Listen to the cry of the daughter of my people from a land far away, "Is the LORD no longer in Zion? Is her King no longer there?" "Why have they provoked Me to anger with their carved images, with their worthless foreign idols?"
I. ITS GRIEVOUSNESS. (Vers. 18, 21, Jeremiah 9:1.) Ver. 18, "When I would comfort myself," etc. All hope dies down, is crushed beneath the overwhelming evidence of the hopelessness of his people's condition. Ver. 21: he is as if wounded, his heart is clad in the garb of deepest woe, the black raiment of the mourner. Ch. 9:1: he has exhausted his power of telling forth his deep grief, his eyes refuse to weep more, though his heart be sore pierced, and the troubles of his people are unrelieved. Therefore he desires that he might weep continually.
II. ITS GROUNDS.
1. They were still trusting in lying words (ver, 19), reckoning that, because the temple of Jehovah and the throne of David belonged, to them, therefore they should have been secure. Though in distant lands, in actual captivity - for there the prophet contemplates them - they were still imagining that the possession of the temple and David's throne should have been their sure safeguard. It is terrible to see God's judgments coming upon guilty men, but when these judgments themselves seem to fail in teaching the needed lesson, that is a greater sorrow still.
2. The time of redemption was over. (Ver. 20.) The long harvest days, the bright summer weather - symbols of all days of opportunity - these were gone, The days when they might have turned to God and found deliverance, "the wrath of God had arisen against them, and there was no remedy." But what a retrospect is his who has to say as did Post Israel, "The harvest is past," etc.! For:
(1) Such seasons remind us of our privileges and obligations.
(a) It is a time of fruitfulness, of great privilege, grace, and goodness. God makes man's cup to overflow. Youth and days of gospel privilege. Sundays, sacred services, etc.
(b) It should be a time of great activity. The natural harvest and summer-time is so. For:
(c) It is a season of such limited duration.
(2) But men often let these times pass away unimproved.
(a) The world hinders them.
(b) Perversion of Scripture truths.
(c) Belief that they are well enough as they are.
(3) But once gone, the fruits of that summer and that harvest can never be saved. Such facts as these open the floodgates of grief in hearts like that of Jeremiah.
3. He could see no means of restoration or recovery whatsoever (Ver. 22), no balm and no physician anywhere.
III. ITS WORD TO ALL WHO SHOULD KNOW OR ARE THE CAUSES OF SUCH GRIEF NOW.
1. Christ's servants should be in sympathy with the prophet's lament. It is because we are so indifferent the world is so. "Si vis me flere flendum est," it is ever saying, but in vain, to the professing Church. Oh for the compassion of Jeremiah and yet more of Christ! If we sowed in tears we should reap in joy. If so we went forth "bearing precious seed, we shall doubtless come again rejoicing, bringing," etc.
2. But you who cause such grief, think you not that if such be the result of anticipating God's judgments upon sin, the enduring of them must be far worse? And that is your part in them. Christ himself assured the weeping women who followed him to Calvary that the woes of them who crucified him would be worse than his own. "If they do these things in a green tree, what shall be done in the dry?" CONCLUSION. Then, instead of causing sorrow to the faithful servants of God by resisting their appeals, yield to them, and so gladden these servants, and the angels of God, and the heart of God, and the Son of God. So you yourself shall "enter into the joy of your Lord." - C.
Is not the Lord in Zion?
I. We have in the text A CRY.
1. Observe the word "Behold." The "behold" here is the mark of astonishment. We are to "Behold the voice of the cry of the daughter of My people" as an unusual thing. So seldom does Israel cry unto the Lord, she is so negligent of prayer, she is so silent when she ought to be incessant in her petitions, that when at last she does cry, her voice is a wonder in God's ears. And yet it ought not to be a wonder, it ought not to be a strange thing for God's people to be in earnest, or for sinners to feel brokenness of heart. If prayer be the Christian's breath, why then, to see a multitude breathing, should never be a spectacle. If to pray unto God be the Christian's daffy privilege, then to approach the throne of God with prevalent earnestness, should never be looked upon with astonishment.
2. Notice how this prayer is described. It is a cry: "Behold the cry." A cry is the most natural form of utterance. It is a natural expression made up of pain and desire for relief. When a brother merely prays what we call prayer, he stands up and utters very proper words, very edifying, very suitable, no doubt, and then he has done. Another brother comes forward; he wants a blessing, he tells the Lord what he desires; he takes the promises, he wrestles with God, and then he seems to say, "I will not let Thee go except Thou bless me." He cannot be satisfied till, with the cry of "Abba, Father," he has come before the throne and really obtained an audience with the Most High.
3. Note again, for every word of our text is suggestive, it is Behold the voice of the cry of the daughter of My people. It is not enough to be earnest, you must know what you are earnest about; the cry must have a voice which is as far as possible understood by yourself, and a voice which has a meaning in it before God. I must direct my prayer unto God, as David says, pull my bow, direct the arrow, take aim at the centre of the target, and then when the arrow flies it is likely to reach its place.
4. Further, study the matter of the voice — it was "for them that dwell in a far country." In what a far country does every sinner dwell! Now, the prayers, I hope, of God's people, have been going up for all the far-off ones, that infinite mercy would make them nigh by the blood of Christ.
5. Remark another word in the text — for "those that dwell in a far country": there are some of you who make a long abode in a far country. The fact is, you have taken up your dwellings; you have made a settlement in one of the parishes of the city of destruction; you are making out a claim to be enrolled in the devil's register; you dwell in the far-off land. If you were uneasy and felt yourselves to be strangers and foreigners in the land of destruction, how would I clap my hands for joy; for you would soon be rid of your old master if you once felt sick of him.
6. The cry is "The cry of the daughter of My people." Oh, it is so sweet to think that our prayers, poor as they are, are the prayers of God's own people, and therefore they must be heard. You are the Lord's children, therefore He will hear you. Would you let your child constantly cry to you and not answer Him?
II. We will now turn to the QUESTION: "Is not the Lord in Zion? is not her King in her?" I will answer that question at once in the affirmative. "The Lord is in Zion: her King is in the midst of her." Having answered this question, it suggests many more.
1. If the Lord be indeed in Zion, and the King he in the midst of her, why do we pray as if He were not? He is with you, ready to answer by fire, if, like Elias, you have but faith with which to challenge His promise and His power.
2. Why do you despond because of your own weakness? "We have not a sufficient number of ministers; we have little wealth; we have few places of public worship; we have few gifted members," and so on. So some unbelievingly talk. "Is not the Lord in Zion? is not her King in her?" What more do you want? "Oh! we would like to be strong." Why would you be strong? That you must be disqualified to be used by God? Why, any fool can kill the enemy with a cannon, but it takes a Samson to smite them with the jawbone of an ass. And so, when God has the choice of weapons, and He always has, He chooses the weaker weapon, that He may get to Himself the greater renown.
3. If God be with us, why these great fears about the prosperity of the Church? The God of Zion is here, the King of Zion is here. I grant you, we do not sufficiently recognise His presence; we are not, as we should be, obedient to His commands but I charge you, O ye soldiers of the Cross, believe in the presence of your Captain, and press where ye see His helmet amidst the din of war. His Cross is the great emblazoned banner which leads you on to glory. Press forward! to suffer, to deny yourselves, to bear witness for Christ; for the battle is the Lord's, and the King Himself fights in the van.
III. ANOTHER QUESTION. "Why have they provoked Me to anger with their graven images and with strange vanities?"
1. Here is a question for the Lord's people. It becomes a very solemn thing when God is in His Church how that Church behaves herself. Suppose that Church to set up false principles: if her King were not there she might take the kings of the earth to be her head. But dare she do that when her King Himself is there?
2. This text has a particular voice to sinners. You have been saying, "God is in the midst of His people — how is it I have not had a blessing?" I will ask you this question, "Why have they provoked Me to anger with their graven images and with strange vanities?" Do not ask why the Word is not blessed to you; do not ask why you do not enjoy the prayer meeting: answer my question first. Why hast thou provoked Me to anger with thy tricks in trade, with thy Sabbathbreaking, with thy lying, with thy loose songs, with thy miring up with worldly company, with thy profanity?
IV. ANOTHER CRY. I wish I might hear this cry this morning, for then I should not hear it in the world to come, "The harvest is past, the summer is ended, and we are not saved."
( C. H. Spurgeon.)
I. IT IS POSSIBLE FOR THE MEMBERS OF A PROFESSING CHURCH TO BE DECEIVED CONCERNING THE PRESENCE OF GOD, AND CONCLUDE THAT HE IS WITH THEM, WHEN IN REALITY HE IS FAR FROM THEM.
1. Deceived on this important point are those who conclude God is with them because they have imposing forms and splendid places of worship. If pompous forms of worship and gorgeous temples marked the presence of God with men, the evidence would go to show that God was more with the ancient heathen than with the ancient Jews. It would exalt Mahomet and Mohammedanism over Christ and Christianity.
2. Deceived on this important point are those professing churches who conclude God is with them, because they have creeds and councils in their favour. Were, however, this conclusion correct, it would prove that the presence of God might be found with the mere letter of truth, or even error.
3. Deceived on this important point are those professing churches who conclude God is with them because they have extensive knowledge and numerous gifts. In danger of this error were many who were members of the Church of God at Corinth. An error St. Paul fully exposed, showing that those things which they so highly valued were worthless in comparison with sacred charity, true love to God, and pure love to man.
4. Deceived also on this important point are those churches and individuals who conclude God is with them because He was once with them. Who will question the truth, that He was with the Jews as a people, when Moses sang (Exodus 15:13)? But is He with them now as a nation, as the rod of His inheritance, the Zion wherein He delighteth to dwell? Has not the evil He warned them against come upon them (Jeremiah 6:8)? Then in reference unto individuals, having once been with them, is no certainty that He abides with them. Was He not with Saul when chosen of God to be the King of Israel (1 Samuel 10:7)? Was He not with Solomon when he devoutly dedicated the temple to the Lord, and prayed (2 Chronicles 6:41)? Was He not with Judas when called to the apostleship? Now to say nothing concerning the hour of death, was His presence perpetually with these through life? Then let us net, neither as churches nor as individual members, depend on the past, nor be satisfied with anything short of having God indisputably with us now; bearing in remembrance that His presence is conditional (2 Chronicles 15:2).
II. IT IS POSSIBLE FOR THE MEMBERS OF A PROFESSING CHURCH TO BE FULLY ASSURED OF THE PRESENCE OF GOD AMONG THEM — KING IN ZION.
1. God is where the Word of truth is faithfully preached and believingly received.
2. God is where the ministry of the Gospel is effectual to accomplish the purposes for which it is proclaimed.
3. God is where the members of the Church grow in sacred knowledge, and increase in holiness of heart and life.
4. God is where the discipline of Christ is scripturally observed and maintained.
5. God is where a professing people dwell together in the bonds of Christian charity. To this Christians are called by their name, their profession, and hope of eternal life.
III. IT BEHOVES THE MEMBERS OF A PROFESSING CHRISTIAN CHURCH FREQUENTLY AND FAITHFULLY TO PRESS ON THEMSELVES THE SOLEMN, WEIGHTY INQUIRY, IS THE LORD IN OUR ZION, IS HER KING WITH US? Have we the marks of the Divine presence already stated? Let us examine ourselves as a Christian community on this subject, and that with the sincerity of those who would not be deceived.
1. Is the Word of truth faithfully preached by us as ministers?
2. Is the ministry of the Gospel among us successful to accomplish its gracious designs?
3. Are we as people wise in sacred knowledge and intent on full conformity of the will and image of God?
4. Have we a wholesome scriptural discipline?
5. Are we as a professing Church united in the bonds of Christian charity?
IV. IT BECOMES A CHRISTIAN CHURCH, SENSIBLE OF THE DIVINE PRESENCE BUT DESIROUS OF A MORE SPECIAL MANIFESTATION OF GOD WITH THEM AND TO THEM, TO EMPLOY THOSE MEANS WHICH ARE CALCULATED TO PROMOTE HIS MORE GLORIOUS ABODE IN ZION.
1. This they should do by a full and constant acknowledgment of the sovereign authority and rule of Christ (Ephesians 1:22). His kingship in Zion is not a supposed character, but a positive possessed office; and weighty must be the guilt and condemnation of these who deny His claim, and reject His rule.
2. This they should do by diligently seeking an increase of personal holiness (Psalm 132:14, 16).
3. The more glorious presence of God should also be sought by the members of the Church, in the exercise of fervent, persevering prayer.
1. An indispensable evidence that God is in the churches, we think to be a united, loving people. The Spirit is the source of love; and it is His first fruit.
2. Where this love is present, and in powerful operation, it will produce another evidence — a consistent, holy deportment. Love and purity are inseparable; but purity of heart will be indicated by purity of life.
3. The Lord's presence is always accompanied by special zeal for His glory: a desire to promote His honour, and to extend His kingdom.
4. An invariable accompaniment of the King's presence is liberality in the disposition of worldly substance. His people realise the fact that they are not proprietors, but stewards, to whom is committed treasure, which is exclusively His own.
5. The spirit of humble wailing at His footstool, for the lessons of His wisdom, is another indication of His presence. The churches will be teachable, devout, and obedient in all things.
6. A further evidence of the royal presence is, the possession of high attainments in spiritual things: the citizens of Zion will largely enjoy the comfort of love, the patience of hope, and every blessing provided for them.
7. As a rule, another token of the Lord's presence will be, that while His people walk in His fear, and in the comfort of the Holy Ghost, they will be multiplied. The message of love, spoken in love, will operate with melting power on the hearts of men.
(The Christian Witness.)
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