Jeremiah's Visions
Jeremiah 1:11-16
Moreover the word of the LORD came to me, saying, Jeremiah, what see you? And I said, I see a rod of an almond tree.…

I. WHAT WERE THEY? (Cf. vers. 12-14.)

II. WHEREFORE WERE THEY? In all probability, for the sake of vividly impressing the mind of the prophet with the message he was to deliver, and so ensuring that that message should be delivered with greater power. Hence the question, "What seest thou?" (ver. 11) was designed to arouse and arrest his attention, and for the same reason, when that attention had been awakened, the Divine commendation, "Thou hast well seen," is given. Cf. for similar questions and similar visions, ver. 13; Jeremiah 24:3; Amos 7:8; Amos 8:2; Zechariah 4:2; Zechariah 5:2, and in each case the motive seems to have been the same.


1. Concerning God's punishment of sin.

(1) Its not being apparent to us is no reason for denying it. Certainly the vision of the stem, or branch, of the almond tree would not to an ordinary observer have suggested it. Nor either the second vision, that of the seething pot, although that did undoubtedly present somewhat more of a troubled aspect. Yet both alike needed that their meaning and interpretation should be given. Their significance did not lie on the surface. Only a divinely illumined eye could see that the early-budding almond tree which, because of its outstripping other trees, being in advance of them all in yielding its fruit, was called the "wakeful" or watchful tree, meant that the Lord was watchful over his word to perform it." Nor was the interpretation of the second vision much more evident than that of the first. And so continually, in connection with ungodly men, there are events occurring and signs of varied kind are given, which to those who are taught of God tell plainly how God is "watchful over his word to perform it;" but to others they tell nothing of the kind. They are like the prophet's almond tree and seething pot, which had no meaning until that meaning was pointed out. The people of Judah and Jerusalem saw nothing in these circumstances, any more than in the prophet's visions, to alarm them very much. And so, still, ungodly men are at ease in the presence of facts and indications which fill those who believe God's Word with unspeakable alarm. How foolish, then, is it to take the unconcern, the powerlessness to understand God's signs, which characterize ungodly men, as any evidence of the unreality of that which God has declared! "As it was in the days of Noah, so shall it be," etc. Lot was as "one that mocked unto his sons-in-law." The Jews crucified our Lord because he saw so clearly and declared so plainly the character of their trusted leaders and the destruction that was coming - one even more terrible than that which Jeremiah foretold. But the Jews neither saw nor believed anything of the kind.

(2) Its being by means of natural laws does not make it the less God's punishment of sin. The rapid growth and yield of the almond tree was a perfectly natural thing: there was no interference with the orderly course which such forms of plant life assume. And the war between the empires of Egypt and Babylon, in the vortex and whirlpool of which Jerusalem was dragged in and dragged down; all this which the prophet's second vision told of, was it not the inevitable though sad misfortune of any diminutive power as was that of Judah and Jerusalem when placed in like circumstances? Her lot was east just in the place where the two raging seas of Egypt and Babylon met. What wonder if her poor little barque went to pieces beneath the violence of those waves? It was sad enough, but yet perfectly natural; indeed, one may say, inevitable. And so it would be quite possible to explain all God's punishment away, and to regard it like the early blossoming of the almond tree, and like the seething troubles which must come upon little kingdoms placed as Judah was, when great empires on either side of her go to war, as only what was to be expected, what was in keeping with the natural order of things. Let any one read Gibbon, and from his account of the decline and fall of the Roman empire, you would gather no idea of a Divine righteousness arising to inflict merited punishment on an awfully corrupt and degraded people. Believers in God can and do see this, but the great historian has not felt himself bound to point out any such cause of the long series of disasters which he so eloquently relates. The inspired prophet and seer of Patmos has, however, done this; and in the Book of the Revelation, the woes coming upon that blood-stained empire are told of in symbolic but terrible form, and in connection with that God-defying wickedness which was the source and cause of them all. And so today, under cover of the fact that God works according to the natural order of things, men evade the teaching of the events that befall them. Because God punishes sin by the action of his natural laws, men deny that he punishes sin at all. His hand is not recognized in it, and therefore no repentance is awakened. They deem themselves unfortunate, and that is all. If we would be more faithful with ourselves, we should "hear the rod and who hath appointed it," No calamities or disasters come without meaning and intent; they are sent for moral and spiritual purposes, however much they may appear to be but natural and necessary events. Each of them will own, if interrogated, "I have a message from God unto thee."

(3) It will increase in severity if there be need. The first vision is simply that of the almond tree; an emblem of gentleness rather than of severity. But the second vision, that of the boiling caldron, suggested a far ether and more terrible visitation (cf. the plagues in Egypt, which increased in terribleness as they went on). And it is ever so even unto the "consuming fire" (Hebrews 12:29).

(4) It often comes from unexpected quarters. The "seething pet i, that the prophet saw had its face northward. Now, the reader of the history of the times of which our prophet tells - the times of King Josiah - will know that it was from the south, from Egypt, they expected that troubles would arise. And in the next chapter (ver. 16) mention is made of trouble that did arise from that quarter, though what particular event is referred to it is not easy to say. But the great trouble was to come from the north, from the last quarter from which they anticipated it. King Josiah lost his life in doing good service to that northern power, the great Assyrian kingdom, by fighting against Egypt. It was not, therefore, to be expected that thence calamity would come. But nevertheless it was thence that their great overthrow and destruction came. And little do the transgressors against God ever know or even dream whence his judgments against them will arise. It is not only "in such an hour," but from such a quarter "as they think not, that the Divine displeasure breaks upon them. A transgressor against God is safe nowhere: nothing may be visible to his eye, everything may be going on in orderly course, and he may have full confidence that all is well. But notwithstanding this, events soon to happen may prove that he has wrongly read the whole of God's providence, and that his security is least where he thought it was greatest and most certain. Happy, and happy alone, is he who hath made the Lord God his trust, and whose hope the Lord is.

2. Concerning the Divine love. We have seen wherefore these visions were given. They reveal to us that Divine love which would warn men from ways which bring upon them such sore judgments. The desire of God to save guilty men, to leave nothing undone by which they may be turned and kept back from evil, is manifest in all this. He would not have his message miss its mark by reason of any lack of deep impression and vivid realization of the truth on the part of the messenger. - C.

Parallel Verses
KJV: Moreover the word of the LORD came unto me, saying, Jeremiah, what seest thou? And I said, I see a rod of an almond tree.

WEB: Moreover the word of Yahweh came to me, saying, "Jeremiah, what do you see?" I said, "I see a branch of an almond tree."

What Seest Thou?
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