The sin of Judah is written with a pen of iron, and with the point of a diamond: it is graven upon the table of their heart, and upon the horns of your altars;
I. The Bible has nothing to say against a man's getting rich by just and honourable means. The need of money, and a moderate desire for it, form a most valuable incentive to industry. We would not be assured that the blessing of the Lord maketh rich, if wealth were necessarily an evil. To be altogether indifferent to material profit, so far from being a recommendation, betokens an unmanly and defective character. You ought to wish to increase your substance, if God will give you grace to use it well.
II. We learn from the text that riches unrighteously gotten are no blessing. It is our Maker's design that wealth should be begotten of industry: real hard work. There is no royal road to opulence; and, as Solomon said nearly three thousand years ago, "he that maketh haste to be rich shall not be innocent." To make money rapidly, even by honest means, is perilous; how much more so by questionable methods?
III. As the text teaches, the penalty on the acquisition of unrighteous gain generally follows even in this life. Perhaps this does not hold so markedly in our times as under the Old Dispensation, because immortality with its just retribution is now more clearly revealed. Still, no thoughtful person can fail to see how often a terrible Nemesis pursues the fraudulent man even in "the midst of his day," and how, at his end, even the world styles him a fool. Some unexpected time comes, some monetary crisis, some commercial disaster, and all his hoarded gains take wing and fly away; the unprincipled man is left, like the silly partridge, to sit disconsolate in an empty nest.
J. Thain Davidson, Forewarned—Forearmed, p. 61.
References: Jeremiah 17:12-14.—Spurgeon, Sermons, vol. xxx., No. 1786. Jeremiah 17:14.—G. Brooks, Outlines of Sermons, p. 26; Spurgeon, Sermons, vol. xxviii., No. 1658.
Jeremiah 17:12I. Man's Refuge. No creature so much needs the shelter and defence of a safe hiding-place as man. His sources of danger are more than can be numbered, and with an infected nature he travels an infested road. Beset with foes, he is in constant need of shelter, and often cries out for deliverance.
II. Man's refuge is a sanctuary. A refuge is no place to rest or abide in. A place which is only a refuge furnishes but a temporary shelter. But a refuge, which is also a sanctuary, a Divine house, affords not only shelter, but rest, repose, and satisfaction for all we need or can desire. The house of God may well be a home for man. And he who enters such a refuge soon discovers that it will be to him all his desire.
III. Man's refuge is not only sacred, but royal. "A glorious high throne." The house of God is also the seat and source of all rule, authority, and power. It is a throne. From which we learn that the house of God, which is man's refuge and home, is its own defence. A throne incapable of its own defence is no longer a throne.
IV. This sanctuary-refuge-throne is spoken of as an exalted throne. Man needs a high defence. Our refuge towers above all, not only covering the need of our present station, but of all its future possibilities of growth.
V. And this exalted throne is glorious in the history of its exaltation. Its exaltation has not been by might but by right. That the throne became a refuge has given a hallowed joy to the universe. The refuge crowns the throne.
VI. Our refuge has been set up from the beginning. The provision for the requirements of man's fallen nature was no after-thought, but a forethought. His refuge-sanctuary-throne was "set up from everlasting, from the beginning, or ever the earth was."
VII. Note the personality of the refuge. (1) An impersonal refuge could never afford shelter and defence for man against his personal foes. (2) An impersonal refuge could never afford rest to, nor become a home for, man. Man needs man, a human security, a human joy, a human home, a warm maternal bosom on which to rest; not even God as God, but God as man.
W. Pulsford, Trinity Church Sermons, p. 161.
References: Jeremiah 17:14.—Spurgeon, Evening by Evening, p. 245. Jeremiah 17:17.—Ibid., Morning by Morning, p. 120. Jeremiah 18:1-4.—Christian World Pulpit, vol. xxv., p. 152.
Jeremiah 18:1-6Consider what Jeremiah's business was, and how the potter might help him in understanding and performing it.
I. Jeremiah sees a man engaged in a task to which he is devoting all his thoughts. He designs to make some clay into a vessel of a certain shape; the form or pattern is present to his mind; he is fully resolved that the material with which he is working shall come forth in that form and no other. But apparently it disappoints him. One piece of clay after another is marred in his hands; he has to break his vessel again and again; he goes on perseveringly till he has done the thing which he intended to do. If there is any force or worth in the analogy at all, it must mean that there is a form according to which God is seeking to mould men and nations. It must imply that He is patiently, continually, working for the accomplishment of this purpose. Here, then, was the mystery of a people's repentance. If they acknowledged the will which was working upon them, if at any time they yielded to it and desired to be formed by it, this was that conversation and inward change which He was seeking to produce.
II. The prophet looks upon this symbol as teaching him the principle of God's government of a people. I apprehend that we shall learn some day that the call to individual repentance and the promise of individual reformation has been feeble at one time; productive of turbulent, violent, transitory effects at another; because it has not been part of a call to national repentance, because it has not been connected with a promise of national reformation. We must speak again the ancient language that God has made a covenant with the nation, and that all citizens are subjects of an unseen and righteous King, if we would have a hearty, inward repentance which will really bring us back to God.
III. Jeremiah could not bring the image of the potter's work to bear with its proper force upon Israelites at that moment if he confined the purpose of God within the limits which they had fixed for it As he gazed on the potter and saw how one piece of clay after another was marred, and yet how the thing he designed was at last done; it came with an awful vision of what was preparing for his land, with a bright vision of what must ultimately follow from every judgment. That which seemed now compact, and yet which consisted of elements that were always ready to separate from each other, might split into fragments: but the vessel must be made: not after some different type, but after the original and perfect type which dwelt not in the dead matter but in the living mind of Him who was shaping it.
F. D. Maurice, Prophets and Kings of the Old Testament, p. 395.
Reference: Jeremiah 18:1-10.—E. H. Plumptre, Expositor, 1st series, vol. iv., p. 469.
Whilst their children remember their altars and their groves by the green trees upon the high hills.
O my mountain in the field, I will give thy substance and all thy treasures to the spoil, and thy high places for sin, throughout all thy borders.
And thou, even thyself, shalt discontinue from thine heritage that I gave thee; and I will cause thee to serve thine enemies in the land which thou knowest not: for ye have kindled a fire in mine anger, which shall burn for ever.
Thus saith the LORD; Cursed be the man that trusteth in man, and maketh flesh his arm, and whose heart departeth from the LORD.
For he shall be like the heath in the desert, and shall not see when good cometh; but shall inhabit the parched places in the wilderness, in a salt land and not inhabited.
Blessed is the man that trusteth in the LORD, and whose hope the LORD is.
For he shall be as a tree planted by the waters, and that spreadeth out her roots by the river, and shall not see when heat cometh, but her leaf shall be green; and shall not be careful in the year of drought, neither shall cease from yielding fruit.
The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked: who can know it?
I the LORD search the heart, I try the reins, even to give every man according to his ways, and according to the fruit of his doings.
As the partridge sitteth on eggs, and hatcheth them not; so he that getteth riches, and not by right, shall leave them in the midst of his days, and at his end shall be a fool.
A glorious high throne from the beginning is the place of our sanctuary.
O LORD, the hope of Israel, all that forsake thee shall be ashamed, and they that depart from me shall be written in the earth, because they have forsaken the LORD, the fountain of living waters.
Heal me, O LORD, and I shall be healed; save me, and I shall be saved: for thou art my praise.
Behold, they say unto me, Where is the word of the LORD? let it come now.
As for me, I have not hastened from being a pastor to follow thee: neither have I desired the woeful day; thou knowest: that which came out of my lips was right before thee.
Be not a terror unto me: thou art my hope in the day of evil.
Let them be confounded that persecute me, but let not me be confounded: let them be dismayed, but let not me be dismayed: bring upon them the day of evil, and destroy them with double destruction.
Thus said the LORD unto me; Go and stand in the gate of the children of the people, whereby the kings of Judah come in, and by the which they go out, and in all the gates of Jerusalem;
And say unto them, Hear ye the word of the LORD, ye kings of Judah, and all Judah, and all the inhabitants of Jerusalem, that enter in by these gates:
Thus saith the LORD; Take heed to yourselves, and bear no burden on the sabbath day, nor bring it in by the gates of Jerusalem;
Neither carry forth a burden out of your houses on the sabbath day, neither do ye any work, but hallow ye the sabbath day, as I commanded your fathers.
But they obeyed not, neither inclined their ear, but made their neck stiff, that they might not hear, nor receive instruction.
And it shall come to pass, if ye diligently hearken unto me, saith the LORD, to bring in no burden through the gates of this city on the sabbath day, but hallow the sabbath day, to do no work therein;
Then shall there enter into the gates of this city kings and princes sitting upon the throne of David, riding in chariots and on horses, they, and their princes, the men of Judah, and the inhabitants of Jerusalem: and this city shall remain for ever.
And they shall come from the cities of Judah, and from the places about Jerusalem, and from the land of Benjamin, and from the plain, and from the mountains, and from the south, bringing burnt offerings, and sacrifices, and meat offerings, and incense, and bringing sacrifices of praise, unto the house of the LORD.
But if ye will not hearken unto me to hallow the sabbath day, and not to bear a burden, even entering in at the gates of Jerusalem on the sabbath day; then will I kindle a fire in the gates thereof, and it shall devour the palaces of Jerusalem, and it shall not be quenched.