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Alas! that day is so great

there is none like it;

it is a time of distress for Jacob;

yet he shall be rescued from it.

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Promises of Mercy. (b. c. 594.)

1 The word that came to Jeremiah from the Lord, saying,   2 Thus speaketh the Lord God of Israel, saying, Write thee all the words that I have spoken unto thee in a book.   3 For, lo, the days come, saith the Lord, that I will bring again the captivity of my people Israel and Judah, saith the Lord: and I will cause them to return to the land that I gave to their fathers, and they shall possess it.   4 And these are the words that the Lord spake concerning Israel and concerning Judah.   5 For thus saith the Lord; We have heard a voice of trembling, of fear, and not of peace.   6 Ask ye now, and see whether a man doth travail with child? wherefore do I see every man with his hands on his loins, as a woman in travail, and all faces are turned into paleness?   7 Alas! for that day is great, so that none is like it: it is even the time of Jacob's trouble; but he shall be saved out of it.   8 For it shall come to pass in that day, saith the Lord of hosts, that I will break his yoke from off thy neck, and will burst thy bonds, and strangers shall no more serve themselves of him:   9 But they shall serve the Lord their God, and David their king, whom I will raise up unto them.

Here, I. Jeremiah is directed to write what God had spoken to him, which perhaps refers to all the foregoing prophecies. He must write them and publish them, in hopes that those who had not profited by what he said upon once hearing it might take more notice of it when in reading it they had leisure for a more considerate review. Or, rather, it refers to the promises of their enlargement, which had been often mixed with his other discourses. He must collect them and put them together, and God will now add unto them many like words. He must write them for the generations to come, who should see them accomplished, and thereby have their faith in the prophecy confirmed. He must write them not in a letter, as that in the chapter before to the captives, but in a book, to be carefully preserved in the archives, or among the public rolls or registers of the state. Daniel understood by these books when the captivity was about coming to an end, Dan. ix. 2. He must write them in a book, not in loose papers: "For the days come, and are yet at a great distance, when I will bring again the captivity of Israel and Judah, great numbers of the ten tribes, with those of the two," v. 3. And this prophecy must be written, that it may be read then also, that so it may appear how exactly the accomplishment answers the prediction, which is one end of the writing of prophecies. It is intimated that they shall be beloved for their fathers' sake (Rom. xi. 28); for therefore God will bring them again to Canaan, because it was the land that he gave to their fathers, which therefore they shall possess.

II. He is directed what to write. The very words are such as the Holy Ghost teaches, v. 4. These are the words which God ordered to be written; and those promises which are written by his order are as truly his word as the ten commandments which were written with his finger. 1. He must write a description of the fright and consternation which the people were now in, and were likely to be still in upon every attack that the Chaldeans made upon them, which will much magnify both the wonder and the welcomeness of their deliverance (v. 5): We have heard a voice of trembling—the shrieks of terror echoing to the alarms of danger. The false prophets told them that they should have peace, but there is fear and not peace, so the margin reads it. No marvel that when without are fightings within are fears. The men, even the men of war, shall be quite overwhelmed with the calamities of their nation, shall sink under them, and yield to them, and shall look like women in labour, whose pains come upon them in great extremity and they know that they cannot escape them, v. 6. You never heard of a man travailing with child, and yet here you find not here and there a timorous man, but every man with his hands on his loins, in the utmost anguish and agony, as women in travail, when they see their cities burnt and their countries laid waste. But this pain is compared to that of a woman in travail, not to that of a death-bed, because it shall end in joy at last, and the pain, like that of a travailing woman, shall be forgotten. All faces shall be turned into paleness. The word signifies not only such paleness as arises from a sudden fright, but that which is the effect of a bad habit of body, the jaundice, or the green sickness. The prophet laments the calamity upon the foresight of it (v. 7): Alas! for that day is great, a day of judgment, which is called the great day, the great and terrible day of the Lord (Joel ii. 31, Jude 6), great, so that there has been none like it. The last destruction of Jerusalem is thus spoken of by our Saviour as unparalleled, Matt. xxiv. 21. It is even the time of Jacob's trouble, a sad time, when God's professing people shall be in distress above other people. The whole time of the captivity was a time of Jacob's trouble; and such times ought to be greatly lamented by all that are concerned for the welfare of Jacob and the honour of the God of Jacob. 2. He must write the assurances which God had given that a happy end should at length be put to these calamities. (1.) Jacob's troubles shall cease: He shall be saved out of them. Though the afflictions of the church may last long, they shall not last always. Salvation belongs to the Lord, and shall be wrought for his church. (2.) Jacob's troublers shall be disabled from doing him any further mischief, and shall be reckoned with for the mischief they have done him, v. 8. The Lord of hosts, who has all power in his hand, undertakes to do it: "I will break his yoke from off thy neck, which has long lain so heavy, and has so sorely galled thee. I will burst thy bonds and restore thee to liberty and ease, and thou shalt no more be at the beck and command of strangers, shalt no more serve them, nor shall they any more serve themselves of thee; they shall no more enrich themselves either by thy possessions or by thy labours." And, (3.) That which crowns and completes the mercy is that they shall be restored to the free exercise of their religion again, v. 9. They shall be delivered from serving their enemies, not that they may live at large and do what they please, but that they may serve the Lord their God and David their king, that they may come again into order, under the established government both in church and state. Therefore they were brought into trouble and made to serve their enemies because they had not served the Lord their God as they ought to have done, with joyfulness and gladness of heart, Deut. xxviii. 47. But, when the time shall come that they should be saved out of their trouble, God will prepare and qualify them for it by giving them a heart to serve him, and will make it doubly comfortable by giving them opportunity to serve him. Therefore we are delivered out of the hands of our enemies, that we may serve God, Luke i. 74, 75. And then deliverances out of temporal calamities are mercies indeed to us when by them we find ourselves engaged to and enlarged in the service of God. They shall serve their own God, and neither be inclined, as they had been of old in the day of their apostasy, nor compelled, as they had been of late in the day of their captivity, to serve other gods. They shall serve David their king, such governors as God should from time to time set over them, of the line of David (as Zerubbabel), or at least sitting on the thrones of judgment, the thrones of the house of David, as Nehemiah. But certainly this has a further meaning. The Chaldee paraphrase reads it, They shall obey (or hearken to) the Messiah (or Christ), the Son of David, their king. To him the Jewish interpreters apply it. That dispensation which commenced at their return out of captivity brought them to the Messiah. He is called David their King because he was the Son of David (Matt. xxii. 42) and he answered to the name, Matt. xx. 31, 32. David was an illustrious type of him both in his humiliation and in his exaltation. The covenant of royalty made with David had principal reference to him, and in him the promises of that covenant had their full accomplishment. God gave him the throne of his father David; he raised him up unto them, set him upon the holy hill of Zion. God is often in the New Testament said to have raised up Jesus, raised him up as a King, Acts iii. 26; xiii. 23, 33. Observe, [1.] Those that serve the Lord as their God must also serve David their King, must give up themselves to Jesus Christ, to be ruled by him. For all men must honour the Son as they honour the Father, and come into the service and worship of God by him as Mediator. [2.] Those that are delivered out of spiritual bondage must make it appear that they are so by giving up themselves to the service of Christ. Those to whom he gives rest must take his yoke upon them.