My anguish, my anguish! I writhe in pain! Oh, the pain in my chest! My heart pounds within me; I cannot be silent. For I have heard the sound of the trumpet, the alarm of battle.
I. THEIR NATURE.
1. The sight of the constant dishonor done to God. This was part of our Lord's suffering. Living amongst men at all involved it. It has been said truly that, if the Son of God became incarnate, he must be a "man of sorrows." But if it be a pain and outrage to an affectionate son to hear his father, whom he knows to be worthy of all honor, yet nevertheless insulted, and to see him daily dishonored, what must have been the sufferings of our Lord at what he daily had to see and hear! And to Jeremiah this was one chief part of his sorrow. To him the Name of God was dear; his honor and glory precious; but let these chapters tell what scenes continually came before him. "Rivers of water run down mine eyes because men keep not thy Law." Dishonor done to God has ever been distress and pain to his servants.
2. The endurance of the scorn and hate of men. To some men this is nothing. They answer scorn by scorn and hate by hate. They choose war rather than peace. But in proportion as a man is of a loving disposition, and has lavished his love upon any, he will desire, yea, yearn for, a response. Do not parents desire it in their children? Would they not be distressed indeed if they did not receive it? And so with our Lord. He had no armor of indifference, or contempt, or hate against men. But he opened his heart to them. There was no stint in the love he lavished upon them. Hence he could not but long to receive a response to that love. The cross itself was wreathed with attractiveness for him, because it, though nothing else would, would draw all men unto him. And in the fellowship of this suffering Jeremiah shared. He, though deeply loving his people and faithfully serving them, yet was denied the response of trust and love which he would fain have gained. He, too, "was despised and rejected of men."
3. The realizing, by the power of affectionate sympathy, the awful consequences of his countrymen's sin. It is the effect of such sympathy to cause the sufferings of those we love to come before us in such terrible vividness that they fill the soul with an anguish that is almost intolerable. Hence our Lord's deep distress (cf. "O Jerusalem, Jerusalem!" etc. and his lament over the doomed city and people). But in this suffering of our Lord Jeremiah had indeed fellowship (cf. vers. 23-30.) He saw the destruction that was coming on Judah and Jerusalem in its entireness. "The whole land is spoiled;" "The whole land shall be desolate." In its suddenness. "Suddenly are," etc. (ver. 20). In its duration. Ver. 21, "How long shall I see the standard?" etc. It could not be a passing storm, but an abiding wrath. And mere still, he sees how deserved it all was (vers. 18, 22). And then how awful! It was as if original chaos had come again (ver. 23; cf. Genesis 1.). It was as the dread and never-to-be-forgotten manifestation of God at Sinai, when the mountains trembled and all who beheld were stricken with fear (ver. 24). For the devastation caused by the "spoilers" had been so thorough, they had done their work in such fearful fashion, that districts heretofore teeming with population were now solitary and lone as the desert; and so stripped were they of all that could minister to life, that the very birds had fled away (vers. 25, 26). The awful spectacle was clearly visible to the prophet's eye, and, as he looked upon it all and knew how certain was its advent, he cries out as in the agony of dread bodily pain (ver. 19).
4. The witnessing day by day the decay of all goodness and the firmer hold of sin. Our blessed Lord's tears over Jerusalem, his oft "sighing," his agony, his long lament over the guilty people, were not caused only, nor chiefly, by the mere fact of their sufferings, but it was because of the increasing alienation from God, the ever-hardening heart, the mighty power of sin upon them, that his bitterest tears were shed and his deepest agony endured. And so with Jeremiah. Pain and distress were evils undoubtedly, but they were as naught compared with the moral degradation, the spiritual wickedness, which he saw around him and increasing every day.
5. The being compelled to utter the "amen" of his soul to the judgment of God as "true and righteous altogether." With what agony would a father witness the accumulation of proof upon proof that his son whom he loved had been guilty of crime that deserved and must receive condign punishment! To be obliged to own to himself that his beloved son is righteously condemned - what sorrow that! And this confession our Lord made. His death meant this - his assent to the judgment of God against sin that that judgment was just. Death was the penalty, and he submitted to it. And never has death been, nor can it be to any child of God, what it was to our Lord. The realization of sin, the consciousness that on him was the iniquity of us all, and how awful but how just was the wrath of God against it, - this explains that exceeding bitter cry from out the darkness, "My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?" And, in his measure and degree, Jeremiah had the fellowship of this suffering also. It is the sorrow of sorrows to him that there was no alternative; God must punish sin like that of his countrymen. How glad would he have been could he have seen any - however little - light in the darkness! But it was all dark; there-was not a solitary redeeming ray. The condemnation was awful, but God was just who judged so.
II. THE UNIVERSALITY OF THIS FELLOWSHIP. Like as in every leaf of the tree the whole fabric of the tree is portrayed, root and trunk, branch and foliage, so in the experience of every member of Christ's mystical body, however humble that member may be, there is shown the resemblance of Christ himself. See Abraham interceding for Sodom, Moses for Israel, Samuel mourning for Saul; Elijah's ministry and that of all the prophets, Paul's and that of all the apostles, and where there are any who have "the mind that was in Christ Jesus," who are filled with love to God and love to man, to whom sin is hateful and holiness dear. It will be a measure and a test of our own possession of the mind of Christ if those sad facts, which were the source to him and to all his truehearted servants of such great sorrow, are likewise sources of sorrow to us and make us know the fellowship of his sufferings.
III. ITS EXCEEDING BLESSEDNESS, It may seem an anomaly and contradiction to speak of "blessedness" as appertaining to "suffering," but it is nevertheless true that exceeding blessedness does belong to the fellowship of Christ's sufferings. For:
1. It wins for us the ministries that sustained our Lord. These were such as the full enjoyment of the love of God, uninterrupted communion and intercourse with him, the open vision of the "joy set before him" in the winning back of the world to God, such were the supports of Christ's ministry, and the like has been given to all who have entered into his sufferings. See the bright onlook of Jeremiah (cf. Jeremiah 3:15-18 and 11) and of all the prophets; of St. Paul and all the apostles. And see, too, their joy in God, the rest of their hearts in his love. Such have been and such will be the supports of such souls.
2. It fortifies us impregnably against all the power of the wicked one. Satan will not waste his time and energy on those who are within the sure defense of this holy fellowship. His darts cannot reach where they stand, or, if they reach and strike, they cannot penetrate the "armor of God" in which they are clad. Sin has no charm, but repels: holiness attracts with a magnetic might. "They are born of God, and the wicked one toucheth them not."
3. It gives tremendous power over the hearts of men. What is the great need of our day but this, a ministry that has entered into this fellowship? one penetrated with the love of God and the love of men, to whom the favor of God is life, and the judgments of God the un-unspeakable woe of the soul? How would such men speak and pray and plead? It was the secret of St. Paul's power, and of the great ministers for Christ in all ages. It won all the triumphs of the early Church, it was manifest in Bernard, Francis, Wesley, Whitefield, and many more. Men cannot resist the power with which such speak. It constitutes those who have entered into it God's true priests. They have power when they plead with God for men, and when they plead with men for God. Such is another element of the exceeding blessedness of this fellowship of Christ's sufferings.
IV. ITS ALONE ENTRANCE. This entrance is by fellowship with Christ in our daily life. Let us look much upon him as he is shown to us in his gospel and in the Scriptures generally, and as we see his likeness reproduced in the lives of the truest of his people. Let there be much looking to him in the exercise of daily trust, committing and commending our whole interests to his care. Let there be much converse with him in devout meditation, worship, and prayer. Let there be much service done for him in all such ways as he points out for us, and the result will be that we shall come so to see, hear, touch him, so to realize his living presence, and then so to love him, that all that affects him will affect us. We shall have fellowship in it all, and, therefore, in this fellowship of his sufferings in which all his chosen have shared. - C.
I. OF HEARING THE SOUND OF THE TRUMPET AND THE ALARM OF WAR.
I am pained at my very heart.I. THE COMPLAINT OR LAMENTATION ITSELF.
1. The parts affected. The soul and inward man.(1) The secrecy of it, the mind and soul being inward and hidden.(2) The mind receives and digests the thoughts.(3) The mind is the mother of thoughts, conceiving and generating them.
2. The grief of those parts.(1) God need not go far for the punishment of wicked men; He can do it from within themselves; can punish a man with his own affections and thoughts.(2) What good cause we have to regulate and control our affections, avoid passion and excess of emotion, take care to be pacific, and enjoy a sabbatic tranquillity in our spirits.
3. The passage or vent.(1) The speech of discovery. He cannot help revealing these workings of his own spirit.(2) The speech of lamentation. He must bewail and utter complaint, his anguish was so great (Job 7:11).
II. THE GROUND OR OCCASION OF HIS LAMENTATION.
1. The tidings or report itself.
(1) (2) (3) 2. The conveyance of it to the prophet.(1) The soul, through the corporeal organ of hearing.(2) The soul immediately, as being that which had communion with God.(3) The soul emphatically; that is heard, indeed, which is heard by the soul. Hence — (a) (b) 3. The improvement or use he makes of it.(1) His meditations aroused his affections. (a) (b) (a) (b) (c) (T. Herren, D. D.)
(2) (3) 2. The conveyance of it to the prophet.(1) The soul, through the corporeal organ of hearing.(2) The soul immediately, as being that which had communion with God.(3) The soul emphatically; that is heard, indeed, which is heard by the soul. Hence — (a) (b) 3. The improvement or use he makes of it.(1) His meditations aroused his affections. (a) (b) (a) (b) (c) (T. Herren, D. D.)
(3) 2. The conveyance of it to the prophet.(1) The soul, through the corporeal organ of hearing.(2) The soul immediately, as being that which had communion with God.(3) The soul emphatically; that is heard, indeed, which is heard by the soul. Hence — (a) (b) 3. The improvement or use he makes of it.(1) His meditations aroused his affections. (a) (b) (a) (b) (c) (T. Herren, D. D.)
3. The improvement or use he makes of it.(1) His meditations aroused his affections. (b) (c) (T. Herren, D. D.)
3. The improvement or use he makes of it.(1) His meditations aroused his affections.
(b) (c) (T. Herren, D. D.)
(c) (T. Herren, D. D.)
(T. Herren, D. D.)
The alarm of war.
(J. M. Lang, D. D.)
1. We ought to have our ears open to the voice of God in the dispensations of His providence (Micah 6:9).
2. When we hear the sound of the trumpet, and the alarm of war, we ought to consider the causes of these alarms. The prophets often denounce war as a judgment of God against His people, or against the Gentiles. In publishing such threatenings they, for the most part, speak of the sins that have provoked God to afflict His creatures with this calamity; and when they do not specify the grounds of the Lord's controversy, as in chap. Jeremiah 49, they leave no room to doubt that God is justly displeased. God has just reason, for our sins at present, not only to threaten, but to punish us with His vengeance. We ought to wonder at His forbearance, that He has not long since caused the sword to reach unto the whole of the nation, to avenge the quarrel of His covenant.
3. The probable or possible consequences of these alarms of war ought to come under our view when we hear the sound of the trumpet and the alarm of war. When we make that preparation which religion enjoins against possible evils, if these evils should not overtake us, we are no losers, but gainers. The fear of evil has often been. productive of much good. "Happy is the man who feareth always," and especially in times when there is peculiar cause of fear; "but he who hardeneth his heart shall fall into mischief."
II. THE IMPRESSION WHICH THE SOUND OF THE TRUMPET AND THE ALARM OF WAR OUGHT TO MAKE UPON US.
1. Those external scenes of distress which are the consequences of war must give pain to a heart that is not contracted and hardened by a reigning selfishness of spirit.
2. Souls precipitated into an eternal world must awaken awful sensations in those who believe that, when the dust returns to the earth as it was, the spirit returns to God who gave it.
3. The influence that wars may have upon the interests of religion is a source of anxious concern to the lovers of God (Lamentations 1:9; Lamentations 2:6, 7, 9). Amidst the ravages of war, even in our own times, we have too often heard of the alienation or destruction of houses ordinarily employed in the services of religion. Should God, in His wrath, refuse us His help against those who threaten the subversion of our liberties, who can foresee what dismal consequences in the state of religion would ensue?
4. God's indignation, apparent in the alarms of war, ought to impress every mind with deep concern.
III. WHAT IMPROVEMENT IS TO BE MADE OF THE SOUND OF THE TRUMPET AND OF THE ALARM OF WAR?
1. Let us consider our ways, and inquire how far we are chargeable with those provocations of the Divine majesty which expose us to danger from our enemies. When God threatens judgments, He observes our behaviour. He returns and repents when men are ready to acknowledge their offences, and to forsake them; but woe to those who are at ease in their sins, and never inquire what are the causes of the Lord's contendings with them.
2. We ought to humble ourselves before God, on account of our iniquities. Observe in what manner Ezra and Daniel bewailed and confessed their own iniquities, and the iniquities of their people (Ezra 9; Daniel 9:1). What would we think of a child that did not mourn when his father was justly displeased with him? We would think that he was cursed with a disposition that totally disqualified him for enjoying the sweetest pleasures that man can taste. By this similitude the Scripture teaches us how unnatural a thing insensibility to the chastisements of the Divine hand ought to be reputed (Numbers 12:14).
3. Supplications for pardoning and reforming grace ought to accompany our humiliation. We are greatly encouraged to pray by the many examples of successful petitioners for public mercies in Scripture. The ways of God are everlasting. He delights in mercy. He puts words into our mouth for imploring His mercy. He hath left us many promises of merciful returns to our prayers, that we may be encouraged to come boldly to His throne of grace for mercy to ourselves, to our friends and brethren, to the Church, to our king and country.
4. We are warned by the sound of the trumpet and the alarms of war to make God our refuge, and the Most High our habitation. To trust to ourselves is the fruit of atheism. If there is a God, He rules in the army of heaven and amongst the inhabitants of the earth; and He does according to His pleasure. He sits upon the circle of the earth, and the inhabitants thereof are as grasshoppers. He bringeth the princes of the earth to nought; He maketh its judges as vanity. "But the name of the Lord is a strong tower of defence," some may say, "only for the righteous (Proverbs 18:10). And we are conscious of so many evils, that we have no reason to hope for protection from the Holy One, who takes no pleasure in wickedness, and will not suffer evil to dwell with Him." It is true, the Lord our God is holy; but it is true likewise, that He is gracious and merciful, slow to anger, forgiving iniquity, transgression, and sin. "Him that cometh unto Me," says Jesus, "I will in no wise cast out." You have perhaps heard some ridiculous stories of men that, by some magical secret, were rendered invulnerable in battle. You would not be afraid to encounter the most formidable armies if you were masters of such a secret; but, if thou canst believe, "all things are possible to him that believeth." "He that liveth, and believeth in Me, shall never die." Who is he that can kill those who cannot die? The words, you will say, must be figuratively understood; for who is the man that liveth, and shall not see death? But, however they are to be understood, they are true and faithful sayings of the Amen, the faithful and true Witness, of Him that liveth, and was dead, and is alive for evermore, and holds the keys of the spiritual world, and of death. You are called to mourning in days of danger, but not to that kind of mourning which swallows up the soul. You are called to mourn, that you may rejoice; to be afflicted for your sins, that you may flee from wrath to Christ, and find in Him safety, security, and joy.
5. The sound of the trumpet and the alarm of war is a loud call to us to cease to do evil, and to learn to do well. Our faith in God is a delusion if we hold fast our iniquities. Our faith in Christ, if it is genuine, will purify our hearts and lives. We are exposed to danger, not only from our own personal sins, but from the sins of our fellow subjects; and therefore we ought not only to forsake sin, but to use all our influence to turn other sinners from the error of their ways. It is a righteous thing with God, that those who do not duly oppose the prevalence of sin should share in the miseries which it brings. We ought not only to renounce all iniquity, but to live in the habitual practice of every duty which God requires.
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