Let us now read that famous prophecy of Jeremiah in which a period of seventy years was indicated as the time of the captivity in Babylon.
It is a great grief to a minister when his earnestness is disregarded, and men still turn a deaf ear to his appeals. This is, moreover, a great aggravation of sin; for every rejected reproof adds a new degree of sinfulness to transgression. Are any of our household resisting the voice of God, and sinning against light and knowledge? If so, may the Lord turn them by his grace.
When parents, teachers, brothers, and sisters have spoken to us, and we remain hardened, we have much to answer for.
Wrong-doing always hurts those who are guilty of it. Every man who sins is an enemy to himself.
The Medes and other northern people were confederate with Babylon, and by their ferocious destructiveness turned Judea into a desert, and made its cities heaps of ruins.
The houses which remained standing were uninhabited; in the morning no grinding of the handmill proclaimed the preparation of the early meal, and in the evening no night lamp was lit at the time when labour ends. Destruction reigned supreme.
Seventy years Judah must be captive, the exact amount of the Sabbaths of the 490 years from the reign of Saul to the captivity, and therefore a most righteous retribution for violated Sabbaths. God’s judgments are by rule and measure, but his mercy knows no bounds. To Babylon judgment came more terribly than to Judah, according to the spirit of that text: “If judgment begin at the house of God, what shall the end be of them that obey not the gospel of God?” Judah rose again, but Babylon never; the Lord utterly consumed the rod with which he had so sorely smitten his chosen nation. Lord, when thou dost chasten us, deal with us as with sons, and not as thou dost with aliens and enemies.
I the Lord search the heart.”
In those evil days Jeremiah continued to plead with the people and mourn for their hardness of heart. Let us hear him speak—Jer_17:1-17.
They were as keen after idols as if the propensity to idolatry had been graven into them with an iron pen never to be erased, and they were as confident in it as if it had been sanctioned by a law inscribed with a diamond-point upon their altars. Upon the tablets of men’s hearts, where God’s holy law should be, all manner of evil is written.
The Jews were prone to trust in Egypt as the rival of Babylon. Creature confidence is essentially idolatry, and if it be found in us we are guilty of that sin, even though no image be set up in our house. The dreary junipers of the desert are more to be envied than men who trust in men.
Trials will come, even as heat and drought try every tree, but faith sets the believer above circumstances, and makes him always flourish.
The bird, with all her care, often fails to hatch her eggs; and so Jehoiakim and other oppressors gathered together what they were not permitted to enjoy.
High places for sin he had condemned, but his soul rejoices in the glorious high place of everlasting love. To that sacred mount let us daily resort.
I praise thee for past mercies. O be gracious to me now in this time of need!
In taunting mockery they challenged the prophet’s message, and defied the Lord to fulfil his threats; this made him a man of sorrows.
He foretold their destruction, but he did not desire it. When ministers preach of hell, unthinking persons call them harsh, but it would be far greater harshness if they suffered men to live in false peace, and to die unwarned.
He felt the unkindness of his hearers, for he had a very sensitive heart, but he feared most of all being left of God. It is not likely that so good a Master would cast off his faithful servants, and yet when we are hard pushed grievous doubts will intrude. Lord, increase our faith.