A Wicked City Spared for the Sake of One Saint
Jeremiah 5:1
Run you to and fro through the streets of Jerusalem, and see now, and know, and seek in the broad places thereof, if you can find a man…

The challenge is very bold and striking. It proves how thoroughly the prophet, as taught by the Spirit, had read the national corruption. At the same time it furnishes a gauge of the long, suffering mercy of God, and the influence for good of one true man. Jerusalem, the chief city, is chosen as representing what is best and most influential in the nation; and its streets and lanes as the haunts of the multitude, the merchants, the artisans, and common people, who would represent the general public morality. It is as if he had said, "In practical life, amid the miscellaneous throng, seek for the just and honorable man." What light this throws upon -

I. THE EXTENT OF CORRUPTION POSSIBLE IN HUMAN NATURE! The Jewish metropolis had been highly favored. The priesthood had its head-quarters there. The chief messages of the prophets had been delivered in its precincts. It was the center of influence, national spirit, and intelligence. Yet the effect of all this was morally and spiritually rotten. Worse even than Sodom and Gomorrah in actual spiritual condition, as certainly it would be far less tolerable for it than for them in the day of judgment. Ideally it was the city of the saints and of heavenly peace and order; actually its temple was a den of thieves, and its streets the scenes of universal dishonesty, godlessness, and corruption. As has been said of a certain metropolis of Christendom, it would appear to have been the case that "the more churches the less religion." Allowing it to be a rhetorical exaggeration, it was nevertheless a terrible statement to be able to make. But the great cities of the modern world have filled with a like despair the minds of the wisest thinkers. The measure of man's possible degeneration and depravity who can fix?

II. THE IMPORTANCE OF INDIVIDUAL INFLUENCE IN SPIRITUAL THINGS! The spectacle of Abraham praying for the cities of the plain is most impressive. But may it not be paralleled by the unconscious influence of good men? Even accepting the statement as a challenge, was it not a great thing to say that one man by his holiness could have saved the city? Suppose there had been such a man. One can imagine what would have been his sorrow at the universal evil, and his feeling of helplessness and uselessness amid the prevalent irreligion. Yet would his presence there be no light matter, no vain thing. Though he knew it not, he would have been the savior of the people - immediately from the judgment of God, possibly in the future from the sin that was destroying it. The value, therefore, of individual influence in spiritual matters is incalculable; and no Christian can say that he is of no use. Godward the prayer of the faithful may soar in constant intercession and mediation; manward his character and works are a constant testimony to the unbeliever.

III. THE INFINITENESS OF GOD'S LONG-SUFFERING LOVE. The presence of one good man in the wicked city would have been an appeal to God's justice that could not he despised. He could not "destroy the righteous with the wicked." But far more would it have been an appeal to his love. The hope of the future would have been wrapped up in that solitary saint. In him grace would find a secret sanctuary, and the forces of salvation a vantage-point from which to sally forth to the rescue of perishing souls and the work of national, yea, of world-wide, regeneration. The judgments of God are not inflicted arbitrarily or in haste. He has "no pleasure in the death of the wicked." Any reasonable excuse for merciful intervention or delay is welcome. Countless acts of mercy and forgiveness, countless opportunities for repentance, have occurred ere the uplifted axe has dealt its terrible stroke. Learn, then, from this that:

1. The life as the prayer of a righteous man availeth much with God.

2. That God will save us if we will only let him; and

3. He will begin his work of salvation from the least, and tarry it on even to the greatest.


Parallel Verses
KJV: Run ye to and fro through the streets of Jerusalem, and see now, and know, and seek in the broad places thereof, if ye can find a man, if there be any that executeth judgment, that seeketh the truth; and I will pardon it.

WEB: "Run back and forth through the streets of Jerusalem, and see now, and know, and seek in the broad places of it, if you can find a man, if there are any who does justly, who seeks truth; and I will pardon her.

A Man; Or, the Divine Ideal Unrealised
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