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Encouraging Prospects. (b. c. 589.)
1 Moreover the word of the Lord came unto Jeremiah the second time, while he was yet shut up in the court of the prison, saying, 2 Thus saith the Lord the maker thereof, the Lord that formed it, to establish it; the Lord is his name; 3 Call unto me, and I will answer thee, and shew thee great and mighty things, which thou knowest not. 4 For thus saith the Lord, the God of Israel, concerning the houses of this city, and concerning the houses of the kings of Judah, which are thrown down by the mounts, and by the sword; 5 They come to fight with the Chaldeans, but it is to fill them with the dead bodies of men, whom I have slain in mine anger and in my fury, and for all whose wickedness I have hid my face from this city. 6 Behold, I will bring it health and cure, and I will cure them, and will reveal unto them the abundance of peace and truth. 7 And I will cause the captivity of Judah and the captivity of Israel to return, and will build them, as at the first. 8 And I will cleanse them from all their iniquity, whereby they have sinned against me; and I will pardon all their iniquities, whereby they have sinned, and whereby they have transgressed against me. 9 And it shall be to me a name of joy, a praise and a honour before all the nations of the earth, which shall hear all the good that I do unto them: and they shall fear and tremble for all the goodness and for all the prosperity that I procure unto it.
Observe here, I. The date of this comfortable prophecy which God entrusted Jeremiah with. It is not exact in the time, only that it was after that in the foregoing chapter, when things were still growing worse and worse; it was the second time. God speaketh once, yea, twice, for the encouragement of his people. We are not only so disobedient that we have need of precept upon precept to bring us to our duty, but so distrustful that we have need of promise upon promise to bring us to our comfort. This word, as the former, came to Jeremiah when he was in prison. Note, No confinement can deprive God's people of his presence; no locks nor bars can shut out his gracious visits; nay, oftentimes as their afflictions abound their consolations much more abound, and they have the most reviving communications of his favour when the world frowns upon them. Paul's sweetest epistles were those that bore date out of a prison.
II. The prophecy itself. A great deal of comfort is wrapped up in it for the relief of the captives, to keep them from sinking into despair. Observe,
1. Who it is that secures this comfort to them (v. 2): It is the Lord, the maker thereof, the Lord that framed it, He is the maker and former of heaven and earth, and therefore has all power in his hands; so it refers to Jeremiah's prayer, ch. xxxii. 17. He is the maker and former of Jerusalem, of Zion, built them at first, and therefore can rebuild them—built them for his own praise, and therefore will. He formed it, to establish it, and therefore it shall be established till those things be introduced which cannot be shaken, but shall remain for ever. He is the maker and former of this promise; he has laid the scheme for Jerusalem's restoration, and he that has formed it will establish it, he that has made the promise will make it good; for Jehovah is his name, a God giving being to his promises by the performance of them, and when he does this he is known by that name (Exod. vi. 3), a perfecting God. When the heavens and the earth were finished, then, and not till then, the creator is called Jehovah, Gen. ii. 4.
2. How this comfort must be obtained and fetched in—by prayer (v. 3): Call upon me, and I will answer them. The prophet, having received some intimations of this kind, must be humbly earnest with God for further discoveries of his kind intentions. He had prayed (ch. xxxii. 16), but he must pray again. Note, Those that expect to receive comforts from God must continue instant in prayer. We must call upon him, and then he will answer us. Christ himself must ask, and it shall be given him, Ps. ii. 8. I will show thee great and mighty things (give thee a clear and full prospect of them), hidden things, which, though in part discovered already, yet thou knowest not, thou canst not understand or give credit to. Or this may refer not only to the prediction of these things which Jeremiah, if he desire it, shall be favoured with, but to the performance of the things themselves which the people of God, encouraged by this prediction, must pray for. Note, Promises are given, not to supersede, but to quicken and encourage prayer. See Ezek. xxxvi. 37.
3. How deplorable the condition of Jerusalem was which made it necessary that such comforts as these should be provided for it, and notwithstanding which its restoration should be brought about in due time (v. 4, 5): The houses of this city, not excepting those of the kings of Judah, are thrown down by the mounts, or engines of battery, and by the sword, or axes, or hammers. It is the same word that is used Ezek. xxvi. 9, With his axes he shall break down thy towers. The strongest stateliest houses, and those that were best furnished, were levelled with the ground. The fifth verse comes in in a parenthesis, giving a further instance of the present calamitous state of Jerusalem. Those that came to fight with the Chaldeans, to beat them off from the siege, did more hurt than good, provoked the enemy to be more fierce and furious in their assaults, so that the houses in Jerusalem were filled with the dead bodies of men, who died of the wounds they received in sallying out upon the besiegers. God says that they were such as he had slain in his anger, for the enemies' sword was his sword and their anger his anger. But, it seems, the men that were slain were generally such as had distinguished themselves by their wickedness, for they were the very men for whose wickedness God did now hide himself from this city, so that he was just in all he brought upon them.
4. What the blessings are which God has in store for Judah and Jerusalem, such as will redress all their grievances.
(1.) Is their state diseased? Is it wounded? God will provide effectually for the healing of it, though the disease was thought mortal and incurable, ch. vii. 22. "The whole head is sick, and the whole heart faint (Isa. i. 5); but (v. 6) I will bring it health and cure; I will prevent the death, remove the sickness, and set all to rights again," ch. xxx. 17. Note, Be the case ever so desperate, if God undertake the cure, he will effect it. The sin of Jerusalem was the sickness of it (Isa. i. 6); its reformation therefore will be its recovery. And the following words tell us how that is wrought: "I will reveal unto them the abundance of peace and truth; I will give it to them in due time, and give them an encouraging prospect of it in the mean time." Peace stands here for all good; peace and truth are peace according to the promise and in pursuance of that: or peace and truth are peace and the true religion, peace and the true worship of God, in opposition to the many falsehoods and deceits by which they had been led away from God. We may apply it more generally, and observe, [1.] That peace and truth are the great subject-matter of divine revelation. These promises here lead us to the gospel of Christ, and in that God has revealed to us peace and truth, the method of true peace—truth to direct us, peace to make us easy. Grace and truth, and abundance of both, come by Jesus Christ. Peace and truth are the life of the soul, and Christ came that we might have that life, and might have it more abundantly. Christ rules by the power of truth (John xviii. 37) and by it he gives abundance of peace, Ps. lxxii. 7; lxxxv. 10. [2.] That the divine revelation of peace and truth brings health and cure to all those that by faith receive it: it heals the soul of the diseases it has contracted, as it is a means of sanctification, John xvii. 17. He sent his word and healed them, Ps. cvii. 20. And it puts the soul into good order, and keeps it in a good frame and fit for the employments and enjoyments of the spiritual and divine life.
(2.) Are they scattered and enslaved, and is their nation laid in ruins? "I will cause their captivity to return (v. 7), both that of Israel and that of Judah" (for though those who returned under Zerubbabel were chiefly of Judah, and Benjamin, and Levi, yet afterwards many of all the other tribes returned), "and I will rebuild them, as I built them at first." When they by repentance do their first works God will by their restoration do his first works.
(3.) Is sin the procuring cause of all their troubles? That shall be pardoned and subdued, and so the root of the judgments shall be killed, v. 8. [1.] By sin they have become filthy, and odious to God's holiness, but God will cleanse them, and purify them from their iniquity. As those that were ceremonially unclean, and were therefore shut out from the tabernacle, when they were sprinkled with the water of purification had liberty of access to it again, so had they to their own land, and the privileges of it, when God had cleansed them from their iniquities. In allusion to that sprinkling, David prays, Purge me with hyssop. [2.] By sin they have become guilty, and obnoxious to his justice; but he will pardon all their iniquities, will remove the punishment to which for sin they were bound over. All who by sanctifying grace are cleansed from the filth of sin, by pardoning mercy are freed from the guilt of it.
(4.) Have both their sins and their sufferings turned to the dishonour of God? Their reformation and restoration shall redound as much to his praise, v. 9. Jerusalem thus rebuilt, Judah thus repeopled, shall be to me a name of joy, as pleasing to God as ever they have been provoking, and a praise and an honour before all the nations. They, being thus restored, shall glorify God by their obedience to him, and he shall glorify himself by his favours to them. This renewed nation shall be as much a reputation to religion as formerly it has been a reproach to it. The nations shall hear of all the good that God has wrought in them by his grace and of all the good he has wrought for them by his providence. The wonders of their return out of Babylon shall make as great a noise in the world as ever the wonders of their deliverance out of Egypt did. And they shall fear and tremble for all this goodness. [1.] The people of God themselves shall fear and tremble; they shall be much surprised at it, shall be afraid of offending so good a God and of forfeiting his favour. Hos. iii. 5, They shall fear the Lord and his goodness. [2.] The neighbouring nations shall fear because of the prosperity of Jerusalem, shall look upon the growing greatness of the Jewish nation as really formidable, and shall be afraid of making them their enemies. When the church is fair as the moon, and clear as the sun, she is terrible as an army with banners.