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33. Promise of Restoration

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, 2Thus saith the Lord the maker thereof, the Lord that formed it, to establish it; the Lord is his name; 3Call unto me, and I will answer thee, and shew thee great and mighty things, which thou knowest not. 4For 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; 5They come to fight with the Chaldeans, but it is 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. 6Behold, I will bring it health and cure, and I will cure them, and will reveal unto them the abundance of peace and truth. 7And I will cause the captivity of Judah and the captivity of Israel to return, and will build them, as at the first. 8And 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.

9And it shall be to me a name of joy, a praise and an 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. 10Thus saith the Lord; Again there shall be heard in this place, which ye say shall be desolate without man and without beast, even in the cities of Judah, and in the streets of Jerusalem, that are desolate, without man, and without inhabitant, and without beast, 11The voice of joy, and the voice of gladness, the voice of the bridegroom, and the voice of the bride, the voice of them that shall say, Praise the Lord of hosts: for the Lord is good; for his mercy endureth for ever: and of them that shall bring the sacrifice of praise into the house of the Lord. For I will cause to return the captivity of the land, as at the first, saith the Lord. 12Thus saith the Lord of hosts; Again in this place, which is desolate without man and without beast, and in all the cities thereof, shall be an habitation of shepherds causing their flocks to lie down. 13In the cities of the mountains, in the cities of the vale, and in the cities of the south, and in the land of Benjamin, and in the places about Jerusalem, and in the cities of Judah, shall the flocks pass again under the hands of him that telleth them, saith the Lord. 14Behold, the days come, saith the Lord, that I will perform that good thing which I have promised unto the house of Israel and to the house of Judah.

15In those days, and at that time, will I cause the Branch of righteousness to grow up unto David; and he shall execute judgment and righteousness in the land. 16In those days shall Judah be saved, and Jerusalem shall dwell safely: and this is the name wherewith she shall be called, The Lord our righteousness.

17For thus saith the Lord; David shall never want a man to sit upon the throne of the house of Israel; 18Neither shall the priests the Levites want a man before me to offer burnt offerings, and to kindle meat offerings, and to do sacrifice continually.

19And the word of the Lord came unto Jeremiah, saying, 20Thus saith the Lord; If ye can break my covenant of the day, and my covenant of the night, and that there should not be day and night in their season; 21 Then may also my covenant be broken with David my servant, that he should not have a son to reign upon his throne; and with the Levites the priests, my ministers. 22As the host of heaven cannot be numbered, neither the sand of the sea measured: so will I multiply the seed of David my servant, and the Levites that minister unto me. 23Moreover the word of the Lord came to Jeremiah, saying, 24Considerest thou not what this people have spoken, saying, The two families which the Lord hath chosen, he hath even cast them off? thus they have despised my people, that they should be no more a nation before them. 25Thus saith the Lord; If my covenant be not with day and night, and if I have not appointed the ordinances of heaven and earth; 26Then will I cast away the seed of Jacob, and David my servant, so that I will not take any of his seed to be rulers over the seed of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob: for I will cause their captivity to return, and have mercy on them.

And in the next verse Jeremiah confirms the same thing, where he mentions, as before, the cities of the mountains, and the cities of the plains, and then the cities of the south, and adds also the land of Benjamin, which was a different part of the country, and he mentions generally the circuits of Jerusalem and the cities of Judah What then? The flocks, he says, shall pass under the hands of a numberer Here, again, is set forth a greater security, because shepherds would not, as it were, by stealth lead forth their sheep, and afterwards gather them in a hurry, as it is usually done, when there is any fear of danger. The sheep, he says, shall pass under the hands of a numberer This could not be the case but in time of perfect peace and quietness; for where there is fear, the shepherds can hardly dare send forth their flocks, and then they dare not number them, but shut them in; and they are also often compelled to drive their flocks into forests and desert places, in order to conceal them. When, therefore, Jeremiah mentions the numbering of them, he intimates that the whole country would be in a state of peace, as in other words, and without a figure, he presently will tell us. But the Prophet in this way exalted the benefits of God, and at the same time strengthened the minds of the weak, for as it has been said, this favor could have hardly been tasted by the Jews while in a state so despairing. The Prophet then made use of a homely and ordinary style when he spoke of flocks and herds. It now follows —

Jeremiah now shews why God had promised that there would be a quiet habitation for shepherds, so that no one would by force take away their flocks. For God declares, that his promise would not be void, as its effects would shortly be evident, even when his mercy was known by the ten tribes and by the kingdom of Judah. Hence he says, The days shall come; for it behoved the faithful to look farther than to their present condition. As they were then exposed to slaughter, though the unbelieving still entertained vain hopes, yet the children of God saw thousand deaths; so that it could not be but that terror almost drove them to despair; and in their exile they saw that they were far removed from their own country, without any hope of a return. That the Prophet then might still support these, he bids them to extend their thoughts to a future time; and he had prefixed, as we have before seen, seventy years. It is the same then as though he had said, that the favor of which he predicts could not be laid hold on, except the faithful held their minds in suspense, and patiently waited until the time of the promised deliverance came.

Coming then are the days, and I will rouse, or as some render it, “and I will establish;” and both meanings may suit; for קום kum, means to rise, but here in an active or transitive sense it means to make to rise. However, its meaning sometimes is to establish, and sometimes to rouse, 9090     So is the Vulg., suscitabo,” “I will awake,” or rouse; and also the Sept. and the Targ.Ed. so as to make that to appear which was before hidden. And this mode of speaking is fitly adopted as to the promises of God; for they seem for a time to he dormant without any effect, or seem to disappear or vanish away. Hence the stability of the promises then appears, and is seen when God raises them up, they being before hidden and concealed from the faithful. The meaning of the Prophet is, that God would at length render evident the power of his word, by fulfilling it.

But from this manner of speaking, a useful doctrine may be deduced: for we are thus reminded that the promises of God are not always so manifest, that their effect or accomplishment is evident to us, but on the contrary they may appear to be dead and void. When it is so, let us learn to exercise faith and patience, so that our souls may not tremble, though God’s promises may not every moment manifest their power by being actually fulfilled. In short, the true application of prophetic truth is, that we never lay hold on, and really embrace the promises of God, except we look forward to the days that are coming, that is, except we patiently wait for the time prefixed by God: and further, except our faith leans on the promises, when they seem to he dormant, it is not firm, and has no roots or foundations; for as the root which nourishes the tree is not seen, but lies hid in the earth, and as the foundation of a house is not visible to our eyes, so ought our faith to be in like manner founded, and to drive deep roots into God’s promises, so that its firmness may not be in the air, nor have a visible surface, but a hidden foundation. This then is the import and the proper application of this doctrine.

But God calls it his good word, because he had promised to be the deliverer of his people. The word of God, when it denounces all kinds of death, and contains nothing but terrors, is always good, if goodness be taken for what is just and right; and hence God, by Ezekiel, reproves the Jews, because his word was bitter to them, and says,

“Are the ways of the Lord crooked and thorny? Ye are awry,” he says, “and not my word.” (Ezekiel 18:25)

But here the goodness of the word is to be taken for the deliverance of the people; for when God shakes the despisers of his Law with terror, his word is called evil on account of its effect. At the same time, as I have already said, whether God offers to us his favor and mercy, or denounces vengeance on the unbelieving, his word is ever good and right, though it may not be pleasant. This then relates to the apprehensions of men when he says, I will rouse, or establish, my good word

He afterwards adds, which I have spoken;’by which clause he confirms the doctrine of Jeremiah, for he shews that he was its author, and that Jeremiah brought nothing from himself, but faithfully testified of his mercy and of the liberation of the people according to the commission he had received. We are at the same time reminded, that we are not presumptuously to hope for anything, except God has spoken. Let us then learn to embrace his promises, so that none of us may look for this or that, but know that then only he will be propitious to us, when we lean on his word. He afterwards speaks of the kingdom of Israel, and of the kingdom of Judah, to intimate that he would be merciful to the whole people, though the ten tribes had been for a long time separated from the tribe of Judah, and from the half tribe of Benjamin, as it has been stated elsewhere. It follows —

Here the Prophet shews what Paul afterwards has spoken of, that all the promises of God are in Christ yea and amen, (2 Corinthians 1:20) that is, that they do not stand nor can be valid as to us, except Christ interposes to sanction or confirm them. Then the efficacy of God’s promises depends on Christ alone. And hence the Prophets, when speaking of the grace of God, come at length to Christ, for without him all the promises would vanish away. Let us also know that the Jews had been so trained as ever to flee to God’s covenant; for on the general covenant depended all particular promises. As, for instance, Jeremiah has hitherto been often prophesying of God’s mercy to the people, after having punished them for their sins; now this promise was special. How then could the Jews and the Israelites believe that they should return to their own country? This special promise could have been of no moment, except as it was an appendix of the covenant, even because God had adopted them as his people. As then the Jews knew that they had been chosen as a peculiar people, and that God was their Father, hence their faith in all the promises. Now, again, we must bear in mind, that the covenant was founded on Christ alone; for God had not only promised to Abraham that he would be a Father to his seed, but had also added an earnest or a pledge that a Redeemer would come.

We now then perceive the reason why the Prophets, when they sought to strengthen the faithful in the hope of salvation, set forth Christ, because the promises had no certainty without the general covenant. And further, as the general covenant could not stand, nor have any validity, except in Christ, this is the point to which Jeremiah now turns his attention, as we have also seen in other places, especially in the twenty-third chapter, from which he repeats this prophecy. God then had promised that his people would be restored; he had also promised that he would be so propitious to them as to preserve them in safety as his people: he now adds —

In those days, and at that time, I will raise up, I will cause to germinate; the verb in the twenty-third chapter is הקמתי, ekamti, I will cause to rise; but here, “I will cause to germinate;” and there we read, “a righteous branch,” but here, “a branch of righteousness,” which means the same thing. But why does the Prophet now speak of the seed of David? It is not an abrupt sentence; and the reason is, because the minds of the faithful would have alwass vacillated, had not Christ been brought forward, on whom the eternal and unchangeable covenant of God was founded. But they could not have had any taste of God’s grace, had they not known that they had been gratuitously chosen by him. Adoption then was the foundation of the covenant; and then Christ was the earnest and pledge of the covenant, as well as of gratuitous adoption. Hence it was, that the Prophet, wishing to seal and confirm his prophecy, bids the faithful to look to Christ.

He says, In those days, and at that time; for, as it is said in the proverb, “Even quickness is delay when we have ardent wishes,” so now a long delay might have produced weariness iu the Israelites. That they might not, then, be carried away by too much haste, he mentions those days and that time So that if God deferred the time, that they might check themselves, he says, I will make to grow for David a righteous branch

This passage ought, no doubt, to be understood of Christ. We know that it was a common thing with the Jews, that whenever the Prophets promised to them the seed of David, to direct their attention to Christ. This was then a mode of teaching familiarly known to the Jews. The Prophets, indeed, sometimes mentioned David himself, and not his son,

“I will raise up David,” etc. (Ezekiel 34:23)

Now David was dead, and his body was reduced to dust and ashes; but under the person of David, the Prophets exhibited Christ. Then as to this passage, the Jews must shew their effrontery in a most ridiculous manner, if they make evasions and attempt to apply it otherwise than to Christ. This being the ease, were any one to ask now the Jews, how this prophecy has been fulfilled, it would be necessary for them to acknowledge Christ, or to deny faith in God, and also in Jeremiah. It is, indeed, certain that Jeremiah celebrates here the grace of deliverance especially on this account, because a Redeemer was shortly to come. For the return of the Jews to their own land, what was it? We know that they, even immediately at their restoration, were in a miserable state, though their condition then was much better than afterwards; for in after times they were cruelly treated by Antiochus and other kings of Syria: they were ever exposed to the heathens around them, so that they were harassed and plundered by them at pleasure. Then during the whole of that time which preceded the coming of Christ, God did not fulfill what he had promised by Jeremiah and his other servants. What is now their condition? Dispersed through the whole world; and they have been so for more than fifteen hundred years, since Christ arose from the dead; and we see that they pine away under their calamities, so their curse seems dreadful to all. God had, indeed, spoken by Moses, and then repeated it by his Prophets,

“Ye shall be for a hissing and for a curse to all nations.”
(Deuteronomy 28:37; Jeremiah 25:18)

But that punishment was to be for a time. There is, therefore, no reason for what the Jews allege. It hence appears that they are wholly destitute of all credit, and only perversely pretend, I know not what, that there may be some show, though wholly hypocritical, in what they assert. But with regard to us, we see that the promise respecting the coming of the Messiah has not been made in vain; and we also know, that it happened, through the wonderful purpose of God, that the Jews did not enjoy full and real happiness, such as had been promised at the coming of Christ, lest they should think that what all God’s servants had promised was then accomplished: for we know how disposed men are to be satisfied with earthly things. The Jews might then have thought that their happiness was completed, had not God exercised them with many troubles, in order that they might ever look forward to the manifestation of Christ.

He calls it the Branch of righteousness, by way of contrast, because the children of David had become degenerated; and God had almost deemed them accursed, for the greatest part of the kings were destitute of God’s grace. There was, then, but one Branch of righteousness, even Christ. We further know how wide and extensive is Christ’s righteousness, for he communicates it to us. But we ought to begin with that righteousness which I have mentioned, that is, what is in opposition to the many changes which happened to the posterity of David, for things often were in a very low state. Though unto David, לדוד Ladavid, is often taken as meaning, “I will raise up the branch of David,” yet God seems here to refer to the promise which he had made to David, as God is said in many passages to have sworn to his servant David. (Psalm 89:3; 132:11)

It follows, And he shall execute judgement and justice in the land By these words a right government is denoted; for when the two words are joined tegether, justice refers to the defense of the innocent, and judgment to the punishment of iniquity; for except the wicked are restrained by the fear of the law, they would violate all order. Judgment, indeed, when by itself, means the right administration of the law; but as I have already said, justice and judgment include the protection of the good, and also the restraint of the wicked, who become not obedient willingly or of their own accord. In a word, the promise is, that the king here spoken of would be upright and just, so as to be in every way perfect, and exhibit the model of the best of kings.

But we must always observe the contrast between the other descendants of David and Christ. For the Jews had seen the saddest spectacles in the posterity of David: many of them were apostates, and perverted the worship of God; others raged against the Prophets and all good men, and were also full of avarice and rapacity, and given to all kinds of lusts. Since, then, their kings had debased themselves with so many crimes, there is here promised a king who would so discharge his office as to be owned as the true minister of God.

It is, at the same time, necessary to bear in mind the character of Christ’s kingdom. It is, we know, spiritual; but it is set forth under the image or form of an earthly and civil government; for whenever the Prophets speak of Christ’s kingdom, they set before us an earthly form, because spiritual truth, without any metaphor, could not have been sufficiently understood by a rude people in their childhood. There is no wonder, then, that the Prophets, wishing to accommodate their words to the capacity of the Jews, should so speak of Christ’s kingdom as to portray it before them as an earthly and civil government. But it is necessary for us to consider what sort of kingdom it is. As, then, it is spiritual, the justice and judgment of which the Prophet speaks, do not belong only to civil and external order, but rather to that rectitude by which it comes that men are reformed according to God’s image, which is in righteousness and truth. Christ then is said to reign over us in justice and judgment, not only because he keeps us by laws within the range of our duty, and defends the good and the innocent, and represses the audacity of the wicked; but because he rules us by his Spirit. And of the Spirit we know what Christ himself declares, “The Spirit shall convince the world of righteousness and judgment,” etc. (John 16:8) Hence we must come to spiritual jurisdiction, if we wish to understand what that righteousness is which is here mentioned: of the same kind also is the judgment that is added. It afterwards follows, —

Here the Prophet extends the benefits of the kingdom to all the Jews, and shews how much was to be expected fromthat kingdom which he had promised; for in it would be found perfect happiness and safety. Had not this been added, what we have heard of the righteous king would have appeared cold and uninteresting; for it sometimes happens, that however much the king may exercise justice and judgment, yet the people continue still miserable. But the Prophet testifies here that the people would be in every way blessed and happy, when governed by the King promised to come. Hence he says, In those days Judah shall be saved He promises salvation to the Jews, though under that name are included also, as it is often the case, the ten tribes. He adds Jerusalem, but in a similar sense, Jerusalem shall dwell safely, that is, shall be in a peaceable state. This mode of speaking is taken from Moses; for the Prophets, whenever they spoke of God’s blessings, are wont to borrow their doctrine from that fountain. He then says, that the people would be saved, and then that they would be in peace and quietness.

It may now be proper to repeat what I have already touched upon, — that the salvation mentioned here belongs to the kingdom of Christ. Had he been speaking of some earthly or temporal government, the salvation must also have been temporal. But as the spiritual and celestial kingdom of Christ is the object of the promise, the salvation mentioned must reach to the very heavens. Hence its limits are far wider than the whole world. In short, the salvation of which Jeremiah now prophesies, is not to be confined to the boundaries of a fading life, nor is it to be sought in this world, where it has no standing; but if we wish to know what it is, we must learn to raise our thoughts upwards, and above the world and everything that exists here. It is an eternal salvation. In the meantime, Christ gives us some foretaste of this salvation in this life, according to what is said,

“godliness has the promises of the present as well
as of the future life.” (1 Timothy 4:8)

But as this promise ought to be applied to the kingdom of Christ, there is no doubt but it is perpetual, and ought to raise up our thoughts to heaven itself.

To salvation is added safety; for were the faithful ever to fear and tremble, where would be their salvation? And we know that the happiness brought to us by Christ cannot be otherwise received, except through peace, according to what Scripture so often teaches us:

“Having been justified,” says Paul, “we have peace with God.”
(Romans 5:1.)

And then when he speaks in the fourteenth chapter of the same Epistle of the kingdom of God, he says that it consists in joy and peace; and in another place he says,

“May the peace of God, which surpasses all conception, obtain the victory in your hearts.” (Philippians 4:7)

Hence these things are connected together, salvation and peace, not that we enjoy this joyful and peaceful state in the world; for they greatly deceive themselves who dream of such a quiet state here, as we have to engage in a perpetual warfare, until God at length gathers us to the fruition of a blessed rest. We must, therefore, contend and fight in this world. Thus the faithful shall ever be exposed to many troubles; and hence Christ reminds his disciples, “In me ye have peace; but in theworld” — what? Sorrows and troubles. (John 16:33)

We now, then, see why the Prophet joined safety or security to salvation, even because we cannot otherwise know that we shall be saved, except we be fully persuaded that God so cares for our salvation as to protect us by his power, and that his aid will be always ready whenever needed.

He in the last place adds, And this is the name by which they shall call her, Jehovah our righteousness In chapter 23 (Jeremiah 23) this name is given to Christ, and to him alone it properly belongs; but it is here transferred to the Church, for whatever belongs to the head, is made common to all the members. For we indeed know that Christ has nothing as his own, for as he is made righteousness, it belongs to us, according to what Paul says,

“He is made to us righteousness, and redemption, and sanctification, and wisdom.”
(1 Corinthians 1:30)

As, then, the Father conferred righteousness on his own Son for our sake, it is no wonder that what is in his power is transferred to us. What, then, we found in the twenty-third chapter was rightly declared, for it belongs peculiarly to Christ, that he is God our righteousness. But as we partake of this righteousness, when he admits us into a participation of all the blessings by which he is adorned and enriched by the Father, it hence follows, that this also belongs to the whole Church, even that God is its righteousness. 9191     See Preface to the third volume. — Ed. Hence it is wisely said by the Prophet, that this would be the name of the whole Church, which could not be, except it had put on Christ, so that God might reign there in righteousness, for the righteousness of Christ extends to all the faithful; and Christ also dwells in them, so that they are not only the temples of Christ, but, as it were, a part of him; and even the Church itself is by Paul called Christ,

“As there are,” he says, “many members in the human body,
so is Christ.” (1 Corinthians 12:12)

This cannot be applied to Christ personally, but he thus calls the Church by a metonymy, on account of that participation which I have mentioned.


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