This is the word that came to Jeremiah from the LORD…
See the history. Under fear occasioned by the prophet's earnest appeals and the obvious fact that the judgment of God was drawing near - for the Chaldeans were at the gates - the king and his people solemnly vow to release their slaves. They had no right to retain them; they were sinning against God and them in so doing. Hence they let them go. But the fear departs, they think their danger has disappeared, and they enslave their brethren again. It was an abominable wickedness, and the prophet denounces awful doom upon them for it. Now, concerning such playing fast and loose with God, note that -
I. THIS IS A VERY FREQUENT SIN. Illustrations are Pharaoh, Balaam, Israel's whole career. And there are many such instances now. All insincere repentances are such. They may be:
1. Very general. This was so. All the people joined, high and low. Like the professed repentance of the people at John's baptism.
2. Very solemnly entered upon. How deeply moved these people seemed! What vows they uttered!
3. And some fruits meet for repentance may be produced. These people did for a while set free their slaves. There was a real reformation for the time. The evil spirit went out of the man.
4. But yet it is all worthless, for the evil spirit returns, and with increased power. The repentance was so short-lived that it was as if it had never been. Yea, worse: "The last end of that man was worse than the first."
II. ITS ORIGIN AND CAUSE ARE THE UNCHANGED HEART. Underneath the superficial soil there is, in spite of all the seeming repentance, the hard layer of rock. The motive was not the conviction of sin wrought by the Holy Spirit, but a craven fear and a desire, therefore, to buy off God's anger. And in this ease it was a cheap way, for liberating their slaves was the best means of securing a strong addition to the forces by which they would defend their city and themselves. Hence, when danger ceased, as they thought, their repentance ceased along with it. What need we all have to be on our guard against the semblances of real religion which our evil hearts are so prone to take up with! And what need to pray that the Lord would show us if we be now self-deceived, and that he would perfectly renew our hearts within us!
III. ITS GUILT VERY GREAT. What an outrage it is to God! We would not bear the like conduct from our fellow men. What awful presumption it manifests! what hardness of heart! And its guilt is the more aggravated because such conduct so plainly shows that we clearly know and understand God's will, though we only make pretence of obeying it.
IV. ITS DOOM IS VERY TERRIBLE. See the burning words of the prophet here (vers. 17-22). And we have portents of that future doom in the hardening of the heart, the searing of the conscience, the being "given over to a reprobate mind," the audacity in wickedness which such conduct produces. How hard to bring such men to repentance! or, if conviction of sin do come, into what depths of despair does it plunge the sinner! All these are indications of the holy displeasure of God which rests on such sin. May he keep us from it. - C.
Parallel VersesKJV: This is the word that came unto Jeremiah from the LORD, after that the king Zedekiah had made a covenant with all the people which were at Jerusalem, to proclaim liberty unto them;