regard iniquity in our heart. That is to purpose and intend it; or to look upon it complacently and desiringly. The Jews, whilst praying to know God's will, were all the while looking with strong desire after what they knew was wrong. Like as when Balaam offered his many sacrifices, his heart was all the while going after its covetousness.
II. WHAT CAN LEAD MEN TO BE GUILTY OF SUCH DISSEMBLING? We should imagine they never could be; that the thing would be too outrageous, wicked, and absurd for any one to be guilty of. And yet there have been and are many such prayers. They may be partly explained by:
1. The force of habit. The locomotive, if left to itself, will run along the rails for considerable time and distance, slowing and stopping only very gradually, though the steam has been shut off the whole while. So those who have been wont to offer prayers will keep up the form and habit, though the heart be wanting.
2. They may be themselves deceived. Their strong desire for God's sanction might lead them to imagine they would gain it by their prayers.
3. They would not break with God altogether, and they deem that they can keep up their communications by such methods as these.
III. HOW PRAYERS ARE PROVED TO HAVE BEEN OF THIS EVIL CHARACTER.
1. By anger at their refusal. See how angry these Jews were. The state of mind with which we come away from our prayers will show much the true nature of those prayers.
2. When we make them only through others. The Jews left it to Jeremiah. So now men leave to their ministers or friends the prayers they profess to value.
3. When they are followed by open and defiant disobedience. So was it here (Jeremiah 43:1-7). Nothing could more plainly have shown how hollow and insincere were their prayers. And so now, when men pray, and rise up and go and do worse than before, what can their prayers have been?
IV. WHAT ARE THE RESULTS OF SUCH PRAYERS? They grieve the Spirit of God. They harden the heart, and tend to make men of a reprobate mind. Cf. our Lord's words to the Pharisees - the pattern dissemblers of his day. They pave the way to "the damnation of hell." Therefore - thus let us conclude - be our prayer, "Search me, O God, and try my heart," etc. - C.
Parallel VersesKJV: Then all the captains of the forces, and Johanan the son of Kareah, and Jezaniah the son of Hoshaiah, and all the people from the least even unto the greatest, came near,