The Collapses of Life
Jeremiah 10:19-20
Woe is me for my hurt! my wound is grievous; but I said, Truly this is a grief, and I must bear it.

(with Psalm 27:5): —

I. THE LAMENT OF THE PROPHET. "Woe is me for my hurt! My wound is grievous: Truly this is a grief." It was not merely an irritation, or an inconvenience, or an annoyance, a disagreeable and disappointing incident, it was a grief — a bitter, crushing overthrow.

1. The overthrow is total. "My tabernacle is spoiled, and all my cords are broken." Victor Hugo tells of a wonderful tent that was given to Napoleon by the Sultan Selim: "From the outside it appeared like an ordinary tent, remarkable only for having in the canvas little windows, of which the frames were of rope; three windows on each side. The inside was superb. The visitor found himself inside a great chest of gold brocade; upon this brocade were flowers and a thousand fancy devices. On looking closely into the cords of the windows one discovered that they were of the most magnificent gold and silver lace; each window had its awning of gold brocade; the lining of the tent was of silk, with large red and blue stripes. If I had been Napoleon, I should have liked to place my iron bed in this tent of gold and flowers, and to sleep in it on the eve of Wagram, Jena, and Friedland." Now, metaphorically speaking, Napoleon did dwell in a magnificent tabernacle, but at length he slept in it for the last time on the eve of Waterloo, for the whole thing fell into awful ruin. Napoleon III shared the same fortune. He slept long in his glorious imperial tent, but on the eve of Sedan he slept in it for the last time, for the splendid fabric vanished as a dream. Within comparatively few years we have seen many rich and illustrious men like General Grant in New York, Secretan in Paris, the Gurneys and Barings in London, reduced to poverty at a stroke — their heirlooms scattered, their estates alienated, their pictures knocked down by auction, their splendid palaces dismantled and sold. And this kind of thing is ever going on. Crops are spoiled, ships founder, property deteriorates, tariffs close mills and factories, fires destroy, clerks embezzle, stocks and shares fall, and lovely tents are brought to the ground. We see these reverses startlingly in fallen conquerors, in exiled kings, in bankrupt millionaires; there the thing is writ large; but in a humbler way financial loss and embarrassment overtake thousands, and bury their delightful, cozy tents in the sand. Sometimes melancholy accidents bereave us and break up our homes.

2. The overthrow is sudden. A tent in the wilderness is suddenly broken, and just as suddenly are the hopes of men laid in the dust. We cannot guarantee anything. Our happy home may be smitten; our children gone forth; our health impaired; our days over. Science has invented a whole system of warning touching the calamities of nature. The seismograph is an alarum announcing the stealthy steps of the earthquake and volcano. Weather charts teach much concerning cyclonic disturbances. Various subtile barometers indicate atmospheric variations, and the mariner on the sea, the miner in the depths, is warned of impending peril. But there are no instruments fine enough to detect the approaching tempests and earthquakes which wreck human fortunes and hopes, no storm drum to warn us into safe harbours.

3. The overthrow is irreparable. "There is none to stretch forth my tent any more, and to set up my curtains." The prophet saw that there was no prince, no warrior, no statesman, no patriot with the requisite capacity and strength, to save the State, to retrieve its shattered fortunes, and to recall its children. The blow was so crushing that the nation was beyond recovery. It is frequently thus in private life. Physical afflictions prove incurable. The earthly tabernacle receives a mortal wound; we may linger, but the result is inevitable. Some financial disasters are absolutely irremediable. Some domestic bereavements are without compensation or hope. There are no compensations or substitutes.

4. The overthrow is personal. "Truly this is my grief, and I must bear it" (R.V.). As Miss McKenny writes in her suggestive book, A Piece of an Honeycomb: "The story of human life is ever the same, though told in new versions and in differing climes. Things go on smoothly with us for years, and we never can believe that the 'trouble' we are 'born to' will some day overtake us. But the hour strikes, and the bounds are removed; the flood gates are opened, and in upon us pours the full, devastating tide of sorrow. Not a new experience in this world of sin and suffering; yet strangely new and terrible to us. We sit in dumb desolation in the midst of our 'spoiled tabernacle.' Hearts which were one with ours are severed from us. It may be by death, or by something which is worse than that. We stand for the time in darkness 'upon the shadow side of God,' and see no light of comfort or of restoration. 'I must bear it,' says the stricken heart, with a wail."

II. THE REFUGE OF THE PSALMIST. "For in the time of trouble He shall hide me."

1. Fly to the living God. Grand dwelling place! Storms and earthquakes it defies; time does not sap its strength; the topmost wave of the deluge fell short of its threshold; burning worlds will not scorch it. Happy thing in the dark day to fall back on the eternal justice, love, and promise. Someone said to Luther: "When Frederic the Elector forsakes you, where will you find shelter? Under heaven," said the heroic saint. And when everything else has gone — the blue, calm, smiling heaven of the all-encompassing God shall be our refuge.

2. Rest in the loving Saviour. We are desolate, weak, our tent dissolved, our strength, our righteousness, our friendships, our hopes are gone; but the merit and love of Christ, like the strong, silken, embroidered curtains of a royal tent, wrap us round and keep us from the fear of evil.

3. Prepare for the heavenly home. Not long since, walking in a church, I observed this epitaph: "And now, Lord, what wait I for? My hope is in Thee!" And now, Lord. Now, when everything is absolutely gone. "In days past," seemed to say the dead man, "I had something to trust to that was tangible and ascertainable. I had the members of the body — eyes to behold, feet to run, hands to fight; but all are now paralysed; I had some gold and silver, but this shroud has no pockets; I had companions and helpers, but lover and friend is put far from me." "Now, Lord, what wait I for?" Not a rag left of all the tent, not a plank of the broken ship; it is absolute ruin and despair, or absolute faith and victory. "My hope is in Thee." And God will not confound us.

(W. L. Watkinson.)

Parallel Verses
KJV: Woe is me for my hurt! my wound is grievous: but I said, Truly this is a grief, and I must bear it.

WEB: Woe is me because of my hurt! my wound is grievous: but I said, Truly this is [my] grief, and I must bear it.

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