Why thus said the LORD God of hosts, Because you speak this word, behold, I will make my words in your mouth fire, and this people wood…
It has Been a common folly, in connection with all the revelations which God has made at sundry times and in divers manners, to despise the authority of the messengers. Noah, Moses, David, and many others up to Jesus himself, could tell, along with Jeremiah, the same essential experience of contempt, rejection, and persecution. It is not for God to use those outward pomps and recommendations on which men count so much. A message unwelcome in itself is easily made of no repute when the messenger is devoid of outward state. Outward show, as every age can tell, counts for a great deal. Perhaps the visit of the Queen of Sheba would have been made far less of if she had not been a queen, or had come without the barbaric treasures which she spread forth in such great abundance. Simple lovers of truth, when their station happens to be obscure, are not much remarked. Here then was Jeremiah, asserting that he had come with a message from the Lord of the utmost moment, and he is rejected with the brusque intimation that his message is a lie and he himself an impostor. And this rejection is all the more noticeable because the words of the prophet must surely have had a strange impressiveness. None of the prophets could have spoken in the routine fashion of a herald announcing the proclamation which many times, perhaps, he has announced before. They must all, at least in the judgment of a few, have spoken with authority and not as the scribes. And Jeremiah at all events must have stood before the people, having every channel of outward expression filled from the sad experiences and emotions of his own inward life. The sorrows of which he spoke were as sorrows that he saw rising before his mind's eye in all the horrors of their reality. The words, as he says in Jeremiah 20:9, were often words that he tried to keep back, but that which was as a burning fire shut up in his bones must break out at last. And therefore, when the words did come, they were charged with a force of personal conviction and brotherly entreaty which in itself ought to have been enough to arrest attention. Moreover, sword and famine, future calamities with all their aggravations, were not the only things of which the prophet spoke. He had to deal with an actual present as well as a foreshadowed future. The present in which he and his audience lived teemed with idolatry, perjury, fraud, and oppression. These things were not lies. It was no lie to point to the manifest seed that Israel was sowing, and surely there was nothing more really reasonable than that there should be a reaping according to the sowing. At this height of rejection, then, God steps in to vindicate and honor his faithful servant. It is a melancholy kind of distinction, but a distinction nevertheless. His words were not only true words, but most terribly near to their fulfillment. It was not that Jeremiah himself was an agent in destroying, but his words became so immediately true, there was such a rapid production and concentration of the agents of destruction, as to make it quite proper to say that these words of the prophet were as consuming fire. But a few years, and many of these despisers found that the alleged lies were only too painfully true. It is not over lapsing centuries that we have to look for the fulfillment of Jeremiah's gloomy prediction. Isaiah long before had sounded the note of warning, and now the peril is close at hand. It was inevitable that Jeremiah should speak with an urgency and excitement absent from the messages of his great predecessor. As the time of chastisement drew nearer, the warnings had to be louder, more disturbing, possibly more continuous. The mariner setting out on his voyage may be warned of some special danger lying in his track; but the adviser, while he may speak very earnestly, will not speak as does the man who, when the helmsman is close upon the danger, shouts to him, with utmost excitement and agitation, at once to change his course. God gave to Jeremiah this melancholy satisfaction, that while he had been, to his heart's deepest sorrow, a messenger of woe, he had yet been approved, on the surest evidence, as a messenger of truth. - Y.
Parallel VersesKJV: Wherefore thus saith the LORD God of hosts, Because ye speak this word, behold, I will make my words in thy mouth fire, and this people wood, and it shall devour them.