Thus said the LORD of hosts, They shall thoroughly glean the remnant of Israel as a vine…
Profound distress marks the prophet's utterances in this section. The lament over the incorrigible wickedness of men and his own baffled work is loud and long and bitter exceedingly (cf. Christ's tears over Jerusalem; Paul's sorrow over his countrymen).
I. WHAT CAUSED THIS BITTER CRY? His perception of the judgment of God drawing nigh (vers. 9,12, 15). The obstinacy of the people (vers. 10, 16, 17). The hopelessness of reformation (ver. 13). All were corrupt, and the prophets and priests were even leaders in sin (ver. 14). Even the Lord's voice had been despised (ver. 16). Now, when facts like these occur, the judgment of God threatening but those exposed to them obstinately refusing warning; and when those who should have warned them and been their guides in the ways of God are themselves godless, and the voice of God has been heard and deliberately despised, then, as the faithful servant of God sees this awful guilt and its sure, inevitable, and swift-approaching judgment, - then it is that a sense of despair, a deep grief fills the soul, as well it may.
II. WHAT IS A PREACHER TO DO UNDER SUCH CIRCUMSTANCES? The first thought is to turn away from the doomed people and to speak no more to them in God's Name. But it is better to take example from the prophet, who was verily as one of those servants who, when those called to the prepared feast would not come, but "made light ' of the gracious invitation, each saying, "I pray thee have me excused," went out, at his lord's bidding, into the highways and the hedges and compelled them to come in. So did Jeremiah now (ver. 11). It grieved him to the heart that God's Word should be despised, and he became "full of the fury of the Lord" (cf. Jeremiah 20:9). Hence he poured out his full heart upon young and old, men, women, and children, wherever he found opportunity of unburdening his soul on this great theme. He was inspired by God to do this, and the fact teaches us that preaching, which may seem to be of no use for the accomplishment of one result, may yet be of much use in regard to another. Jeremiah's testimony, though it did not save the people from captivity, was of great service to them there, and to the whole Jewish people ever after. His words, which seemed as idle tales when he spoke them, became mighty through God in after days. The neglect, therefore, of our message now should not lead us to cease delivering it, but should muse us to more zeal, and make us "weary with holding in" (ver. 11). We may be sure that whenever God moves us to speak earnestly his Word, he intends to make our message a means of blessing some when and somewhere.
III. WHAT THE PREACHER'S GRIEF REVEALS. It tells much:
1. Of God.
(1) Of his love; for it is ever he who inspires his servants with deep solicitude for men's salvation: it is he who through them is saying, "How can I give thee up?"
(2) Of his righteousness; for the vivid realization of the coming judgment which his servants have is given them that they may impress upon the impenitent and the ungodly the sure issue of their sins. The prophets who see and declare God's love are they who declare his righteousness also.
2. Of the preacher himself. How truly he is sent of God! It is the Spirit of God speaks through him, the love of God leading him to deep love for his fellow-men. If our hearts are greatly filled with a yearning for men's souls, if "rivers of water run down our eyes because men keep not God's law," - such solicitude is a sure sign of the presence of God with us, and a pledge of his help in delivering our message.
3. Of men. How desperately set they are against God! how absolute their need of the renewing power of the Holy Ghost! See what the prophet says (ver. 10): "Their ear is uncircumcised, and they cannot hearken." The habit of sin has caused their ear to be overgrown, and its power of hearing stopped, "so that," etc. How should the preacher ever remember this, and supplicate the mighty aid of the Divine Spirit if his message is to do any good!
IV. QUESTIONS IT SUGGESTS.
1. For preachers and teachers. Do we know anything of the prophet's grief? Facts all too plentiful and too closely resembling those which filled Jeremiah with the fury of the Lord (ver. 11) abound in our day. Do they excite any similar feeling in ourselves? What need we have to pray and watch against becoming used to sin! and for sympathy with the prophets of God and yet more with Christ, their Lord and ours!
2. For those who hear the Word of God. Are you becoming the cause of such grief to any of God's servants? Remember theirs is but the foreshadowing of your own, which will be far greater if you heed not their word. Rather heed that Word, and so become not their bitter grief but their joy now, and their cause of rejoicing in the day of the Lord. - C.
Parallel VersesKJV: Thus saith the LORD of hosts, They shall throughly glean the remnant of Israel as a vine: turn back thine hand as a grapegatherer into the baskets.