For thus has the LORD of hosts said, Hew you down trees, and cast a mount against Jerusalem: this is the city to be visited…
For thus hath the Lord of hosts said, Hew ye down trees, etc. Nothing could seem a more purely human affair than the invasion of Judah and Jerusalem by the armies of Babylon. Its motives, methods, means, results, were all just such as were perfectly comprehensible and according to the manners of that age and the peoples concerned. One event followed another in natural sequence, and was fully explained, so men would say, by what went before. And so in reference to a still more notable event - the crucifixion of our Lord Jesus Christ. To the eye of an ordinary historian, that supreme event was brought about in altogether a common and ordinary way. But as concerning that event;, so concerning this of which Jeremiah tells it is distinctly declared that God was overruling and directing all that took place. Not that God was the author of the wickedness which seemed triumphant in these events - especially in the "wicked hands ' by which our Lord was "crucified and slain." No, but just as, when a fire has broken forth and is threatening to devour and destroy on all hands, wise and skilful firemen, when they cannot quench it, will contrive to lead it in a given direction, will order the path it shall take as seems to them best, so God, when he sees the raging fire of wickedness has broken forth, guides and orders the path it shall take, the work it shall do. Wickedness is never attributable to God, but the development and form it shall assume are so. Hence in the text, the Lord of hosts is represented as the real Commander of the armies that were to invade Judah and Jerusalem; it was his orders they were in fact obeying, though nothing was further from their thoughts than this. And so we are taught that God is behind all human affairs, ordering and directing them according to his will.
"There's a divinity that shapes our ends,
Rough-hew them how we will." And now we ask -
I. WHY SHOULD NOT THIS BE SO? Many reply that if you find an adequate cause for any given effect, there is no need to look for any other. But, in answer, see, I let this book fall; what causes it to fall? The law of gravity will adequately explain it. But was that the real cause? Was not my will to let it fall that real cause? And so in human affairs, we may see the immediate antecedent, but we have a right to ask, "What lies behind that?" You say, "Sufficiently plain motives led to such and such conduct;" but we ask," Who brought these motives into action? who or what set them at work so that these results have come about?" Further -
II. GOD IS A PERFECTLY HOLY BEING, AND THEREFORE MUST DESIRE TO HAVE ALL MORAL NATURES MADE LIKE UNTO HIMSELF. "Good and upright is the Lord, therefore will he teach sinners in the way." "The righteous Lord loveth righteousness;" hence we are bidden, "Give thanks at the remembrance of his holiness." Hence it is certain that he will employ all means consistent with the nature he has given us to bring our wills into harmony with his own. Therefore when we see a whole system of things, an entire course of events, tending to and actually producing this result - for the Captivity did cure Israel of their idolatry, they went no more after false gods, nor have they done so ever since - we at once put it down to him whose nature and whose will we know.
III. AND OUR INDIVIDUAL CONSTITUTION SUPPORTS THIS VIEW. There are Divine laws for the body, the mind, the affections. And to bring us into harmony with his laws, which are the expression of his will, he has "begirt us round" with safeguards and guides which, if we heed, happy are we, but if we neglect, we suffer. It is certain that the health of our whole nature follows obedience to these laws; and, on the other hand, the misery which results from disobedience declares plainly his will, and shows that he is behind all those facts which we call the causes of these results, and is himself the Cause of them all. Now, this is true in the case of each single person. May it not, therefore, be true in the case of the world at large, and in regard to what we call "causes and effects?" Then note further -
IV. THE UNITY OF PURPOSE WHICH IS SEEN THROUGHOUT THE ORDERING OF THE UNIVERSE, SO FAR AS WE CAN TRACE, SEEMS TO INDICATE ONE MIND GOVERNING ALL. Read history, or such a book as Creasy's 'Decisive Battles of the World,' and note how each great struggle has helped forward the advance of humanity, has bettered the condition Of mankind, so that it is terrible to think what, in many instances, would have been the consequences had the events fallen out in an opposite way. The hand of God in history is clearly discernible by all who believe heartily in the living, all-holy, all-loving God.
V. And, of course, THE WHOLE AUTHORITY OF SCRIPTURE SUPPORTS THIS DOCTRINE. (Cf. the story of Joseph, and his answer to his brethren, "It was not you that sent me hither, but God.")
VI. Learn in CONCLUSION:
1. To cast out from your minds every idea or thought of chance, fate, or any mere haphazard coming about of events.
2. How seriously we ought to look at the events of our own lives, and inquire God's meaning in regard to his dealings with us. We are not to be drawn off from this by the imagination that our little lives are far too insignificant for God to care for or direct. Does not God paint the roadside flower, the wing of the moth? Is there anything minute or insignificant in his esteem?
3. Rejoice and be exceeding glad. "Our Father's at the helm." "What we know not now we shall know hereafter." Therefore "rest in the Lord, and wait patiently for him." - C.
Parallel VersesKJV: For thus hath the LORD of hosts said, Hew ye down trees, and cast a mount against Jerusalem: this is the city to be visited; she is wholly oppression in the midst of her.