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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.

By the word building, God means that they would return to their own country for this end — that they might remain secure in it. And this promise was very needful, since the Jews were on every side surrounded by enemies; for all their neighbors had united together against them, and were most hostile, so that they never ceased to create new troubles. For this reason mention is made of building, as though the Prophet had said, that the prosperity of the city would be lasting, for it would be so founded, that it would not fall or totter at any kind of assault.

But he promises deliverance, not only to the tribe of Judah, but also to the whole kingdom of Israel. Though very few returned, yet God offered the benefit which he had promised to all in common: and then, as it has been often said, this promise is to be extended to the coming of Christ. For God confined not his favor to those few years in which liberty was granted to the Jews, when they returned from their exile in Babylon; but included the eternal salvation which remained for them, of whiclx the prelude was their return. Let us now proceed, —

He says first, that he would cleanse themfrom all iniquity, and then, that he would be propitious to all their iniquities He no doubt repeats the same thing; but the words are not superfluous, for it was necessary seriously to remind the Jews of their many vices, of which indeed they were conscious, and yet they did not repent. As then they perversely followed their own wills, it was needful for the Prophet to goad them sharply, so that they might know that they were exposed to eternal destruction, if God’s mercy, and that by no means common, came not to their aid. Here, then, he represents the greatness of their sins, that he might on the other hand extol the mercy of God.

By the word cleanse, one might understand regeneration, and this may seem probable to those who are not well acquainted with the language of Scripture; but טהר, theer, means properly to expiate. This then does not refer to regeneration, but to forgiveness, hence I have said, that the Prophet mentions two things here in the same sense, — that God would cleanse them from iniquity, — and that he would pardon all their iniquities We see now the reason why the Prophet used so many words in testifying that God would be so merciful to them as to forgive their sins, even because they, though loaded with many vices, yet extenuated their heinousness, as hypocrites always do. The favor of God, then, would never have been appreciated by the Jews had not the atrocity of their guilt been clearly made known to them. And this also was the reason why he said, I will pardon all their iniquities He had said before, I will cleanse them from all iniquity; then he added, I will pardon all their iniquities For by this change in the number the Prophet shews the mass and variety of their sins, as though he had said, that the heaps of evils were so multiplied, that there was need of no common mercy in God to receive them into favor.

He says further, By which they have sinned against me, and by which they have acted wickedly against me These words confirm what I have already said, that the Jews were severely reproved by the Prophet, in order that they might first consider and reflect on what they deserved; and secondly, that they might extol the favor of God according to its value.

We must at the same time observe, that the Jews had their attention directed to the first and chief ground of confidence, so that they might have some hope of a restoration; for the origin of all God’s blessings, or the fountain from which all good things flow, is the favor of God in being reconciled to us. He may, indeed, supply us bountifully with whatever we may wish, while yet he himself is alienated from us, as we see to be the case with the ungodly, who often abound in all good things; and hence they glory and boast as though they had God as it were, in a manner, bound to them. But whatever God grants and bestows on the ungodly, cannot, properly speaking, be deemed as an evidence of his favor and grace; but he thus renders them more unexcusable, while he treats them so indulgently. There is then no saving good, but what flows from the paternal love of God.

We must now see how God becomes propitious to us. He becomes so, when he imputes not our sins to us. For except pardon goes before, he must necessarily be adverse to us; for as long as he looks on us as we are, he finds in us nothing but what deserves vengeance. We are therefore always accursed before God until he buries our sins. Hence I have said, that the first fountain of all the good things that are to be hoped for, is here briefly made known to the Jews, even the gratuitous favor of God in reconciling them to himself. Let us then learn to direct all our thoughts to God’s mercy whenever we seek what seems necessary to us. For if we catch as it were at God’s blessings, and do not consider whence they proceed, we shall be caught by a bait: as the fish through their voracity strangle themselves, (for they snatch at the hook as though it were food) so also the ungodly, who with avidity seize on God’s blessings, and care not that he should be propitious to them; they swallow them as it were to their own ruin. That all things then may tuae to our salvation, let us learn to make always a beginning with the paternal love of God, and let us know that the cause of that love is his immeasurable goodness, through which it comes that he reconciles us freely to himself by not imputing to us our sins.

We may also gather another doctrine from this passage, — that if the grievousness of our sins terrifies us, yet all diffidence ought to be overcome, because God does not promise his mercy only to those sinners who have slightly fallen, either through ignorance or error, but even to such as have heaped sins on sins. There is therefore no reason why the greatness of our sins should overwhelm us; but we may ever venture to flee to the hope of pardon, since we see that it is offered indiscriminately to all, even to those who had been extremely wicked before God, and had not only sinned, but had also become in a manner apostates, so that they ceased not in all ways to provoke God’s vengeance. It follows, —

Here God testifies that his favor would be such as to deserve praise in all the world, or, which is the same thing, that his bounty would be worthy of being remembered. Hence he says, that it would be to him for a name among all nations; but as he designed to extol the greatness of his glory, he adds, a praise and an honor, or a glory; and it is emphatically added, among all nations And this passage shews to us that the Prophet did not speak only of the people’s return, and that this prophecy ought not to be confined to the state of the city, such as it was before the coming of Christ; for though the favor of God was known among the Chaldeans and some other nations, it was not yet known through the whole world, for he says, among all the nations of the earth; and God no doubt included all parts of the world. We hence then conclude that the favor of which the Prophet speaks refers to the kingdom of Christ, for God did not then attain a name to himself among all nations, but, as it is well known, only in some portions of the east. When, therefore, he says that the favor he would shew to his people, would be to him a name, he promises no doubt that deliverance which was at length brought by Christ.

And in the same sense must be taken what follows, Because they shall hear, etc.; for the relative אשר asher, is here a causative, as the Prophet expresses here the way and manner in which glory and honor would come to God on account of the deliverance of his people, even because the nations would hear of this; and this has been done by the preaching of the Gospel, because then only was God’s goodness towards the Jews everywhere made known, when the knowledge of the Law and of prophetic truth came to aliens who had previously heard nothing of the true doctrine of religion. We now then understand the design of the holy Spirit.

Further, by these words God exhorts all to gratitude; for whenever the fountain of God’s blessings is pointed out to us, we ought not to be indifferent, but to be stimulated to give thanks to him. When therefore God declares that the redemption of his people would be a name to him among all nations, he thus shews to the godly that they ought not to be torpid, but to proclaim his goodness. And at the same time it serves for a confirmation, when God intimates that he would be the Redeemer of his people, in order that he might acquire to himself a name, for there is to be understood a contrast, that in this kindness, he would not regard what the Jews deserved, but would seek for a cause in himself, as it is expressed more fully elsewhere,

“Not on your account will I do this, O house of Israel,” (Ezekiel 36:22)

and the faithful sing in their turn,

“Not on our account, O Lord, but on account of thy name.”
(Psalm 79:9; Psalm 115:1)

We then see that God brings forward his own name, that the Jews might continue to entertain hope, however guilty they may have been, and own themselves worthy of eternal destruction.

If we read, “It shall be to me for a name of joy,” the sense would be, “for a name in which I delight.” If we read the words apart, “For a name and joy,” the sense would be still the same; nor ought it to be deemed unreasonable that God testifies that it would be to him for joy. For though he is not moved and influenced as we are, yet this mode of speaking is elsewhere adopted, as in Psalm 104:31,

“The Lord shall rejoice in his works.”

God then is said to take delight in doing good, because he is in his nature inclined to goodness and mercy.

He afterwards adds, they, shall fear and tremble for all the goodness, etc. The word כל cal, “all,” denotes greatness, and is to be taken emphatically. The words, however, may at first sight appear singular, “they shall fear and tremble for all the goodness,” etc.; for it seems not reasonable that men should fear, when they acknowledge God’s goodness, for this, on the contrary, is a reason for joy and confidence. This clause is sometimes applied to the ungodly, for they have no taste for God’s favor so as to be cheered by it, but on the contrary they fret and gnash their teeth when God appears kind to his people; for they are vexed, when they see that they are excluded from the enjoyment of those blessings, which are laid up, as it is said elsewhere, for them who fear God. But I have not the least doubt but the Prophet means the conversion of the Gentiles when he says, they shall fear and tremble for all the goodness, etc.; as though he had said, that not only the name of God would be known among the nations, so that they would proclaim that he had been merciful to his people, but that it would at the same time be the effect and influence of his grace, that the nations would become obedient to God. Moreover, it is a usual thing to designate the worship and fear of God by the words fear, dread, and trembling. For though the faithful do not dread the presence of God, but cheerfully present themselves to him whenever he invites them, and in full confidence call on him, there is yet no reason why they should not tremble when they think of his majesty. For these two things are connected together, even the fear and trembling which humble us before God, and the confidence which raises us up so as to dare familiarly to approach him. Here then is pointed out the conversion of the Gentiles; as though the Prophet had said, that the favor of deliverance to the Church would not only avail for this end, to make the Gentiles to proclaim God’s goodness, but would also have the effect of bringing them under his authority, that they might reverence and fear him as the only true God. He again adds the word peace, but in the same sense as before: he mentions goodness, the cause of prosperity, and then he adds peace or prosperity as its effect. It afterwards follows, —

These two verses are connected together, and have been improperly divided, for the sentence is not complete. In the first place we have, Yet shall be heard, but what? the voice of joy, etc., as we find in the following verse. Jeremiah confirms at large what he had taught respecting the return of the people, because there was need of many and strong supports, that, the faithful might proceed in their course with confidence It was indeed difficult to muster courage under so great a calamity; and had they for a short season breathing time, yet new trials constantly arising might have cast them down and laid them prostrate. There is no wonder then that the Prophet here speaks diffusely of that favor which was deemed incredible; and then the memory of it might not have always remained fixed in the hearts of the faithful, had not a repeated confirmation been given.

He again introduces God as the speaker, that the promise might have more effect. Again, he says, shall be heard in this place even in the cities of Judah and in the streets of Jerusalem the voice of joy, etc. He repeats what we noticed yesterday, that the Jews put every obstacle they could in the way of their restoration. The narrowness of our hearts, we know does in a manner exclude an entrance as to God’s favor; for being filled, nay, swollen with unbelief, we suffer not God’s grace to enter into us. So the Jews, by desponding and imagining that their calamity was incurable, and that no remedy was to be expected, rejected as far as they could the promised favor of deliverance This, then, is what the Prophet again upbraids them with, even that they said that the whole country and all the cities were destroyed, so that neither man nor beast remained. This was, indeed, the fact at that time, and the Jews had spoken correctly; but as it was said yesterday, the ungodly never feel the scourges of God without rushing headlong into despair. Then what is condenmed is this, that the Jews thought that they were to perish without any hope of deliverance. Hence the Prophet here reproves their unbelief, and at the same time exhorts them to entertain hope. But he testifies that God’s grace would surpass all their wickedness.

Heard then shall be the voice of joy, and the voice of gladness; the voice of the bridegroom, and the voice of the bride; that is, marriages shall again be celebrated. And this way of speaking often occurs in the Prophets when they refer to the joyful condition of the city and of the people; for in seasons of mourning no one thinks of marrying a wife, so that marriage-feasts then cease as well as all festivals. Then the Prophet briefly shews that God would put an end to the calamities of the people, and give them reasons for rejoicing after he had for a time punished their sins.

But he shews also of what kind their joy would be, The voice of them who shall say, Praise ye Jehovah of hosts Here he distinguishes between the faithful and the ungodly, for joy is common to both, when prosperity happens to them; for God’s children may rejoice when the Lord shews himself to them as a bountiful Father. But the profane exult through intemperate joy, and at the same time they make no mention of God, for they live only on present things; but the faithful raise up their thoughts to God, and never rejoice without thanksgiving. Thus they consecrate and sanctify their joy, when the ungodly, by polluting God’s blessing, do also contaminate their joy. We ought then to take special notice of this difference which the Prophet here intimates, between godly and profane joy; for the children of this world do indeed exult, but as we have said, immoderately in their joy; and they are unthankful to God, and never duly reflect on his goodness; nay, they designedly turn away their eyes and their thoughts from God; but the faithful have always a regard to God whenever it succeeds well with them, for they know that everything flows to them from God’s goodness only.

Hence he says, Heard shall be the voice of them who shall say, Praise ye Jehovah, for he is good, etc. The Prophet here alludes to the customary practice of singing, which is spoken of in sacred history. For we know that when the Temple was dedicated, the praises of God were celebrated, and the Levites always sang, For his mercy is for ever They first exhorted others to praise God, and to every sentence this repetition was added, “For his mercy is for ever.” What then had formerly been in common use the Prophet refers to: Heard then shall be that usual song, Praise ye Jehovah, for his mercy is for ever

He then adds, Of them who shall bring praise to the house of Jehovah; for I will restore the captivity of the land He mentions sacrifices, for the service, according to the Law, required, that these should be added as evidences of gratitude. God indeed had no need of vetires, nor did he delight in external displays; but these exercises of religion were necessary for a rude people, and still learning the elements of truth. The Prophet then speaks here with reference to a particular time, when he connects sacrifices with praises and thanksgiving, he yet shews for what end God required sacrifices to be then offered to him, lest the Jews should think that God was pacified when a calf had been slain. He then shews that all this had been prescribed to them, and enjoined for this end — that they might shew themselves thankful.

This metonymical mode of speaking ought then to be carefully observed; for hence we conclude, that sacrifices of themselves were of no moment, but were only acceptable and of good odor to God on this account — because they were evidences of gratitude.

He then adds, To the house of Jehovah Now, this also ought in the last place to be noticed, — that it is not sufficient for one to be thankful to God, but that public thanksgiving is also required, so that we may mutually stimulate one another. And we also know that confession ought not to be separated from faith; as faith has its seat in the heart, so also outward confession proceeds from it; and therefore it cannot be but that the interior feeling must break out from the soul, and the tongue be connected with the heart. It hence follows, that all those are guilty of falsehood who say that they have faith within, but are at the same time mute, and, as far as they can, unworthily bury the benefits of God. And as I have said, this zeal is required of all the godly, in order that they may stimulate one another to praise God; for it was for this purpose and for this reason, that express mention is made of the Temple; that is, that the faithful might understand, that God is to be worshipped, not only privately and within closed doors, but that also a public profession ought to be made, so that they may together with common consent celebrate and acknowledge his benefits and blessings.

Jeremiah still pursues the same subject; but he speaks here of the settled happiness of the people, as though he had said, that there was no reason for the Israelites to fear, that God would not open for them a way of return to their own country, and preserve and protect them after their return. But in setting forth their quiet and peaceable condition, he speaks of shepherds; for we know that it is a sure sign of peace, when flocks and herds are led into the fields in security. For enemies always gape after prey, and the experience of wars proves this; for whenever incursions are made by enemies, they send spies that they may know whether there are any shepherds or keepers of cattle; and then they know that there is a prey for them. As then shepherds, when an invasion from enemies is dreaded, dare not go forth, and as there is then no liberty, the Prophet, in order to intimate that the Jews would be in a tranquil state, says, There shall again be in this place the habitation of sheepherds, who will make their sheep, or their flock, to lie down

We now perceive the design of the Prophet; for one not sufficiently acquainted with Scripture might raise a question, Is this promise to be confined to shepherds and herdsmen? But, as I have already intimated, the answer is obvious, — The promise is general, but expressed in this way, — that God would be the guardian of his people, so that shepherds would drive here and there their flocks, and herdsmen their cattle, in perfect safety, and without any fear of danger.

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 —


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