Jeremiah 5:30, 31
A wonderful and horrible thing is committed in the land;…
I. THE TEMPTATIONS HERE SET FORTH. Three classes are mentioned - the prophet, the priest, and the people in general. Each class plays only too well its iniquitous and deplorable part, just because of the strong assistance which it gains from the attitude of the others. Each class acts as tempter in its turn, and that none the less effectually because it may do it unconsciously. Each one also tempts because he is tempted, and one hardly knows where the malign influence begins save by remembering the words of James, "Every man is tempted when he is drawn away of his own lust and enticed." The prophet, however, is here put first, and this can hardly be without reason. On him there did indeed lie a peculiar burden of responsibility. The prophets here mentioned, we may take it, were not false prophets, although they spoke falsely. The false prophet was he who pretended to be a prophet, although God never sent him; and of such there were doubtless some in the land at this very time. But the horrible thing here was that men whom God had set apart to speak the truth used the prophetic office to tell convenient lies, such as seemed to afford security and profit. Jonah, in his cowardice fleeing from duty, is an illustration of what many other prophets must have done, only they went further and never came back to truth and peace. We know how men in all ages have sold the heritage of faculty which God has given them to the service of lying and darkness. Instead of fighting where their hearts ought to have been, among the soldiers for truth and liberty, they have become mercenaries under despots. These prophets on whom Jehovah had put his hand had allowed themselves to be filled with fear and greed and schemes for worldly success, instead of with the Spirit of Jehovah. They went not with what was true, but with what was acceptable. How much higher the faithful prophets should stand in our esteem when we consider the temptations they resisted, the pains they suffered, the pious heroism which marked their sometimes long career! Imagine what the consequences would have been if the apostles had altered and trimmed the gospel. Then there were the priests. "The priests bear rule by their means." The allusion may be to the hands of the prophets, but perhaps a better meaning is to take it that the prophet sinned in his way, and the priest again in his way. The prophet's great instrument of service was his mouth, and with this he prophesied falsely. The priest's great instrument of service was his hand, and this he used to get superstitious deference to his privileges, instead of for the purpose of presenting, with his whole heart, offering and atonement for the people. In addition to this, there may have been, and very likely was, a corrupt understanding between priest and prophet. Then both priest and prophet had in their eyes the great mass of the people. God himself looked down on this unfaithfulness of the great officials with a warmth of indignation that would soon burst into flame, but the people regarded it all with a very different feeling. They "loved to have it so." When a true prophet came, speaking truth, his message was so hateful and humiliating that they denied his office. "Surely the man who speaks such things cannot be a prophet; a madman he may be, or a fanatic, or a disloyal man whose Israelite form hides a foreign heart; anything you like, but not a prophet." But when the prophet comes speaking lies, looking into the faces of his audience for all that he has to put into their ears, then his office will be approved. And so with the priest. If he makes it clear that burnt offerings and all sacrifices are nothing without repentance and reform, he will be thought very little of. He must let the people sin and sin as much as they like. They will cram the temple area with multitudes of flocks and herds to take the effect of sin away, if only they may go on sinning. What God had given to teach the dreadful malignity of sin, these priests had turned into an agency for making it seem a mere trifle.
II. THERE WAS ALSO AN OPPORTUNITY OF REBUKE AND REMONSTRANCE. The people were not obliged to accept these priests and prophets on their own ipse dixit. It was not because a man came forth with his "Thus saith the Lord" that he was to be followed. Anybody can say, "Thus saith the Lord." The devil attempted persuasions of this sort when he came to Jesus in the wilderness. There must be a strict searching into what is said. One purpose for which God used prophets and priests was as a test of those whom they had to do with. God wishes to know the extent of our regard for the truth, and he has not left us helpless in discovering that truth with the almost certainty. There is always something to appeal to. Every true prophet with his "Thus saith the Lord" had behind him a Law and testimony, already written and indisputably valid, to which he could point. Each prophet as he came along was more firmly tied to the truth, because he had behind him so many who had already spoken, and whom he must not contradict. So the apostles could be checked in speaking lies or inventions, because an appeal was possible to what Jesus had said in the flesh. There were twelve men with one message, and only as long as the message was one were people bound to receive it. And happily, if a difference had arisen, there was always the means of testing which speaker was right. "No man speaking by the Spirit of God calleth Jesus accursed." As things stand today, it is perfectly clear that we can test every one professing to be a messenger of Divine truth; we can test him effectually. We are not left unprovided amid modern imposture, knavery, and delusion. - Y.
Parallel VersesKJV: A wonderful and horrible thing is committed in the land;